Letting go in bits and pieces…

The excitement at home is palpable. My son is scurrying about, double-checking, triple-checking and quadruple-checking with me; ensuring that all the items on the checklist given by his school have been packed.

He is going away on a three-day school trip, the longest he has been away from home and from all of us.

We have to drop him early tomorrow, so we try to get him to sleep early. He checks his big backpack, and a smaller backpack, one last time, before he hits the bed.

His excitement is contagious; we are also caught up in it all.

As his mom, I hope he will be fine, and able to manage on his own. Above everything, I want him to have fun.

His elder sister, who has been on many such trips, gives him a few tips. He is after all the youngest, and it is time to let him go!

The next morning flies by in a flurry of last minute checking, and driving to school. Many children and parents are already there. In what seems like a jiffy, the children board the coaches, and with a few waves and yells, they are off.

Picture courtesy – wikiclipart

I head back home. It is like any other school day, when the kids are not around, but the house seems a tad emptier. I go around the house picking up stuff. On my son’s table are some eraser shavings, a half-done sketch of an animal, and a pencil. Suddenly, it hits me that a bundle of energy will not rush into the house at 4 pm, for the next two days. There will be no non-stop chatter about the school day or animals, or the cats in the neighbourhood.

Soon, when I check my phone, I realize there are some photo updates from school. Lovely photos of the kids and their activities; what fun experiences they seem to be having.

I zoom in, and eagerly scan the innocent faces for my son. There he is, smiling, with his friends, looking happy and cheerful.

Soon, the day’s chores catch up with me, and my daughter and I also take some time out together, catching up on some mom-daughter time.

The three days fly away, and my son is back home, enriched by his experiences, and bubbling with stories about the trip.

As I hug my little one, I realize that he has taken an important first step in his life. The first of many such experiences and challenges he will face in this journey called life.

As his parents, my husband and I hope we have equipped him to do just that!

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The first grey hair….

There are many milestones in life, which bring about significant change – going to full-day school, leaving home for university, getting your own car, getting married, having children and many more.

However, there are some milestones, which don’t impact or change one’s life dramatically, but are talked about quite a lot.

Courtesy – CanStock

A few months ago, one of my friends called me to say that she had found the first grey hair on her head. We talked about the momentous event, as I gave her the story of my first grey hair.

“Seeing the first grey hair” is when life pauses for a brief moment in time, and in that brief moment, we think deeply about what was, and where we have come. Just a grey hair, but we suddenly feel the weight of responsibility, a sense of time ticking away.

So also, when we turn forty, and realize that half our life is over. We vow to put the remaining years to good use, vow to keep fit, and do all those things that we’ve always wanted to do!

Sometimes, when the kids come back from school, and you suddenly realize that they seem to have grown overnight, and that they will be heading to University in a couple of years.

Life has this knack of throwing such moments at us; moments that stop us in our tracks and make us take stock of where we have reached, and the journey that brought us here.

These moments also make us more grateful, and more determined to take on what’s coming.

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Treasures to pocket

I am going down the elevator. The lift stops two floors below mine. A small boy of about four gets in. I say Hi! He says Hi! too. He seems preoccupied with a small pocket on his T-shirt.

He repeatedly looks inside it, and taps the pocket. I ask him what he has inside. He tells me that he has three ‘treasures’!

I smile, and ask him more about his ‘treasures’. He asks me to wait, and slowly pulls out the said ‘treasures’.

First comes a beautiful, grey pebble that is perfectly round. He tells me that he found it near the beach. He then pulls out a small bit of paper, on which are drawn shapes in different colours; a game he made, he adds, by way of an explanation. The last treasure is a small paper aeroplane, made by his grandfather, who’s visiting.

His eyes shine, as he carefully puts the three precious items back into the safe recesses of his pocket.

Soon, the lift reaches the ground floor, and he dashes out to play.

I remember how eagerly my classmates and I waited to go into Grade 6 in school; because that’s when we got to move from sweaters without pockets, to blazers that had four pockets on the outside, and one pocket inside.

There was so much excitement when we switched to blazers. We had our own ‘treasures’ then, ranging from candy, to lists of crazy games, secret code language sheets, chip-chops, message chits we wrote to our friends in class, and so many other exciting things, which formed an integral part of our childhood.

Courtesy – Wikipedia

We also carried ink-pens in the inside pocket, those ones where we had to fill ink from an ink-pot. It was a kind of ritual every night, where my siblings and I would fill ink in our pens. Our dad checked if the nibs of the pens were ok.

All it took was a hard fall for the pens to develop hairline cracks, which would then cause the ink to leak. We got rude shocks sometimes, when we opened the lid to write, only to realize that we had lots of ink on our fingers.

We also had nice fluffy pink blotting paper that would absorb any ink stain in a jiffy. Sometimes, we would look at the shapes formed by the ink stains and try and liken them to animals or everyday things!

We felt important with our blazers and these ink pens; we had secret treasures in our pockets, we had lovely candies tucked away…!

All these memories came rushing back, when I saw the little boy and his precious treasures!

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Yay! My Blog turns 3 today

Dear friends,

Three years ago, on the 25th of January 2015, I posted my first blog; to give the words and sentences that constantly dance in my head a chance to narrate their simple, everyday experiences.

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

Writing about these simple moments has made me a keen observer of all those small jigsaw pieces that fit seamlessly into each other, making our lives so vibrant and complete!

This journey, however, is not only about writing. It is also about having met such wonderful bloggers and readers from around the world, who have encouraged and motivated me to keep this blog going. I am deeply grateful to you all for the constant support, and for taking the time to read my blog and leaving your likes and comments.

My blog stats show that I have written 393 posts over these three years! Phew! Can’t believe I have actually written so much.

I hope to continue this journey and capture these simple moments that form the mosaic of our lives.

Thank you all so very much.



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Paneer Paranthas & A Decade-long friendship

The sky is fast filling-up with dark rain-bearing clouds. I can hear the koyal’s call as I walk to my friend’s apartment.

It is nearly noon, when I enter her house. Over the next twenty minutes, the ‘gang’ shows up, each of us having rushed through chores and assignments to be here with everyone else.

It is not often that you get to spend quality time with your closest friends; friends you’ve known and grown with for more than a decade.

What’s a meeting of dear friends without yummy food. There’s only one dish on the menu today – paneer paranthas.

The host, who is a cook par excellence, starts rolling and stuffing the first parantha. She tosses it with practiced ease on the tawa, as we watch her in admiration.

Paranthas are to be eaten hot, so we settle down on the kitchen floor for a round of gossip. We take turns to eat. The smell of ghee wafts all around us, as the paranthas are being made. Hot, golden, soft paranthas – perfect in every way. We add pickle and fresh yoghurt to our plates.

We talk about everything and nothing. We laugh at the silliest of jokes and relive old incidents, and talk about cooking fiascos, children-related stories, and of course, our dear husbands.

We realise how time has flown. Nearly a decade has rushed past. Where once we talked about birthday parties and play dates, food and party cakes, now we talk about universities, marriage and retirement. We talk about travel, about meeting up every year.

We realise how blessed we are to have this group of friends to lean on, laugh with and share these yummy paranthas with!

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Walking down market street for Pongal

It’s been raining non-stop for the last week. The streets are wet, and water puddles gently splash around people’s footwear.

My friend and I are walking down market street to shop for our harvest festival, Pongal, which will be celebrated on Sunday.

All shops on the street have makeshift stalls outside the main shop to cater to the many hundreds of people who will shop for this festival.

Tender plants of ginger and turmeric are neatly stacked in bunches of bright green, the yellow turmeric roots contrasting beautifully with the green of the leaves.

Fresh and green mango leaves are on sale. Beautiful sugarcane plants are stacked along the walls of most shops.

Most shops also sell pieces of sugarcane for those who want less.

The street is teeming with people, all looking for the perfect mud-pot or stainless steel pot to cook pongal in, on the day of the festival.

Bright colours everywhere – red apples and pomegranates, yellow bananas, golden mangoes.

The flower stalls are doing brisk business, and the heavenly smell of jasmine is in the air. Beautifully threaded garlands hang neatly in every stall. Full coconuts and banana leaves await new customers.

The excitement is palpable. My friend and I get caught up too, as we soak in the spirit of this beautiful festival of harvest.

We offer a quick ‘thank you’ to all the farmers, who toil so hard to bring food to our homes.

Happy Pongal everyone!

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Not so remote problems

The afternoon sun pours into the living room, leaving long streaks of gold on the floor. The flowers in the vase on my coffee table sway gently in the breeze.

Everything seems peaceful, but I am not. I am repeatedly clicking my tongue in exasperation. “Why?” you ask.

I have problems with my remote, remotes rather!

I have an elegant remote-holder next to me, on a side table. It overflows with remotes that help us stay entertained, with movies, soaps and lovely music.

Each device has a remote, and there is a ‘universal remote’, who’s the boss!

All’s well when all these remotes are behaving well. However, it’s not always like this, is it?

So, I have decided to watch a short film that was recommended by a friend.

Despite the latest gadgets surrounding me, I have to now battle with the remotes. Of late, the remotes have become quite rebellious.

The main TV remote has to be directed at the TV screen for a continuous period of 5 seconds, with the power button pressed, for the TV to sense it. It was not always like this. It used to be a good remote. We changed batteries, tried hitting it on the palm of the hand (isn’t that the universal cure for faulty remotes?) and also pleaded with it to work.

But this is the way it behaves now!

Our next remote is the smart remote for the smart TV. All is well here, except that something keeps rattling inside the remote. And ever since the rattling started, the ‘forward/right’ button has stopped working.

Courtesy – Openclipart

The one good thing in all this is that some of the features of these two remotes overlap!

Which means that before I start watching the short film, I have to use the ‘point me for 5 seconds before you see a flicker remote’ to switch on the TV.

I then use ‘the not so smart remote’ to click on youtube. I then navigate with the pointer on the mouse to reach the magnifying lens, which is the symbol for the search function.

If only it would point and click. Instead, the arrow runs wild on the screen, as if playing a game of hide and seek. I click in exasperation, as the pointer disappears from the screen.

I have to do it manually now. The right arrow on the not so smart remote does not work, I use the up, down and left arrows to reach ‘search’. Phew!

At this point, the naughty pointer arrow is back from its break! The system opens up a keyboard for me to type-in my choice.

I move left, up, down with one remote, then switch to the second remote, where 5 seconds are wasted before each letter is selected, then back to the other remote!

And this crazy thing goes on for two to three minutes, and I whoop for joy as the short film finally gets loaded.

“We have to get these serviced,” I mutter to myself, as I become one with the characters and their lives; and at this time, my problems seem remote!!!

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Should it be a 5 or a 6?

I am reading a book. My son sits next to me playing a game on the iPad. I pause to look at how adept he is at navigating the game. Virtual creatures seem to fill-up the screen; as an observer, I feel that chaos reigns on his iPad screen. There is constant action, there is constant movement, there is an alertness and nervous energy in my son’s stance as he grapples with the many things that need his attention to succeed in his mission – whatever that may be, because, I have no clue at all about what’s happening.

I play games on my phone too, but mine are games that follow only one pace – my pace.

I simply cannot handle the pace of the games that my kids play. Maybe it has something to do with age?

Now, I like games like Sudoku and Kakuro; which I play when the house is quiet. Games where I can think, analyse and fill-in my responses. Almost like solving crosswords in the newspaper!

Courtesy – Can Stock Photo

Sipping a cup of coffee and wondering if a box needs a ‘5’ or a ‘6’ is all that I can handle in terms of speed. I enjoy the ‘thinking’ more than the playing.

Graduating from ‘medium’ to ‘evil’ in Kakuro is cause for celebration. Some puzzles are truly ‘evil’. They take multiple attempts to solve, usually over a two to three day period. And each time the puzzle is solved, I give myself a mental high five. Simple reasons to celebrate.

And before I go back to my book, I look at my son’s iPad. It looks as busy as ever……!

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10000 steps in Kaziranga

We are shivering in the morning cold in Kaziranga. We are on pins to get started on the Elephant Safari that will take us through the thick bushes and grasslands, to see the famed One-horned Indian Rhino.

Nearly a hundred people await the arrival of 32 elephants. The sun has started its journey across the sky; the early morning mist is slowly clearing.

Soon, the four of us are on our elephant, a beautiful and majestic creature. ‘Tara’ is her name, which translates to star.

Our Mahout has been with Tara for nearly 15 years. Man and elephant are one. He gently prods Tara into the grasslands, as she stops to pull out grass with her trunk, on and off.

We soon see the beautiful One-horned Indian Rhino, majestic, graceful; and oblivious to all of us. Some of them busy chomping down their breakfast, while some others are staring away into the distance.

Enroute we also see deer, jungle fowl, eagles and huge water buffaloes.

We enjoy the safari thoroughly and get back to base, after two hours in the grasslands.

We are famished, and get back to the hotel and settle down to a heavy breakfast and many cups of hot Assam Tea.

As we prepare to get back to our room, I casually glance at my phone.

My pedometer shows 14550 steps walked, and the day had barely started. I am puzzled. My first reaction is that the App has stopped working.

I try walking with the phone, and the App updates the steps taken just like it always does.

Aha…..then it strikes me, the pedometer has also counted the steps taken by Tara, our dear elephant.

I laugh out aloud, and realize that my 10000 steps for the day are yet to begin.

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Seeds and Shells

Tamarind is an integral part of South Indian cooking. Tamarind extract forms the base for many yummy dishes like sambar, rasam & tamarind rice.

However, this post has very little to do with tamarind and cooking. As kids, tamarind seeds formed an integral part of the games we played indoors.

My mom and aunt would clean the tamarind pulp and give us the seeds. The seeds were of a dark brown colour!

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

We had a box filled with these tamarind seeds. When the monsoon winds blew the trees down, or when it was too hot to play outside, all the neighbourhood kids gathered at home to play games with these seeds.

We would pile all the seeds on the floor, in the middle of a circle that we sat around. The first person would blow the seeds. Being lightweight, the seeds would scatter. The objective was to pick up the seeds without shaking any other. If any other seed shook, the next person got a chance. The winner was the one with the biggest hoard!

As the player concentrated, we would try to think up spells to distract him or her. Those games were so much fun. There was a lot of squabbling, as we decided if a particular seed had shaken or not.

Another game was called 5 stones, which we played with small rounded pebbles. It called for skill, concentration, and lots of practice. We would oil our stones and protect them.

Then again, we played with cowrie shells – a very simple game of both luck and skill, just four cowries, but hours of fun and boisterous shouting!

These holidays, when my mom visited, she introduced my children to some of these games. It was heartening to see the enthusiasm with which they played. They fought over silly, shaking cowrie seeds, and whether someone had rigged the game of cowrie shells by not throwing the cowries but placing them in a pre-arranged pattern.

I watched, totally amused. Simple games with everyday objects that call for dexterity, spirit and patience.

I was happy to see that my kids were not staring at a device, or playing a game with virtual characters. Here, everything was real.

Now, my kids play these games when they are at a loose end! I sincerely hope that these traditional games, which every culture has, do not fade away!

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