Sunset


We are lounging on reclining beach chairs, staring at the ocean that stretches beyond one’s comprehension.

Waves vie with each other to play tag with the beach – the younger waves, smart and nimble, as they compete with each other in a race that has no end; the older waves, sedate.

The sun, which was a bright yellow ball till a few minutes back, slowly takes on a warm orange hue that defies description. Within this beautiful orange are a million shades of pink, red, yellow and orange.

The clouds form molten orange streaks across the sky, basking in the sun’s reflection. The sun’s outline can now be seen, a huge golden orb that is moving down the horizon.

Silhouettes of birds dot the sky. Faraway coconut and palm trees sway in the evening breeze.

The waves catch the reflection of the golden sun and throw up a stunning light display on the water’s surface. The play of colours is superlative.

We settle down with refreshing milkshakes; to ponder upon the mysteries of nature – of the indefatigable ocean and the dancing waves.

In a matter of minutes, the sun slips out of sight into oblivion, into other faraway lands. The crickets set up their nightly chorus.

The waves are calmer now, winding down for the day; for the same cycle will repeat tomorrow, and bring with it another day full of promise.

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A slice of family history


Thanks to messaging apps and social networks, families and friends have come closer. There is a joy in reconnecting with cousins, aunts and uncles, and knowing that you are family.

This afternoon, on my husband’s maternal cousins’ group, I saw a few photographs. Some of the cousins had visited the family’s ancestral home, and the village temple nearby.

The house, though occupied by other people, has stood the test of time – teakwood staircases and doorways, and lots of memories.

As I saw the photographs, my husband casually mentioned that he was born there, in that house. While I knew that he was born in that small village, I had not made the connection to the house.

That transformed the way I looked at the pictures. This was a part of our family history. My imagination soared.

Then I imagined how my husband would have walked up and down these wooden stairs on chubby legs, being chased by an aunt or his mom; how he would have played with cousins and watched the hens clucking in the yard. The home had a barn, where there was a beautiful cow named Radhamani, who was loved and cherished by all the family members. After my husband’s parents moved to the city, most school holidays were spent in this house.

Four other cousins were also born in the same house. Lots of stories and memories there.

I only know the husband I met nearly two decades ago, but starting from the ancestral home he was born in, and the lovely family who surrounded him, there were so many factors that have made him the person he is today.

It was nice listening to interesting family anecdotes, and to realize that there was a time, when my husband and I led independent lives, unbeknownst to each other.

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A view from the balcony


My living room clock shows 6.30 p.m. The day is winding down. Children, who have played outdoors all evening, are heading back to their homes. The birds have returned to their nests.

The world is still aglow, lit by the setting sun. There is a certain calm to this hour that you wouldn’t find at any other time during the day. People are getting back from work, a spring in their step; looking forward to an evening of being at home, in their own space, relaxing and unwinding from the stresses of yet another day. Pets greet their owners with absolute joy, children fling themselves at their dads and moms to be bearhugged and cuddled, or to be thrown up in the air and caught in a tumbling mass of giggles.

I go to my favourite spot – my balcony – and stop in amazement when I see this.

This building can be seen from our balcony. I am totally amazed by the fact that the molten sun is reflecting off only one of the numerous glass facades of the building.

There is something miraculous in this moment, a splash of vibrant orange against a backdrop of grey, a great moment in an otherwise ‘business as usual’ type of day.

From where I stand, the sun has already slipped out of sight. But I am lucky to have been a part of this moment of sheer golden bliss.

Another simple moment captured, and filed away.

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Tracing the family tree


The afternoon sun streams through the grilled window, forming a golden criss cross on the mosaic floor.

In one corner of the room, I sit with my father in law. We are staring intently at the computer, as we try to bring some semblance of structure to our family history and family tree.

My father-in-law embarked on this project a couple of years ago – collecting bits of information and family stories, pulling out faded books from his childhood and patiently transcribing family diaries and notebooks that were passed on to him by his older siblings. Thus began a journey of discovery that traced our family’s history to about a couple of hundred years ago.

Image courtesy – Clipart Panda

Snatches of interesting incidents that have been passed on orally – stories that are being repeated to this very day, when the family gets together.

The family tree is wide, long and deep. The roots were dropped in a small village in South India. Today the branches have spread around the world – children, grandchildren, great grand children.

In some places the trail runs cold, we don’t know what happened to certain branches of the family.

I am helping my father-in-law transfer and structure the content on Powerpoint, so that he can share it with other family members.

I smile, as I type and make charts. My father-in-law marvels at what technology can do. I am more impressed by our family history.

There are hundreds of people, who had dreams, lived their lives in the ancestral village – their children then moving out for better prospects, carrying their rich culture, tradition and family memories with them to different corners of the world.

My father-in-law is more focussed on getting the flow chart right, he checks and double checks the threads that go down and connect the family. I am amazed by the fact that each box represents the life of an ancestor – a life lived, many stories told, many new branches created.

At the end of the family tree, the names of our family (my husband,children and me get added) – my husband is the youngest in his family, so we are ‘that’ last box on the chart.

I realize that we are not a small independent family, but a family backed by deep roots, wonderful ancestors, thrilling stories and lots of love.

The document finally gets done. My father in law is happy, I am happier!

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Neighbours


Today, we have more smartphones and tablets than the number of members in a family. We sit on our couches or slouch on our beds, busy connecting with people from around the world.

But the world was not like this at all, when I was growing up. All social networking was done face to face.

We had neighbours. We grew up with them, till we went to college, got jobs, married and moved out.

We played for hours on the street, till the street lights came on. We played riotous games, and sometimes spent entire evenings looking for a missing tennis ball.

We formed numerous clubs, drawing inspiration from Enid Blyton books, and many other childrens’ movies. We put up stalls, and all kinds of shows for our parents.

We attended exhibitions of butterflies and other insects put up by the neighbourhood boys. We went into the neighbouring woods to collect eucalyptus leaves, which we used to light bonfires.

We spent all our time in and out of each others’ homes, bringing plates filled with lunch, and eating together in a friend’s garden.

We had fights, silly squabbles and long battles that sometimes lasted an entire season.

We eagerly opened boxes of yummy snacks that neighbours sent to us. We went in droves to the home where the first television made its appearance.

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

We watched the glorious Indian Monsoon with our noses plastered to the windows – howling winds, lashing rain and falling trees.

We watched the first frost of winter, and gobbled up piping hot venn pongal that was served in the neighbourhood temple.

We knew a lot about each other and our families. We lived at a time when we got ‘live updates’ about each others’ lives.

We had lovely neighbours.

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Grandma’s Chess Game


It is late in the afternoon. The curtains are billowing in the breeze. My mom winds up her chores and settles down on the couch with her afternoon mug of coffee.

She smiles in anticipation, as she awaits the arrival of her youngest grandson, my nephew.

Soon, the door bell rings. My five year old nephew walks in, hugs me and then runs to hug his grandma.

The aroma of love wafts around the house.

My nephew has brought a plastic bag. He pulls out a box from within, and then informs my mom,

“Grandma, today we are going to play chess. I have brought my chess board.”

My mom: Sure, sweetie.

Image courtesy – Canstock Photo.com

They clear the coffee table, and sit down on either side. My nephew arranges all the pieces carefully. As he arranges them, he quizzes his opponent to see if she can identify the various pieces, and identify which way they can move.

My mom passes the test.

My nephew: Grandma, I will take the white pieces and will start first.

Grandma: Sure.

The game progressss, my mom taking her time, my nephew, impatient. He knocks off a few pieces from the board and whoops in joy.

And then his queen is at the wrong place at the wrong time. My mom grabs the opportunity and knocks down his queen.

And then the rules of the game change, and how! My nephew cannot accept that his queen is not around.

He looks at his Grandma and says sweetly, “Let us go back a few moves ok? Let’s bring my queen back.”

My mom says, “No, that’s not fair.”

Nephew: No Grandma, it’s okay.

And this is how the game progresses. My shoulders shake in mirth. My mom’s pieces are watching the game from outside the board, while my nephew keeps bringing back his queen and his rooks, and other pieces. My mom indulges him.

The game finally comes to an end with a loud checkmate. My nephew announces grandly, “Grandma, I won.”

He then walks over to her and sits on her lap, reveling in all the love and the cuddly hugs. She asks him if he wants cookies.

And as my mom heads to the kitchen, my nephew carefully packs his chess pieces and puts them back into the bag!

I watch this truly special bond between grandma and grandson.

A love that lurks in black knights, pawns and rooks, who gave up their cause for the love of a grandma for her grandson.

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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.

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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.

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‘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.

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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!

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