My invisible friend


Our neighbourhood is filled with high-rise condominiums, each separated from the other by lush greenery and by the various streets in the area. The only animals and birds we get to see are cute little dogs and cats, an abundance of pigeons, and some mynahs, orioles and parrots!

However, a few weeks ago, when I stood on our balcony sipping my morning cup of coffee, I heard the crowing of a rooster!

I was not sure if I had heard right! I waited, and there it was again. It made me smile. Where was this rooster? Was it a pet or a stray? I strained my neck to see if I could locate it, but there was no sign of the rooster.

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

I completely forgot about the rooster after that morning. However, two weeks ago, I heard the rooster crowing again at two thirty one afternoon. I rushed to the balcony.

“Do roosters crow in the afternoon”, I wondered? I began doubting myself; were my ears playing tricks on me? I rushed my son to the balcony to validate my findings. But the rooster never crowed again that day.

This Saturday, I heard the rooster crowing at seven in the morning. I pulled my son to the balcony. We stood there waiting – me, wanting to establish that I was not merely hearing sounds in my head; and my son, looking irritated. After about five minutes, the rooster crowed again. I turned at lightning speed to look at my son.

“Did you hear that?” I asked, bubbling with excitement. With a deadpan expression, my son replied, “Yup, I heard it too,” and he walked indoors. I stretched and strained to see if I could spot the rooster, but he remained elusive.

Over the last three days, the rooster has been crowing more often, sometimes in the morning and sometimes in the afternoon. Each time I hear the rooster, I smile. I feel good.

Crowing roosters were an integral part of my childhood, and also featured in many storybooks that we read as children. A rooster’s crowing heralded the beginning of a new day, where a golden sun rose on a perfectly blue sky to light up the world. It meant a day filled with hope and promise.

And that is how I feel each time I hear my invisible rooster friend. He makes me nostalgic for those days when life was simple. He also fills me with hope of better days to come.

Three safety-pins


I am cleaning the drawers of my dressing table, a long overdue task. And as I clean, I find my safety-pin box, containing many glittering steel safety- pins in various sizes.

Image courtesy – ClipartKey

Back in my childhood, safety-pins were precious resources that provided quick-fix solutions to many everyday problems – to fix a sudden tear in your clothes or to fix a broken sandal or to fix broken chains or beads. Moms and aunts usually had at least one or two safety-pins on the chains that most of them wore around their necks. All one had to do was ask; and out would come those precious pins that could solve all kinds of problems. But one of the most important uses of safety-pins for Indian women is when we have to wear sarees.

Most of us probably wore our first sarees for our high school graduation ceremonies. There was great joy in choosing the right saree, in getting the perfect blouse stitched and in buying the right accessories to go with it.

And as our moms helped us drape the sarees, we stood with three safety-pins in our palms. We waited to pass them to our moms, as they sat down to perfect each pleat of the saree and to pin them together neatly. The safety-pins were not visible after the saree was draped, but gave us that much needed assurance that we could carry ourselves well!

When we got back from school after the graduation – our hearts filled with precious memories, fun and some tears – our moms waited to receive us, and warned us to carefully remove the safety-pins first and put them away, before we changed back into our home clothes.

And on countless important occasions thereafter – from festivals and family functions to our own engagements and weddings – we draped ourslves in gorgeous sarees, with strings of jasmine in our hair, and huge jhumkas dangling from our ears. The sarees made us feel poised, graceful and elegant – silently supported as they were by three simple, safety pins.

I come back to the here and the now. The safety-pins have been lying in the box for ages. Can’t wait for life to get back to normal. Can’t wait to bring out my sarees and my glittering safety pins!

On a walk with Dad


One of my most enduring memories of my childhood is going on walks with my Dad – sometimes to the milk booth to pick up packets of milk, or to take the bus into town or to go to the post office or the temple.

My sister and I would each hold one of his hands; and we would then set off. Just as the road from our home sloped upwards, sweet little singing birds would call out merrily from the electric lines or from the bushes and trees.

My Dad would mimic the birds’ songs and the birds would call back again, and my Dad would respond. My sister and I would also try to mimic the sounds.

And as we walked under a perfectly blue sky, with cotton puff clouds floating about lazily, we would badger our Dad with all kinds of questions; questions that he always answered patiently.

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

We would laugh, talk, skip and come back home – rejuvenated by yet another beautiful and memorable walk with Dad.

As we grew older, the walks stopped – we were busy being teenagers; but the conversations with Dad continued at the dinner table, long after dinner.

Conversations that were interspersed with good natured teasing, sibling fights and of course lots of music. We would all often break into song, and my Dad would start drumming the beat on the dining table.

Long, beautiful evenings they were – times when we could discuss anything with our Dad, and be assured that he would always hear us out.

Later, when we moved away to our college dorms, he would write to each of us every week, giving us simple and beautiful updates of home. We would write back promptly, keeping him updated about our lives.

When we would go home for the holidays, he would be waiting for us at the bus station, hugging us and welcoming us back home – where mom would be waiting with a yummy home-cooked meal of sambhar rice, roasted potato curry and hot cups of filter coffee!

And as we started working and moved away to different cities, the letters continued, which were then gradually replaced by emails and text messages.

After marriage, my Dad had specific days and time slots to call each of us. Mine was on Friday mornings at 9 a.m. Lovely catch-up conversations; conversations that now included my husband and children. But I would call him whenever I felt like, to catch up or to ask him something.

After my Dad passed away, for many many months after, I would remember the 9 a.m. calls on Friday and yearn to hear his voice greeting me.

From simple walks to long talks, I remember and treasure all those precious moments with my Dad. Holding his hand and drawing comfort from his letters and calls. Knowing that he was always there for us – his little girls. Love you Dad!

Tinkling bells


I stand on the balcony with my morning cup of coffee – strong, South Indian filter coffee brewed to perfection. What better way to begin the day!

It’s the weekend, and the world outside is slowly waking up. The usual morning rush of traffic is missing; just a few early morning joggers – moving neon spots on grey pavements.

I sip my coffee and sigh in contentment. It is then that I hear them – gentle tinkling bells. Maybe the neighbour’s chimes?

Where I grew up, cows and horses were common visitors to our neighbourhood, as there were lots of green meadows around the area where we lived.

While the horses were wild, the cows usually belonged to local shepherds. Most of these cows had bells tied around their necks. Beautiful little bells that tinkled when the cows grazed and mooed to each other.

The cows could be seen on and off on the hillside all through the day, as we went about our daily lives. And when the sun would finally head west, the shepherd would appear out of nowhere and drive the cows home.

In those days, there was a lady who came to our home each day to help my mom with household chores. She would arrive by eleven a.m. and leave late in the afternoon.

This lady’s husband owned a few cows, and on some afternoons, when the lady was in the backyard, her cows would pass by our home.

One of the cows – whom the lady lovingly called Lakshmi – would always come close to the fence as if to talk to her. The lady would talk in ‘cow-language’, love dripping in her every sentence. Lakshmi, the cow, would stand and listen, hanging on to her every word.

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It was such a special bond, a pure outpouring of love. And as Lakshmi walked away, the bell around her neck would tinkle. The lady would then settle down to her post lunch betelnut ritual, her eyes following Lakshmi with love, till the sounds of the bell would finally merge with the breeze.

I come back to the present. These bells that I hear now are reminiscent of those perfect, lovely afternoons and the bonds of a very special love!

Little hearts


It is mid-afternoon, and I stand on my balcony looking at the world outside. The leaves on the trees below sway gently with the breeze. The leaves glow on and off as they catch the sun’s rays and throw them back at the world.

The birds are busy. Pigeons are lined up on the ledge of one of the buildings – gossiping; a family of golden orioles flits from one tree to another.

I haven’t stepped out of home in a while, except for the odd runs to the supermarket. I soak-in the quiet.

The spell is broken, when I hear my son asking me for something from my wallet. I reluctantly head back in.

I have shifted to a smaller wallet these days, as I hardly go out. This wallet just holds my cards and a little cash. But what my son wants is from my bigger wallet – a wallet that is a microcosm of a time when I used to go out often – to meet friends, to shop or to eat out with family.

I sigh. I open my wardrobe and pull out the handbag which holds the old wallet. For some strange reason, the wallet’s zip seems to be stuck. I tug it this way and that, wondering what is obstructing its movement.

I am finally able to open the wallet. I smile in a sudden burst of joy. Inside the wallet are two tiny plastic hearts. Memories come rushing in.

It was another hot afternoon, many months ago. My daughter and I were on an afternoon shopping marathon. The same trees glistened and swayed, as we walked from one mall to another, sweating profusely but still filled with a sense of purpose – a purpose driven by the joys of retail therapy. When we had had enough, we sat down in a roadside cafe to have cups of cold coffee.

On the top of each of our cups was this tiny little heart. A little, cute, red dollop of love. To me, those hearts captured perfectly the special love between my daughter and me, and all the fun memories of a wonderful afternoon spent together. I remember taking those heart-toppers and putting them away in my wallet.

And now, as the afternoon sun moves across the sky, I look at the hearts and feel a sudden rush of love.

Akash the brave Bengal Tiger


It’s decluttering time in our home this month, and I shudder at the number of things we have managed to hoard since the last declutter. Each room presents a different challenge. The process can quickly become irritating if one realizes one’s inherent hoarding potential – something I seem to possess in abundance.

Having said that, decluttering is also a journey into the past. Pulling out old clothes, books, stationery, devices, cards and photographs is a pleasurable experience – if and only if one has the time and the inclination to take on this never-ending and challenging task.

But that’s not what this blog is about. During this journey towards a minimalistic life, I chanced upon an old stuffed toy – a beautiful, white Bengal Tiger.

Akash, the white tiger, entered our lives when our daughter turned one. He was her constant companion, resting on her shoulder or peeking from the crook of her arm. He was all important. He heard her secrets, and offered her comfort when she cried or when she hurt herself. He was always next to her pillow, watching over her.

Meet Akash the brave

As my daughter grew older, Akash’s role as protector and counsellor diminished. However, he still occupied pride of place on my daughter’s bookshelf. And he sits there to this day, faded with age and enjoying his retirement.

I pick him up to dust him. And it hits me then – my nest is partially empty. He reminds me of wonderful days spent with my daughter. He reminds me of the swift passage of time.

I hug him! Now, I am the one who seeks comfort from Akash the brave Bengal Tiger. And he plays his role to perfection.

My new e-book – Simple Sojourns


Dear friends,

Hope all of you are safe and well. I am sorry that I have not been very active on WordPress for the last two months. I have missed reading all your blogs. But I am happily back now and look forward to catching up on my reading.

I am also happy to share that my book, SIMPLE SOJOURNS – A collection of everyday stories from India, is now available on Amazon Kindle as an e-book. The paperback version will be available at a later date.

This book would not have been possible without all your encouragement for my blog all these years, which made me believe that I could actually write this book. Thank you all so much.

Nimi

A box from back home


It’s been almost two years since we’ve met our families back home. With the fantastic blessing that is technology, we have managed to keep-up our spirits through video calls with our parents, siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins.

This afternoon, as I settled down to catch up on some work, the doorbell chimed. It was a courier delivery. The carton was big and fairly heavy.

I grew excited, because we’ve been eagerly awaiting this courier’s arrival from back home, lovingly despatched by my husband’s brother.

When my husband got home, we cut open the carton and for a moment there, the smell of home and our loved ones wafted through the air. It hit us then; how much we have missed visiting our family, a ritual we follow at least twice a year!

Soon, we delved into the box and took out its contents. In addition to the items we had ordered from back home, there were two gifts for me, a dress from my sister-in-law and a beautiful handwoven multi-purpose basket, made by her mother. I was in bliss.

The surprise letter in the basket

But the highlight was a handwritten letter from my sister-in-law, asking after us and giving us news from back home. I haven’t received a single letter in the last decade, after my Dad passed away. My Dad was an avid letter writer, and I have preserved every single letter that he has ever written to me.

There is something so beautiful about a handwritten letter. No email or phone message can ever make up for a surprise letter from back home. I feel so happy and so touched. I will treasure this letter.

Assorted glasses


This December is unlike any other. We are at home, on a staycation, enjoying lazing around and spending quality time with family. I have also been doing some decluttering around the house.

Today’s agenda is to clear out the crockery cupboard. I carefully take out each item and stack it on the kitchen counter, on the dining table, and on all other available flat surfaces.

Phew! What hoarders we are! The cupboard is like a hidden mystery cave, spewing out a never ending stream of plates and bowls and chafing dishes and glasses. I resolve not to buy crockery ever again (of course at least till I go shopping next!)

And I work mechanically, my mind busy elsewhere. Soon, it is time to put back the crockery into the cupboard. All plates and bowls are shining. They look happy.

And as I put back all the glasses, I realize that there are around fifteen glasses. However, only six of them belong to the same set. The other nine glasses are individual glasses of unique design, being the only ones remaining from their original sets.

Image courtesy – shutterstock.com

My immediate thought is, “…need to shop for a new set of water and juice glasses.” But then, I observe these nine unique glasses. Some are long, some are short, some are round, some are plain, but each one of them, along with their sets has been a part of our lives over the last two decades, and have been an integral part of our memories – the glass with lemon slices on it, the glass that looks like a globe, the plain looking glass which can hold so much water, the cut glass tumbler…each so special.

I think about how some of these glasses have survived over the years, while most of their family members did not. Some had cracks or got chipped, while some of them still remain intact.

I liken this to our lives, where we continue to evolve through our various experiences – learning to face challenges in the best way we can, sometimes with a crack here and a chip there, sometimes falling down and getting shattered, only to pick ourselves up while continuing to plod on.

I may buy a new set of glass tumblers soon, but am loath to throw away this beautiful and assorted collection of survivors. I send them back into the cupboard with a silly grin on my face.

Bubbles of joy


We are heading over to a friend’s home for dinner. My friend is moving out to another part of town, and this is an impromptu plan just before they leave.

Dinner happens around packed cartons and pizza boxes. Laughter flows and echoes off empty walls, as we reminisce about the passage of time and about all the wonderful memories we’ve shared.

Soon it’s time to say bye. Just as we are about to leave, my daughter spots a roll of bubble wrap! And she glides towards it as if in a trance, and starts popping the bubbles. My friend laughs and asks her if she wants a small piece to take away. My daughter nods vigorously. My friend bends down and cuts out a small piece of bubble wrap. When she hands it over to my daughter and lifts her head, she finds that I have joined the queue for a bubble wrap takeaway too!

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

My daughter and I grin at each other, as we say our byes and get into the lift. We start popping the bubbles, completely absorbed in this most satisfying of all tasks. We get back home. My son, who had stayed back at home, gets excited when he sees the bubble wrap, and begs for a chance to pop them.

But no, we are selfish girls when it comes to bubble wrap. We don’t want to share something so precious.

We settle down and pop, sometimes row by row, sometimes random patterns. We sigh in contentment. There is something so therapeutic about this. Soon, our bubble wraps look exhausted! We then move on to other things, completely rejuvenated.

Late in the night, when I go around checking the doors and turning off the lights, I see the two pieces of bubble wrap on the sofa. There is a small frisson of hope as I run my hands over them.

Aha, I find an unpopped one. Pop!!! The day finishes on a high note.