My little niece is two and half years old and is at that sweet stage where she talks non-stop, is curious about everything and is eager to talk on the phone. She only knows me, her aunt, virtually. But thanks to technology I am happy to watch her grow and enjoy spending time with her, albeit virtually.
I was on a video call with my sister yesterday, when my darling niece announced that she wanted to talk to me. We spoke for a bit and played some games where she asked me to mimic various animal sounds. We howled and barked, meowed and chirped, quacked and laughed our way through a long list of animals.
Finally, when my niece tired of the game, I asked her where her brother was. She told me that he was in school. I then asked her where her Dad was?
Pat came the reply, “Dad has gone out and is now inside Mom’s phone.”
My sister had just been talking to her husband before our video call and my niece had observed her father on the phone!
Perfect answer!! My sister and I shared a good laugh. My niece giggled too!
It is midnight. There’s a light drizzle. I shut the balcony door and head indoors, checking all the doors, lights and fans on my way to the bedroom.
I pick up my phone to set the alarm. My screen lights up at that precise moment. I am delighted to see my daughter’s name flashing on the screen.
I pick up and we start talking. As we talk, she says that she is famished and wants to eat. Immediately on mom-mode, I chide her to eat wholesome meals at regular intervals. She nods. A practiced nod from years of hearing the same thing from her mom all the time.
I think back to the time when my daughter was with us at home. She would wake up in the morning and greet me with a hug. She would then squeeze herself on to the kitchen counter and watch me as I cooked. She would demand coffee, and as she enjoyed it, we would chatter about this and that!
Now, on my phone screen, I watch as she heads to the kitchen, thousands of miles away. She places her phone on the kitchen counter, as she mulls over what to cook. I can see the world outside my daughter’s window on her screen. It is grey and cloudy. I look outside my window – it is dark and cloudy.
Her voice suddenly announces, “I am going to make bread pizza! I feel like eating cheese!”
She potters around her kitchen. I can only hear the knife on the chopping board, and the clanging of pans. Suddenly, a sauce bottle comes into view on my phone’s screen. It looks cozy and warm, and contrasts beautifully with the grey, cold weather outside. The sauce bottle and I keep each other company.
My daughter suddenly pops into view and tastes the sauce. “Yumm”, she says. Again, the sauce bottle and I look at each other, accompanied by the sounds in the background, as my daughter disappears from view.
My daughter is finally done, and has popped her bread pizzas into the oven. She sits down and we talk – about this and that – sometimes staring into space, lost in our own thoughts.
After some time, she says that the aroma of cheese and bell peppers is wafting all around. When the bread pizza is ready, she brings it over, and we talk as she eats.
She sighs in contentment. I am happy. It is nearly 1.30 am in my part of the world. My eyes are shutting of their own volition. My daughter orders me to sleep. I fall into a blissful sleep, thankful to technology for the joy of such simple moments!
I used to be an avid gardener many years ago. And then, we moved cities. I had to give away my plants multiple times and my heart broke each time I had to bid adieu to them. So, when I moved to my current home, I decided that I would not grow any plants and thus not get attached to them again!
I do have a few plants that have been gifted to me by friends. I have been caring for these. However, it was not until a couple of weeks ago that I decided to get back to gardening.
Inspired by a friend’s garden, I bought pots, soil, seeds and other basic equipment. I spent that weekend potting, planting seeds and watering as required.
The wait began. The whole family got involved in the process. Every morning my son would get up and ask me, “Has anything happened?”
For the first week, my son and I paced to and from the balcony on our various trips to the kitchen or to the dining room. The soil remained as it was, tiny white pieces of pebbles dotting its rich, dark brown surface.
One morning, just a week later, I saw the tiniest pairs of green leaves, bright against the dark of the soil. So, so tiny. I ran to wake my son up. Soon, we were seated around the pot, our eyes peering at this tiny miracle of creation.We smiled in excitement.
Now, I feel like a new mom all over again, constantly tending to these new babies in our home. The other night, when the skies opened up, I ran at midnight to bring the pots indoors.
I have fallen in love all over again with these beautiful plants. Plants that will grow when we are not watching them, just like our children. Plants that will grow proud and tall and wave merrily in the breeze. Plants that will flower and bring joy. Plants that will bear fruit and seeds for this magic of life to continue.
I sit down again on the balcony and peer down. My husband calls out, “Has anything happened?”
I murmur to myself, “I know something magical is happening, but I can’t see it just yet.”
The deep red silk skirt glows in the afternoon sun, as I gently remove it from the white cotton cloth it is wrapped in. I lay it out gently on the easy chair in the living room and move the chair over to the balcony. The silk skirt needs some fresh air and sunlight before it is wrapped-up in the soft white cloth again.
And as I move around the house, bringing out old boxes and cartons from various cupboards in yet another attempt to declutter and reorganize, my mind keeps going back to the beautiful red silk skirt with its beautiful green border.
This skirt is nearly fourteen years old. It was a hot, humid afternoon, when my friends and I went shopping for our daughters for their very first classical dance performance.
The teacher had given us a long list that included the costume, make-up, hair accessories, jewellery and many other items.
All three of us were brimming with excitement, as we walked in and out of many shops – looking for, purchasing and ticking items off the list. It was late in the afternoon when we finally wrapped-up. We quickly decided to grab a cup of coffee before we went home, all the while talking about how we would get the girls ready for their dance programme.
The days soon flew past, and it was time to get our girls ready for their first-ever dance performance. We decided to meet up at one of our homes and get the girls ready together.
We knew the sequence in which the make-up had to be applied, but with no prior experience in classical dance make-up, we applied foundation that was a little patchy, eye make-up that looked thick, and blush that was overpowering.
The hair was yet another challenge! The girls had short hair – and to this we had to attach false hair, braid it and make it stay on their tiny heads. Add to this the confusion of the girls suddenly wanting to move or eat or drink water; and we were reduced to a bunch of anxiously giggling moms, desperate to cover our ineptitude.
The girls were finally ready, and we drove them to the venue. The teacher took the girls aside, and gently corrected their make-up and ensured that everything else was in place.
Out of sheer fear that the false hair we had attached would come crashing down on the stage, we had stuck so many hairpins and u-pins into their hair, while double-protecting the whole arrangement with black thread. Little did we know that our girls were in pain, carrying all those extra “mom-anxiety-reduction” pins.
The girls performed beautifully, and the three of us stood watching them with pride and misty eyes. After the performance, we high-fived each other in sheer relief that nothing had fallen or gone wrong on stage.
The girls came down. Their initial euphoria gave way to tiredness and irritation. They demanded that their make-up and hair be brought back to normal immediately. We went to the green room, and as our daughters winced and made faces we removed the huge army of hairpins we had loaded in their heads for protection.
The make-up came off with coconut oil and cotton. Our girls ran out like butterflies, feeling lighter now, and chased each other down the corridors. We packed up the various bits and pieces, and carefully put them away for the future.
I come back to the now. How can I ever part with this little skirt? It has in its folds the choreographed memories of laughter, friendship, music and dance and precious moments with my little princess and her darling friends!
It is late on Sunday afternoon, and this day seems no different from any other in these pandemic times.
I have lots of work to do, and I find the thought of sitting at my work desk totally unappealing. I shift base. I am now on the recliner sofa in the living room; my legs comfortably stretched out, my back arched at an unhealthy angle and my laptop on my lap.
The balcony windows are open. The rays of the afternoon sun stream gloriously into the living room. My mind soars outside the balcony, away from my laptop and my work. It flies to the blue sky and the cotton-puff clouds, it flies with the birds and sways with the gently shimmering leaves. A sudden thud from somewhere brings me out of my reverie, and my mind crash-lands on the sofa, irritated by this sudden halt to its joyous afternoon sojourn.
I plead with my mind to cooperate; it agrees to focus, but on one condition. It demands a nice strong cup of filter coffee.
I readily agree. I hop to the kitchen. I return with a steel tumbler filled to its brim with strong South Indian filter coffee, perfectly frothed up, with a few drops of strong decoction lacing the bubbles on top.
I set the glass down, and settle back in. I take the first invigorating sip. My mind is fully with me now. Sharp and focussed, we work in harmony. Every now and then my mind prods me to take a sip.
Soon, my fingers are flying on the keyboard. I am nearly done. My left hand seeks the coffee glass. I realize that it is empty. I feel cheated. I peer inside and find only two or three drops.
I tip the glass back and wait for the excruciatingly slow journey of those delicious drops of coffee. They finally fall into my mouth. I relish them. I feel a deep sense of accomplishment.
The energy at home when the kids are around is palpable. And this manifests in many ways that only moms notice. Shoes in the exact angle they were taken off, left by the door. Bags, wallets, keys, and now masks as well! All these are clues to locate the kids when they disappear into their own rooms. And these bits and pieces of their presence breathe life into the walls of our home.
This last week, my son discovered that his sister had gone from one bedroom, which my son uses for his classes, to continue sleeping in another bedroom. Her bed was unmade as she literally sleep-walked to the other bedroom and plopped there!
My son stared at the unmade bed, grabbed my daughter’s quilt, bunched it up and walked purposefully towards the other bedroom.
When I asked him what he was going to do, he said, “I am going to throw this on her.” And I ran behind him trying to stop him from irritating his sister.
And as I entered the room, I saw him gently putting the quilt around his sister and tucking her in.
My throat catches for a moment. I get back to work with a smile.
In these Covid times, the words dawn and dusk seem to have taken on a new meaning. Where before they were beautiful words to be found in poems and books, these days they have merely become mechanical cues to pinpoint the transition between days; days that seem to merge into each other.
However, even in these difficult times life does manage to bring some magic into our lives. Enter Dawn and Dusk!!
Dawn and Dusk are two little mynahs that have been visiting one of our dear friend’s home for the last eighteen months.
What began as a tentative entry into the kitchen from the window ledge has now grown into a deep friendship. Initially my friend would leave small pieces of fruit on the kitchen ledge. As they grew comfortable with my friend and his family, the mynahs would walk into the kitchen or living room, following them and awaiting their fruit treats.
Even to this day they visit twice, once at dawn and then again at dusk – to claim their grapes, bananas, dates, apples and cashewnuts. And that’s how they got their names.
My friends tell me that Dawn and Dusk usually come in and remind them if they find that their treats have not been refilled. At such times they wait patiently, without making any noise, seeming to completely understand if my friends are attending phone calls.
Somedays they bring a couple of friends with them, confident that their friends will also be treated with love and care!
What a beautiful friendship indeed! While all of us may not be stepping outdoors as often as we used to, Mother Nature has her own way of keeping us connected with her.
It is late in the afternoon, and as I type away on my laptop, a gentle breeze causes my day curtains to billow.
From where I am seated, and through the open balcony doors, I see two mynahs seated on the ledge of the building next to ours.
Initially they are seated on opposite ends of the ledge, their faces turned away from each other. Have they just had a squabble?
Then, after a few minutes, one of them moves closer as if trying to talk to the other mynah. But, no, the second mynah will not have it. She turns away and starts walking away from her friend! The friend moves closer, and the second mynah walks further away.
I so wish I could hear what they are saying. The first one is definitely trying to reason, but the second mynah is having none of it. She turns her beak up in the air and keeps taking small steps away from her pal.
But the first mynah is one persuasive bird. She does not give up, she keeps talking. Is she apologizing, is she explaining her point of view, is she telling the other mynah that she cares for her and that she will always be her friend despite their silly squabbles?
I sigh and wish that the other mynah would just say something. After a few minutes, the second mynah finally turns around. Yay!
They talk, and seem to sort out their differences. They fly away soon, their petty disagreement totally forgotten and forgiven.
I smile. I am happy. Sometimes all it takes is to put one’s pride aside and talk to the other person to make things right! After all, true friendship is precious and totally worth all this effort.
It is a bright and sunny day, after a week of dull rainy weather. I am cooling-off after my workout and head to my balcony. I allow the gentle morning breeze to tease my sweat-soaked curls, before it envelopes my neck and gifts me a few moments of pleasurable coolness.
The world below is already busy. Traffic is quite heavy and people are walking with purpose. Suddenly, I sense something flying past the balcony grill and on to the floor.
It is this beautiful flower! I quickly rush indoors to get my phone to click a picture.
And as it lies against the grey tiled floor, its beautiful red colour warms my heart. It reminds me of the beautiful hues of the red saree worn by a new Indian bride, it reminds of the deep red chillies that my mom would always sun- dry on our terrace when we were kids; it reminds me of the deep red spine of old books on our bookshelf, dog-eared and cherished; it reminds me of a perfect layer of raspberry jam on a slice of toast. It makes me smile.
This little flower has flown-in with the breeze, a simple gift that enlivens my day – bringing with it stories of its life experiences, and stories of how it was nurtured and cared-for by a loving pair of hands. Now it lies on my balcony, beautiful and poised, ready for whatever comes next.
It is dinner time at home, and my husband and son are at the dinner table talking, laughing and eating.
I am sitting on the sofa, busy on my computer, my brows furrowed in concentration. I am skipping dinner tonight, as I overate this afternoon. My stomach still feels heavy, and I sigh as I continue to type away.
My husband is done with his dinner. It is now his favourite ‘dessert time’, and he brings back some jim-jam biscuits from the kitchen.
He settles down in the easy chair, and proceeds to devour them. I look at him; and then look at the jim-jams. My tongue, that traitor, waters. I turn my attention to my work. “No more disturbances”, I tell myself.
In just a few seconds, my husband comes over and shows me one of the jim-jam biscuits and exclaims, “Look at this biscuit, the raspberry jam is on the wrong side.”
I say, “Oh, is it? Can I see it?” I turn the biscuit this way and that and pretend to examine it, as temptation battles with my guilt.
“Doesn’t matter really where the raspberry jam is, does it?” I say and quickly pop the biscuit into my mouth.
The yummy biscuit crumbles in my mouth, its flavour enhanced further by the delicious jam within. All the heaviness in my stomach vanishes. My guilt and resolve are nowhere to be seen.
My husband grumbles as he heads back to the kitchen to get another jim-jam. I smile and get back to work.