Vibrant traditions


My husband and I are walking down a crowded street in Bengaluru, India. It is late in the afternoon, and the sun’s rays form net-like patterns on the pavement and the road.

Hundreds of small shops line both sides of the street. The shopkeepers and street hawkers are doing brisk business.

We need to stock up on cotton wicks (for our lamps), incense sticks, and a few other items. There are four shops that cater to our needs. They are all adjacent to each other, for they know that if we do not get what we want from the first shop, we will head to the next.

All four shopkeepers nod, and welcome us enthusiastically. We stop at the first shop. As I place my order, I am transfixed by the display of turmeric powder and kumkum (the red powder used for the Bindis that Indian women wear on their foreheads).

Art and Science are both at work here. The shopkeeper has painstakingly created mounds of these powders, by compacting them. They look so vibrant and colourful. The shopkeeper has planned this with precision. Just the right amount of powder to maintain the balance and prevent it from collapsing all around.

I ask him if I can take pictures. He obliges. I ask him, how he manages to take out powder from these mounds, if a customer wants to buy some!

He shows me how; I watch with bated breath. He does it with the ease of a seasoned professional. This is his turf and he smiles at my surprised look.

He packs our wicks and incense sticks. Deep from the recesses of his shop, a little boy comes running out. Presumably his son.

Family businesses that have been around for generations, carrying on the traditions of their forefathers. Selling simple, everyday things with so much creativity and beauty.

Wisdom from 150 Beans!


I am flipping the pages of one of my handwritten recipe books. The book is yellowed – with both age and stains from the kitchen; from having balanced the book near the cooking pot or from having turned the pages with hands coated with dough or turmeric powder or a hundred other ingredients.

Against each recipe is a small note in my handwriting, which rates how the recipe turned out.

This book has recipes from my grandma, my mom, my mother in law and my dad’s sister.

Today, I can stand in front of the stove, and estimate the quantities of ingredients mentally, I can gauge by the aroma, if all is well. Skills that have been acquired over many years.

But there was a time when I was a novice cook, navigating the world of recipes with precise measurements and quantities. Life in the kitchen revolved more around the science of cooking rather than its creative side. My tools were a set of measuring bowls and spoons.

I remember one evening, when we had a potluck dinner with our friends. I had to prepare a vegetable side dish for around 40 people.

I used this very same recipe book then. However, I had scrawled down the ingredients and quantities, but had not written down how many people the recipe could serve.

Then began the complicated math. The recipe said 2 carrots, 15 French Beans, 3 tomatoes, 1 onion and so on. To me this seemed like the quantity for around 4 to 5 people.

Being an expert at the math of cooking, I multiplied the quantities by 10 to serve 40 people. When I wrote my new quantities down, the 150 beans seemed out of place………..and thus it began – my journey towards learning that cooking is more about intuition, and less about precise quantities.

Courtesy – http://www.123rf.com

It has taken me many years and many errors to get here. There have been times that the dishes looked good but tasted anything but! Then again, there were dishes that crumbled, but tasted delicious.

It has been a long and enjoyable journey. Today, as I stand in front of the stove, I add salt and spice with practiced ease, I can see and tell, smell and diagnose what is right or wrong. I am a better judge of quantities.

After all, it is the wisdom acquired from 150 beans.

Condensed Cat


It’s 9.00 pm in the evening. My son and I step out of our building to sit by the pool. Warm, humid air envelops us, as we walk towards the pool. We are here to meet my son’s friend and his mom, for some school-related work.

We’ve been having rainy weather of late. The pool side chairs are semi-wet. 

There’s hardly anyone at this hour. Lights from homes all around us vie for attention. In some homes the flashing images from the television dance on the wall. People in some homes are silhouetted against the light.

There are the dark forms of people getting back from work. The sky is far, far above. The few stars that can be seen seem dull when compared to the white, glaring lights that we mortals use.

Two swimmers cut silently through the water; only a gentle swish can be heard. 

My son and I wait in companiable silence. My son wanders away for a bit, and I check my phone.

Two minutes later, my son calls out to me, and draws my attention to a cat. A cat that he has drawn with his fingers, on the water that has condensed on the  outside glass wall of the multi-purpose hall, where the aircon has been turned on within.

I smile. It is one cute cat. We share this moment, a cat on a glass wall. One moment of fun, snatched from a busy day.

The Toy Cupboard


The days seem to whiz past, the hands of the clock seeming to move faster, when nobody watches them.  The newborn has become a toddler, a tween and a teen. 

Picture courtesy – @ Can Stock Photo

Slivers of silver in the hair; time seems to have stopped briefly, only in digital pictures and short video capsules. 
I stand before the Toy Cupboard in the children’s room. I remember  my discussions with a carpenter (fifteen years ago) to design a toy cupboard that would be both child-friendly and visually appealing. The toy cupboard was delivered, and has been used ever since.

Toys are no longer in the ‘radar’ for my kids. Maybe it is time to retire the cupboard and buy something that would be more relevant.

Easier said than done. I stand before the cupboard looking at clearing some old toys. There are dolls and vehicles, predominantly. 

Barbies, dolls that can close and open their eyes, doll accessories (tons of them) from mini-wardrobes to laundry kits to party and dinner sets.  Echoes from the past waft around, a giggle here, a smile there, a teacher’s game, a mom bakes cookies game, playdough colours stretch these memories into wonderful shapes and vibrant moments.

Afternoons spent combing and braiding dolls’ hair. Then, the move to loom bands and badge-makers, and beading and card-making. Wonderful glittery afternoons spent with coloured tape, beads, string and sequins.

Then, there are the dinosaurs and trucks and cars and Transformers and Ben10 Aliens and more trucks, and magnets and tools and diggers and mixers. Days spent chasing imaginary enemies around the home, the sounds of vehicles moving furiously, accompanying the dash through the house.

Bows and arrows and Nerf guns, a warrior here and an action hero there, peeking from under the cot or standing up bravely for a cause.

Cuddly toy comforters, bits and pieces of broken toys, so many more – each and every one of them associated with a precious memory.

Where did the years fly? I relive those moments all over again.

I may not retire the cupboard. At least, not just yet!

Doodling Days


Thanks to mobile phones, our lives have changed so much. Most people do not use their landlines all that much anymore.

In fact, I know of friends who have done away with their landlines.

Why am I saying all this ? While we have reaped the benefits of technology,  a few, cute things have gone missing from our lives.

I just realized this today, when I saw an old notebook of mine from work. For some strange reason it seems to have survived the onslaught of time. Can’t remember why I did not throw it away.

Anyway, I’m digressing. The book is filled with my doodling. Leaves and flowers, cubes and cuboids, little birds and houses, rabbits and trees, abstract shapes, many squiggles and spirals, my name and signature repeated in various styles.

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I laugh out. I can imagine sitting at my work desk and talking to customers and colleagues. I can see myself nodding and doodling, pen at the ready, capturing important points to act on, as also expressing my creativity on the side.  I am sure now that at the time I had no idea that I was doodling so much.

During my childhood, we had a small notepad next to our landline, and a pen, to jot down numbers. All of us left our mark on that notepad with our doodles.

Today, I don’t see anyone doodling all that much. Paperless offices are in, people send contacts through their mobile phones, no one seems to write down numbers.

I feel nostalgic for the doodling days, when we had elegant leather phone books, indexed by alphabet, where we wrote down people’s numbers and addresses.

Life has changed for the better, yes, but I would love to doodle again.

Every mom has a gallery


Every mom has an art gallery or a collection box. The walls of the gallery could be a refrigerator or steel cupboard, or a pin-up cork board. Then again, the collection box could be a humble plastic bag  or a small box, both of which have pride of place in her wardrobe or cupboard.

Every mom carefully preserves her own gallery and collection box. Why? Because they contain works of art and gifts from her children –  cards for her birthday, mom’s day cards, doodles and squiggles, thank you notes or stick figure drawings.  The collection boxes probably contain sea shells, pebbles from the road,  hand-made earrings, a paper rocket, a sweet poem, an old photo and many, many such wonderful things.

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These are rare treasures indeed that bring back snapshots of the children’s growing up years, and the crazy passage of time.

Where did that child go, who drew stickman families, where did that girl go who hand-stitched clothes for her dolls, where did that boy go who played with trucks all the time…!

My collection box has pebbles, bracelets, earrings and many cards and drawings. My refrigerator overflows with drawings of animals and ‘mom I love you’ slips.

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What about you? What’s in your mom gallery? Would love to know.

The inspiration for this post comes from a comment made by one of my blogging friends (dancingpalmtrees) on one of my blogs. Thank you so much for the inspiration).

Welcome to my Golu (Doll display)


The last week has been so crazy, in a wonderfully beautiful way, as we celebrate one of the nicest festivals in India – Navratri.

Navratri means ‘nine nights’. While there is a lot of spiritual meaning to this festival, these nine days in most Indian  homes spell joy, fun, food, music and dance, and of course a lot of camaraderie and bonding, not to forget all the vibrant and colourful sarees.

So,  that was why I was MIA from blogosphere this week. The festival is nearly done, and I am back.

People from our community celebrate Navratri in a unique way! We put up a display of dolls (yes, dolls). Dolls that have been passed down from our ancestors, dolls that we have collected over the years, dolls of every possible type.

These dolls are arranged on steps (these stands can be assembled). The stand is then covered with a cloth and serial lights put on them.  On the eve of Navratri, the dolls are brought down from storage and put on display.

I have a few hundred dolls, mostly terracota dolls. Once we set up the dolls, we invite friends home to see the display and have food.  I had a lot of friends visiting this week, and had lots of fun.

One of the most important dolls in the Golu (doll display) is the ‘Marapaachi’ doll. These dolls are made of wood, and passed down from generation to generation. These dolls usually come in couples, man and woman, boy and girl.

We dress them up in different costumes, every year. Each year we add new doll sets to our collection. Over my next few posts, I will share pictures of a few special doll sets that I have at home and the story behind them.

This is a picture of my Golu. With new dolls, my Golu is expanding horizontally as well.  Below the picture of my Golu is the picture of the ‘Marapaachi’ dolls, that have been handed down in the family.

Each doll is special, each doll has a story and so many associated memories. I love my dolls, each and every one of them.

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        Main Golu, Sections 1, 2, 3 & 4

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                      The Main Golu

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                 Section 2 of my Golu

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             Section 5 of my Golu

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The Marapaachis – handed down from generation to generation.

Hope you enjoyed these pictures. Over the next few posts, I will talk about my favourite dolls and their stories.

I look forward to catching up on all your blogs too!

Of bookmarks and growing up


I love bookmarks as much as I love books. I have a whole collection of different bookmarks, from different parts of the world.

One of my favourites is from the Van Gogh Museum in The Netherlands.  I bought it from the Museum’s souvenier shop. It is a magnetic bookmark, based on Van Gogh’s painting of red poppies.

The bookmark has frayed over the years, from over use, and from one evening of soaking in heavy rain.

I chanced upon it today and a funny incident came to mind.

We were at the Van Gogh Museum, soaking up the art. My son was four then and loved to sketch and colour all the time (he still does).

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        Courtesy – http://www.pinterest.com

He asked me about the paintings. I told him a bit about Van Gogh and about the paintings, and why we were there.

And then it started, a loud bawling. To my utter amazement, it was my son. Shaking his whole body and crying.

We rushed him out and looked for injuries or bruises. Nothing!

After he had calmed down a little bit, we asked him what had happened, and if he was hurting.

The remnants of big sobs shook his little frame, as he said, “Why are my drawings not in this Museum?”

We laughed our hearts out and gathered him for a hug.

I told my son about this incident. He had a good laugh, and I just realized how time flies and how quickly my baby has grown.