Family bonds


I stand on my balcony, and watch the evening sky. The clouds and the sun seem to be playing hide and seek. Golden rays stream out one second, and are gone the next. Birds are getting back to their nests, after a long day, nearly twelve hours since they left home. I am sure they are glad to be back in the warmth of their nests, to snuggle amongst the twigs and leaves, have a chit chat with their neighbours and call it a day!

I smile, as I liken this to what we humans do, when we come back to the warmth and smells of our homes every evening, after a long day spent at work or school.

We are different creatures, when we step out every morning – well groomed, mentally poised and focused on getting work done, lists and priorities clearly structured in our heads.

But at the end of the day, when we set foot inside our homes, we transform into different creatures – for home is the place where we can let our guard down. 

I see this when my kids come home from school. They shed their ‘outside world’ personas as they take off their shoes and socks, drop bags, and lunch boxes, loudly asking about what there is to eat. They plonk on the sofa with a thud, and then sink into their new ‘home skins’, as they narrate what they did, and who said what and the tons of homework to be done.

Family dynamics kick-in. Familiar jokes get exchanged, patterns of behaviour repeat, squabbles break out, mom’s nagging continues, we try to finish school work, bond over dinner, watch some television, worry about things unknown, share space and time, share tears and laughter, share likes and dislikes, and rally around the person who is down in the dumps!

Courtesy – Crazy family Clipart – ClipartFest

We are individuals, who are held together by deep bonds of shared everything. We know each others’ quirks, and crazy routines, we sometimes yell for some ‘timeout’ and ‘space’ from the others. But it is just that..only a brief time out. For we would be lost without the family and all the craziness that goes into it.

I wonder if it is the same for all these tweeting birds. My brood is back, winding down. My chores beckon. I head back in.

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Grandma’s Tales


When we were growing up, one year and two-year old children were usually fed by their grandmoms.

No prams, no high chairs. The grandma would carry the child on her hip.  In the other hand she would carry a stainless steel bowl, filled to the brim with mashed rice, dal (lentils), a dash of clarified butter and a portion of vegetable.

The grandma would walk about the courtyard of her house, with a chubby little baby on her hip, pointing out the blue sky, the swaying trees, the green leaves and the small ants going about their day.

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     Courtesy – http://www.illustrationsof.com

The ubiquitous crow never failed to entertain. Cawing in its raucous voice, the crow provided ample opportunity for the grandma to feed the child, whose mouth would be open in wonder at all these small marvels and miracles of nature.

The postman, the people walking on the street, the honking of an autorickshaw – these were the other sources of entertainment.

It was a sight to behold. Sometimes, the grandma would spin a tale about a good crow who was obedient, and a naughty crow who was not obedient, and would then tell the child that he or she was like the good crow. Another mouthful of food would be cleverly fed.

Mission accomplished, the grandma would clean up the child and carry her indoors.

Countless grandmoms in countless courtyards spending quality time with their grandchildren. A truly special bond indeed!

A tale of two wrist watches


I have a plastic box in my wardrobe, which contains two wrist watches.  The watches are old.  Each of these watches has its own story.

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The bigger watch of the two belonged to my Dad.  After his death, my sisters and I chose a few items from my Dad’s belongings.  I chose a shirt, his books of quotations and this watch. For quite a while after my Dad’s death, I teared up each time I saw these things.

” Can material things ever make-up for a person’s absence?” I asked myself.  But over time, I realized that material things may not fill the void in your heart, but they can bring back wonderful memories.  As the pain of separation wore away, in its place came fun memories that I shared with my Dad.  The way he would take off his wrist watch the moment he came back from work, placing it on his cupboard at a specific place, along with his pen.

In the wee hours of the morning, when my sisters and I peeked at the world from inside our quilts, we would see our Dad humming to himself and winding his watch.  I still remember how his hand felt, and how the watch was positioned on his hand.

He changed the leather strap twice, if I remember right.  We gifted him watches when we each started working, but till the end, this watch was his favourite.  The watch that marched with him, every second.

So many things in this simple watch.

The other smaller watch was my ‘first watch’.  I was in high school, and I still remember I had gone out for extra classes to school.  It was the Indian festival of ‘Sankranti‘ in January, and I walked in to the yummy smell of ‘sweet pongal‘ being cooked.  I remember my parents calling me to the dining table.  They asked me to close my eyes, and to stretch out my arm.  I still remember my Dad wrapping the watch on my hand.  A simple, elegant watch.  They told me it was for my board exams, to help me manage time.  It was a great surprise, and I remember how happy I was.  I hugged both of them.

These two watches are so precious, for they connect me to my Dad, and to my parents for all the dreams they had for me, and believing in me always.

Love you Amma and Dad.  Thank you for everything.

Sibling Wars


The school day begins. I am in the kitchen grappling with cooking. I hear loud screaming and yelling. My children are doing what they do best – squabbling.

Sibling wars. One can actually write a thesis on this, and still not understand the dynamics of this phenomenon.

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           Courtesy – http://www.babyart.org

My children have study tables that are at right angles – when both move their chairs backwards and if, by chance, the chairs crash into each other, a war erupts.

You would think that a six seater dining table would have enough room for four people. Apparently not! Both children want the same chair, every day, for every meal. TV shows are a bone of contention, the bathroom is a warzone. The bedroom is the missile room, armed as it is with pillows.

There are unspoken symbols and codes of conduct. There are lists of ‘what you dids’ on both sides, which resurface every day. They cannot agree on food or TV, computer games or books, studying in the same room or sharing resources. Each time they get in the car they clamour for the same seat. They draw invisible divider lines on the car seat, like animals marking their territory, pushing away even the other’s shadow if it crosses this line.

They look daggers at each other,  don’t give way when they cross the doorway simultaneously, hide each others’ things and smile secret smiles of victory.

I watch this sibling-war and remember such battles with my sisters. Watching them as a mom, however,  is aggravating. The best way to handle this constant bickering is to go passive. They get no reaction from me at all. I am blamed for both taking, and not taking sides.

The warring siblings leave for school –  one takes the stairs and the other takes the lift.  The storm has passed and the house becomes blissfully quiet.

In a few hours, two happy faces will come home, freshen up and look at each other, and off they’ll go again.

But the funny part is, if one goes on a school field trip or weekend camp, the other soon starts pining!

Sibling logic baffles me☺☺.

What is ‘home’?


The word ‘home’ means so many things to so many people. It can be a physical space or a space in one’s heart, it can be a feeling of joy created when you are with family or loved ones, it can be memories; it can mean so many, many things. But it sure is a ‘ place of comfort’.

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Courtesy  http://www.home.howstuffworks.com

Home, to me, is about being with my family, as much as it is about being within the cozy walls of our home.  It is about those unique smells that belong to our home, it is about chaos, it is about order, it is about watching a game together and being able to wipe away tears or receive a bear hug.

It is about reading without disturbance, or not being able to read at all, when the children are having a fight. It is about those small crazy things like missing scissors and sock-pairs, that have vanished within this defined space called home.

Then again, it is about coming back from trips, and being on trips, as a family and feeling that deep bonding. It is about leaking pipes and stains on the wall, as much as it is about shared music and laughter echoing off the walls. It is about cuddling with the family, and playing Uno on a rainy day.

It is about going crazy, ferrying the kids to and from their classes, it is about grocery shopping and celebrating festivals.

Above all, it is about being there for each other, no matter what.

Home is both a physical space and a space within our hearts.

What does home mean to you?

Deepavali memories


I stand in my kitchen peering into the kadai, adding besan, spoonful by spoonful, into the bubbling sugar syrup that’s right now gurgling out golden ghee…..I leave the gas burner for a minute to get a drink of water & the delicious aroma of ghee, sugar & the first hints of Mysore Pak assault my senses.
My mind jumps back to another time …so long ago, in my hometown, where we would rush home after school to this wonderful smell of sweets being made. The air was festive – my granny would be on her sofa looking content with her family bustling around her. My mom would be filling-up box after box of sweets and savouries to distribute. At around 6 when darkness fell the first Lakshmi Vedi would go off with a loud crack…reverberating through the night. A frisson of excitement would run through the house…Oooooh “Deepavali is here”. We would await our Dad’s arrival from the cracker shop & inspect the goodies & share them.
One year, a coward, ready only to burst sparklers & flower pots, then a few years down, the brave one, setting off the dreaded ‘atom vedi‘, returning to base with a smirk that said it had been so easy. Then keeping our alarms for three thirty a.m. to be the first one in the block to set off the ‘100 wala & oosi pattasu’. Then the early years of college when it was not so cool to get up and be seen as doing all these with Featured imageenthusiasm. Then working life, marriage and kids.
Now, trying to re-create all that magic. Will my children remember the aroma of Mysore Pak wafting through the house? Do they look forward to the traditions we are trying to keep up every year? Yes, I am sure they will…maybe a different version of the same story..but the joy, the bonding & love will definitely continue.
Happy Deepavali to you all.

Coffee Friends


Earlier, I had written a post about Popcorn Friends. There are many different types of moments in life that can be enjoyed with different types of friends.

Today’s post is about Coffee Friends. Simply put, Coffee Friends are those with whom you go out for coffee.

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       Courtesy – http://www.ClipartPals.com

Most Coffee Friends usually have a favourite coffee outlet or cafe for the Coffee Friend meeting.

Where I live, there are many good ones to choose from.

So, last week I had a Coffee Friend afternoon. Thanks to Whatsapp and Smartphones, we could take out an  hour from our crazily busy lives to catch up.

Though we each rushed in at the appointed hour, the next 60 minutes were pure relaxation. With the smell of lattes, mochas and capuccinos wafting all around us, and soothing music playing, we settled down in our comfy seats to another wonderful Coffee Friends meeting.

As we sipped our coffee and snacked a bit, we caught up with each others’ lives – from schedules to work to children to fashion. We squeezed in a lot in those 60 minutes.

We laughed, ragged, discussed some serious stuff, ordered more coffee, discussed life’s philosophy and peeked at our smartphones multiple times to stay in touch with our busy schedules.

60 minutes that were exclusively for us. No topic was too trivial or too heavy for the Coffee Friends.

Before we knew it, we were saying loud byes and exchanging hugs. Each of us headed in a different direction, totally rejuvenated and energized.

We plan to meet soon for another Coffee Friend morning.

So do you have Coffee Friends? Would love to hear about those moments.

Rendezvous


My mom is staying with us for the holidays.

She is visibly excited. It is 5.50 p.m. and she is all set to go down to the park in the condo to meet her friends.

In the short time she has been with us, my mom has made friends, six friends to be precise.

However, this is a rendezvous with a difference. These seven women who meet every evening, do not speak the same language. Five of them are from different parts of India and the other two friends are from Japan and Korea.

A few of them speak English, but otherwise they use a mix of their own language, and English,  to communicate or just use gestures and sign language. They spend a good hour and a half together every evening, talking about their sons, daughters and grandchildren. They also talk about their spouses, many of whom are no more. 

Sometimes they have their evening tea or coffee by the pool, with each of them bringing something to eat. 

My mother takes me one evening to introduce me to her friends.

I say, “Namaste”! 

All of them radiate love and happiness. The Japanese lady bows gracefully. I am truly amazed, she gestures with her hand that she has a daughter like me. I understand perfectly. All of them smile and nod in acknowledgement.

All these women, probably in their seventies or eighties, deriving so much joy from making new friends at this stage in their lives, their eagerness to accept and share their thoughts and feelings, through the universal  language of love!

Truly, friendship has no barriers.

Where did the years fly?


She is in a hurry, always in a hurry these days, with a hundred things to do and projects to finish.

She looks into the shoe cupboard for her sandals; her patience wears thin, as she peers into the jumble of leather and canvas and laces.

I offer her mine, one of my flat sandals and she throws me a grateful look, but her feet are too big for my sandals, at least two sizes too big.

My daughter, when did she grow?

It seems like yesterday, when she was the size of my lower arm. Only six months back she fit into my sandals…wow, my throat catches as  she breezes out, her bag slung across her shoulder, the last remnants of breakfast still in her mouth, books in hand, her mind already away in her world of school and friends and projects.

The cute chubby girl, who loved Barbies and playing with doll houses, is now belting out pop, jazz and Bollywood numbers. The giggles are now replaced by LoLs.

There was a time when her world was our home and I, her mother, her ‘go to’ person for every silly thing.

Now, while I am still the ‘go to’ person, her universe has expanded. It is colourful and vibrant, filled with busy days, lots of fun, lots of study and lots of music and talking to friends.

I wait for this girl to come back from school and share her day with me. At her own time. She comes into the kitchen and starts a conversation. She sits at the small kitchen table and chit chats. She just wants me to listen. Her words meander with her thoughts – she shares pages from her day, laughs at funny things that happened and enjoys the food I’ve made.

Now, she pauses, and asks, “So, how was your day?”

We talk about my day. Then she goes back into her world of books, music and friends.

We go out for girls’ evenings out. We shop, we eat out and come back happy.

So much has changed, as my little angel has grown into this beautiful young girl with a great sense of humour.

She still has time for the big hug before she goes to bed, an all-enveloping hug thay says it all.

I am so proud to be her mother.

Frenemies!


I was in the supermarket last week doing my shopping. As I walked down the aisle that contained baking items, I saw two teenagers, a girl, who was around 15  and a boy, presumably her brother,  around 13.

They were deeply engrossed in reading a long list of items, which they had presumably come to buy. I smiled and went back to my shopping list.

Suddenly, I heard hoarse whispers and some heavy shuffling. I turned back to see the siblings engaged in a silent argument, they were wrestling with the shopping cart and then, the boy tried to snatch the shopping list from his sister.

There was the sound of tearing paper as the list gave-in to the pressure of being pulled at from two sides. It split exactly at the middle, probably because it had been folded there.

The boy walked away, with his half of the list, to get another shopping cart. The girl turned away in a huff, with her half of the list and the shopping cart.

I was quite amused by now and as I did my shopping, I kept bumping into them, in turns. After sometime, I caught the girl staring at the list and moving it away from her face, and then bringing it close and inspecting it. At that moment the brother  walked into the same aisle. He also looked puzzled.

Curious now, I watched. Both of them did not want to give in. They stared at each other for a while.

Finally, the girl said, “Give me the list, the paper is torn midway, and I can’t figure the item written, where it tore.”

The boy smirked and refused.  The girl assumed her elder sisterly tone and said, “Suit yourself, you will have no part to play in this treat for mom then.”

The little brother watched and suddenly, he walked up to her with the cart, threw all the items from his cart into hers, and took out $ 20 from his pocket and shoved it into her hands.

He said, “Take that. I am doing this for mom and not for you ok?”  He walked away.

The sister smiled in victory, she joined the two pieces and said, “Oh! It was cinnamon.”

Now with her ego appeased, she ran after her brother and said, “Ok, I’m sorry. Please? It’s no fun without you.”

The boy slowly nodded, they high-fived, and then walked away with their shopping cart.

After about twenty minutes, as I stood in line to pay, I saw those siblings leave the supermarket, laughing and talking.

I smiled. Brothers and sisters, now friends, now enemies.