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!

Twilight


It is twilight. I stand on my balcony, observing the sky. The cool evening breeze kisses the plants, and they respond by swaying gently.

The sky’s beauty defies description, as it lets go of day and welcomes night. Another day has gone by; lost in the  folds of time, like a million others before it.

Photo by Andreas Fickl from Pexels

It is a time of quiet, a time to reflect upon the day and soak in the beauty of nature. As I watch the sky growing dark, my mom calls me. She shares the sad news that her aunt, my grand aunt, is no more.

She shares beautiful anecdotes of the wonderful times spent with her aunt. And then she sighs deeply and says, “With the passing of this aunt, my parents’ generation is no more. She was the last family member of that generation.”

I can understand how my mom feels. A sudden emptiness, no elder aunt or uncle to talk to or take advice from. That thread that connected my mom to her childhood, her parents and her family history is no longer there. Now, my mom’s generation has become the oldest in our family.

I hang up after talking to my mom for a few more minutes. Night will soon be here, and will again be replaced by day. And the cycle of life will continue, where people will come and go, and where days will arrive and vanish.

But then, there are times like this twilight hour – that straddle both day and night – where time seems to stand still for a bit; where one can feel the timelessness of creation against whose backdrop this cycle of life constantly unfolds. And just how the twilight hour passes the baton from day to night, so also, the baton has now been passed to my mom’s generation.

The King’s Game


My husband’s mom walks into the room, where my kids are sprawled out. She wears her reading glasses, and looks at what seems to be a small rectangular box in her hand. She passes it to my daughter, and says, “This was a puzzle that belonged to your Dad.”

My kids look excited, and look curiously at the small box from nearly four decades ago. They open the thin box to look inside.

The objective of the game is to bring the King down from his summer palace to his winter house. There is a sheet with instructions.

My husband’s eyes light up, when he sees this small box that contains some of his childhood memories; memories that come gushing out and bring a delighted smile to his face.

The kids move the puzzle pieces this way and that. They liken it to a game called Klotski that they play on their phones. They talk about how the mobile game has so many levels and challenges.

But, my husband and I are stuck in the past, where levels did not matter, where machines did not give you rewards and awards. We played the same games multiple times, and when we got bored, we would move to another similar game or puzzle, and then come back to this one. There was no need to charge any phone or laptop.

The kids soon move on from their fleeting interest in the puzzle box. However, my husband and I walk down memory lane, and many of its by-lanes, exchanging notes about all the games we played as kids.

Life was simple then, so simple in fact that happiness could be found within a small puzzle box; and where success could be had by merely moving a king from his summer palace to his winter home.

The sweet little girl…


It is evening. I am waiting for a friend by the poolside. A little girl of about four walks by. She looks at me, and I wave. She smiles and waves back.

After a few minutes, she comes over and shows me her hands. She is wearing four colourful bangles on each wrist. She gently jiggles her arms and tells me, “My grandma bought these for me.”

I tell her that the bangles are lovely.

She talks about a few other things that her grandma has bought for her.

Then, I ask her, “Do you have brothers or sisters?”

She suddenly looks confused. She furrows her eyebrows, and tries mouthing the answer.

She starts replying and stops. She still hasn’t quite figured out what she wants to say.

After a few minutes she announces confidently, “I am the sister.”

I nod.

She continues, “…… because I have a baby brother, I am the sister, and my baby brother is small and I love him.”

Image courtesy – clipartXtras

I smile at her innocence and love. She was trying to tell me that she had no sisters, but was a sister herself!

Out of bounds


When we were kids, there were certain things and areas in our home that were out of bounds to us – our Dad’s bookshelf, his stationery cupboard and his files; our mom’s wardrobe and steel almirah, and our aunt’s knitting basket!

My Dad could sense if his files and papers had moved even an inch, and I don’t need to even talk about my mom’s antennae.

On rare occasions, we were given the privilege of peeking into my mom’s wardrobe or seeing my dad’s important papers and stationery.

These treats usually happened on long weekends or holidays, when my Dad would decide to clean his cupboard, or when my mom decided to clean hers.

We were allowed to watch and help as long as we were careful and didn’t behave irresponsibly.

We could barely contain our excitement, when we saw the creamy white paper or pens and lovely paper clips that our father had. My hands wanted to possess one of those notepads – to write (not sure what??).

If our Dad was happy with us, we would usually get something from his treasure trove. He would sometimes read out quotations from his notebook, or show us pencil sketches from his college days.

The things we collected thus were so precious, if only because our father had kept them so beautifully. We felt honoured to receive an old notepad or empty diary or a fountain pen.

When our mom opened her almirah, we would gaze in wonder at her beautiful silk sarees, neatly hanging in a line. There was the beautiful fragrance of sandalwood that gushed out of the wardrobe from the fragrance pouches she used.

Image courtesy – Dreamstime.com

Shiny sarees, the occasional sequinned saree, ornate jewelry boxes – we got glimpses of these as mom took out stuff, cleaned her cupboards and put them back in.

There was also a small, square, metal piggy bank that our mom had. It had the picture of a happy family on one side, and for the longest time I thought that it was ‘our family picture’. The piggy bank had a complicated locking mechanism, and we watched our mom pick out the key from a bunch of other important-looking keys to unlock the piggy bank.

When the cleaning was done, we usually went back to play or to study; knowing that those areas were out of bounds to us again….till the next time.

My Grandma’s friend


When I was growing up, we lived in a big joint family with my grandma, aunt and uncle. Life was always exciting; the house was always filled with people visiting. The kitchen was a bee-hive of activity. From 6 am to around 2 pm, and then again from around 4 pm to late at night.

Picture courtesy – 123RF.com

My grandma, mom and aunt were permanently busy, and we tried to keep out of their way. Life was simple and fun.

My grandma’s house was the third house in a long line of houses; neighbours we knew from birth. In the third house from ours, on the right, which was the sixth house in the row, lived one of my grandma’s dearest friends.

My grandma’s friend was referred to as ‘the aunt who lives in the third house from ours’ (loosely translated from our language).

So, when there was a festival, we became errand girls, as we ran to distribute sweets to our neighbours. We frequently visited “the aunt who lived in the third house from ours”, as, being dear friends, my gran and she exchanged a lot of things – sweets, vegetables, sometimes change for currency, sometimes grocery….

Also, nearly twice or thrice a week, “the aunt who lived in the third house from ours” called on my gran during the 2 pm to 4 pm lull time.

She wore lovely vibrant sarees, and a big pink Bindi on her forehead. She usually carried a bunch of keys, that had a long metallic keychain. This used to fascinate me. She had a distinct cough, and she coughed on and off. We were not allowed into the living room, so we peeked from the window sometimes.

They caught up on their everyday lives. At 4 pm, after her friend left, my grandma and mom would head into the kitchen to start preparations for dinner. All meals were prepared at home, and there was no concept of eating out.

My grandma and the “aunt who lived in the third house from ours” went back to their chores, totally rejuvenated after their afternoon chit-chat.

But it wasn’t until much later, when I had started working, that I heard about the passing away of my grandma’s friend. It was then that it hit me; that I did not know her name!

But, she continues to live on in our memories as the “aunt who lived in the third house from ours”; and evokes many lovely moments from my childhood.

Treasures to pocket


I am going down the elevator. The lift stops two floors below mine. A small boy of about four gets in. I say Hi! He says Hi! too. He seems preoccupied with a small pocket on his T-shirt.

He repeatedly looks inside it, and taps the pocket. I ask him what he has inside. He tells me that he has three ‘treasures’!

I smile, and ask him more about his ‘treasures’. He asks me to wait, and slowly pulls out the said ‘treasures’.

First comes a beautiful, grey pebble that is perfectly round. He tells me that he found it near the beach. He then pulls out a small bit of paper, on which are drawn shapes in different colours; a game he made, he adds, by way of an explanation. The last treasure is a small paper aeroplane, made by his grandfather, who’s visiting.

His eyes shine, as he carefully puts the three precious items back into the safe recesses of his pocket.

Soon, the lift reaches the ground floor, and he dashes out to play.

I remember how eagerly my classmates and I waited to go into Grade 6 in school; because that’s when we got to move from sweaters without pockets, to blazers that had four pockets on the outside, and one pocket inside.

There was so much excitement when we switched to blazers. We had our own ‘treasures’ then, ranging from candy, to lists of crazy games, secret code language sheets, chip-chops, message chits we wrote to our friends in class, and so many other exciting things, which formed an integral part of our childhood.

Courtesy – Wikipedia

We also carried ink-pens in the inside pocket, those ones where we had to fill ink from an ink-pot. It was a kind of ritual every night, where my siblings and I would fill ink in our pens. Our dad checked if the nibs of the pens were ok.

All it took was a hard fall for the pens to develop hairline cracks, which would then cause the ink to leak. We got rude shocks sometimes, when we opened the lid to write, only to realize that we had lots of ink on our fingers.

We also had nice fluffy pink blotting paper that would absorb any ink stain in a jiffy. Sometimes, we would look at the shapes formed by the ink stains and try and liken them to animals or everyday things!

We felt important with our blazers and these ink pens; we had secret treasures in our pockets, we had lovely candies tucked away…!

All these memories came rushing back, when I saw the little boy and his precious treasures!

Shopping Basket Philosophy


I am standing in line at the billing counter in the supermarket. I have left my phone behind at home, and feel that I am missing an integral part of myself.

With nothing to swipe or refresh or read, I look around; my eyes taking in the bright displays, and the stacks of biscuits and chocolates and bottled water and potato wafers and moisturizers and tissues and cream bottles.

My eyes take in the contents of the shopping basket of the person standing in line before me – it has canned drinks, potato wafers and a loaf of bread. My brain immediately arrives at the conclusion that this person is young, maybe a student, looking forward to an evening filled with some school work, fun, watching TV or going out with friends. I am envious!

My eyes travel across the aisle to the adjacent billing counter. I see the contents of another shopping bag. Baby food, a good dose of veggies, eggs, bread and milk.

Young mother!

Then I look at my own shopping bag. Vegetables and more vegetables, band-aid, bread, tissues, milk, biscuits, snacks, cleaning supplies, pasta, wraps…! Hmmm, a mother stocking up and trying to avoid another trip to the super market soon!

Image Courtesy – http://www.123rf.com

When I was a kid, the only equation that I had with the shopping baskets my parents carried was to keep track of the little paper bag of candies or chocolates, which my parents bought for us every week. Everything else in the bag was irrelevant.

I see it now with my kids. They keep a hawk-like watch on what they have bought, sometimes totally oblivious to everything else.

The contents of our shopping basket reflect the stage of life we are in. Each shopping basket has a story to tell!

For example, why has the lady behind me loaded three baskets with fruit? I start speculating – is she going to make jam or fruit preserve or juice? Has she bought them to gift someone or is it for a celebration of some sort!!!

I look at her, she smiles and nods.

I move up the line. Very soon, I checkout, pick up my bags and head homeward – back to my children, and the realities of school assignments and deadlines, cleaning and planning.

My shopping basket theory takes a back seat, as I empty my bags, and grapple with everyday issues of putting away the shopping, and planning what to cook tomorrow!

A Mother’s Love


There are two sides to motherhood. On one side is when you are a child and receive the love of a mother; on the other side is when you are a mother and give your love to your child(ren). And you realize the value of the former only when you experience the latter.

I still remember that my mom was the nerve centre of our family. Her smiling countenance, her commitment to giving her best to every single member of the family, her superlative cooking skills, her ability to take on her children’s problems and lighten the burden for them, her unshakeable faith in her children and the belief that they were the very best.

From home mechanic to recycling expert to instant gourmet meal producer, my mom wore so many hats with ease and changed them in a jiffy. 

I don’t remember her ever being really sick. Even if she was a bit under the weather, she ploughed on, ever cheerful. However, there was this one time when she had slipped and hurt her knee really badly, and was out of action for a week. I remember how my siblings and I moped. We felt that the lights were dimmed in our house, the thread that strung us all together and got us going was not there. So, we spent time in her room, reading our books or sitting with her, wishing to hear her voice chiding us or her ‘mom looks’ that could freeze us in our tracks. Even those were better than having her unwell.

I did not realize all that I had learnt from my mom till I became one, and knew that being a mom means to GIVE; to give unconditionally, every single day.

             Image Courtesy – http://www.Cliparting.com

To love so much that you hurt. To want the very best for your children. To care too much, but to also learn to let go..and let your children soar and fly.

And retain every single memory of the wonderful years that have flown past, and the days that are flying past even as I type this. Rainy afternoons with hot samosas and movies, cycling trips with the family, stick figure drawings on the refrigerators, playing referee to sibling wars, cuddles and hugs, laughter and smiles, and lots and lots of love.

 A mother’s love. 

Walls


It only seems like yesterday that my son used his crayons to doodle on the walls of our home. Small squiggles, mountains with the a smiling sun peeping in between and random shapes; the wall was a work of art and love. Then again, my daughter discovered the beauty of her palm prints on the wall one afternoon, many years ago, when I was catching some shut eye. I woke up to pretty palm prints in red decorating our living room wall – the result of a tube of red lipstick that had fallen from the dresser.

Courtesy – http://www.123rf.com

I conducted many experiments with the best cleaning agents for various types of stains and squiggles.  By the time I discovered the perfect cleaning fluid to clean the walls of these works of art, the children had moved to the next stage of using the walls of our home. They pinned pictures of their favourite characters, their drawings and school timetables on the walls.  Our walls also hosted dartboards, and served as bouncing boards for tennis balls and table tennis balls.

From posters to sketches to games, the walls have borne them all. I use the wall to pin my to do lists and frame pretty pictures.

More than all these, the walls have bounced and echoed the sounds of giggles and laughter, served as shields to children playing hide and seek, absorbed memories of our lives, giving us that much needed security and time-away from the pressures of everyday life.

In a few years, when my children leave home for University, these walls will stand quiet, till the children come back for their term breaks. Then, once again happy sounds will bounce of these walls.

And then again, there will come a time, when I will use these same walls for support when I amble slowly across the house, lovingly tracing my hand on these walls and remembering a time when tiny hands doodled and expressed their creativity.