If I had the time….


This evening, as I stood on my balcony gazing up at the sky, I admired the fluffy clouds moving gently across the sky.

I smiled, as I remembered a game that we played as kids, when we would lie on our backs on the lawn, with the most beautiful blue sky spread above us, with cotton-puff clouds scattered in various patterns.

We called it the Creator’s garden. Based on the shape of the clouds on a particular day, we would make predictions about what the Creator had planted. From cauliflowers to pumpkins to beans and carrots, we played this silly game over and over again.

Lazy holidays under the sun, watching flocks of birds fly overhead and colourful butterflies flitting about.

I asked myself why, as adults we don’t have the time for such simple pursuits that give so much joy.

I then asked myself this question and tried answering it – “If I had the time, would I spend time on such simple and fun activities?”

Yes….! If I had the time I would….

– chase raindrops on the window pane with my fingers

– cut okra slices, dip them in paint and make flower patterns on the wall

– blow soap bubbles on a bright, sunny day and chase the bubbles as they glisten and fly away

– eat a huge cotton candy

Courtesy – istock
– try hanging upside down on the sofa as we used to do as kids 

– play and fight with my siblings over board games

– watch the night sky and stars, sitting in our backyard

– laugh at old family jokes that are repeated ad nauseum

– splash water by jumping into one puddle after another on a rainy day

– laugh at silly things

– eat sugarcanes and mangoes, with friends and siblings on a hot summer’s day.

Sigh! If only I had the time….

What simple things from your childhood would you do, if you had the time?

Would love to know…

Cow couture


Many, many years ago, when I was probably seven or eight, we were visiting my grandmom, who lived on a small hillock.

My grandmom’s house was the third house from the right, in a long row of around 12 houses. The houses had no fences separating them. Instead, jasmine plants, rose bushes and gorse bushes usually formed a natural divider between the various houses.

The town has typical English weather, and with no machine dryers to dry out laundry, the idea was to take advantage of sunlight to the fullest extent possible.

The moment the sun’s rays touched the hillock, freshly washed clothes and semi-dry ones from the previous day would go on the clothes lines. If we ran out of space, semi dry clothes would be spread out on the bushes.

If it was a bright, sunny day, then by late afternoon, the clothes would dry and smell heavenly – that smell that’s unique to freshly washed, and sun-dried clothes.

Anyway, I am digressing a bit here. On this hillock, a local shepherd grazed his sheep and a few cows every day.

He would drive them to the hillock in the morning. During the day we would see him on and off, sometimes sitting, sometimes taking a nap and sometimes tending to the animals.


Courtesy – http://www.cliparting.com
On one such bright and warm Sunday, all our clotheslines were fully packed, with some clothes on the bushes. One of those was a small pretty frock belonging to one of my cousins.

One of the shepherd’s cows was grazing close to the bush which had the frock, and when the cow shook its head, the frock slid into one of its horns.

The cow was totally oblivious to the frock, and kept grazing. Each time the cow moved, the little frock moved up and down.

We were all in splits. The next step was to get the frock, without startling the cow.

The bravest members tried all the tricks they had to get the frock. By this time the cow had probably sensed that something was amiss, and took off down the hillock.

A few people ran behind the cow, trying not to scare it. The shepherd was coming up the hillock, and helped retrieve the frock.

He spoke to the cow, as if to calm it down. The cow went back to its grazing, and the adults went back home. The kids stayed back to relive the whole incident.

Magic words


A few days ago, I was looking for a story for one of my son’s school projects, when I chanced upon a collection of stories from The Arabian Nights. As I flipped through its pages, I saw the story of Alibaba and the forty thieves.

It brought a smile to my face, as I recalled a funny incident from when my son had just moved to Grade 1 from kindergarten.  

During an activity class in Grade 1, the children were asked to answer a picture quiz. My son gave his answers. 

When he got back in the evening, he told me about the picture quiz and then asked me, “Mom, what were the magic words that Alibaba uttered to open the magic cave?”

Courtesy – http://www.cartoonstock.com

I replied, “Open sesame.”

He smiled and said, “Oh no! I got that wrong.”

I asked him, “What did you write?”

He said, “I wrote that the magic words were PLEASE and THANK YOU.”

I couldn’t help laughing. He looked quite hurt. 

He said, “In kindergarten we were taught that the two magic words are – say ‘Please’ and ‘thank you’. So I thought that Alibaba had used these same magic words to open the cave.”

I was in splits. I tried to imagine Alibaba standing in front of the cave and saying, “Hello cave, Open please. Thank you!”

My son sees the joke now…and laughs with me when we remember it.

Of piggybacks and a sack of salt


If you are an aunt or uncle, a grandma or grandpa, an older cousin or a mom or dad to young kids, you must have, at some point in time, belonged to the Piggyback Club.

I still remember being given piggyback rides by my Dad and Uncle.  Mad spins in the living room, and a gentle drop from Dad’s shoulders to the soft couch!

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Courtesy – http://www.canstockphoto.com

And it was never enough!  Where I grew up, we called this ‘Uppu Mootai’, which translates to ‘Sack of Salt.’

During my childhood, along with the small convenience stores – which sold just about everything under the sun – street hawkers were quite popular too.

They hawked their goods in different sing-song voices. I remember the man who sold ‘greens’, who had this cackling voice. We could set our clocks by his loud voice, he was so punctual.

Then we had the vegetable seller, who had a push cart that was loaded to the brim with colourful and healthy veggies.

Then again, there was the man who sold salt. He usually came once in a fortnight, and had a deep but loud voice, which said, “Uppu, Uppu”, meaning salt, salt. He called out with no modulation at all. The periods of silence between each of his shouts was precise. Uppu, uppu..pause pause pause..Uppu, uppu.

The salt man usually carried the salt in a gunny bag that was slung on his back.

When children were given piggyback rides, the adults carrying them probably looked like  ‘salt sellers’.

The name has stuck. Even today people use the name Uppu Mootai for piggybacking.

Candy ‘Shots’


There’s a virus doing the rounds in our neighbourhood, preying on children and adults alike.

So, last night my son and I were at the clinic, sharing the space with a dozen other folk who looked beat, no thanks to this virus.

We had to wait for a long time, and my son rested his head on my shoulders. With little else to do, I observed all the people who came in and went out.

One lady, who came out of the consultation room seemed to have received a shot in her arm. She held her upper arm with the other palm, looking traumatized by the experience. When she saw me, she managed a feeble smile.

My memories went back to my childhood, when we had to take our vaccine shots periodically. Mental conditioning for the ordeal would start hours before, with my grandma, aunt and parents describing that the injection needle would just be a small shooting pain, like an ant bite or some such. And that it would be over before I could say the word ‘vaccination’.

The highlight was of course the candy jar that held pride of place on the doctor’s table. An assortment of yummy candies to entice children to be brave.

Then, when I grew up, got married and had kids, it was my job to prepare my kids.  The shots during the first two years were generally easy.

The poor baby had to be held cozily and firmly, as the doctor gave the baby the shot. The child looked on with innocent eyes, not knowing what was going to hit him or her.

And then the piercing pain, the shock registering on their innocent faces (which seemed to say that I had somehow let them down) and the reaction, a slow whine that would transform into a full throated bawl.

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Courtesy – http://www.istockphoto.com

It was more painful to watch your children getting the shot than having  them yourself.

Then, when they were old enough to understand, I would start preparing them, and would presell the candies at the doctor’s clinic, praying that the jar would not disappoint.

The little boy in the school bus


This weekend, I met a boy who used to  take the same school bus to school as my son did.

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      Courtesy – http://www.clipartpanda.com

I was so happy to see him. He has grown into a smart boy of ten.

The incident that I am about to narrate goes back to when my son and this boy were 3 to 4 year olds.

Every afternoon, when the school bus would drop off my son at our lobby, this other boy would put his head out of the window and say, “Aunty Nimi, your son troubled me today.”

When I asked the bus attendant, she told me that my son talked a lot, but that he was not really doing anything else. So, I relaxed.

Each time the boy complained, I told him I would take care. As my son and I walked home, I would ask him to stay quiet and not chatter away!

After a few days, the boy stopped complaining. I was very relieved. 

Then, after about two weeks, one day the boy called out to me again. I knew what was coming. I braced myself!

This is what he said, “Aunty Nimi, today your son DID NOT TROUBLE ME.”

I grinned in relief, so did he. He waved. I waved back.

My Grandma’s Water Bottle


My mom’s generation was lucky enough to have grown up without knowing too much about plastics.

While my grandmom’s generation mostly used brass and bronze vessels and utensils, my mom’s generation used stainless steel.

Today plastics are in. Colourful trendy water bottles of different shapes and sizes, milk cans, lock and lock boxes, and so many more.

Last year my mom distributed all the bronze utensils she had received from my paternal grandmother.  She had earmarked a few pieces for my siblings and me.

I got the cutest looking 100 year old bronze water bottle – we call it a ‘Kooja’. My grandma used to carry milk or water in this Kooja, when she travelled. Most people of the time had Kooja water bottles.

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I so love this beautiful water bottle. It is made of bronze. It is also quite heavy. It brings back memories of my grandma. I can imagine my grandma in her saree, carrying this Kooja.

My Kooja sits on one of my corner tables, constantly reminding me of our lovely traditions and history.

I love my Kooja.

Do you have any such thing from your grandparents? Would love to know.

The Happy Kite – A short story


The summer holidays had arrived. The small village of Tapanam was bustling with activity. From sun rise to sun down, little boys and girls ran around the village, played on make-shift swings made of car-tyres, played hopscotch, threw stones to fell ripe mangoes from the orchard nearby, and ran for their lives when the watchman chased them.

Games were quickly played and dropped, out of boredom. New ideas surfaced, quarrels broke out, food was consumed in huge quantities; and parents and grandparents watched, bemused.

On one such day, a little boy named Kavin came back from his grandparents’ home with a marvellous kite. The kite was a beauty, with stripes of yellow and magenta, and a nice fluttering tail of green.

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            Courtesy – kitesfestival.com

Kavin came roaring down the street with his kite, and all the children ran behind him in glee. Another blissful afternoon flew by, and another, and yet another.

Later that week, the kite flew in abandon towards a blue sky, flirting with the birds, skimming over trees and laughing at the children below.  The children screamed and ran about in happiness.

That afternoon, however, there was a hush in the village. Even the crows seemed to have stopped their raucous gossiping.

The reason was soon apparent. Kavin’s kite had got entangled in the branches of a big mango tree.

Many sad faces moped about. Most of the fathers were at work, moms were too busy on the fields to help. 

Late in the afternoon, the distinct ‘tak tak’ sound of Grandpa Scarybeard’s walking stick could be heard. This was worse than the kite being up on the tree.

The Grandpa was terrifying and had never been known to speak to any living soul. Tales about the Grandpa had become popular bedtime stories, and his name was used to scare little boys and little girls into obeying and going to bed on time.

As the ‘tak tak’ sound grew louder, 15 odd kids hid behind the tree and behind steps and doors.

With his sharp eyes, Grandpa Scarybeard had already seen the little monsters trying to rescue their kite. If one observed him closely, one could see his eyes twinkling. 

And as the children watched, Grandpa came to a stop under the very tree that hosted their kite.

Grandpa Scarybeard took out his walking stick and prodded the branches gently and untangled their kite, very slowly. He placed the kite under the tree and went on his way.

There was an initial hush, followed by joyous whoops and puzzled looks directed towards the Grandpa’s back.

Happiness was in the air. Leaping children, enjoying their summer break, a lonely Grandpa who found loyal friends, and a happy kite that soared higher and higher.

An Ode to my Dad


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This is a picture taken from my Dad’s notebook from 1959, where he meticulously wrote down things and quotations he found interesting.

This is an old post…it is now six years since my Dad passed away.  Felt like re-posting.

It is six years since my Dad passed away. He was there one moment, and gone the next.  Initial shock gave way to denial, and then a gradual acceptance; because this is the only truth, that whatever our journeys are, whatever our desires and goals, we all have to go some day.

Time, as they say, is the best healer.  We learn to move on by getting sucked back into the vortex of our lives.

But memories of my Dad tug at me from time to time. In bits and pieces, as audio files when I hear his voice, sometimes as movies, as I playback some incident from my childhood, sometimes in newspaper articles, sometimes in the words of another writer, I see my Dad.

My Dad, who used to hold my sister’s and my hands in each of his, as he dropped us at the bus stand, whistling to a small colorful bird that use to sit atop the electrical cables across the road.  My Dad would call out, and the bird would answer in return.  This was an important part of our morning routine.

My Dad, who taught us how to file a piece of paper by folding it just right, who insisted that we learn to type at an early age, who sketched my grand mom and aunt, sitting where he was, who meticulously copied quotations that he liked from magazines and newspapers into his spiral-bound notebooks, who took us on long walks and listened to our non-stop chattering patiently.

My Dad, a man of few words, with his fantastic sense of humour and lop-sided smile, a loving son who ensured that his mom’s supply of lozenges was always well-stocked, who spent time with his home-ridden sister to show how much he cared for her, who helped my mom around the house and whose punctuality put clocks to shame!

My Dad, who held a candle near the sewing machine, one whole night, when there was a power cut, as my mother sewed a dress for my school concert, with the monsoon winds howling under the door and rain lashing away at the windows.

My Dad, who taught us to love literature and music, who taught us to articulate ourselves clearly when we spoke or wrote.

My Dad, who taught us by example that it is not from money or material things, but from love and family that happiness is created and sustained.

My Dad, who respected every choice I ever made, and was always there to hug me, when things did not go as planned, who made coffee for me as I studied late into the night.

My Dad in his black blazer, going to work; trying his hand at cooking after retirement, humming under his breath, cleaning ‘this & that’ and chiding us gently, “A place for everything and everything in its place”.

My Dad, who I now see in myself, in my need to write, who I see in my son, as he uses his pencil to sketch, who I see in my sister’s walk and in my mom’s talk, as she has unconsciously picked up some of his mannerisms over the years.

His memories are beautifully woven into the fabric of our lives, forming patterns that connect us to him, in what we do, in how we walk and in how we try to live up to our fullest potential, because that was the only dream he had for each of us.

Love you, Dad.

Simple lines


My sister loves to sketch. In fact, she sketches whenever she can. She always has a sketchbook about her person, and a satchel that holds sketching essentials.

No wonder then that her son, my adorable three-year old nephew, wants to sketch too. So, on most evenings, my sister and my nephew try their hand at sketching.

It is fun to watch the concentration on my nephew’s face as he tries to capture the theme.

Last week, when the duo sat down to sketch, it was decided that the day’s theme would be a giraffe.

With furrowed brows and deep concentration, both of them got down to work.

In just a few minutes, my nephew was ready with his giraffe and ran to show his mother. 

He then asked her, “Mom, what’s taking you so long?  It is only a giraffe. See my drawing.”

And this is what he drew, a three year old’s sketch of a giraffe. So beautiful and simple, capturing the essence of the giraffe.

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When my sister sent me the sketch, I was amazed.

The sketch got me thinking –  a child lives life simply, observes simple things and expresses himself without any effort.

As we grow, our view of the world gets complicated and we get so caught-up in it that we lose our view of simplicity.