Little brother, big brother


My little nephew, all of six, keeps his four older cousins on their toes, whenever the whole family meets up during the holidays.

It is fun to watch these four teenagers drop all their eye-rolling and headphone wearing behaviour to play games that my nephew wants. Games that mostly involve buses, cars, airplanes and a lot of role-playing and running around.

Image courtesy – http://www.123rf.com

He demands and gets their undivided attention, from the moment he is up everyday till he decides that he’s had enough.

And woe betide the cousin, who slinks away to do teen things. He goes after them and ensures that they get back to being drivers or pilots. But the older kids indulge their little brother every single time. They call him ‘their bundle of cuteness.’

When we all met up during the December holidays last year, my son and my nephew were engaged in playing games the entire morning. By lunch time, my son wanted a break. He pleaded with my nephew, who would not let go, and the boys ended up squabbling.

In just a few minutes, my son walked out and sat down on the couch, with a loud sigh.

My nephew came to me, clutching the right side of his chest and said, “Periamma, you know he (pointing at my son) punched me on my heart.”

My son jumped up to retaliate, “I did not” and then with his eyes narrowed my son said, “By the way your heart is on the left of your body, not the right, so this proves that I did no wrong.”

My nephew looked slightly taken aback, but was not going to back down. Very quickly he shifted his palm and placed it slightly below his right chest and said, “Ok, not my heart, but he punched my right lung.”

The entire household burst out laughing.

And very soon the two brothers made up and disappeared to play.

How quickly time flies.

And, just this week, my little nephew has a baby sister in his life. A tiny, pretty doll, whom he adores.

He has transitioned smoothly from being a little brother to being a big brother. He spends all his free time looking after her, cooing to her and generally showering her with love.

Time flies, kids grow, but our love only gets deeper for little, big brothers and their even tinier sisters.

A slice of family history


Thanks to messaging apps and social networks, families and friends have come closer. There is a joy in reconnecting with cousins, aunts and uncles, and knowing that you are family.

This afternoon, on my husband’s maternal cousins’ group, I saw a few photographs. Some of the cousins had visited the family’s ancestral home, and the village temple nearby.

The house, though occupied by other people, has stood the test of time – teakwood staircases and doorways, and lots of memories.

As I saw the photographs, my husband casually mentioned that he was born there, in that house. While I knew that he was born in that small village, I had not made the connection to the house.

That transformed the way I looked at the pictures. This was a part of our family history. My imagination soared.

Then I imagined how my husband would have walked up and down these wooden stairs on chubby legs, being chased by an aunt or his mom; how he would have played with cousins and watched the hens clucking in the yard. The home had a barn, where there was a beautiful cow named Radhamani, who was loved and cherished by all the family members. After my husband’s parents moved to the city, most school holidays were spent in this house.

Four other cousins were also born in the same house. Lots of stories and memories there.

I only know the husband I met nearly two decades ago, but starting from the ancestral home he was born in, and the lovely family who surrounded him, there were so many factors that have made him the person he is today.

It was nice listening to interesting family anecdotes, and to realize that there was a time, when my husband and I led independent lives, unbeknownst to each other.

The Bulbul’s message


We are at my mom’s, enjoying our summer vacation. We have just had a sumptuous lunch. The children and their cousins are playing a board game in one of the bedrooms.

All the adults are seated or stretched out in the living room, as the day curtains billow in the cool breeze. Each time the curtains billow, one can see the green leaves of the trees outside, glistening in the bright, afternoon sun.

Most of us are trying not to sleep after that heavy lunch. We chat on and off, the pauses and silences are comfortable ones – those that belong to family, to love and to familiarity.

A sudden sweet bird song cuts through this family web.  There is a pause, and the bird song plays again.

My sister says, ” Someone’s got a message.”

Hands and bodies reach out to their phones, like the arms of an octopus.

Most people in the room say that the ring tone is not theirs. The bird sound continues.

We quickly discover that there is a ‘real’ Bulbul bird sitting on our balcony, singing away merrily. We gently move the curtains to watch this beautiful bird.
             

                   Picture courtesy – Wikipedia

How musical it sounds! How could we even mistake it for a ringtone?

We laugh uneasily. The Bulbul gave us an important message today. 

Maybe we should take more time to enjoy the simple pleasures of life, those that are not in any way connected to technology or smartphones.

Moonlight dinner


When we were growing up, most homes had backyards. Most of these yards had at least a few trees like the coconut tree, mango tree and neem tree.  They also had other plants like hibiscus, jasmine etc. Another standard fixture in these yards was that most of them had wells with pulleys, for drawing water for household chores.

The area around the well was usually cemented, creating a lovely space in the backyard to play, work and have fun.

During our summer holidays, all of us, cousins, gathered in our grandparents’ home; blissful days where we played the same games over and over again. The adults were happy to catch up and go out shopping. Nobody bothered us, as long as we showed up at meal times.

Dinners then were absolute fun, the reason being that we ate in the backyard, sitting under the silvery glow of the moon, as the gentle breeze from the Bay of Bengal whispered through the coconut trees.

Under millions of twinkling stars and a creamy moon, all of us usually sat in a semi-circle. Each of us was given a small piece of banana leaf. On this leaf, we were each served one papad (poppadum), a big portion of vegetable and a little mango pickle (all home-made).

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      Courtesy – http://www.shutterstock.com

One of the aunts  mixed rice and a lentil-gravy, called sambar, in a really huge vessel and sat in the middle of the semi-circle.

We would cup our right palms and put out our hands for the rice. The aunt would serve each of us in turn. We  would each add some vegetable, have a quick bite of our papad and eat it with the rice.  After completing the full semi circle, the cycle would start again.

We got to hear stories if we were lucky, else we chit-chatted amongst ourselves. The other adults sat leaning against the walls of the well, catching up on family gossip.

After the sambar rice, we were served curd rice. The huge quantities were polished off in no time. With full stomachs, we played some more games in the backyard.

By 9.00 p.m., the household would start winding down. Those were the days without air conditioners, so on most days we slept on the huge terrace, under the stars – one huge row of cousins and another row of adults. Singing and laughing, till the whispering wind kissed our eyelids closed.

Cool Secrets!


I have guests for dinner today, and as I spin around my kitchen, the air seems cooler suddenly, despite the heat from the cooking range.  I quickly realize that the refrigerator door has not shut properly.

I push the door gently and smile, as I remember something that happened last summer.

The kids had their summer holidays, and they played, watched TV, fought, played board games, argued, wanted food, went swimming, wanted more food, fought, had pillow fights, and wanted more food.  Their energy was exhausting.

Their cousins came to stay for a few days and they fought harder, it was girls vs boys, they sulked, they wanted food, they wanted more food and watched TV, played games and fought.

Just like kids everywhere, trying to make the best of their holidays.

On one such day, I could sense a difference in the kids’ rhythm.  They seemed excited and I caught them whispering; whispers that stopped when I walked in. My ‘mom antennae’ were on high-alert.  They scurried about the house and counted their pocket money. They visited the kitchen many times on the pretext of getting a drink of water.

The little ones were threatened by their bigger cousins to keep the secret, whatever it was.   I could sense that they were planning a midnight feast. What fun!

I envied them their treasured secret, the joys of planning and the thrill of anticipation, as they winked and hugged and high-fived each other. I wondered where they were hoarding their eats for the midnight feast.

Predictably, the little monsters pretended to be quite sleepy, and went to bed early, giggling and nudging each other.

The household wound down.  I was still reading a book, when the clock struck twelve.  I could hear smothered giggles, hushes, whispers and more giggles.  I gently opened the bedroom door, to see the midnight troopers walking towards the kitchen, with a reading light showing them the way.  All of them settled down on the kitchen floor. I couldn’t see them any more, from where I stood.  But I could hear their whispers and the fun they were having as they tucked into all the hoarded goodies.

When the sun rose, I saw the team of midnight-snackers, fast asleep in their cute night suits, their innocent faces relaxed in sleep, their long lashes forming fans on their cheeks. I could imagine how they would wake up and remember their midnight escapade and talk about it for ages.

When I walked into the kitchen, a cool wave of air hit me. I realized that the kids had not shut the refrigerator’s door properly.  I saw telltale signs of the feast, drops of chocolate syrup, crumbs of bread and potato wafers, bits of chocolate chips.  I smiled.

They only woke up in time for lunch.  I could see their eyes gleaming with joy, as they looked at each other knowingly.  Their own secret, which they hugged to themselves.

Simple moments of pure joy.