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!

Web of imagination


Many, many years ago, when my two-year old son had just started devouring picture books and peg puzzles, one of his favourite books was a peg puzzle book about farm animals. He would constantly take the animal pegs out and put them back in, calling out their names – cow, pig, horse, duck and so on.

Soon after, and when my son was still in love with the book, we visited my husband’s parents. Seeing how much my son loved the farm book, my father-in-law decided to take him to a nearby farm to show him the cows there. All of us went along!

My son kept jabbering away on our drive to the farm. When he finally saw the cows, he froze. His eyes were like saucers. He backed away at jetspeed saying, “These cows are soooooo big…my peg cow is small.”

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Completely overwhelmed, he came running to me and asked to be lifted. When I carried him, he buried his head in my shoulder, trying to make sense of what he had seen and what he had believed was a cow till that point!!!

Only at that time did we realize that he had not yet seen a cow in real life. It took a while for him to process and correlate what he had seen.

Cut to yesterday. I was on a video call with my sister, and the moment we started talking, my niece wanted to tell me a story from a picture book she was reading.

She narrated the story of The Lion and the Mouse. She narrated each line with special effect sounds and voice modulation, her eyes and hands expressing what she couldn’t articulate in words. And then she said, “You know, Pemma, “The lion was caught by a hunter.”

She wanted to convey that the lion was trapped in the hunter’s net. And in her mind, the picture of the hunter’s net she had seen in her book looked like a spider’s web.

She finished her story with a flourish, “The lion was caught in the spider’s web, Pemma. Then the mouse helped the lion escape, and they lived happily ever after.”

As I hung up, I thought about young kids, and their innocent and colourful imagination. And how at some point, reality takes over!!

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.