A box from back home


It’s been almost two years since we’ve met our families back home. With the fantastic blessing that is technology, we have managed to keep-up our spirits through video calls with our parents, siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins.

This afternoon, as I settled down to catch up on some work, the doorbell chimed. It was a courier delivery. The carton was big and fairly heavy.

I grew excited, because we’ve been eagerly awaiting this courier’s arrival from back home, lovingly despatched by my husband’s brother.

When my husband got home, we cut open the carton and for a moment there, the smell of home and our loved ones wafted through the air. It hit us then; how much we have missed visiting our family, a ritual we follow at least twice a year!

Soon, we delved into the box and took out its contents. In addition to the items we had ordered from back home, there were two gifts for me, a dress from my sister-in-law and a beautiful handwoven multi-purpose basket, made by her mother. I was in bliss.

The surprise letter in the basket

But the highlight was a handwritten letter from my sister-in-law, asking after us and giving us news from back home. I haven’t received a single letter in the last decade, after my Dad passed away. My Dad was an avid letter writer, and I have preserved every single letter that he has ever written to me.

There is something so beautiful about a handwritten letter. No email or phone message can ever make up for a surprise letter from back home. I feel so happy and so touched. I will treasure this letter.

Virtual sands of time


It is the twilight hour. I stand on the balcony and observe the world outside. The world is slowly being enveloped in the dark purple of night. I turn around and look indoors. Warm yellow light fills our living room. My husband is on a work-related call, my son is finishing up his homework and my daughter is attending classes in her room.

The dining table is set for dinner. I wait patiently for all of them to log off from their virtual lives and log in to family time.

With all family members at home all the time, there is a false feeling that we are spending a lot of time with each other. In fact, we walk around the house leading our own lives, not engaging in quality family time.

I think back to the family holidays we took before the pandemic. Whenever we went to a beach, we would all imprint our footprints on partially wet sand, along with the date. A simple, cute memory of lovely times spent with family. There are many such pictures of our footprints on the sands of time. And just after we took those pictures, the waves would come and wash them away, and we would run back laughing.

How things have changed!

I head back in. All of us are done for the day. We head to the dining table to eat.

And just after dinner, and before everyone slinks away, I order a family hug. My teens react with incredulous looks and awkward smiles. They ask if a hug is really required. I insist. And the four of us gather around for a family hug. We fall into a beautiful silence. That hug, just 10 seconds long, rejuvenates all of us, though the kids will never admit it.

No footprints on the sands for now, but the hug will do quite nicely till then.

Virtual Aunt


On a humid evening in February last year, I was in a long, snaking queue of passengers waiting to board a flight.

My evening was magically transformed, when I received a call that my sister had just delivered a baby girl. And from then on, till I boarded the flight, it was just excited texting and calling on our various family and extended family groups.

When I landed at my destination, and switched on my phone, I was greeted by the cutest picture of my tiny niece, her eyes tightly shut, tiny fingers curled around a cosy blanket. And my heart filled with love and tenderness!!!

In mid-June last year, I had the opportunity to visit my sister and of course my darling niece, who was by then gurgling, making eye-contact and dishing out sweet toothless smiles of recognition. She was like a tiny doll, and I carried her with me wherever I went.

Soon it was time to head back home, to catch another flight – back to a world inhabited by teens, a world far removed from gurgles and toothless grins.

And the year flew by on wings, and I watched my niece virtually, on video calls each week – watched her crawl, sit up, have solids, recognize colours; watched her hair grow out into beautiful curly ringlets, watched her smiling with her first cute milk tooth.

And thus 2019 disappeared to inhabit the pages of history. When we rang in the New Year, little did I know that I would not be able to travel at all this year – that I would miss my niece’s first birthday party.

A few months ago, on a call with my sister, I watched my niece taking her first tentative steps.

I am now a fully qualified Virtual Aunt, who engages her niece on video calls. Now, when I call my sister, my niece ambles over to grin and babble with her Virtual Aunt, whom she now recognizes very well.

Image courtesy – http://www.pexels.com

The best gift was last week, when she walked over and said, “Hi Pamma”….( a baby version of Periamma, or mom’s elder sister). My heart just melted.

I thank technology for making such beautiful moments possible during these difficult times.

The 94th of July…


It is 6 a.m. in the morning, and I have just finished my first cup of filter coffee for the day.

One of the first things I do every morning is change the dates on the calendars at home. I love doing this. There is something so satisying about knowing that another day has begun – a day that is filled with hope and promise.

One of these calendars is made up of two square wooden blocks, one each for each of the date digits, and a small rectangular block for the month. I set the date manually on this calendar every morning.

This morning, when I go to change the date, I am surprised to see that the date has been set to the 94th of July. This makes me smile. The reason? My little nephew, who is staying with us this week.

When he wakes up, I ask him what the date is? He quickly rushes to the calendar, changes the blocks and says, “It is 43rd July.”

And this is how much fun it is….with my nephew around, there is a sudden energy in the house. For this six year old, every day is filled with possibilities. He creates a buzz when he flits from room to room.

Giggles are lurking in his throat, ever ready to spill out in torrents, accompanied by eyes that are glinting with mischief and curiosity.

All of us at home are constantly taking rides on all his toy vehicles, flying from the kitchen to the living room, fastening seat belts and readying ourselves to land.

We get quizzed about cars and aircraft, we run around playing hide and seek.

Even my kids, who are too big to play with toys, have now let themselves go. We find ourselves rejuvenated.

Through the eyes of my nephew, we look at things with curiosity and excitement – where fans are propellers, the sofas are trucks and where every activity is carried out with the sole objective of having fun.

And now, all of us gather to celebrate the birthday of a family member. The cake is ready to be cut, and we ready our phones to click pictures.

My nephew quickly runs to the cake… runs his fingers on the buttercream icing and puts a blob into his mouth, his eyes reflecting his delight. He is totally in the moment; his joy complete.

We look at him and feel infused by his enthusiasm, his energy and his spirit.

So much to learn. If only we could retain this curiosity and this zest for life, we would have so much fun every day.

Living in the moment and giving it your all….!

Extreme love


My children have just started their summer vacation. We are on day two of the holidays; still finding it difficult to make the transition from packed days to days where there are no deadlines to meet or targets to pursue. Time flows, like a lazy river, stopping here and there to rejuvenate, picking up speed at times but largely content with flowing along without any purpose.

In a week, we will pack up and travel to visit my mom and my husband’s parents. The children will spend many more lazy days talking, reading, eating, playing and sleeping.

Something transforms in the children and their grandparents when they meet. There is a syndrome both sides exhibit, which I choose to call ‘Extreme Love’. 

Picture courtesy – ClipartAll

Where the grandparents can’t love enough and the children can’t have enough of this love. Where the grandmoms cook all the kids’ favourite dishes, ever-smiling. Where every question asked by the children is patiently answered. Where the children are allowed to experiment with flour and batter and make a mess and leave the mess without cleaning up. Where they are not nagged, where they receive hugs that sustain for many minutes, where they can be sure that whatever they say will be heard with unwavering attention. 

Where each achievement of theirs is dwelt upon and appreciated. Where holding the grandfather’s hand to walk down the road for an evening walk is a great treat, as they come back loaded with goodies.  Where they are tucked in to bed with many stories, repeated stories. Where they spend time teaching their grandparents to use new technology and smartphones. Where they are loved ‘extremely’, an all empowering love that can boost a child’s self-esteem, that can teach a child about unconditional love and acceptance. 

This love between our children and their grandparents is to be cherished. There is no other love like this.

I was lucky to have received such love from my grandma and am happy that my kids are receiving the same from their grandparents.

A Nearly Power-less Dinner!


My grandma was on overdrive.  She had invited her first grandson and his wife, newlyweds, to her home for dinner.  The preparations had started nearly ten days ago, attention being given to every single detail.

Preferences of the new bride were carefully considered, various menu options were listed out and rejected, and finally clarity emerged from total chaos.  My grandmother had spared no effort to ensure that the new bride  would feel welcome, and part of our family.  It was her favourite grandson too!

We, her other grandchildren, were also caught-up in this excitement !  Running errands and eyeing the dishes, which were strictly not to be touched, or licked on the sly.  The whole house was squeaky clean. It was a small independent house, of modest means, with a lovely backyard that had coconut trees, neem trees, and a well for water.  My grandmother had outdone herself.

The day finally arrived, and by 6 p.m. the table was set.  My grandmother’s best crockery was on display, the cutlery shone, and there was the aroma of love and many well-cooked dishes, wafting in the air.

The newlyweds were due to arrive at 7.30 p.m.  At 6.00 p.m. all of us proceeded to get ready and look our best.  My grandmother came out radiant in a beautiful silk saree, elegant as always.  Our parents hovered around chit-chatting, while we played a game of Monopoly.

My grandma went around the house one last time, flicking away imaginary dust and straightening a couple of photo frames.

The clock showed 6.50 p.m. and then, without any notice, there was a power cut, just like that! Those were the days when frequent load shedding happened during the summer months. There was no generator to take over.

We panicked, as the adults scurried about lighting candles, hoping that our thinking faculties would be energized by the candle-light.

Suddenly, my grandma whooped, and said, “I have a brilliant idea. Let’s host this dinner in the back yard, by the well, a candle light dinner, under the moon and the stars.”

Now that we had a sense of direction and purpose, we kicked into action.

Back & forth; carrying, transferring, carefully balancing, till the open-air table was set. The cutlery sparkled even more under the moonlight.

Grandma lit candles all around the wall of the well, and the whole back yard looked transformed, infused as it was with a warm glow.

Just when we pronounced ourselves ready, the newlyweds walked in. They were taken to the yard, with much fanfare and giggling. The new bride seemed like a lot of fun.

Dinner was a fun affair, as family jokes were repeated, stories shared, and we tucked into one of the best dinners ever.

I caught my gran’s eyes as I went to refill my plate.

“We pulled it off, eh?”she chuckled.