A special bond


The energy at home when the kids are around is palpable. And this manifests in many ways that only moms notice. Shoes in the exact angle they were taken off, left by the door. Bags, wallets, keys, and now masks as well! All these are clues to locate the kids when they disappear into their own rooms. And these bits and pieces of their presence breathe life into the walls of our home.

This last week, my son discovered that his sister had gone from one bedroom, which my son uses for his classes, to continue sleeping in another bedroom. Her bed was unmade as she literally sleep-walked to the other bedroom and plopped there!

My son stared at the unmade bed, grabbed my daughter’s quilt, bunched it up and walked purposefully towards the other bedroom.

When I asked him what he was going to do, he said, “I am going to throw this on her.” And I ran behind him trying to stop him from irritating his sister.

Image courtesy – http://www.123rf.com

And as I entered the room, I saw him gently putting the quilt around his sister and tucking her in.

My throat catches for a moment. I get back to work with a smile.

The little boy and his dad


The little boy, nine years old, had recently been admitted to one of the bigger schools in the city. It was in the late seventies, and the little boy had to walk around two kilometres from home to the bus stand, from where he had to switch two buses to get to school. The same process would repeat in reverse in the evening, when the little boy would walk home through the busy markets and shops and small lanes to get home.

On this particular day, the boy woke up with a bad throat; he could feel the onset of a cold. His father felt his forehead, and it felt warmer than usual. Maybe the boy would develop a fever later in the day, thought the father.

The father wanted the boy to take the day off from school and rest at home. But the boy refused, and set off on his two kilometre walk to the bus stand.

Courtesy – Clipartwiki

As the father sat at his desk in office, he worried about his son, and if he was ok. He mulled over this during his breaks and lunch time. After lunch, he quickly came to a decision. He applied for some time off from work and quickly rushed to the bus stand, where his son would arrive at around 3 pm.

He hired a bicycle from a bike rental shop, and waited. Soon, his son got off the bus, his face pale and drawn. The father rushed to greet him. The boy’s face lit up in surprise and joy, when he saw his dad.

The father took him to the bicycle, and off they went. The little boy held on to his father. His fever raged, but his happiness knew no bounds.

The father had a peaceful look on his face, there was a hint of a smile there, as he took his little boy home and tucked him into bed.

And now, the little boy is in his late forties, and recollects this incident as one of his most enduring memories of his Dad, who is no more. He strongly feels the joy and love that he felt on that day, many decades ago, when his father took time off from work to take him home on a bicycle.

The Emperor Penguin


My son loves animals, and he devours books and TV shows about animals all the time. He derives special joy from remembering facts, statistics and loads of interesting information about animals, and constantly shares them with all of us.

So, for his Father’s Day gift, he has drawn from his knowledge about animals, and has decided to sketch an Emperor Penguin. Male Emperor Penguins incubate the egg for a good two months, with patience and love.

My son sees these qualities mirrored in his Dad and has sketched his Emperor Penguin Dad on a beautiful white cloth tote.

Needless to say, his Dad is touched and thrilled. They exchange high-fives and hugs.

I ask my son who the penguin at the back is. He replies that it is his sister.

“Where am I?” I ask, a little miffed at being left out of this family portrait.

“Oh, mom, female Emperor Penguins go fishing in the ocean. That’s why you are not here”, he says.

Neighbours


Today, we have more smartphones and tablets than the number of members in a family. We sit on our couches or slouch on our beds, busy connecting with people from around the world.

But the world was not like this at all, when I was growing up. All social networking was done face to face.

We had neighbours. We grew up with them, till we went to college, got jobs, married and moved out.

We played for hours on the street, till the street lights came on. We played riotous games, and sometimes spent entire evenings looking for a missing tennis ball.

We formed numerous clubs, drawing inspiration from Enid Blyton books, and many other childrens’ movies. We put up stalls, and all kinds of shows for our parents.

We attended exhibitions of butterflies and other insects put up by the neighbourhood boys. We went into the neighbouring woods to collect eucalyptus leaves, which we used to light bonfires.

We spent all our time in and out of each others’ homes, bringing plates filled with lunch, and eating together in a friend’s garden.

We had fights, silly squabbles and long battles that sometimes lasted an entire season.

We eagerly opened boxes of yummy snacks that neighbours sent to us. We went in droves to the home where the first television made its appearance.

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

We watched the glorious Indian Monsoon with our noses plastered to the windows – howling winds, lashing rain and falling trees.

We watched the first frost of winter, and gobbled up piping hot venn pongal that was served in the neighbourhood temple.

We knew a lot about each other and our families. We lived at a time when we got ‘live updates’ about each others’ lives.

We had lovely neighbours.

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.

Of Barking, Running & Bonding…


My husband and I hail from the same State in India. However, my husband’s ancestors moved to a neighbouring state around 80 years ago.

So, though we share the same mother tongue, my husband’s version is laced heavily with borrowed words from the neighbouring state, where his ancestors settled.

While I can now understand most of what my husband’s family speak, the initial days of our marriage had me figuring out new words and their meanings.

This was because certain borrowed words, which my in-laws used in their language, meant something totally different in our mother tongue.

Two such funny incidents come to mind. A few months into our marriage, I came down with a cold and sore throat that slowly turned into a bad cough.

As I coughed away my father in law, asked me, “You seem to be barking badly.”

I thought I had heard wrong. I apologized and asked him to repeat what he’d just said.

He repeated the same sentence about barking. I laughed and asked him if he meant ‘coughing’ in our mother tongue.

We were all in splits. What was a common everyday word to them meant something totally different in my version of the language.

The other incident was about a clock. My mother in law asked me if the clock in the living room had stopped or if it was walking. Clocks in our mother tongue usually ‘run’. Another round of laughter.

The hands of clocks ran on one side of the border, while they walked on the other side.

I sometimes ‘walked’ and sometimes ‘ran’; my new family did the same, and slowly we learnt to appreciate the differences in our language, cooking, rituals and practices and started to enjoy the best that each other had to offer.

An Ode to My Aunt


My aunt, my Dad’s older sister, was diagnosed with polio at the age of eight. She lost strength in her legs and had to walk with special shoes. Feeling shy and awkward she dropped out of school and was home-schooled by my grandfather and her siblings.

Those were the days when India was under British rule, and World War II was brewing. An English nurse took a liking to my aunt and taught her how to knit.

After this, my aunt never looked back.  In the mornings, she would help my grandma with the household chores that she could do, without having to move around too much. In the afternoons she would knit – lovely sweaters, shawls and ponchos.

My earliest memories of my aunt are when she would narrate interesting stories to my sisters and me, to ensure that we ate our vegetables.

Every single person in our house wore only  the sweaters that were knitted by her. Both my children have worn sweaters knitted by her.

With age, she lost all strength in her legs and could move only when seated. Despite these setbacks she went on –  ever smiling, constantly learning new patterns to knit her love into.

She was our silent partner when we read late into the night without our Dad’s knowing about it. She knitted on, late into the night as we swotted for various exams. She was gung-ho about watching shows we liked on television, laughing like a young girl.

It took a lot of effort to take her out, as wheel chairs were not in vogue, nor was the hilly area where we lived suited to wheelchairs.

So with hardly any outing, this amazing woman kept herself busy and happy, ever-smiling and content. Always able to see the funny side of everything, not taking anything too seriously and living her life with quiet acceptance.

My aunt passed away two years ago and the void she has left behind can never be filled.

She accepted what life had thrown at her with grace and dignity, and made the best of what she had and lived a full life with her family, who loved her dearly.

She taught us all a profound lesson –

‘To be happy not because of something but to be happy inspite of everything.’