Bubbles of joy


We are heading over to a friend’s home for dinner. My friend is moving out to another part of town, and this is an impromptu plan just before they leave.

Dinner happens around packed cartons and pizza boxes. Laughter flows and echoes off empty walls, as we reminisce about the passage of time and about all the wonderful memories we’ve shared.

Soon it’s time to say bye. Just as we are about to leave, my daughter spots a roll of bubble wrap! And she glides towards it as if in a trance, and starts popping the bubbles. My friend laughs and asks her if she wants a small piece to take away. My daughter nods vigorously. My friend bends down and cuts out a small piece of bubble wrap. When she hands it over to my daughter and lifts her head, she finds that I have joined the queue for a bubble wrap takeaway too!

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

My daughter and I grin at each other, as we say our byes and get into the lift. We start popping the bubbles, completely absorbed in this most satisfying of all tasks. We get back home. My son, who had stayed back at home, gets excited when he sees the bubble wrap, and begs for a chance to pop them.

But no, we are selfish girls when it comes to bubble wrap. We don’t want to share something so precious.

We settle down and pop, sometimes row by row, sometimes random patterns. We sigh in contentment. There is something so therapeutic about this. Soon, our bubble wraps look exhausted! We then move on to other things, completely rejuvenated.

Late in the night, when I go around checking the doors and turning off the lights, I see the two pieces of bubble wrap on the sofa. There is a small frisson of hope as I run my hands over them.

Aha, I find an unpopped one. Pop!!! The day finishes on a high note.

Lessons in parenting


A few months ago, when life was normal and busy, and when weekends meant dinner with friends or extended family, we had friends over for dinner one evening.

After a sumptuous dinner, we settled down in the living room, some of us stretched out on the couch, some of us on the floor – totally comfortable in the company of friends we had known for a long time.

Our conversation meandered down the alleys of the past, and into the unknown alleys of the future. At one point, the discussion turned to past holidays and vacations, and as we dug into our desserts, we laughed and enjoyed the various anecdotes from past holidays.

And then, suddenly, my daughter chipped in. She narrated an incident that happened when she was about 8 years old, when we had gone on a short cruise.

In one of the places where the ship docked, we were taken on a sightseeing tour in the afternoon. One of the attractions was an elephant show. All of us were totally engrossed in the show, and admired the elephants and their grace.

One of the items on the show was a ‘baby elephant massage’. The organizers asked for kids who wanted to volunteer.

My daughter hesitated, but I was so excited that I raised her hand. The trainer picked my daughter to be the privileged one to receive a massage from the baby elephant.

Photo by Adriaan Greyling from Pexels

Things moved very quickly after that, and before we knew it, our little daughter was lying on a mat, and the baby elephant was brought in.

Everyone clapped and cheered, and we did too. We took pictures and cheered our daughter.

Cut to our dinner…. I watched my daughter narrate the incident, and she said, “Can you believe it? Mom volunteered my hand, and before I knew it I was watching a baby elephant towering over me, and I closed my eyes in sheer nervousness. But it worked out ok in the end.”

All of us had a good laugh. But, only now, after nearly a decade, it hits me that I was so excited that I had pushed my daughter to do something that I thought was fun, and that may have been scary or uninteresting to her.

And when I think about it, I realize that sometimes, as parents, we consciously or unconsciously push our kids to do things which we would have liked to do or which we had dreamt about as kids.

While we do have to push our kids at times for the right things, sometimes it is nice to stop and think before volunteering a nervous eight year old for a baby elephant massage.

Lesson learnt after many years!!!

Circle of friendship


When we first go to school, we are reluctant to let go of our parents’ hands. We stare at this new world that is inhabited by other kids, from the security of our mom’s lap or dad’s shoulders. The world outside is scary, so strange, a little exciting..and many other things.

Three or four days into school, we take tentative steps towards friendship, with that girl in the cute pink frock or the boy with the dinosaur shaped lunch box!

Courtesy – http://www.shutterstock.com

Soon our evenings are spent with friends, playing tag, playing with toys or learning to ride a bicycle together.

We plow through primary school and birthday parties with friends, sharing innocent secrets and giggles. We then move to the teen years, where friends become life, and family fades into the background. A time when we learn so many things, a time when we experiment with identity, looks, cliques; a time when we try to be noticed or not noticed at all. A time of tumultuous friendships sometimes, and great moments sometimes too! By this time some friends have been there with us forever, some have vanished!

Then on to university, where more friends get added, many new shared experiences happen; more serious talk happens – about life, career prospects, marriage…!

Then out in the world to earn a living – new dynamics, new friendships, a taste of independence, hosting parties, more relaxed in friendship, more comfortable in one’s skin.

And then marriage, befriending other young couples, visiting each others’ homes, going on trips with them.

Then, when kids arrive, friends become other parents – comparing notes on food and child-related topics, all the time. When friendships only revolve around kids.

As the kids enter their teens and become independent, there’s more time for and with friends. By this time, we are settled in our friendships and views. We have a close-knit group of friends, whom we meet regularly. Friends who have our backs; where there is absolute comfort, where there is no worry about being judged, or about food or cooking.

A kind of friendship where one can just be – talkative or silent, eat in or take out, laugh with or cry with…so many, many beautiful things – when one feels complete in a warm circle of friendship!

It takes time and effort to get there, but when you do get there and find that circle, life is perfect!

My Grandma’s friend


When I was growing up, we lived in a big joint family with my grandma, aunt and uncle. Life was always exciting; the house was always filled with people visiting. The kitchen was a bee-hive of activity. From 6 am to around 2 pm, and then again from around 4 pm to late at night.

Picture courtesy – 123RF.com

My grandma, mom and aunt were permanently busy, and we tried to keep out of their way. Life was simple and fun.

My grandma’s house was the third house in a long line of houses; neighbours we knew from birth. In the third house from ours, on the right, which was the sixth house in the row, lived one of my grandma’s dearest friends.

My grandma’s friend was referred to as ‘the aunt who lives in the third house from ours’ (loosely translated from our language).

So, when there was a festival, we became errand girls, as we ran to distribute sweets to our neighbours. We frequently visited “the aunt who lived in the third house from ours”, as, being dear friends, my gran and she exchanged a lot of things – sweets, vegetables, sometimes change for currency, sometimes grocery….

Also, nearly twice or thrice a week, “the aunt who lived in the third house from ours” called on my gran during the 2 pm to 4 pm lull time.

She wore lovely vibrant sarees, and a big pink Bindi on her forehead. She usually carried a bunch of keys, that had a long metallic keychain. This used to fascinate me. She had a distinct cough, and she coughed on and off. We were not allowed into the living room, so we peeked from the window sometimes.

They caught up on their everyday lives. At 4 pm, after her friend left, my grandma and mom would head into the kitchen to start preparations for dinner. All meals were prepared at home, and there was no concept of eating out.

My grandma and the “aunt who lived in the third house from ours” went back to their chores, totally rejuvenated after their afternoon chit-chat.

But it wasn’t until much later, when I had started working, that I heard about the passing away of my grandma’s friend. It was then that it hit me; that I did not know her name!

But, she continues to live on in our memories as the “aunt who lived in the third house from ours”; and evokes many lovely moments from my childhood.

Switch on – Switch off


Recently, one of my friends moved to a new apartment. Her apartment was on the fourteenth floor.

Another mutual friend lives about half a kilometer from this friend’s house. Her home is also on the fourteenth floor.

When they each stood in the living room of their respective homes, they could see the other’s apartment complex at a distance.

They were so excited about this, that, one evening, they decided to identify each other’s apartment by playing a game of switching-on and switching-off the living room lights.

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       Courtesy – http://www.en.wikipedia.org

In the maze of lights, it took a while for them to identify each other. But, once they did, they did it with more excitement, and talked on the phone to share their excitement.

One friend’s daughter, walked-in on her mom playing this game.

She said, “Mom, are you actually doing this? I don’t believe this!”

When our group of friends met at a party, we were told this story.

My two friends looked like young girls as they narrated the fun they had. Their eyes sparkled. We had a good laugh!

Once in a way, it is really nice to bring out the kid inside eh?

The lost suitcase


My friend and I recently took a domestic flight in India, to attend the silver wedding anniversary celebrations of one of our very dear friends.

Each of us had checked-in a small suitcase. The flight was a short one, and before we knew it, we were at the luggage carousel, waiting for our bags to arrive.

Mine was one of the first few to arrive. Fifteen minutes later, my friend was still waiting for her bag. By then, most people had taken their bags and left the airport.

We barely noticed all this, as we chatted on. My friend had her eye on the carousel, but there was no sign of her suitcase.  It took us a while to realize that we were the only ones left and that there was only one black suitcase going around on the carousel. My friend was really worried and we started talking about how we would register a complaint. The more worrying part was that the clothes for the party were gone now.

As we walked towards the customer service counter, it suddenly hit my friend that the black suitcase was actually hers. She had started packing in a red suitcase , but had shifted to the black one later. But the image of the red suitcase had stayed with her!

So, looking sheepish, she ran and picked up her suitcase. We had a good laugh!

A metal trunk and a table cloth


After my siblings and I left home to pursue our dreams, my mom put away the things that each of us treasured, in three huge metal trunks, one for each of us.

They clanged and made loud noises each time they were opened, allowing us a peek into our past and the things that meant a lot to each of us.

Just before I got married, my mom asked me if I wanted to take the trunk with me. I was attached to the trunk and decided to take it to my new home. I still have it,  a big blue one.

But before my wedding, I cleared the trunk. What fun it was, it had yellowed books by Enid Blyton, a tennis ball that I got free with a chocolate drink, hundreds of stickers, my slam books from high school and university, a book where I copied my favourite quotes, pressed dry flowers from our garden, a few beads and pebbles, and a table cloth from our craft class in school.

We had a compulsory craft class from Grades 6 through 8. Each year, we were expected to complete two projects. We learnt how to make plastic wire bags, a green parrot lampshade, embroidered handkerchiefs, a table cloth and many others.

The tablecloth was white in colour;  we had to draw floral patterns at the four corners and in the middle. Then using all the stitches we had learnt, we had to embroider the cloth.

My mom was very happy with the final product and displayed it proudly at home, for everyone to see.

As with everything else, newer, better things took precedence and the table cloth faded from memory, till it resurfaced when I cleared the trunk. I still have it with me. Here are the pictures.

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A tablecloth with memories of our childhood trapped in its stitches, of pretty flowers and picnic baskets, of butterflies on a meadow, of carefree school days gossiping with friends as we sewed on….

When the lady went shopping…


The mail has brought good news. Points that I have meticulously gathered on my credit card have borne fruit in the form of shopping vouchers…Yay!!!

I am out at 10.30 a.m. to buy out the entire mall with these vouchers. There’s a feeling of dizzy happiness as I contemplate, make lists and eliminate choices in my head.

When I finally get to the mall, I head straight to the clothes section. What a riot of colours and designs. I start with a few tops, go to the trial room, try them on – I like only one out of the seven. I go back again, come back with one more batch from two other brands. None of them seem to look nice on me.

But I am determined. I go for the third round. I am not adventurous now, I bring back a mixed batch of my regulars and the ‘ohhh I wish I could wear that’ clothes.

One of the dresses from the ‘ohhh I wish..’ category seems to have been designed with me in mind. I gasp in joy and excitement. I dream of parties to which I will wear this outfit, I dream about clutches and footwear, accessories and hairdos.  I have decided on this piece. I look at the price tag; my eyes pop out as I realize that it costs double the value of my vouchers.

I am unhappy. I want a friend, who will egg me on to buy this dress and fight my hyper-active guilty conscience. I want coffee…..

I go back for round four. My hair is a mess and my arms are aching from all the trial room excursions. 

Round four is the sober me – all the excitement has fizzled out.  My goal is to get full value for the vouchers in my handbag. I focus on my regular brands and head to the cosmetics section, and ask for my regular lipstick.

The sales lady says, “That’s an old model, we now have this dual matte and gloss lipstick. This is all the rage now.”

Oh! Am I out of touch? I buy the dual lipstick, to be in the ‘now’!

Three tops and one lipstick, and I have exhausted the voucher amount.

Four long hours- that started off with promise and hope and colours and designs – have ended on a sober note.

Vouchers spent, nothing has  changed, three new additions to my collection, and I STILL HAVE NOTHING SUITABLE TO WEAR.

Walk Woof Woof


I am working out on the treadmill. The gym trainer is instructing somebody on breathing techniques to adopt during cardio sessions.

I almost laugh out aloud as I remember a funny incident that happened about five years ago.

My two friends and I were filled with a sense of purpose that New Year. We decided to focus on getting fit by taking a brisk walk at 5 a.m., on all weekdays, in a sports stadium close to where we lived.

I am not a brisk walker, strolling is more my style, but peer pressure had me showing up and walking with resolve.

I was also taking aerobics classes at that time, and my trainer had taught us to keep breathing out in short puffy bursts during any cardio activity.

About a couple of days into our 5 am walk program, I decided to put this breathing technique into practice.

My friends had gone on ahead, as I struggled to choose the right song on my iPod to help me keep up a brisk pace.

That done, I started walking- walk -huffpuff, walk huffpuff…breathing out as instructed. I quite liked this…. I hastened my pace to catch up, but my friends seemed to walk even faster.

I broke into a jog…jog huffpuff, jog huffpuff. For some reason, my friends had also broken into a jog.

Finally, I stopped and called out. They turned, saw me and stopped. I huffpuffed as I jogged towards them and asked them why they were walking so fast.

They doubled up with laughter. One of them said, “I thought it was a dog behind us, and as I have been bitten by a dog once, we didn’t want to take any chances.”

They broke into peals of laughter. I joined in, as I imagined the scene. Two women walking in the stadium, darkness all around except for the stadium lights and an imaginary huffpuffing dog chasing them….!

These last five years I have polished my breathing technique. No one has mistaken me for a dog since then.

11 Beautiful Women – My Friends for Life


Eight years ago, we left our home land and moved to a new country.  The first few days flew by in unpacking and settling down.  In the evenings I would take the children to the play area and there, I met this woman, who gave me a warm smile. I smiled back and we chit-chatted for a bit.  As I got more familiar with the place, I started exploring the complex, varying my evening walking route every day.

Every evening, my smile-friend and a group of 7-8 women would sit and talk by the pool side.  I envied them their camaraderie; they would laugh, talk and entertain their children.  I would stop to say hello sometimes. Their conversations would stop midway, not because I was intruding, but because they did not know what to say to me; neither did I, for that matter.  Slowly, I became familiar with their faces and their apartment numbers; I guess they got used to seeing me around.

After about a few months, on another one of my evening strolls, they called out to me to come and sit with them.  Slowly but surely, I was accepted into the group.  I took my baby steps in friendship, trusting a totally new group of people, inviting them over, going to their homes, and finally grasped the dynamics of this group of eleven beautiful women.

That was eight years ago. These women are my best friends now; we totally rock as a group.  We are so attuned to each other that just mere glances at each other can set us off into peals of laughter.  We are different people from different backgrounds & cultures, but our value-systems are the same.  We can laugh together, cry together, shop together, eat together, and tease each other.  We can call each other at any time of the day or night just for a good girlie-talk.  We are the queens of impromptu potlucks and lunches and surprise birthday parties.  We rag our husbands, nag our children and brag to each other about what good moms we are.

We have been there for each other, when some of us lost our Dads or Moms; when the children were in medical emergencies, when we just wanted to call each other because we were low.  We meet often with our families, and it is a pleasure to see our children growing up and creating the early bonds of friendship, which we hope will blossom into lasting relationships.

We know each other’s tastes, likes and dislikes.  We can argue without being misunderstood.  We are so comfortable together, that  we are already planning out how we can all age gracefully, and retire together, maybe in the same city.  We have a chat group that beeps 24 x 7. Our conversations continue non-stop, now in person, now on the phone, now on chat & sometimes back again on the phone.

Some of these beautiful women have moved to other countries and cities, some of them have gone and come back. However, nothing changes in the group. We are truly friends for life, irrespective of where we are physically.

These 11 beautiful women give me stability and love, they walk with me when I am down, accept me as I am and give generously of their time, whenever I need it.

Thank you my dear friends.