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.

Happiness in a Nutshell


In our home, we use a lot of freshly grated coconut in our cooking. When I was growing up, my parents used to buy about 4 – 5 big coconuts every Sunday from the vegetable market.

These were grated using something called an Aruvamanai, which looks like this.

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Image courtesy – flikr.com

The Aruvamanai was also used to chop vegetables. Even today many homes in India use this as the vegetable chopper of choice, for its simplicity and convenience.

So once the coconut shells were grated, my sisters and I had to take them to the backyard to stack them up neatly.

We have had some wonderful times with these coconut shells. We were given old metal spoons and asked to remove the fiber atop each shell. It was a test of patience and endurance. Once the shell was clear of fiber, we washed them and dried them in the Sun, after which we would take old rags and apply coconut oil to bring a shine to the shell.

We then used these around the garden for decoration. Sometimes, we painted these shells and used them to store our trinkets.

Each shell has three eyes (as they are called). Taking our Dad’s help, we broke these eyes and lo! had a penstand we could use.

Then again, we lived in a cold place so nothing cold was easily available. During winter, when temperatures fell below zero, we filled these coconut shells with water and carefully placed them in the soil in our garden, so they wouldn’t tip over.

At the first hint of dawn, and with the entire area blanketed in frost, we ran to check if the water in the shells had turned into ice. We felt like scientists watching this simple miracle of nature happen overnight. We played with the dome-shaped ice cubes till they melted.

Simple things like coconut shells gave us so much joy.