My new e-book – Simple Sojourns


Dear friends,

Hope all of you are safe and well. I am sorry that I have not been very active on WordPress for the last two months. I have missed reading all your blogs. But I am happily back now and look forward to catching up on my reading.

I am also happy to share that my book, SIMPLE SOJOURNS – A collection of everyday stories from India, is now available on Amazon Kindle as an e-book. The paperback version will be available at a later date.

This book would not have been possible without all your encouragement for my blog all these years, which made me believe that I could actually write this book. Thank you all so much.

Nimi

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.

Healthy clothes


It is yet another humid afternoon in the tropics. My phone buzzes, and I pick it up excitedly. It’s my sister. Soon we are both in that land that sisters inhabit, where conversations can morph from being serious to being silly in a mere second; where we can break into song or seamlessly glide into an argument with each other!!!

Soon, my little niece walks in and seats herself on my sister’s lap. She has just woken up from her mid-morning nap, and looks refreshed and cheerful.

She is wearing a white frock, on which are embroidered various colourful fruits. When I ask her about them, she pretends to pluck at them and feeds me fruit and says cutely, “Pemma, eat.”

I make chomping noises, and she giggles. And this game goes on for sometime. My niece soon gets distracted by a dog, and goes away to watch it from the balcony.

My sister then shares a funny incident that happened earlier this week.

With everyone working from home, my sister had given my niece a box of dates, and had asked her to transfer the dates from that box into another one. After a while, my sister was completely caught up in her work, and quite forgot about both the dates and the boxes.

Photo by Naim Benjelloun from Pexels

Later in the evening, when she took out a load of washed laundry from the washing machine, she found specks of brown on most of the clothes. She tried to figure out what the brown flakes were, but could not.

A couple of days later, when she wanted some dates and looked for the box, she found that it was empty. She called my niece, and asked her where she had put the dates.

My niece walked to the washing machine, and said, “Me put here.”

My sister burst out laughing! The healthy clothes had to be washed again. Sigh!

Every new experience


The evening sky is painted an orange shade that defies description. Spun gold? Gold cotton candy? Faraway buildings and trees are silhouetted against this backdrop. Most birds are already tucked into their cosy nests. There is a lull, as day winds down and shakes hands with twilight. The evening sky never looks the same, each evening is different. I stand on the balcony and soak-in the peace.

My kids barge into my reverie. It is the weekend and they want to order-in pizza. I agree, and soon, with a few clicks, the order is placed. In just under forty-five minutes, the familiar square cardboard box is delivered, accompanied by that mouth-watering aroma that every pizza-lover relishes. Hmmm!

But what has become such a regular part of our lives now, was once a new experience for me. When we were kids most meals were home cooked. We rarely ate out. My mom made yummy Indian food, sweets and savouries at home, and we looked forward to all the treats she cooked for us.

When I left for university, I fondly remembered and yearned for my mom’s food. By the time I started working, most meals were eaten out, with friends and colleagues. And that was the time I ate my first-ever pizza. A new outlet had opened in the city close to my place of work, and all of us went over.

And that’s when I smelt a pizza for the first time, that unique melding of cheese, bell peppers, olives, pineapples and other veggies. My favourite part was adding the chilli flakes on top for that extra burst of flavour. We loved the pizza even more because of the experience of trying something for the first time.

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

It was something new, something shared, something exciting, a new type of food, a slice of another culture. And we were never the same again. We had changed.

And that is true of all the new things we try in life. Some are great experiences, while some don’t go at all well; but each one of them changes us in subtle ways.

My kids are happy, and predictably disappear into their rooms. As I close the lid on the pizza box and clean up, night has fallen, and a few stars are twinkling high up in the firmament. The sky has also changed.

‘Tis more about the popcorn


The school holidays have begun. Time expands itself to fit our mood of purposelessness and lassitude. We laugh in glee at the clock, for we are the masters now!

We decide to go watch a movie at the neighbourhood multiplex. And when we enter the complex, the aroma of popcorn is tantalizing. For me, it is more about the popcorn now, and less about the movie.

We stand in line and buy huge tubs of salted popcorn and drinks. We scan our ticket and walk into the dark hall, our hands carefully balancing the popcorn and drinks, eyes scanning the alphabets for our row.

Soon, we settle into our seats. With a gentle tug, the popcorn tub opens. Movie trailers play….and finally the movie begins.

My eyes are glued to the screen. My hands and mouth are in perfect sync. Delicious handfuls of salted popcorn are seamlessly transferred from the tub to my mouth. The popcorn is perfect, and crunchy.

Now and then, there is a surprise caramel popcorn masquerading as a salted one! I take sips of my drink. The plot thickens and the popcorn tastes even better as the movie winds through the good and the bad, the laughter and the tears.

Just when we are about halfway through the movie, I realize that my stock of popcorn is almost over. I now slow down and relish whatever is left. An acute sense of disappointment remains.

Sigh! It is done.

Now, I settle down to the task of movie watching!

10000 steps in Kaziranga


We are shivering in the morning cold in Kaziranga. We are on pins to get started on the Elephant Safari that will take us through the thick bushes and grasslands, to see the famed One-horned Indian Rhino.

Nearly a hundred people await the arrival of 32 elephants. The sun has started its journey across the sky; the early morning mist is slowly clearing.

Soon, the four of us are on our elephant, a beautiful and majestic creature. ‘Tara’ is her name, which translates to star.

Our Mahout has been with Tara for nearly 15 years. Man and elephant are one. He gently prods Tara into the grasslands, as she stops to pull out grass with her trunk, on and off.

We soon see the beautiful One-horned Indian Rhino, majestic, graceful; and oblivious to all of us. Some of them busy chomping down their breakfast, while some others are staring away into the distance.

Enroute we also see deer, jungle fowl, eagles and huge water buffaloes.

We enjoy the safari thoroughly and get back to base, after two hours in the grasslands.

We are famished, and get back to the hotel and settle down to a heavy breakfast and many cups of hot Assam Tea.

As we prepare to get back to our room, I casually glance at my phone.

My pedometer shows 14550 steps walked, and the day had barely started. I am puzzled. My first reaction is that the App has stopped working.

I try walking with the phone, and the App updates the steps taken just like it always does.

Aha…..then it strikes me, the pedometer has also counted the steps taken by Tara, our dear elephant.

I laugh out aloud, and realize that my 10000 steps for the day are yet to begin.

Seeds and Shells


Tamarind is an integral part of South Indian cooking. Tamarind extract forms the base for many yummy dishes like sambar, rasam & tamarind rice.

However, this post has very little to do with tamarind and cooking. As kids, tamarind seeds formed an integral part of the games we played indoors.

My mom and aunt would clean the tamarind pulp and give us the seeds. The seeds were of a dark brown colour!

Picture courtesy – http://www.shutterstock.com

We had a box filled with these tamarind seeds. When the monsoon winds blew the trees down, or when it was too hot to play outside, all the neighbourhood kids gathered at home to play games with these seeds.

We would pile all the seeds on the floor, in the middle of a circle that we sat around. The first person would blow the seeds. Being lightweight, the seeds would scatter. The objective was to pick up the seeds without shaking any other. If any other seed shook, the next person got a chance. The winner was the one with the biggest hoard!

As the player concentrated, we would try to think up spells to distract him or her. Those games were so much fun. There was a lot of squabbling, as we decided if a particular seed had shaken or not.

Another game was called 5 stones, which we played with small rounded pebbles. It called for skill, concentration, and lots of practice. We would oil our stones and protect them.

Then again, we played with cowrie shells – a very simple game of both luck and skill, just four cowries, but hours of fun and boisterous shouting!

These holidays, when my mom visited, she introduced my children to some of these games. It was heartening to see the enthusiasm with which they played. They fought over silly, shaking cowrie seeds, and whether someone had rigged the game of cowrie shells by not throwing the cowries but placing them in a pre-arranged pattern.

I watched, totally amused. Simple games with everyday objects that call for dexterity, spirit and patience.

I was happy to see that my kids were not staring at a device, or playing a game with virtual characters. Here, everything was real.

Now, my kids play these games when they are at a loose end! I sincerely hope that these traditional games, which every culture has, do not fade away!

Shopping, paranthas & peace


My sister and I are out shopping. There is no specific shopping list; we are willing to buy anything that grabs our attention. Read – ‘as many shops as we can visit in one afternoon’.

Our children are with their grandmom, and we don’t feel any guilt. We wave cheery byes to our children, who are oblivious to our departure. They are enjoying junk food, and reveling in the joy of being totally spoiled by their grandmom.

We drive down to one of our favourite malls. We drive each other nuts by trying on hundreds of clothes, doing catwalks for each other; all the while catching up on family gossip, children, motherhood and other silly things that sisters talk about.

We reach a point where our arms hurt from all that exertion. We buy 2% of what we tried, but the satisfaction is enormous.

We need coffee. We need something to eat. And then, we find this small restaurant that has a skylight, and has huge stone slabs and steps that serve as tables and chairs. Multi-coloured cushions languish on various stones. Trees give us company. We order hot aloo paranthas and coffee. As we wait for the food, we soak in this place, this slice of heaven. Where, unbeknowst to ourselves, we’ve stopped talking.

We are immersed in our own thoughts. Life seems so simple and so uncomplicated in this quadrangle. A lazy bird chirps above us. Ants are busily climbing the walls.

Our food arrives. We relish it in silence. We are loathe to leave this peace, but real life beckons. We step out into the world, where people are rushing, vehicles are moving – nobody stops or pauses even for a second.

The confession


Last month, we had to go to a friend’s home for a house warming party.  My son was going down to play with his friends and I told him that he had to be back by 6 pm, so that he would have enough time to wash-up and get ready!  Our conversation went something like this.

Son: So, where are we going?

Me: To Aunt L’s house.  She has moved to a new condo, so she has called us over for dinner.

Son: Oh! Aunt L?  Hmmm…(he seemed to be in deep thought).

Me: What?

Son: I have a confession to make.

Me: Sure, tell me. (….wondering what was coming)

Son: You know that there is a small hillock near Aunt L’s old house?  About four years ago, my friends and I walked up that hillock.

(My friend (the said Aunt L) had already told me that these kids had been going up and down the hillock and had asked them to be careful, as they could get hurt).

Me: Yes, I know. Aunt L has told me.

Son:  But that’s not it. Once, when Aunt L was not there (she is usually watching us), the five of us went up the hillock, and went through a small gap in the fence.  We found ourselves outside the condo.  There was a grassy slope, some trees, and at a distance was the next building.  We high-fived and came back into our condo through the fence.  Are you mad at me?

Me: I am not mad, but it could have been dangerous to go out like you did. You could have got hurt.

Son: Mom, it was a long time ago.  I wouldn’t do that now. OK, bye!

I smiled and imagined the scene. Five little imps, up for an adventure to conquer the hillock, and see the world outside.  I can imagine those giggles, the shared camaraderie, and the imagined ‘big’ conspiracy.  I wonder how much they had planned, and who amongst them took the call to get them all enthused and going.

Image result for children climbing up mountain clipart

Picture courtesy – Can Stock Photo

Five children, 7 to 8 year-olds, best friends,  in their shorts and t-shirts, scrambling up the hillock, quickly sneaking out through the fence, their hearts thudding in excitement at this sudden adventure, reaching the other side, looking at each other, and sharing looks of glee and sudden giggles, and then their thudding hearts reminding them of home, parents and fear, and the scramble back to the other side of the fence, back to safety, to the known and to the comfort of home.

And this is how it will be for our children.  As parents, we will never know some of the adventures that the children will embark on in their future.  They will try to conquer their fears by trying new things, sometimes they will do something because it is cool, sometimes they will do things that will help them reach their highest potential.

 

Cow couture


Many, many years ago, when I was probably seven or eight, we were visiting my grandmom, who lived on a small hillock.

My grandmom’s house was the third house from the right, in a long row of around 12 houses. The houses had no fences separating them. Instead, jasmine plants, rose bushes and gorse bushes usually formed a natural divider between the various houses.

The town has typical English weather, and with no machine dryers to dry out laundry, the idea was to take advantage of sunlight to the fullest extent possible.

The moment the sun’s rays touched the hillock, freshly washed clothes and semi-dry ones from the previous day would go on the clothes lines. If we ran out of space, semi dry clothes would be spread out on the bushes.

If it was a bright, sunny day, then by late afternoon, the clothes would dry and smell heavenly – that smell that’s unique to freshly washed, and sun-dried clothes.

Anyway, I am digressing a bit here. On this hillock, a local shepherd grazed his sheep and a few cows every day.

He would drive them to the hillock in the morning. During the day we would see him on and off, sometimes sitting, sometimes taking a nap and sometimes tending to the animals.


Courtesy – http://www.cliparting.com
On one such bright and warm Sunday, all our clotheslines were fully packed, with some clothes on the bushes. One of those was a small pretty frock belonging to one of my cousins.

One of the shepherd’s cows was grazing close to the bush which had the frock, and when the cow shook its head, the frock slid into one of its horns.

The cow was totally oblivious to the frock, and kept grazing. Each time the cow moved, the little frock moved up and down.

We were all in splits. The next step was to get the frock, without startling the cow.

The bravest members tried all the tricks they had to get the frock. By this time the cow had probably sensed that something was amiss, and took off down the hillock.

A few people ran behind the cow, trying not to scare it. The shepherd was coming up the hillock, and helped retrieve the frock.

He spoke to the cow, as if to calm it down. The cow went back to its grazing, and the adults went back home. The kids stayed back to relive the whole incident.