Of piggybacks and a sack of salt


If you are an aunt or uncle, a grandma or grandpa, an older cousin or a mom or dad to young kids, you must have, at some point in time, belonged to the Piggyback Club.

I still remember being given piggyback rides by my Dad and Uncle.  Mad spins in the living room, and a gentle drop from Dad’s shoulders to the soft couch!

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Courtesy – http://www.canstockphoto.com

And it was never enough!  Where I grew up, we called this ‘Uppu Mootai’, which translates to ‘Sack of Salt.’

During my childhood, along with the small convenience stores – which sold just about everything under the sun – street hawkers were quite popular too.

They hawked their goods in different sing-song voices. I remember the man who sold ‘greens’, who had this cackling voice. We could set our clocks by his loud voice, he was so punctual.

Then we had the vegetable seller, who had a push cart that was loaded to the brim with colourful and healthy veggies.

Then again, there was the man who sold salt. He usually came once in a fortnight, and had a deep but loud voice, which said, “Uppu, Uppu”, meaning salt, salt. He called out with no modulation at all. The periods of silence between each of his shouts was precise. Uppu, uppu..pause pause pause..Uppu, uppu.

The salt man usually carried the salt in a gunny bag that was slung on his back.

When children were given piggyback rides, the adults carrying them probably looked like  ‘salt sellers’.

The name has stuck. Even today people use the name Uppu Mootai for piggybacking.

The little boy in the school bus


This weekend, I met a boy who used to  take the same school bus to school as my son did.

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      Courtesy – http://www.clipartpanda.com

I was so happy to see him. He has grown into a smart boy of ten.

The incident that I am about to narrate goes back to when my son and this boy were 3 to 4 year olds.

Every afternoon, when the school bus would drop off my son at our lobby, this other boy would put his head out of the window and say, “Aunty Nimi, your son troubled me today.”

When I asked the bus attendant, she told me that my son talked a lot, but that he was not really doing anything else. So, I relaxed.

Each time the boy complained, I told him I would take care. As my son and I walked home, I would ask him to stay quiet and not chatter away!

After a few days, the boy stopped complaining. I was very relieved. 

Then, after about two weeks, one day the boy called out to me again. I knew what was coming. I braced myself!

This is what he said, “Aunty Nimi, today your son DID NOT TROUBLE ME.”

I grinned in relief, so did he. He waved. I waved back.

Mind the Gap


I was reading an article this morning about the London Underground or Tube, and a funny incident came to mind.

A long time ago, more than fifteen years ago, I used to work in London.  It was my first trip outside India, and everything was fascinating and exciting.   I saw places that I had only read about,  and got to try all those food items that Enid Blyton wrote about in her books.

I learned about the Tube, and how to Mind the Gap and the pronunciation of certain words, which i had until that point pronounced differently.

My colleagues, who were already based there, took my enthusiasm in stride.

I must have been about a week old in London, and my colleagues and I were getting back to our workplace from a meeting.

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       Courtesy – http://www.telegraph.co.uk

We took the Tube. The escalator in that station was very long or high, whatever the measure used.

I had just learned the rule that people who wanted to walk up the escalator walked on the right, while others stood on the left.

My colleagues told me that it was a thrill to walk up this longest escalator and that we would  time ourselves. I was very excited. Being the only lady, they asked me to start first.

I climbed, briskly, wow…it was exciting, and huff…puff…, I was struggling. The snake went on and on. I could not slow down, as my colleagues were behind me, or so I thought.

Like the wolf in the Three Li’l Pigs, I arrived on the top, a mass of huff-puff. I looked at my watch. Yay!

I turned around to look for my colleagues for a high five. Imagine my shock – all of them were travelling up on the left side. They caught my glares from above and shook with laughter.

I have such wonderful memories of London. It remains one of my favourite cities.

Slow on the uptake


I am out for lunch with my friends. We are a noisy bunch, as we tuck-in to yummy food and girly gossip.

Just before we say our byes, one of my friends and I visit the powder room. I wash my hands and look for paper towels. Can’t find any; but there is a dryer. So I place my palms under the dryer, waiting for warm air to gush out.

Hmmm…no warm air. Upon closer inspection, through the translucent glass of the so-called dryer, I see a roll of paper towels.

“Ah! A paper towel dispenser”, I say.

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       Courtesy -www.shutterstock.com

My friend then tells me that it is sensor-operated, and that she had tried waving her hands before the sensor to activate it, but in vain.

There is a symbol that shows a palm, and below it is a small button. I press the button, and one paper towel comes out.

We laugh.

Then we discuss why the sensor doesn’t seem to be working. My friend shows me how she waved her palms at the machine. I wave my palms frantically.

We laugh and proceed to take our bags. There is a gentle whirring sound. We turn around to find that the machine has sensed all those waving palms, albeit slowly.

The machine is spewing out paper towels, one after the other, almost like a saree. We are in sudden shock.

We are close to the machine, and afraid that it will start spewing more if it senses our movement.

Like a pair of guilty children,  we back out with minimum movement.

We come out, catch each others’ eye and burst into fits of laughter.

Candy fight


Last weekend, my husband and I had gone out to lunch at an Indian restaurant in our neighbourhood. In most Indian restaurants, sugar-coated fennel seeds, cumin seeds and sugar candy are usually served after lunch, as mouth fresheners.  As I chewed on the cumin seeds, my thoughts flew back to my childhood.

While we were growing up, there were some yummy candies and sweets, which we usually bought on the weekend.

There was Egg Candy, named so because it looked like an egg. The candy was so big that once you popped one into your mouth, you couldn’t talk for a while. The other was what we called ‘Kamarkat’, made of jaggery and peanuts.

However, one of the more popular ones was the ‘Jeeraga Mittai’ or Cumin Candy, which was cumin seeds individually dipped in coloured sugar, to make millions of colourful, tasty beads.

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        Courtesy – http://www.thehindu.com

These candies were usually sold in packets of 100 gms or 50 gms.

When I was in class 2, one evening, as my sister and I walked home from school, my sister showed me a gift given to her by her teacher for having aced her spelling test.  The gift was a colourful fish-shaped box that was packed to the brim with colourful bits of Cumin Candy.

My eyes grew big as I saw the fish box. It was made of coloured plastic that looked like stained glass. It was so beautiful!

I asked my sister if she would share it with me. But she quickly tucked it away. I tried my best to get it from her. We ‘struggled’ our way back home; my sister defending her treasure, and I, focussed on snatching it away.

She was taller than I, and kept waving it out of reach. Finally, when I could take it no more, I struck her hard. She complained to my parents, and I was ticked off.

My heart pined, not for the candy but for the box. I wished fervently that my teacher would give out such gifts. The candy box consumed my thoughts that whole week. Later, my sister relented and gave me some candy, but I wanted only the box.

After about a week, when my Dad came back from his Sunday vegetable shopping, he called out to me.  He had bought a candy box for me. It was the most beautiful butterfly ever.

I treasured it for a long time.

Sibling banter


Last night, we wound up after what was a very long day for all of us.

I sat with the kids, listening to their friendly sibling banter, my mind focused on my ‘Things to do list’. Only a few things they said actually registered with me.

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     Courtesy – http://www.dreamstime.com

One word,  ‘birthday’, made me look up and pay attention. The conversation went something like this.

Son: My birthday’s coming up in a month.

Teen daughter: Wow, yes. What are you planning?

Son: I think I am too old for b’day parties. I will, maybe, have a few friends over.

Teen daughter: Why don’t you want a party? You did the same thing for Halloween. You did not want to go trick or treating.

Son: What’s wrong with that?

Teen daughter: You are growing up too soon..you need to enjoy these things at your age.

(I think, “Wow, my daughter is really giving good advice)

Son: Hmmmm….

Teen daughter: Just remember, if you give up all these things too soon….and then expect to eat all my Halloween candies,  that I gather after hours of planning and make-up, think twice. NO WAY will you get them.

Hmmmm……! So that’s what it was all about…I go back to planning my schedule with a smile on my face.

Point of view on a lazy evening


It is evening, around 6 pm. I drag my easy-chair out, to the balcony. Pinkish golden clouds are flirting with the Sun, as he bids adieu for the day.

The birds in the trees nearby are chirping loudly, catching up on all the gossip in their world. The evening is still bright and golden.

The wind lazily makes its way through the coconut palms. I look down at the play area and lobby below. A few cars are parked. There is a small boy, all by himself; trying to run around, clearly missing his friends. He looks around to see why his friends haven’t arrived yet.

He swings himself on a metal bar, and suddenly lets out a whoop of joy, as a group of boys runs down to meet him.

The dynamics below change completely. They talk in shrill voices, discuss something, and then start playing.

It takes me a while to realize that they are playing a game of hide and seek.  It is fun to watch from above, because I can clearly see both the hunter and the hunted.

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           Courtesy – http://www.123rf.com

But they are oblivious to me and crawl around the cars, benches and trees, in the park below. They move with stealth not knowing where the predator is! When they are finally hunted down, they giggle, and the game starts all over again.

I am fascinated by this. What is obvious to me from where I am seated, seems to be such a challenge to them.

That’s exactly how it is with life’s problems, right? When we are very involved, we cannot see the picture clearly.

However, when we step back and see the big picture, we definitely get a better perspective!

I dwell on this, and watch the boys playing soccer now. The birds have run out of things to say. Lights are coming on in some homes. The sky is taking on a deep hue. The clouds are mere grey wisps, cooling down after a long day.

In a while, the boys call out byes to each other and run home. I go back inside with a smile.

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?

Of little girls and little boys


A couple of days ago, when I was at my son’s school to pick him up after school, I met a very sweet girl, who was part of my group in a community project last summer. 

The girl and my son study in the same class.

When she saw me at school, she came running to me and hugged me. She said, “I miss you a lot.”

“I miss you too,” I said, hugging her. “Why don’t you come home some time? You can play with my son. You know each other, right?”

Pat came the reply, “Play with him? No…no, he is a boy.”

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

I smiled.

Then she said, “You have a daughter right? I will come and play with her.”

“But she’s much older,” I said.

“Oh, that’s ok. But I can’t play with boys,” she said, with that typical grimace that little girls have when they talk about boys.

I came home and told my son about meeting his classmate.

“I can’t believe you asked her to come home TO PLAY WITH ME. Mom, how could you?”

Hmmm…!

When I entered the kids’ room….


Monday morning, and I stand in the children’s room with a dazed look.

Two phenomena seem to have hit the room – a Science project, and a long weekend. Phew!

I survey the C.H.A.O.S. Where do I begin? This is going to take a while. My mind tempts me to run away. Maybe a cup of strong coffee later, this mess may actually not look as bad as it seems?

Maybe NOTHING. I start plodding through the remnants of scientific genius, discarded ideas, shreds of paper in every conceivable colour, blobs of glue that have bound many of these shreds together, twine, miles of twine, that have snaked their way under the study table and swivel chairs. I take a break.

I move to another part of the room.

“Ouch!” A small, colourful board pin has entered my heel. I gingerly remove it. More paper, and many dinosaur toys, all entangled in twine, velcro pieces now, stuck to felt paper, which is in turn stuck to Blu-tac.  There is a shower of pencil shavings as I move a few notebooks, treasures that have been waiting to greet me!

Under the dump that’s the bed, I find 3 pairs of scissors! The icing on the cake is a small bottle of black paint that has not been closed. Now I look part-leopard, part mom.

Some semblance of normalcy is returning to the room, but my BP is shooting up. As my hands sift through the mess, my mind conjures up dire punishments and threats.

The bedsheet seems to have been pulled away from the cot. I tug at it, and look under. There, I find something that makes me laugh out loud.

My son has made a make-shift hospital for one of his Ben10 toys there. The toy has a broken knee. He seems to have fixed it with Blu-tac, and an ice-cream stick for support, giving his toy a cool, dark place in which to recuperate.

This, I am loath to disturb.