A box from back home


It’s been almost two years since we’ve met our families back home. With the fantastic blessing that is technology, we have managed to keep-up our spirits through video calls with our parents, siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins.

This afternoon, as I settled down to catch up on some work, the doorbell chimed. It was a courier delivery. The carton was big and fairly heavy.

I grew excited, because we’ve been eagerly awaiting this courier’s arrival from back home, lovingly despatched by my husband’s brother.

When my husband got home, we cut open the carton and for a moment there, the smell of home and our loved ones wafted through the air. It hit us then; how much we have missed visiting our family, a ritual we follow at least twice a year!

Soon, we delved into the box and took out its contents. In addition to the items we had ordered from back home, there were two gifts for me, a dress from my sister-in-law and a beautiful handwoven multi-purpose basket, made by her mother. I was in bliss.

The surprise letter in the basket

But the highlight was a handwritten letter from my sister-in-law, asking after us and giving us news from back home. I haven’t received a single letter in the last decade, after my Dad passed away. My Dad was an avid letter writer, and I have preserved every single letter that he has ever written to me.

There is something so beautiful about a handwritten letter. No email or phone message can ever make up for a surprise letter from back home. I feel so happy and so touched. I will treasure this letter.

What’s in a gift?


I am racking my brains trying to come up with a gift for my husband’s birthday. I make a mental list of the various categories – wallets, pens, shirts, belts, shoes, perfumes and watches.

“Ah..that was easy”, I think.

Very early in our marriage, I discovered that my husband is not into surprises at all. He believes that his gifts to me should be chosen only by me..and not by him. And that is how it has been. I have chosen each one of my birthday gifts, and let me tell you, there is a certain joy to be had in choosing one’s own gifts.

So, back to my story. With all the gift-categories in my head, I ask hubby dear to let me know what he wants. I present each category to him.

Shirts?

No. I have way too many.

Shoes?

The ones I have are enough.

Wallets?

The one I have is comfortable.

Belts?

Why would I want another one?

Ties?

Don’t wear even the ones I have.

Pens?

Nope

Watches?

No

And in a mere two minutes, our gift-conversation is over, and I am back to the same confused state as before.

If the roles were reversed, I would have many more categories, and sub-categories, and specific requirements under each of them. I would spend an entire day mulling over my options on what to buy. Half the excitement is in planning, but my dear husband shows no interest at all.

I feel deflated. My kids are creating or buying their own gifts. They do not include me in their plans – and they are planning Dad gifts, not wife gifts. Sigh!

Later that evening, all of us settle down in the living room, busy with our own work and thoughts.

I ask my husband again about the gift. He says the same thing again – that he does not want anything.

A sly thought creeps into my head and slips out of my tongue.

I say, “Maybe I should buy something for myself to celebrate your birthday.”

My kids are horrified by the sudden emergence of this greedy mom!

“Mom, how could you say this?” they ask, still in shock!

My husband says, “Actually that’s a good idea”.

Image courtesy – http://www.stock.adobe.com

My son says, “Mom we will get you a gift for your birthday, but you can’t take away Dad’s gift.”

My husband and I catch each other’s eye and laugh.

And then my husband says, “I will tell you what I want – just cook a special family dinner with all my favourite items.”

And that’s exactly how we celebrate – with yummy food, a delicious cake, lots of love and family time.

Family – the best gift ever.

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.

Love in a jackfruit seed


I love my work table, and the organized clutter on it. It is where I feel at peace, where I write, and where I keep all the documents and to do lists that I am juggling with, at any given moment.

On my table is also a small rectangular tray, in which I store stickers, post-its, drawings and small gifts from my children.

In this box is a jackfruit seed, its coat a little loose now. This jackfruit seed was gifted to me by my daughter, about four years ago. She drew eyes, a nose and a mouth. The eyes were on all sides, so that any side you turned the seed, a pair of eyes stared back at you.

I still remember that afternoon. We had just come back from the supermarket with two boxes of jackfruit.

We usually cut open the fruit, preserve the seeds and add them to a lentil based gravy. The seed becomes tender upon cooking, and adds a nice flavour to the dish.

My daughter took away one of the seeds for the gift she was to make for me.

As she observed the seed, I told her stories from my childhood. We lived in a small town in the hills, and it was quite cold for eight out of twelve months in a year.

We had a small cast iron stove called a kumutti aduppu that looked like this.

Image courtesy – Pinterest

This stove had many uses. My grandma would load it with coal and light it up. One had to keep fanning the coal to keep the fire going.

On rainy days, when clothes (especially baby clothes) needed to dry, a basket was placed over the kumutti’s embers, and small baby frocks and shirts would dry on them.

Small pieces of fragrant resin called benzoin resin, sambrani, were thrown into the coal embers. The resin emitted a lovely fragrance, considered to be therapeutic.

On the weekends, when all of us had our traditional oil baths, the sambrani would be thrown into the kumutti, and a basket placed over it. The fragrant smoke would seep out through the cracks in the basket, and dry our wet hair and infuse it with fragrance.

We would also throw in jackfruit seeds into the kumutti, and allow them to roast. Our grandma would take them out carefully, cool them and give them to us to eat.

Truly beautiful memories.

I come back to the here and now. My daughter walks in and sees the jackfruit seed.

“Mom, can’t believe you still have this.”

I smile.

I have many such gifts from the kids, each with its own allied memories, and lots of love.

A dollar worth millions….


My son has just walked in from school. He drops his bag and other paraphernalia, and comes straight to share key snippets from his day with me.

He starts from the moment he reached school, and takes me on a journey through his day, where I get glimpses of his world.

He rushes through the ‘vanilla’ parts and cuts to the most important part of his day, which was a bazaar, where the children had to promote and sell products that they had brought to school. My son and his friend had taken stationery items and chocolates to sell.

My son’s eyes light up as he talks about how much he had enjoyed the whole project, and about how much money they had made.

And then, he rummages in his pocket and takes out a small white paper pouch. A really tiny one.

He opens it and shakes it gently. Something falls out of the pouch. He picks it up and gives it to me.

“This is for you, mom”, he says.

He has bought a pair of pretty green, stone earrings for me.

He adds, “I got them for a dollar!”

My throat catches, as I turn the earrings and admire them.

“They are exquisite”, I say.

“The green stones are the closest I could find to your birthstone, mom, but the green stones are surrounded by tiny white diamonds”, he finishes with enthusiasm.

I hug my son and thank him.

To me, this dollar is worth millions.

Truly priceless!

What’s the best gift you can receive?


All of us like gifts. I am no exception. There are gifts that we remember with fondness, others that trigger memories of first love, some truly special ones from our parents and siblings, crazy ones from friends, and the list goes on.

Some of my all-time favourite gifts include my first watch from my parents, hand-made vouchers from my kids for Mother’s Day (which gave me vouchers to call on them to run errands, give me a massage, bear hugs and mom-special kisses), the pair of earrings my husband gave me after our engagement, and so many more!

So what are gifts? They are material reflections of people’s love and affection for us. Through the gift, they tell us that they have spent time looking for a gift that can adequately express their sentiment, and what you mean to them.

Then again, gifts need not be tangible – they can be simple acts of kindness in everyday situations – like the time my husband drove me to have mango ice lollies, at midnight, during my first pregnancy, or the times my dearest Dad woke up late in the night to make a cup of coffee for me, as I crammed for exams! These are even better gifts, simple acts of kindness.

But the best gift, according to me, is to accept other people just as they are!

Letting a person be himself or herself is the greatest gift you can bestow on another.

What is the best gift you’ve ever received? Would love to know…

Cool fragrance


We Indians love our kitchen masalas and powders. These powders are typically eaten with hot, boiled or steamed rice and a dash of ghee (clarified butter). There is a whole range available to choose from – coriander powder, curry leaf powder, lentil powder and many other delicious flavours.

One of my friends recently went to India, and picked up a selection of these powders for me.

After she got back from India, I had the plastic bag picked up from her house.
It was a rather busy week, and I did not have the time to empty the contents, so I put away the plastic bag in my freezer.

My dear friend had bought me a gift ( a perfume bottle and a moisturizing cream), which she had put into the same plastic bag.

As I had not opened the bag at all, the perfume and cream were in my refrigerator for a good week, till I met my friend.

When I thanked her (for the powders), she asked me, “Did you like the smell?”

I was quite puzzled. Why would she ask me about the smell of masala powders ?

I told her that I had not opened the bag yet, and she left it at that.

A few days later, I opened the packet to empty the powders and found her gift. Everything made sense.

I called my friend and we had a good laugh!

Expectations – A Short Story


It was our first wedding anniversary and my husband & I had made plans for a romantic dinner at one of our favourite restaurants. For weeks I had agonized over what gift to give him & I fervently hoped that he was doing the same.

Stepping into his shoes, I concluded that it would be fairly easy for him to buy me a gift, as I love bags, shoes, perfumes and jewelry. Chocolates & roses accompanying any of these gifts would be an added bonanza, because my husband is not a roses or cards kind of guy.  But I could wish, couldn’t I? I was and still am an incurable romantic after all.

I finally burnt a CD with all his favourite tracks, bought a leather wallet and a few cards that conveyed everything that I wanted to say, that I had not managed to this last year.

We met directly at the restaurant, after work. The ambience was wonderful and we spent time talking about  the year that had just flown past and how we first met; things millions of couples would do on their first anniversary, I presume.

All through dinner I looked for  bags, small jewel cases, chocolates and roses . There was nothing I could see. I was a little disappointed, but consoled myself with the thought that he would give it to me on the drive back home, in the car.

After dessert, I happily gave him my gift and cards. He was very touched. He said, “Oh! I’ve got something for you as well.”

He pulled out his wallet. I was really curious now. What kind of gift would fit into this small wallet?

He took out something that was concealed in his palm and said, “Happy anniversary. Here’s the key to your new car.”