Watching the rain….


I received this photo on our family group yesterday – a picture of my little niece and her grandmother watching the heavy rain through the window.

A baby and her grandma, who are seven decades apart, and are looking out the window. My niece is watching the rain, transfixed by the play of the street lights on the falling sheets of rain. Her grandmother derives joy from watching her granddaughter, reveling in her widening eyes, her cooing and her babbling at the rain.

One is beginning this journey called life, where rain will mean splashing fun, paper boats, samosas and hot chocolate. For the other, who has seen life, the rain evokes so many memories of the past, of being a child, of being a teen, a married woman, a mother and now a grandmother. She has seen rainy days and ‘rainy days’ in this long journey called life.

Time seems to stand still, only the lashing rain can be heard. Just like everything else in nature, rainfall is part of the changing seasons; this is also true of our lives, change is happening all around us.

Life flies past in the blink of any eye, but then again, life also stops for a brief beautiful moment like this, when time and age become irrelevant, when only pure love exists.

Thatha (grandfather)


He was six feet tall, and she was a tiny two feet. At precisely four pm every afternoon, after their siesta, the pair would leave our home. The grandfather and his three-year old granddaughter.

Courtesy – http://www.istockphoto.com

He would wear a cap to protect himself from the afternoon sun, she would carry a water bottle slung across her shoulder, her mushroom cut gently bobbing up and down.

Soon, they would go exploring the complex. The grandfather would patiently point out ants, beetles, insects and plants. He would share anecdotes from his childhood, and relate it to the plants or birds that he pointed out to his granddaughter.

They would observe neighbours’ pets, and talk to other children. Playtime for this little girl would come later in the evening, but this walk with her grandpa was sacrosanct. They would stroll to the neighbourhood market to pick up vegetables or fruits for the house. The grandfather would indulge his little princess with chocolate or cake from the local bakery.

After about an hour of this, they would walk home, each revelling in the company of the other.

Back home, the pair would play board games and jigsaws, and read books. Before their walk, the grandfather would patiently prepare a small cup of dry fruits – almonds, pistachios, dates and cashew nuts, which the little girl would eat with relish.

The granddaughter grew into a school girl, and moved away to another city, but telephone calls and video chats kept this very special bond alive.

Where once the grandfather taught his granddaughter many, many interesting things, it was now the granddaughter’s turn to teach and welcome her grandpa into the world of smartphones and computers.

They would exchange calls frequently, and they would laugh at silly things. She would regale him with stories of her high-school life and her studies. He would always ask about her future plans.

And now she stands, looking at his empty bed, knowing that one of her best allies has gone – the person who rooted for her all through, who showed her unconditional love, and to whom she was always a princess.

She has brought back one of his caps and has placed it on her study table – a symbol of the love they shared – my daughter and her grandfather.

A Tech Tutorial for Grandma


It is late in the afternoon. My mom is visiting. My son has just come back from school. He chatters about his day, hugs his grandma, washes up and disappears to his room to change.

In a few minutes, he comes out with the iPad to play games on it – only for the 10 precious minutes that he has been allotted every evening. He doesn’t want to waste even a second.

I watch the intensity with which he plays the game. His eyes, hands and brain are all alert; his eyes flitting about, taking in all the action, his reflexes sharp. At that point, only he and the game exist.

My mom finishes her afternoon coffee, and brings her smartphone to check her messages. She swipes the screen and starts reading.

Then she clucks in exasperation. I ask her what it is. She says that the messaging app has vanished. Hearing the cluck, my son pauses his game and ambles over. My daughter also joins in. They ask her what the problem is. She shows them.

They sit on either side of her to explain the finer nuances of a technology that comes so naturally and easily to them. She is overwhelmed by it all.

They patiently teach her. One step at a time. My mom’s eyes light up! She understands more than she did before. My daughter writes down the instructions for easy reference; lest the same problems show up again.

My mom preserves the document carefully. She then asks my children all her doubts – technology transfer is happening, a tech-tutorial is in progress.

My kids are both amused and filled with love and patience. My husband and I don’t get to experience this special love; a love that is reserved only for the grandparents.

Image courtesy – http://www.123rf.com

They patiently explain the three dots on the top right hand corner of the screen. My mom’s concentration is now absolute.

She loves technology she says, and marvels at all it does. She loves her grandchildren even more she says, hugging them.

Mom and son….a special bond


Every Sunday, at around eleven a.m., my husband calls his parents to talk to them. I am sure, back home, my parents-in-law are eagerly awaiting this weekly call. My father-in-law usually picks up the phone. My husband and his Dad chat for three to four minutes, and then he passes the phone to my mother-in-law.

Courtest – Pinart

This call goes on for a while. My husband talks about his week, she talks about hers. He laughs merrily at the things she says. They have minor differences of opinion about a few things, and argue good naturedly. She asks after his health, and asks him to take good care of himself.

Sometimes they talk about old neighbours who have passed on, or their children or grandchildren, who have graduated or gotten married or had babies. These are their shared memories, of my husband’s growing up years and the stories of people who shared their lives ‘then’ – family, neighbours and friends.

The conversation then moves to our children and me, and my husband talks about our week, and what’s been happening in our lives.

As I go around the house completing my chores, I watch my husband’s complete absorption. Though he usually doesn’t talk much, this is one person with whom he talks for long periods. The conversation meanders through various topics, about TV shows, about health and food.

My mom-in-law’s love manifests in many ways when we meet. She best expresses her love for all of us through her cooking. Each time we visit, we come back loaded with home made jackfruit jam for my husband and gooseberry pickle for me, along with many other things for each of her grandchildren.

However, since we live far away and visit them only twice a year, these weekly phone calls with her son keep this special bond alive, till our next visit.

A Blue Watch and Penne Arrabiata…


My daughter has a blue, digital watch. She received the watch as a gift from her grandparents, when she was nine years old. My daughter fell in love with the watch the moment she set eyes on it, and wears it to this day!

The blue watch has been her constant companion all these years, and would probably qualify as a best-friend-of-sorts.

The colour has faded, the strap is worn in places, the glass has scratches, but my daughter will not hear of retiring this watch.

She is at an age when clothes and accessories are very much in her radar, but this watch, whose colour does not match any of her clothes (read – clothes which are in various shades of black or grey or silver), is on her wrist always.

Yesterday, my daughter suddenly announced that she would prepare dinner for all of us – Penne Arrabiata. This was her first attempt at cooking. She listed the ingredients, went to the supermarket, asked me for measuring cups and spoons, and was soon busy chopping tomatoes, crushing garlic, rolling basil leaves and chopping them artistically.

Courtesy – shutterstock

Olive oil was warmed in the wok, and soon the heavenly smell of ‘garlic frying’ was in the air. All of us waited patiently, as the aroma wafted and made our tongues water in anticipation.

Soon, she announced that dinner was ready. We rushed to the table. The pasta was served beautifully; with cheese drizzled on top. Fresh basil leaves completed the presentation, and we were ready to tuck-in.

Delicious. Yummy!!! We were in bliss, and heaped compliments on her. Her eyes twinkled in joy, and she acknowledged our praise.

Later, I watched her clearing up the kitchen, her blue watch still on her wrist, a permanent fixture!

And it hit me then! On one hand my daughter did not want to let go of her watch; a watch she’s had for so many years; on the other hand, she would soon be on her own, cooking her own meals and taking her own decisions.

As her mother, both these thoughts played in my head. Much as I wanted her to replace the old watch, a part of me wanted her to keep it, so that it could give her comfort and keep her childhood memories alive, when she leaves home to pursue her own dreams.

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.

Extreme love


My children have just started their summer vacation. We are on day two of the holidays; still finding it difficult to make the transition from packed days to days where there are no deadlines to meet or targets to pursue. Time flows, like a lazy river, stopping here and there to rejuvenate, picking up speed at times but largely content with flowing along without any purpose.

In a week, we will pack up and travel to visit my mom and my husband’s parents. The children will spend many more lazy days talking, reading, eating, playing and sleeping.

Something transforms in the children and their grandparents when they meet. There is a syndrome both sides exhibit, which I choose to call ‘Extreme Love’. 

Picture courtesy – ClipartAll

Where the grandparents can’t love enough and the children can’t have enough of this love. Where the grandmoms cook all the kids’ favourite dishes, ever-smiling. Where every question asked by the children is patiently answered. Where the children are allowed to experiment with flour and batter and make a mess and leave the mess without cleaning up. Where they are not nagged, where they receive hugs that sustain for many minutes, where they can be sure that whatever they say will be heard with unwavering attention. 

Where each achievement of theirs is dwelt upon and appreciated. Where holding the grandfather’s hand to walk down the road for an evening walk is a great treat, as they come back loaded with goodies.  Where they are tucked in to bed with many stories, repeated stories. Where they spend time teaching their grandparents to use new technology and smartphones. Where they are loved ‘extremely’, an all empowering love that can boost a child’s self-esteem, that can teach a child about unconditional love and acceptance. 

This love between our children and their grandparents is to be cherished. There is no other love like this.

I was lucky to have received such love from my grandma and am happy that my kids are receiving the same from their grandparents.

Love thy neighbour – A short story


Vini’s mobile vibrated on the coffee table. She ran to pick it up. It was her friend Savita, who told her that she was sending her son, with the registration form for a summer camp for their daughters. Savita had picked it up earlier that day. Vini told her that she was at home and that Savita’s son could come to drop it off.

After waiting for nearly two hours, Vini had to step out. So she called Savita to ask when her son would drop off the form.

Savita sounded puzzled and said, “He dropped it off right after we spoke Vini. Wait let me ask him.”

Finally they discovered that instead of knocking on Door No :1600, her son had knocked on Door No: 1606, Vini’s neighbour’s house. Since nobody had opened the door, he had slid it under the door.

Vini laughed and hung up, but the real challenge was now. Next door to her, in 1606, there lived a disgruntled man in his late sixties.

He lived alone and had rebuffed Vini each time she had smiled or tried to strike up a conversation. He kept to himself mostly. He ticked off her kids if they talked loudly in the lobby.

She would have let the form go, but for the fact that Savita had paid $50 for it.

The old man lived by the clock and usually left home at 5 p.m. for his evening walk.

She hadn’t seen him in a while though and wondered what would happen.

At 4.45 p.m. she kept her door slightly open so she could hear him. She waited and waited, with no luck.

She could not meet him that whole week, and with just three days left to submit the form she was getting desperate.

Two evenings before the form was due, she heard his door opening. She dashed like a bolt of lightning, to claim the form, not caring if Mr.Grump would snub her again.

But coming out of his door was a little girl of about 6. Her cute pigtails bobbed up and down, as she smiled at Vini and called out, “Grampa are you coming? The lift’s here.”

Vini almost gasped when she saw the old man. His frowning face was smiling, he was humming a tune and there was a spring in his step.

He saw Vini and said, “Hello there. This is my granddaughter Tanya. My daughter’s visiting me after ten years.”

He shook his head in disbelief and smiled.

Vini smiled at this change. She asked him about the envelope.

“Oh that? Sorry..I thought it was one of those marketing mailers that keep showing up, so I trashed it. There was no name on the envelope, if I remember. Sorry, once again. Got to be off now. See you around,” said the man as he walked into the elevator with his granddaughter.

Vini stared at the closed door and didn’t know what to think.

Another $50 would have to go. She sighed but her heart felt good that the old man had found some happiness. Maybe that’s all he had wanted – some love and some family time. Maybe he had been terribly lonely.

The lost $50 was definitely worth it!

Grandparents


The kids have their summer vacation, and are spending a couple of weeks with their paternal grandparents, in their ancestral home.

We do this every summer. They love all the nooks and crannies in this house. The car garage, which is now used for storage,  is their play space as they play hopscotch or practice ‘rangoli’ (artistic designs that are drawn outside the home every morning).

My daughter has been given the entire garage to draw these rangolis. Dropping rice flour gradually on the floor, with uniformity, is an art, and with each passing day, she gets better.

My son finds great pleasure in playing with clothes pegs (the plastic ones which come in vibrant colours), and the measuring tape, which has spring action. He measures all kinds of things in the house.

Living in an apartment as we do, they are thrilled with the concept of an independent house with a yard and a garden, and a nice big terrace.

They run up to the terrace to dry clothes or red chillies and other things that need to be aired or sun-dried.

They read old-yellowed books that formed my husband’s childhood reading.

They sniff appreciatively when they smell their grandma’s cooking. Their grandparents spoil them, and some. They eat almonds and pistachios. They are treated to honey cakes and butter biscuits. They binge on yummy golden yellow mangoes and jackfruit.

They are very excited each time they hear street hawkers shouting out what they are selling.  In a few days, they know which vendor comes when. They watch as their grandmother picks and chooses vegetables and greens, fruits and flowers. They watch how the hawker pushes his mobile cart down the street and how he weighs the vegetables using a simple balance.

They go around the yard and see the old washing stone, used to wash clothes. They watch clothes fluttering on the clothesline and play hide and seek there.

They see the yard filled with dried leaves and fallen flowers every morning and participate enthusiastically in sweeping the yard.

They watch as the ‘Isthriwallah’ (the iron man), brings back neatly arranged piles of fresh, ironed clothes. They bury their noses to feel the warmth.

They seem to have expandable stomachs and are able to eat through the day. They accompany their grandparents on small walks to the local shops to buy odds and ends, and come back with treats.

It is nice to see them unwind and enjoy the simple joys and pure love that they can only get at their grandparents’!

My Nephew and The Grim-Looking Musicians


My two and a half-year old nephew had come to stay with us last year during the holidays, with his parents.

He took time to adjust to his new environs. We allowed him to explore our home at his own pace. Left to himself, he walked around, curious, touching this, feeling that.

I wondered what my home looked like from his height. He spent a lot of time getting on and off the small step between the living room and the kitchen. When he caught us staring, he would laugh and run away to find his mom.

However, there was one thing that puzzled me about his morning sojourns in the living room.

We have a set of rather grim-looking musician dolls made of wood, from India, in our living room.

image
The Grim Musicians

Almost every day that he was in our home, my nephew went to these dolls, touched one of them in particular, for a while. His lips then trembled; and his eyes blinked rapidly and filled with tears.

He would then walk away trying to compose himself, and was soon distracted by other things.

We wondered if the grim-musicians with their big eyes and dark mustaches where scaring our little boy. But we reasoned that if he was afraid he wouldn’t keep going to touch them everyday. The same routine continued everyday and our puzzle remained unsolved.

Just two days before he left, he was back with the grim-musicians on his morning beat, and looked up at us with eyes brimming with tears.

When my sister asked him why he was sad, we finally had an answer. In his baby voice he replied, “Grampa is singing…Grampa is singing.”

He burst into tears. We then realized that his paternal grandfather has a mustache, and also sings to him everyday.

In one of those grim-faced musicians, he saw his grampa and probably pined for him everyday.

We gathered him for a collective bear-hug, and then connected him on Skype to his grampa.