Assorted glasses


This December is unlike any other. We are at home, on a staycation, enjoying lazing around and spending quality time with family. I have also been doing some decluttering around the house.

Today’s agenda is to clear out the crockery cupboard. I carefully take out each item and stack it on the kitchen counter, on the dining table, and on all other available flat surfaces.

Phew! What hoarders we are! The cupboard is like a hidden mystery cave, spewing out a never ending stream of plates and bowls and chafing dishes and glasses. I resolve not to buy crockery ever again (of course at least till I go shopping next!)

And I work mechanically, my mind busy elsewhere. Soon, it is time to put back the crockery into the cupboard. All plates and bowls are shining. They look happy.

And as I put back all the glasses, I realize that there are around fifteen glasses. However, only six of them belong to the same set. The other nine glasses are individual glasses of unique design, being the only ones remaining from their original sets.

Image courtesy – shutterstock.com

My immediate thought is, “…need to shop for a new set of water and juice glasses.” But then, I observe these nine unique glasses. Some are long, some are short, some are round, some are plain, but each one of them, along with their sets has been a part of our lives over the last two decades, and have been an integral part of our memories – the glass with lemon slices on it, the glass that looks like a globe, the plain looking glass which can hold so much water, the cut glass tumbler…each so special.

I think about how some of these glasses have survived over the years, while most of their family members did not. Some had cracks or got chipped, while some of them still remain intact.

I liken this to our lives, where we continue to evolve through our various experiences – learning to face challenges in the best way we can, sometimes with a crack here and a chip there, sometimes falling down and getting shattered, only to pick ourselves up while continuing to plod on.

I may buy a new set of glass tumblers soon, but am loath to throw away this beautiful and assorted collection of survivors. I send them back into the cupboard with a silly grin on my face.

My aunt and the knitting needles


For most of us who grew up in the eighties, the days in a year were of two types. School days and holidays. We had a long summer break, and a shorter winter break. School days were packed with classes, homework, and studying for tests and exams. Holidays, however, were blissful, long days; days that stretched this way and that to accommodate our lassitude, days that watched us indulgently as we discovered new books, authors, games, and movies; days that saw us squabbling with our siblings or go out exploring with friends looking for beetles, bugs and magic.

While our holidays were packed with fun activities, there were times when we would suddenly run out of things to do or books to read, or would want to completely avoid our siblings due to an ongoing cold war.

And at such times, I would always seek out my dear aunt, who was a pro at knitting, and who took in orders to hand-knit the most beautiful sweaters, baby mittens, mufflers, scarves, ponchos, shawls and caps. She had a beautiful knitting pattern book that she would pore over every afternoon.

So, at times when there seemed to be nothing to do, I would tell my aunt that I wanted to learn knitting. And with a patience that I can never ever have, she would teach me to tie the wool to the needle, and would slowly explain how to create a knit and a purl. And each time I dropped a stitch, she would patiently undo it and give it back to me.

Many glorious afternoons were spent like this. However, the moment a friend called out to me or if the cold war with my siblings had ended, I would sweetly tell my aunt that I would come back and knit later.

She would smile, and put away my needles and ask me to go out and play. And all through my childhood, I could take up knitting at will, without any pressure to knit anything useful. I made long pieces of knits and purls, that were abandoned till the next time I sought out my aunt again.

Finally, when I had just passed out of high school and had a longer break than usual, I bravely embarked on a knitting project – to knit a sweater for myself – I chose a pale peach colour and discussed a simple 5 knit 5 purl pattern of squares with my aunt.

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

And I spent hours knitting; and when I reached the right length, I handed the piece over to my aunt, who then brought the front of the sweater to its right shape. Then I worked on the back of the sweater, and knitted another long piece, and again handed it over to her for completion.

And finally, my aunt got the sweater ready! I had just knitted long pieces, but my aunt told everybody proudly that her niece had knitted the whole sweater.

When I think back now, I realize how rejuvenating those times with my aunt were. She never forced me to learn knitting or master it, she never said anything when I wanted to leave halfway to play or to read. She was simply there for me, allowing me to just be.

And, even today, when I see wool or knitted wear, I feel happy; for it brings back memories of peace, love and contentment and those truly precious moments with my dearest aunt.

The Tapioca Moment


In the course of our every day lives, there are some simple, innocuous moments which clearly demarcate two different activities, emotions, or incidents in our days. When I tie up my hair in a firm knot on top of my head there is a demarcation between the lazy me and the lady who is about to go on a cleaning spree. Inhaling the aroma of coffee signals that the night is old, and that another day has begun.

I was thinking about such moments earlier today, when I went back in time to my college days. Our hometown nestled in a cool, green valley in the Nilgiri hills in the Western Ghats of South India. The Nilgiri mountains abound with lush greenery and wildlife. The fresh crisp mountain air and the cold weather are always invigorating.

During my college days, I used to visit home during the holidays. Glorious days of catching up with friends and neighbours, and mom’s yummy food.

The days would fly away in a jiffy, and it was soon time to go back to college and hostel. I would usually take the mid-afternoon bus from our town for a three-hour journey. My Dad would drop me off at the bus terminus. Loaded with snacks and packed food from home, I would bid a cheery bye to my Dad.

The bus had to wind down through the mountains to the plains. And from my window, I would watch the beautiful scenery, the birds, the tiny silver waterfalls, the small brooks that one could sight along the way, the monkeys on the roadside, the blue, blue sky and the valley far below.

There were fourteen hairpin bends that the bus driver had to navigate. Some of these bends would cause our insides to churn. And after the hairpin bends, the bus would almost be three-fourths on its way down from the mountains. And there, in a small village, the bus would stop for ten minutes; for the driver to stretch his legs and for everyone on the bus to have a cup of tea and refresh themselves.

The village was always bustling with activity, with vendors coming to each bus to sell all kinds of chips, wafers, candy, juice and water.

One of the stalls in this village sold the most amazing spicy and crisp tapioca chips ever. The moment the bus stopped, I would leap out and buy two packets. One to be eaten on the bus, and one to be eaten in the hostel at night.

I would get back on the bus and open the packet. The first crunch of tapioca in the mouth …. truly a slice of heaven. Soon the bus would pull out of the parking, and we would start the second phase of our journey.

These Tapioca chips signified a huge transition on each such trip. The cold and fresh mountain air that carried wisps of home, love and fun, was replaced by the air of the plains – humid, warm and bringing with it the chaos and vibrancy of the city.

By the time I had consumed the last chip, the bus was trundling through the flat roads, tall coconut trees swaying merrily in the evening sun on either side. My body language automatically changed from home mode to college mode.

‘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!

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.

Bliss between two lists


Once or twice a year, there comes a day, when I realize that all my work projects are done, that my ‘things to do’ list is ticked off, and that there is just ONE DAY before school holidays start, after which the children will rule my life for three weeks. 

Today was that day. I woke up lazily, plodded through my chores, ran a few errands (there is no escaping these), and then felt a frisson of excitement. I had nothing in my ‘to do’ list. All this means is that I am done with my old list, but mercifully  have not added the hundred other things that need to be done.

I think I was quite sensible by cutting off the list at such a point, where ‘today’ could become a reality.

Courtesy – Clipart Kid

I giggle at this absurdity of suddenly having four hours to spend. I decide to do a little bit of each of the things I love. I read, I watch some of my favourite shows on youtube, I stare into space and ponder about life, allowing myself to drift away with my memories, and sit down to enjoy a great cup of filter coffee, on my easy chair, watching the heavy rain outside.

In what seems like four minutes, the children are back, in a high state of excitement that their holidays are within touching distance.

I smile, as I ready myself to become a referee to their squabbles over pencils and space and air, in the room they share. I prepare to get started on packing for our trip. I prepare to hoard the refrigerator and stock up on food supplies to feed two children, whose constant refrain over the next three weeks will be, “Is there anything to eat?”

The holidays will fly, and the New Year will glide in, and we will all get back to the grind.

But such days, the one between two ‘things to do lists’ are pure bliss.

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’!

Relax, Nothing’s Under Control


Our group of eight is flying from Nairobi to Oman, with a changeover at Abu Dhabi.

We have a two-hour gap for the changeover. Our flight from Nairobi takes off after a one-hour-fifteen-minute delay. We are not overly worried, we can still make it, we reassure ourselves.  Pilots do make up for lost time, at least some part of it, we discuss.

The post-holiday weariness is evident in all our eyes. The energy we traveled with, the endless photographs we took, the curios we picked up, the local flavours that we experienced and wondered at, all these seem so far away now, though we’ve just wrapped up a wonderful holiday.

We board, and sleep on the long flight, a dreamless sleep of fatigue, punctuated by in-flight meals that our tired bodies require.

We land, and anxiety hits us as we have only about 40 minutes left to disembark, and board the next flight . But, we are going to take on this challenge, yes, we are.

There are a few passengers sharing our plight as we make a beeline for the exit. We charge out and run, our sleepy legs jolted awake with cruelty. Our razor sharp eyes blindly follow the transit boards.

Eight people racing, up escalators, down others, running on travellators, with duty free shops and boarding gates whizzing past. We are close, ten more minutes left. There is a long corridor stretching ahead and we run, run, run.

We are sure that when the ground staff see us, they will hold the flight.

Just as we turn a bend, a member of the ground staff from the airline waits for us, waving.

Relief pours out in rivulets of sweat as we run with a sense of purpose now.

When we reach him, he says, “Are you taking Flight so and so to Oman?”

Eight heads nod vigorously.

“Relax! The boarding gate is closed, and the flight is taxiing on the runway readying for take off. We are putting you on the earliest available flight, which is at 2.45 a.m tomorrow. Just another five hours”, he says.

We just broke some Olympic records in sprinting there!  Eight indignant faces stare back at him, gasping for air.

We resign ourselves and settle down for the long wait.  The laughter comes much later, as we recollect our sprint through the airport.

Little Ms.Rules


I am cleaning my medicine cabinet today, checking expiry dates, and writing out a list of medicines that we need to buy.

As I snip out the metallic strips that are not required, I remember something that happened many years ago.

My parents had come to spend the summer holidays with us.  My daughter was four then.

My dad was required to take his medicines after lunch. On one such day, when he opened the strip to take his tablet out, it rolled away under the cot. He could see it, and tried to take it out from under, but it was just out of reach of his hand.

He then called out to my daughter, asking her to help him. He pointed it out to her.

My daughter went down on all fours and took out the tablet. My dad put out his arm to receive the tablet, but my daughter walked away with it. My father ran after her, worried that she would pop it into her mouth. He called out to her, asking her to give the tablet back to him. But she walked on and threw it into the dustbin!

She then turned around and shook her head disapprovingly at him, and said, “Grandpa, don’t you know that there is a rule in this house that things which are on the ground should not be put into the mouth?”