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.

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.

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.

When the wind carries a tune…..


It is late in the afternoon, and I type away furiously on my keyboard, my eyebrows furrowed in concentration. After a few minutes, I stretch my neck and back. My eyes fall on a musical windmill that we have in our living room. For the first few weeks after buying it, we would often wind it and enjoy its music, but now it just sits snugly, a mute spectator to our lives.

I get up and wind the windmill. As the blades of the windmill turn slowly, nice tinkling music plays. I am immediately transported to a cold, windy day in Delft, Netherlands, to a pottery workshop we visited. I still remember how our teeth chattered, and how we huddled with the kids to manage the cold. One little musical windmill was all it took to transport me to that beautiful vacation.

We all have these songs and tunes in our lives that evoke strong memories and deep nostalgia. There are some old songs from the 70s, which bring back my Dad’s voice, and my childhood, with such clarity.

There are songs that my husband and I share, which are truly special to us – for they symbolize some sweet, some poignant and many fun moments in our marriage.

Then again, there are the songs with the kids. Nursery rhymes, lullabies, movie tracks of their favourite animated movies and now their favourite bands and albums, songs which float about in our home, creating impressions and memories in our brains, like old records. These songs with the children are the melodious threads that bind all of us, and that fill our home with love and rhythm.

Then there are the songs with our friends, back when we were in high school and belted out popular numbers of the time. There were only cassette players then, no smartphones or mp3 tracks. We couldn’t share music files, but we sure shared time with friends and sang to our hearts’ content.

There are many more such – kitchen and cooking songs that flow with the chopping and the stirring and the boiling and the frying; workout music and the peppy beats to push myself to walk everyday, and of course, songs in the shower! And now, as I cruise through the forties, meditation music has been added to this collection.

And so, the next time the wind gently blows your way and brings with it some beautiful melody from your past, stop and relive those wonderful memories – for in those musical notes lie the very stories of our lives – of those halcyon days of our youth, of times with our friends, of some moments that transformed us from within; of music that made us new parents, of music that made us parents of teens, and of music that defines who we are!

Whitewashed..


It continues to be a crazy week. The insides of our home have been torn open, and the contents of every single cupboard are on the floor. Yes, you guessed it, we are painting the walls and doing some refurbishing.

We seem to have hoarded so much. There are books and papers, and pens and old toys, and board games and kitchenware, and doodles and cables, and chargers and photo frames, and more books and papers.

My kids are at home for their summer break, and this compounds the problem. I want to declutter. I am on mean mode, but my children have developed a sudden attachment to books, and odds ‘n’ ends that they do not want to part with. I clean and declutter, clean and declutter. I make lists, I organize. I am ruthless. I am merciless.

As I plod through the day, and reach 6 pm, my muscles beg for mercy, but strangely nothing seems to have improved. There’s more stuff everyday and more cupboards that continue to unleash our hoarding secrets.

And then again, there is the matter of the beautiful white walls. All familiar stains have been removed, and our walls look cleansed. But Murphy’s Law has come into full force. I watch in horror, as my kids share a big bar of chocolate near the white walls. I screech and ask them to move away. They laugh and say, “Mom, chill.”

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

Paranoia has overtaken me. Even if my kids are walking normally within the house, I somehow feel that they are walking near the walls. I tell them not to flail their arms, or to give-in to sudden desires to hug the walls or break into impromptu dance routines.

And I know that when the decluttering is over, and when all the dust has been swept away, and when our home is back to normal, the stains will start again. A small dot here or a tiny scratch there, stains that will appear due to the repeated use of a particular area of the wall, lines that will be caused by paintings and furniture, and many more.

And the cycle will repeat itself again, till the next time – just like our own lives, when we attempt to change ourselves, set goals and strive for bigger things; when we try to erase our past actions, and try to become better versions of ourselves.

Sometimes, after we make these changes, we tend to fall back into our old thought patterns, and then again, sometimes we do manage to remove those stains and paint ourselves into new avatars.

Bread and Breakfast


This Monday morning, we all had a serious case of the blues. We dragged our feet from room to room, bracing ourselves for the week ahead.

I went into the kitchen to get started on breakfast. When I opened the packet of bread, the first slice that I took out had a hole – that was in the shape of a bird’s head – right in the middle of the slice.

This was so strange that I called out to my kids. They came running to see what the excitement was! The blues vanished, as we debated how the bread slice turned out this way, when all the other slices were perfect.

We discussed various theories and what possible bird it could be, and then finally popped it into the toaster. Just a little bit of breakfast excitement and laughter to beat the blues.

This brought back memories of my childhood, and breakfast times at home.

When we were growing up, my parents had this rule – ‘No skipping breakfast, ever.’

When we grew into teenagers ‘who knew everything’, we tried our best to slip away without breakfast, but our parents had antennae and tentacles that caught us every single time.

I remember fun times when we ran around the dining table trying to slip away, but our Dad was at the main door and mom was at the back door. We could only leave after we had had our milk, and idli or dosa or upma or bread. We frowned and grimaced, and left home, still wolfing down remnants of our breakfast.

When I left home for college, there was no one to remind me that I had to eat breakfast, but then by mid-morning my stomach would rumble and I would remember mom and her yummy dishes. But these thoughts were soon forgotten as there were so many things to see, to learn and to do.

Corporate life was no different – I would only eat a late lunch. It took a few years for the wisdom behind having a wholesome breakfast to sink in. And by that time, I had become a mother.

The cycle started again, now it was I who was running behind my daughter, and later behind my son, trying to build ‘breakfast wisdom’ from their formative years.

But History repeats itself. Now my teen tries to slip away unnoticed, if I am not breathing down her neck.

“I’m running late, mom.”

This is her constant refrain. So, I do the ‘door blocking annoying mom act’.

But if I am any example, maybe life will come a full circle again.

Fragrant pit stops


Last week, I had to rush quite early in the day to the supermarket for some supplies. Except for a few stores, most still had their shutters down. Even the escalators were asleep.

As my feet thud thudded down the escalator steps, the mouth watering smells of fresh baking came wafting up to greet me.

I stopped to inhale. Divine. Heavenly. As I went past the bakery, the baker waved out through the glass wall. I waved back and walked with a sudden spring in my step.

This morning, as I sat enjoying my coffee, the breeze brought the smell of incense sticks to me. It felt so soothing.

There are so many wonderful smells that greet us, but we have become oblivious to them, tangled as we are in the web of our busy schedules.

However, let it not be said that we have become oblivious to all smells. We do grimace when we smell something bad. We are ready to flap our hands and wave those smells away.

But do we ever stop to enjoy the lovely fragrances and smells that surround us?

Courtesy – http://www.123rf.com

The smell of freshly brewed coffee, the way the ground smells after the first drops of rain, the smell of freshly washed and sun-dried linen, the heavenly smells of spices blending as you walk past a neighbour’s home during dinner time (and when you try to guess what they are cooking), the smell of fresh grass, the smell of the breeze, the sudden joy of smelling a frangipani flower when you walk in the tropics, the smell of a baby, the smells of home…so many wonderful smells.

I vow to myself that I will try to stop and enjoy these simple pleasures more often.

Scratches on the table


I sit on the dining table, working on my laptop. I absently run my hand on the surface of the table, and realize that the surface has become rough and filled with scratches – the result of Bayblades tested on the table, and school craft projects built on its surface.

Picture courtesy – 123rf.com

My eyes scan our home. There is an incense holder that has been around for many years, unobtrusive and remembered only when I light an incense stick. Then there is the coin box, where all members of the family drop coins from their wallets and purses.  There is the fruit bowl, and the dessert tray, the umbrella holder and the kitchen plates, the key holder and the wooden stool, the bottle-opener and the coffee mugs.

All these objects are integral parts of our lives, but we do not stop to think or remember when we bought them or from where. They are mute spectators to our successes and failures, our joys and grief.  

The printer paper, mobile charger, blender, gas lighter – they are our silent supporters and back-office team. Even if one of them stops functioning, there is an impact – the smooth flow of life is broken – it can be as simple as a missing key or a missing bottle-opener.

The scratches on my table remind me that these little memories are what make up our lives – a scratch here, a stain there, a chipped ceramic mug here, a well-worn carpet there. 

Scratches that store fun family memories in their grooves, stains that show that we have been careless and silly at times, doodles on the walls that speak of a child’s creative expression, old fridge magnets that bring back memories of family holidays, dog eared books showing time spent on reading…and many more such.

Life is in simple, everyday things.

The essential me!


Thankfully, in my world social networking means ‘really’ going out and meeting friends and socializing. However, going out also means that I need to ‘get-ready’ good clothes to wear and also ponder about my appearance, hairdo and accessories.

Some clothes have sequins and lace, some have embroidery, some have beadwork, some are heavy, some are light, some need heavy accessorizing, while some are so heavy that there can be no room for accessories.

Most days, going out nicely dressed is a lot of  fun. However, sometimes the sequins chaf against my neck, sometimes the hairclips that pin my hair tug at my hair roots, sometimes the material of the saree or dress makes me feel like I am in an oven.

And finally, when I get home, the joy of getting back into home clothes is pure bliss. Lovely cotton clothes, worn out and faded, much loved and frayed – can anything feel better? Tying my hair in an unruly knot, without hairclips to nag me. Removing make up and splashing cold water on my face.



Image courtesy – Clipartbaby

All this, and I am myself again. This is the ‘essential me’. My home clothes make me more efficient. I can think with more clarity, with my hair in a tangled knot.  Stretching out on the couch, I contemplate. I am at peace. I am home. 

Family bonds


I stand on my balcony, and watch the evening sky. The clouds and the sun seem to be playing hide and seek. Golden rays stream out one second, and are gone the next. Birds are getting back to their nests, after a long day, nearly twelve hours since they left home. I am sure they are glad to be back in the warmth of their nests, to snuggle amongst the twigs and leaves, have a chit chat with their neighbours and call it a day!

I smile, as I liken this to what we humans do, when we come back to the warmth and smells of our homes every evening, after a long day spent at work or school.

We are different creatures, when we step out every morning – well groomed, mentally poised and focused on getting work done, lists and priorities clearly structured in our heads.

But at the end of the day, when we set foot inside our homes, we transform into different creatures – for home is the place where we can let our guard down. 

I see this when my kids come home from school. They shed their ‘outside world’ personas as they take off their shoes and socks, drop bags, and lunch boxes, loudly asking about what there is to eat. They plonk on the sofa with a thud, and then sink into their new ‘home skins’, as they narrate what they did, and who said what and the tons of homework to be done.

Family dynamics kick-in. Familiar jokes get exchanged, patterns of behaviour repeat, squabbles break out, mom’s nagging continues, we try to finish school work, bond over dinner, watch some television, worry about things unknown, share space and time, share tears and laughter, share likes and dislikes, and rally around the person who is down in the dumps!

Courtesy – Crazy family Clipart – ClipartFest

We are individuals, who are held together by deep bonds of shared everything. We know each others’ quirks, and crazy routines, we sometimes yell for some ‘timeout’ and ‘space’ from the others. But it is just that..only a brief time out. For we would be lost without the family and all the craziness that goes into it.

I wonder if it is the same for all these tweeting birds. My brood is back, winding down. My chores beckon. I head back in.