Vibrant traditions


My husband and I are walking down a crowded street in Bengaluru, India. It is late in the afternoon, and the sun’s rays form net-like patterns on the pavement and the road.

Hundreds of small shops line both sides of the street. The shopkeepers and street hawkers are doing brisk business.

We need to stock up on cotton wicks (for our lamps), incense sticks, and a few other items. There are four shops that cater to our needs. They are all adjacent to each other, for they know that if we do not get what we want from the first shop, we will head to the next.

All four shopkeepers nod, and welcome us enthusiastically. We stop at the first shop. As I place my order, I am transfixed by the display of turmeric powder and kumkum (the red powder used for the Bindis that Indian women wear on their foreheads).

Art and Science are both at work here. The shopkeeper has painstakingly created mounds of these powders, by compacting them. They look so vibrant and colourful. The shopkeeper has planned this with precision. Just the right amount of powder to maintain the balance and prevent it from collapsing all around.

I ask him if I can take pictures. He obliges. I ask him, how he manages to take out powder from these mounds, if a customer wants to buy some!

He shows me how; I watch with bated breath. He does it with the ease of a seasoned professional. This is his turf and he smiles at my surprised look.

He packs our wicks and incense sticks. Deep from the recesses of his shop, a little boy comes running out. Presumably his son.

Family businesses that have been around for generations, carrying on the traditions of their forefathers. Selling simple, everyday things with so much creativity and beauty.

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.