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.

Watching TV with a new friend


It is late in the evening. And small silver stars are glittering far away on a deep purple sky. The moon is a thin sliver behind translucent clouds that are floating gently across the sky to places unknown.

Our balcony window is wide open. A cool breeze blows into our living room, where all of us are seated or sprawled, watching a show on Netflix. There are two main characters in the show, and two factions have developed. My daughter is on one side, while my husband and I are on the other. We keep teasing our daughter, and she rolls her eyes in exasperation.

And…then, all of a sudden, my daughter points at the balcony floor. A lizard is on the ledge between the balcony floor and the living room. It seems to be watching the show too!

Photo by NSU MON from Pexels

I think out aloud, “Maybe the lizard has had a long day like me, and is taking a breather by watching TV”.

I ask my husband what he thinks. And pat comes the reply…”Nothing, it is just a lizard”, and he goes back to watching the show.” Men!!!!

My daughter chips in, “Hey lizard, please get your own subscription… it is better not to watch TV with these two people”, and points us out to the lizard.

All of us burst out laughing. Each of us reacted to the lizard in our own way, by projecting our emotions on the lizard. And that’s how we see the world most times, as a reflection of our own state of mind.

As I walk around the house, checking doors and turning off the lights, I wish the lizard a good night.

Shades of green


Mask in place, I am off for my evening walk. There’s a lovely breeze that accompanies me. The late evening sun makes the shiny green leaves sparkle, imbuing them with magic.

The colours of the evening sky defy description. I am happy and smile inside my mask; this thought makes me giggle and I mutter to myself about how absurd this is!!

When I am about midway through my walk, I see this tree.

At the tip of each tender branch are young leaves, in a bright and energetic green. Being young, these little green leaves dance merrily in the breeze. They are living life on the edge, swaying and exploring the spaces around them. Little do they know that further up the branch are their senior family members, in a darker green, who are supporting and holding these young leaves together, indulging them, giving them time to savour their youth and to dangle precariously from the tips of each branch. For, the dark green leaves know that the days of youth will fly away in the flap of a bird’s wings.

Further up the tree are the oldest members of this family. Wizened, brown and wise. Their veins are stiff with age, and they gently sway with the breeze, looking down at the ground below, their final destination.

Each member – the young, the middle aged and the seniors are required to keep this family in harmony, and for this timeless cycle to continue.

Down on the ground, some brown old leaves have already crumbled and started merging with the soil, enriching it with their wisdom, and nurturing new life.

Suspicious me


I am in front of my dresser, critically evaluating my visage and the various lines that have started creasing different parts of my face. I take out a new tube of face cream, a brand that I have used for over two decades now. I squeeze two pumps on to my palm. I suddenly move my eyes from the mirror to my hands. The cream’s consistency doesn’t seem right. It looks like a lotion and not at all like the cream that I have used for so long. I ponder over this sudden change in its texture, but go ahead and apply it all over my face. I then quickly seal it with some powder and a dash of lipstick, and I am good to go.

Courtesy – http://www.shutterstock.com

Later in the day, when I am back home after running some errands, I wash my face. And then it starts, an unbearable burning all over my face. I examine myself in the mirror. My face is swollen near the cheeks, and the skin appears red in a few places. I apply coconut oil, and think about what could have happened.

I immediately remember that my usual cream this morning hadn’t seemed ok. I am angry now, as I immediately think of so many possibilities. I head purposefully to my dresser and pull out the tube. Had the shopkeeper tried to sell me cream that was past its expiry date? I strain my eyes to read the expiry date on the crimp. It says 2022. Ok.

What then? Maybe it is a fake product masquerading as the original. I get worked up. How could this happen? I have used this for so many many years. I feel irritated and suspicious. Almost like a detective, trying to explain what could be wrong.

Then logic prevails for some time. My brains pipes in, “Couldn’t it be something else that caused the burning, not this cream?” “Hmmmm, possible”, I reply. So seeking conclusive evidence, I open the tube again, and squeeze a little cream into my hands, and apply it on one part of my face.

When I am just about to put away the tube into the drawer, I see the word Wash on the tube. What? I flip the tube and read, it says Face Wash. Whaaaaaaatt?????

No wonder my face is on fire. I had spent the whole morning with dried soap on my face. But both tubes look identical. Sigh! I laugh, as I apply some ice to cool my face.

I also think about this. How quick I was to suspect that it was somebody else’s fault. How quickly I had come up with theories to justify my assumptions. And this is what we all do sometimes. We judge before we are equipped with the full facts or before we know for sure. Sometimes, as I just realised, the mistake may be on our side. Truly something to think about eh?

What we do not see…


My husband and I are in our car, travelling down one of the main streets in the business district. The sun is ruthless in its intensity. The roads seem to be grey metal rivers, shining and shimmering, seeming to have lives of their own. The trees look dehydrated. Birds are nowhere to be seen. There is only the road and all the weary drivers on it, braving the heat.

Murphy’s Law has taken effect; just when we want to escape the confines of the car and the stifling heat, we hit every red signal, and have to stop often. At one such signal, as we wait impatiently, my eyes are drawn to the reflection of a building on another building’s glass facade. I quickly click a picture.

The building that is being reflected is shaking and shimmering on the glass facade. I quickly look at the original building. It is sturdy, has clean lines and rises majestically into the sky. I look at the reflection again – the same solid building now appears squiggly and shaky.

The signal turns green, and we are on our way, thankfully. I ponder over what I have just seen. Many a time we see ourselves mostly as reflections – in how other people view us or think about us. If someone puts us down, we become like the squiggly reflected building, losing faith in our own selves and believing more in how we are reflected in the other person’s mind, rather than what we know to be true about ourselves.

All we have to do is step back and stop looking or worrying about how others perceive us. We should only look at our strengths and positive qualities, and stand tall like the original building.

Life lessons from a dosa


Every person who knows to cook has a special dish that she or he can rustle up, without fretting too much about the end product – call it a signature dish if you like. And when one has people over for lunch or dinner, this signature dish will definitely feature in the menu.

But then, there is another side to this signature dish story. If you hail from South India, like I do, making dosas is something you are expected to know even in your sleep.

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

There is nothing to beat a crispy, golden dosa that has been made to perfection, and then eaten with sambar and coconut chutney.

I do make perfect, golden dosas, crisp or soft, with ghee or cheese, or even the masala dosa, with its filling of potato masala. My friends love my dosas too!

But sometimes, especially when you have guests over for lunch or dinner, and your signature dish’s reputation precedes you, things can head south.

I have guests for brunch, and one of the items planned is the dosa. Dosas are best eaten hot. So, I set the flat pan on the stove, switch it on and mix the dosa batter with elan. I check for batter consistency, ensure that I have all that I need to get started. I do not realize this, but my flatpan has got over-heated as the flame is in full blast mode and not in simmer mode – a sure recipe for dosa disaster.

As I pour the batter with practised ease, in just ten seconds I realize that the dosa has stuck to the pan, and refuses to leave it. I use the spatula to prod it out, without making any sound. My guests are waiting in anticipation. I manage to get the mangled and burnt dosa out. Now, both the flatpan and I have to cool down.

I smile at the irony of it all. This dosa that we eat so often, and that my kids are heartily tired of …has let me down, and how!!!

Soon the flatpan cools and I am able to serve my dosas, though I still feel they could have turned out better.

But then, this is how things are in the bigger scheme of things as well. We work and perfect various skills, we plan meticulously to the minutest details, but then life throws many surprises our way, when we are unable to manifest our skills in the best way at the right time and at the right place.

But the idea is to keep trying, and enjoy the journey, and not be bogged down by the odd bad day!

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.

The art of work


The wipers in our car are working overtime. The skies have opened up, and the rain falls in thin transparent sheets. One layer of rain falls, gets wiped away, and for a mere fraction of a second the world is visible, before another sheet falls.

And thus it goes on till my husband and I reach the concert venue. The concert venue is partly open air, with free seating. As we take our seats, the rain slowly peters out; only the ‘backbencher raindrops’ are left, rushing to join their peers, dropping in huge plops from the roof.

Rich Indian classical music fills the air, as the singer transports us to a different world, making us emote. My husband steps away to take a call. Very soon, a little girl of about seven comes and takes my husband’s seat. She has a packet of wafers in one hand and what looks like a small piece of thick cardboard in the other hand.

She adjusts herself comfortably on the seat, looks up at me and smiles. What a lovely and heart warming smile, I think. I smile in response, and wave hello! She says hello too.

After a few minutes, she touches my hand. When I look at her, she shows me the other side of the cardboard. It is an artwork of a three-dimensional flower in a pot. I mouth a wow and clap gently.

Courtesy – clipartlibrary.com

I ask her if it is play dough. “No, this is air-dry clay”, she says.

She lovingly runs her fingers over her creation, and asks me, “Do you like it?”

I tell her that I like it. She then says, “I like it too, a lot.” And her eyes light up. She continues to admire her artwork and looks content.

I realize how difficult it is to experience this kind of joy from the work we do. We are constantly striving to perform better, to attain the goals that we have set for ourselves. But with our sights set only on these bigger goals and destinations, we seem to have lost the art of experiencing the joy in the good, simple and everyday tasks that we perform.

Another lesson learned from a sweet little girl!

Clarity


I am in a cab that is stuck in heavy traffic. All around me, drivers are tapping their steering wheels impatiently, while some others are busy on their phones.

My phone’s battery is at a meagre 5%, and with no messages to check or people to call, my gaze wanders to the buildings on either side of the pavement. I crane my neck to see the trees lining the road. The blue sky appears bleached under the glaring sun. The leaves on the trees filter the sun’s light in various patterns, each pattern unique.

Amongst all these trees with leaves is also a wise old tree that is bereft of leaves. A sudden movement on this tree’s branches catches my eye. I realize that it is a bird, a crow.

Picture courtesy – Illustrated by Ann & Ani (image copyrighted)

The crow keeps moving up and down one particular branch. Up, down, pause, up, down, pause…the crow keeps repeating this for sometime.

I wonder what the crow is thinking. Is he worrying about his loved ones? Is he confused about choices that he has to make? Is he testing the tree for its suitability for him to build a nest and start a family?

The crow continues pacing. After a few minutes, he stops, his head clear. He has made up his mind. Soon, he flies away.

This is quite similar to how we humans behave too, especially when we are confused, and have to make choices or have to take firm decisions in our lives.

Sometimes, we require ‘alone time’ in our minds to sift through our thoughts, think through the consequences, process them, and then come to a decision.

Sometimes, we pace up and down our living rooms, or embark on solitary walks, thinking and evaluating.

And always, when we look within, the right answer comes to us, at the right time. It was always there, it just needed us to choose it.

And then comes clarity, and a sense of lightness.

Just like the crow that flew away into the sky. Free now, that the decision had been made.

Incy wincy spider


The late afternoon sun is casting long shadows on my walking trail. The humidity is stifling, as I plod on; on my long walk, step-by-step, not thinking, just moving, till the endorphins kick-in, and make this walk enjoyable.

But for the next fifteen minutes it is just this. To distract myself, I observe the tall buildings, the vehicles, the blue sky, the lone bird that’s braving the heat, the faraway trees in the forest trail that I have to reach.

Plod, plod, plod. Stop.

I am stopped in my tracks by an enormous spider that is on a huge web. The spider has spun its web between the metal railings on one road and the metal railing on a small overbridge. The overbridge is a few metres above the road below, where traffic is quite heavy.

The gentle breeze is causing the whole web to shimmer and sway. I worry if the web will snap, and if the spider will fall down on the road below.

I stand and watch, fascinated.

The spider is clinging on firmly. But, what I observe is that while it is holding on tight, it is also flexible enough to sway with the breeze. The spider is confident about itself, and also has tremendous faith in the web that it has spun.

There’s a lesson here for us. Sometimes, we cling on too hard to our efforts, and are not flexible enough to let go and take in suggestions or inputs that our friends or family give us.

If we just do our best, remain open to suggestions, and also have faith in our abilities, we would be just like this beautiful spider hanging on a shimmering web on a sunny day, totally unperturbed by the traffic below.