Akash the brave Bengal Tiger


It’s decluttering time in our home this month, and I shudder at the number of things we have managed to hoard since the last declutter. Each room presents a different challenge. The process can quickly become irritating if one realizes one’s inherent hoarding potential – something I seem to possess in abundance.

Having said that, decluttering is also a journey into the past. Pulling out old clothes, books, stationery, devices, cards and photographs is a pleasurable experience – if and only if one has the time and the inclination to take on this never-ending and challenging task.

But that’s not what this blog is about. During this journey towards a minimalistic life, I chanced upon an old stuffed toy – a beautiful, white Bengal Tiger.

Akash, the white tiger, entered our lives when our daughter turned one. He was her constant companion, resting on her shoulder or peeking from the crook of her arm. He was all important. He heard her secrets, and offered her comfort when she cried or when she hurt herself. He was always next to her pillow, watching over her.

Meet Akash the brave

As my daughter grew older, Akash’s role as protector and counsellor diminished. However, he still occupied pride of place on my daughter’s bookshelf. And he sits there to this day, faded with age and enjoying his retirement.

I pick him up to dust him. And it hits me then – my nest is partially empty. He reminds me of wonderful days spent with my daughter. He reminds me of the swift passage of time.

I hug him! Now, I am the one who seeks comfort from Akash the brave Bengal Tiger. And he plays his role to perfection.

My new e-book – Simple Sojourns


Dear friends,

Hope all of you are safe and well. I am sorry that I have not been very active on WordPress for the last two months. I have missed reading all your blogs. But I am happily back now and look forward to catching up on my reading.

I am also happy to share that my book, SIMPLE SOJOURNS – A collection of everyday stories from India, is now available on Amazon Kindle as an e-book. The paperback version will be available at a later date.

This book would not have been possible without all your encouragement for my blog all these years, which made me believe that I could actually write this book. Thank you all so much.

Nimi

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.

Hewwo!!!


What a year 2020 continues to be! Most of us have pretty much lived this year cooped up indoors; while feeling grateful for the gifts of technology and social media that have helped us stay connected with loved ones.

My role as a virtual aunt continues, as I watch and interact with my niece and nephew through video calls.

I was on a video call with my sister last night when my niece, who had gone downstairs with her dad, got back home after getting some fresh air.

My niece, who is 22 months old, recognized me and came over to talk to me, her Pemma (mom’s older sister).

And she gave me the brightest smile ever, and said, “Hewwo Pemma, Hewwo.”

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

I blew kisses. And suddenly the screen turned black. After a few seconds, my niece appeared again, and I said, “Hewwo sweetie” …and the screen went black again.

I called out to my sister, and asked her to help my niece hold the phone properly. My sister told me that my niece knew perfectly well how to hold the phone, but the reason the screen was turning black was because each time I said hello or blew kisses at her, she was hugging me by giving the phone a hug.

Awwwwww….. “Bless you my little one.” Even virtual hugs can melt one’s heart.

Web of imagination


Many, many years ago, when my two-year old son had just started devouring picture books and peg puzzles, one of his favourite books was a peg puzzle book about farm animals. He would constantly take the animal pegs out and put them back in, calling out their names – cow, pig, horse, duck and so on.

Soon after, and when my son was still in love with the book, we visited my husband’s parents. Seeing how much my son loved the farm book, my father-in-law decided to take him to a nearby farm to show him the cows there. All of us went along!

My son kept jabbering away on our drive to the farm. When he finally saw the cows, he froze. His eyes were like saucers. He backed away at jetspeed saying, “These cows are soooooo big…my peg cow is small.”

Courtesy – http://www.pexels.com

Completely overwhelmed, he came running to me and asked to be lifted. When I carried him, he buried his head in my shoulder, trying to make sense of what he had seen and what he had believed was a cow till that point!!!

Only at that time did we realize that he had not yet seen a cow in real life. It took a while for him to process and correlate what he had seen.

Cut to yesterday. I was on a video call with my sister, and the moment we started talking, my niece wanted to tell me a story from a picture book she was reading.

She narrated the story of The Lion and the Mouse. She narrated each line with special effect sounds and voice modulation, her eyes and hands expressing what she couldn’t articulate in words. And then she said, “You know, Pemma, “The lion was caught by a hunter.”

She wanted to convey that the lion was trapped in the hunter’s net. And in her mind, the picture of the hunter’s net she had seen in her book looked like a spider’s web.

She finished her story with a flourish, “The lion was caught in the spider’s web, Pemma. Then the mouse helped the lion escape, and they lived happily ever after.”

As I hung up, I thought about young kids, and their innocent and colourful imagination. And how at some point, reality takes over!!

The yearly pickle ritual


It is 11 am in the morning; and as I type away on my keyboard, one corner of my eye is watching my phone for a call that I have been expecting from a friend.

This is not a regular ‘catch-up’ call. This call signifies a yearly ritual, when one my dearest friends buys special raw mangoes, makes the yummiest mango pickle, bottles it and then gifts it to all her dear friends.

So, today is that day..and just the thought of the pickle makes me salivate.

Soon, my screen lights up and I hop down joyfully to our lobby, where my friend passes the bag, waves a cheery goodbye, and drives away in a rush.

I hug the bag and walk home. Before I put the bottle into the refrigerator, I open the lid and inhale the aroma. Pure bliss!!

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

I look at the clock, an hour and a half to go for lunch. I get back to work. But like a child who has been given a gift or who has a happy secret, I keep smiling in anticipation.

As I try to focus on my work, my Dad visits my thoughts. Back in my childhood, whenever my Dad sat down to eat, and when the first hot serving of rice was on his plate, the first thing he would do was to add a little bit of ghee, and then add mango pickle or lime pickle to his rice and eat that as his first course. And if we were around, he would give us spoonfuls of hot pickle rice, and we would devour them with relish.

It is finally lunch time. As all of us sit down at the table, I heap hot, fluffy rice on my plate, add a little ghee, and add my friend’s mango pickle. I mix it, and take the first mouthful. Divine!!!

And for a minute there, I go back to my childhood kitchen, and feel my Dad’s presence. The years have flown by, but time seems to have gone back to the past for a brief sojourn.

I ask my kids if they want to taste the pickle rice. And they taste it and love it! No surprise there at all!!

I smile. The bigger things in life may keep changing, but there are some simple moments in life that are sheer magic, and that don’t change.

I bless and thank my friend for all her efforts and love each year.

Big brother, little sister


It’s already mid-October, and the days seem to be outdoing each other, as they run a mad race towards the end of the year.

With every room at home occupied by family members, who are engaged in the virtual world, I find it a challenge to eke out time for a cosy, long chat with my sisters.

I had a sudden free hour this weekend, and decided to video call my sister. Needless to say, it was a rejuvenating call! Midway through the call, my sister turned her phone camera towards my niece, who was sitting on the balcony floor and babbling away, as she played with cloth pegs and a clothes hanger.

As we continued our chat, my sister exclaimed sharply! The skies had suddenly opened up, and it had started raining. My sister asked my niece to come indoors. But the little lady would have none of it. She continued sitting there, her head turned skyward, as she revelled in the feel of raindrops on her face.

My sister tried to lift her physically, but that brought on a loud bawl. As my sister and I laughed, and wondered how we would get her indoors, my nephew happened to pass by.

And, when he realized that his little sister was sitting in the rain and getting wet, he did a very smart thing. He ran to get an umbrella and sat down, holding it over both their heads.

Copyrighted image

My heart just melted as I watched this simple act of love. And as I hung up, the big brother continued to talk to his little sister about the rain, and she babbled away in response.

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 lullaby bond


Earlier today, I chanced upon a physical photograph from our children’s childhood archives. My husband and I have been meaning to digitize all these pics some day, but that day is yet to arrive.

The photo brought a smile to my face, as it was a top angle picture of my daughter gurgling inside her cloth hammock cradle, taken when she was a chubby six month old baby.

The cloth hammock was baby- pink in colour and made of netted cloth. It was attached to a spring, and suspended from a strong hook on the ceiling in my daughter’s room.

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

My daughter was a light sleeper, and would wake up at the slightest sound. My husband and I were permanently sleep deprived, and took turns to carry the baby, sing to her or rock her in the hammock.

I had a few lullabies that I had in stock as I rocked the cradle. And, when I felt that my daughter had gone to sleep, I would try to slowly walk away, but I don’t remember ever reaching the door without her gurgling and announcing that she was still wide awake.

Then my husband would give it a shot, and on it went. But on many such nights, when both of us were weary from a long day, and had to leave for work early the next morning, my dear father in law would tell us, “Why don’t you both catch a few winks, I will rock the hammock.”

And even before he completed his sentence, my husband and I would slink away, our hearts filled with gratitude for his help and love.

While for us, the parents, it was one of our duties in child rearing, for my father in law it was a pleasurable activity, as he woud talk or sing to his granddaughter with absolute joy.

The first deep bonds of love between granddad and granddaughter were sown then, as they had late night chats and gurgled to each other. And whenever my father in law paused his singing or talking, my daughter would say “hmmmmm” loudly, as if asking why he had stopped talking to her. And with delighted laughter, my father in law would resume the conversation again.

Truly precious memories!!

Indulged


Life and its many moments keep unfolding each day. Most times, we are caught up in our routines and chores, not thinking about or dwelling upon what we do on a daily basis.

But yesterday was different. It rained non-stop, and the world outside was grey and wet. After a sumptuous weekend lunch, I retired to catch some shut eye. My power naps usually last exactly twenty minutes, not a minute more. That is my cue to get up and start the second half of my day, during which I also head to the kitchen to make our afternoon coffee!

But for some strange reason, I slept way beyond my twenty minute quota, and felt a deep laziness pervading my every pore. But the family coffee clock doesn’t stop, does it?

Soon, my husband made an appearance. He saw me napping, and left quietly. Then my daughter showed up in a bit and left too! I could sense them but was too lazy to open my eyes.

After a few minutes, when I was fully awake, I called my husband and said, “Can someone make coffee today?”

He said, “Of course, I can try…but it won’t taste anything like yours. Are you ok with that?”

Hmmm…the coffee taste is what it’s all about. I asked my daughter. She loves coffee too, and she has learnt from me…so there was still some hope!

She agreed enthusiastically. I watched the dull grey world outside, and mindlessly traced water drops with my eye, as they ran down our window. I waited in eager anticipation.

Photo by Josh Hild from Pexels

I mentally imagined my daughter heating the milk, and adding the decoction and just the right amount of sugar. There was a lot of noise from the kitchen. I could hear the clanging of steel. I wondered if they were making coffee or cooking a meal.

I hollered, “Are you guys done?” From their muffled replies I understood that they had spilt something!!! But I held my ground, and suppressed my curiosity to go and interfere. I sat up and smiled lazily….!

And in just a few minutes, my daughter walked in with a frothing cup of filter coffee. I took the first sip. Bliss and perfection. “You have nailed it!!” I said. My daughter smiled.

A rainy day, an afternoon nap, followed by a perfect cup of coffee not made by me! I felt indulged.