Mom – Things to do – #…..


My daughter lives in a different time zone these days. What this means is that – as a mom – I have a new item added to my things to do list! If I told you what the task is, you would laugh and say, “But that’s so easy.”

I agree. The task is that I have to wake my daughter up on the days she tells me to. Simple right? Just before she sleeps she drops a message on our family group, asking us to give her a wake up call.

So, as a good mom, I set an alarm on my phone with reminders to back it up. At the appointed hour, and when my alarm goes off, I promptly call my daughter.

Photo by Krivec Ales from Pexels

The phone rings for a while and then I hear my daughter’s voice from the deep recesses of her blanket. “Hi, mom”, she says.

And then there is silence. The video of my daughter’s phone faces the ceiling and I talk to the ceiling. “Are you awake?” There’s a small grunt (or did I just imagine that!)

I keep talking and virtually prod her to wake up. After a while, I give up and hang up in irritation. And the same pattern repeats a few times each week.

The next time my daughter calls me, I express my frustration at talking to her ceiling. I also ask her what the point is of trying to wake her up in this fashion. I ask her why she can’t set her own alarm and wake up to it?

Pat comes the reply, “But mom, when you call me you are an interactive alarm. You talk and prod me awake, but my phone alarm can easily be dismissed and doesn’t nag me. Please mom…”

I laugh. Hmmm…Mom the interactive alarm indeed!

Where is Dad?


My little niece is two and half years old and is at that sweet stage where she talks non-stop, is curious about everything and is eager to talk on the phone. She only knows me, her aunt, virtually. But thanks to technology I am happy to watch her grow and enjoy spending time with her, albeit virtually.

I was on a video call with my sister yesterday, when my darling niece announced that she wanted to talk to me. We spoke for a bit and played some games where she asked me to mimic various animal sounds. We howled and barked, meowed and chirped, quacked and laughed our way through a long list of animals.

Finally, when my niece tired of the game, I asked her where her brother was. She told me that he was in school. I then asked her where her Dad was?

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Pat came the reply, “Dad has gone out and is now inside Mom’s phone.”

My sister had just been talking to her husband before our video call and my niece had observed her father on the phone!

Perfect answer!! My sister and I shared a good laugh. My niece giggled too!

Bread pizza at midnight


It is midnight. There’s a light drizzle. I shut the balcony door and head indoors, checking all the doors, lights and fans on my way to the bedroom.

I pick up my phone to set the alarm. My screen lights up at that precise moment. I am delighted to see my daughter’s name flashing on the screen.

I pick up and we start talking. As we talk, she says that she is famished and wants to eat. Immediately on mom-mode, I chide her to eat wholesome meals at regular intervals. She nods. A practiced nod from years of hearing the same thing from her mom all the time.

I think back to the time when my daughter was with us at home. She would wake up in the morning and greet me with a hug. She would then squeeze herself on to the kitchen counter and watch me as I cooked. She would demand coffee, and as she enjoyed it, we would chatter about this and that!

Now, on my phone screen, I watch as she heads to the kitchen, thousands of miles away. She places her phone on the kitchen counter, as she mulls over what to cook. I can see the world outside my daughter’s window on her screen. It is grey and cloudy. I look outside my window – it is dark and cloudy.

Her voice suddenly announces, “I am going to make bread pizza! I feel like eating cheese!”

She potters around her kitchen. I can only hear the knife on the chopping board, and the clanging of pans. Suddenly, a sauce bottle comes into view on my phone’s screen. It looks cozy and warm, and contrasts beautifully with the grey, cold weather outside. The sauce bottle and I keep each other company.

My daughter suddenly pops into view and tastes the sauce. “Yumm”, she says. Again, the sauce bottle and I look at each other, accompanied by the sounds in the background, as my daughter disappears from view.

My daughter is finally done, and has popped her bread pizzas into the oven. She sits down and we talk – about this and that – sometimes staring into space, lost in our own thoughts.

After some time, she says that the aroma of cheese and bell peppers is wafting all around. When the bread pizza is ready, she brings it over, and we talk as she eats.

She sighs in contentment. I am happy. It is nearly 1.30 am in my part of the world. My eyes are shutting of their own volition. My daughter orders me to sleep. I fall into a blissful sleep, thankful to technology for the joy of such simple moments!

The red silk skirt


The deep red silk skirt glows in the afternoon sun, as I gently remove it from the white cotton cloth it is wrapped in. I lay it out gently on the easy chair in the living room and move the chair over to the balcony. The silk skirt needs some fresh air and sunlight before it is wrapped-up in the soft white cloth again.

And as I move around the house, bringing out old boxes and cartons from various cupboards in yet another attempt to declutter and reorganize, my mind keeps going back to the beautiful red silk skirt with its beautiful green border.

The beautiful silk skirt

This skirt is nearly fourteen years old. It was a hot, humid afternoon, when my friends and I went shopping for our daughters for their very first classical dance performance.

The teacher had given us a long list that included the costume, make-up, hair accessories, jewellery and many other items.

All three of us were brimming with excitement, as we walked in and out of many shops – looking for, purchasing and ticking items off the list. It was late in the afternoon when we finally wrapped-up. We quickly decided to grab a cup of coffee before we went home, all the while talking about how we would get the girls ready for their dance programme.

The days soon flew past, and it was time to get our girls ready for their first-ever dance performance. We decided to meet up at one of our homes and get the girls ready together.

We knew the sequence in which the make-up had to be applied, but with no prior experience in classical dance make-up, we applied foundation that was a little patchy, eye make-up that looked thick, and blush that was overpowering.

The hair was yet another challenge! The girls had short hair – and to this we had to attach false hair, braid it and make it stay on their tiny heads. Add to this the confusion of the girls suddenly wanting to move or eat or drink water; and we were reduced to a bunch of anxiously giggling moms, desperate to cover our ineptitude.

The girls were finally ready, and we drove them to the venue. The teacher took the girls aside, and gently corrected their make-up and ensured that everything else was in place.

Out of sheer fear that the false hair we had attached would come crashing down on the stage, we had stuck so many hairpins and u-pins into their hair, while double-protecting the whole arrangement with black thread. Little did we know that our girls were in pain, carrying all those extra “mom-anxiety-reduction” pins.

The girls performed beautifully, and the three of us stood watching them with pride and misty eyes. After the performance, we high-fived each other in sheer relief that nothing had fallen or gone wrong on stage.

The girls came down. Their initial euphoria gave way to tiredness and irritation. They demanded that their make-up and hair be brought back to normal immediately. We went to the green room, and as our daughters winced and made faces we removed the huge army of hairpins we had loaded in their heads for protection.

The make-up came off with coconut oil and cotton. Our girls ran out like butterflies, feeling lighter now, and chased each other down the corridors. We packed up the various bits and pieces, and carefully put them away for the future.

I come back to the now. How can I ever part with this little skirt? It has in its folds the choreographed memories of laughter, friendship, music and dance and precious moments with my little princess and her darling friends!

A special bond


The energy at home when the kids are around is palpable. And this manifests in many ways that only moms notice. Shoes in the exact angle they were taken off, left by the door. Bags, wallets, keys, and now masks as well! All these are clues to locate the kids when they disappear into their own rooms. And these bits and pieces of their presence breathe life into the walls of our home.

This last week, my son discovered that his sister had gone from one bedroom, which my son uses for his classes, to continue sleeping in another bedroom. Her bed was unmade as she literally sleep-walked to the other bedroom and plopped there!

My son stared at the unmade bed, grabbed my daughter’s quilt, bunched it up and walked purposefully towards the other bedroom.

When I asked him what he was going to do, he said, “I am going to throw this on her.” And I ran behind him trying to stop him from irritating his sister.

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And as I entered the room, I saw him gently putting the quilt around his sister and tucking her in.

My throat catches for a moment. I get back to work with a smile.

Friendship


It is late in the afternoon, and as I type away on my laptop, a gentle breeze causes my day curtains to billow.

From where I am seated, and through the open balcony doors, I see two mynahs seated on the ledge of the building next to ours.

Initially they are seated on opposite ends of the ledge, their faces turned away from each other. Have they just had a squabble?

Then, after a few minutes, one of them moves closer as if trying to talk to the other mynah. But, no, the second mynah will not have it. She turns away and starts walking away from her friend!  The friend moves closer, and the second mynah walks further away.

I so wish I could hear what they are saying. The first one is definitely trying to reason, but the second mynah is having none of it. She turns her beak up in the air and keeps taking small steps away from her pal.

But the first mynah is one persuasive bird. She does not give up, she keeps talking. Is she apologizing, is she explaining her point of view, is she telling the other mynah that she cares for her and that she will always be her friend despite their silly squabbles?

I sigh and wish that the other mynah would just say something. After a few minutes, the second mynah finally turns around. Yay!

They talk, and seem to sort out their differences. They fly away soon, their petty disagreement totally forgotten and forgiven.

I smile. I am happy. Sometimes all it takes is to put one’s pride aside and talk to the other person to make things right! After all, true friendship is precious and totally worth all this effort.

The little red flower


It is a bright and sunny day, after a week of dull rainy weather. I am cooling-off after my workout and head to my balcony. I allow the gentle morning breeze to tease my sweat-soaked curls, before it envelopes my neck and gifts me a few moments of pleasurable coolness.

The world below is already busy. Traffic is quite heavy and people are walking with purpose. Suddenly, I sense something flying past the balcony grill and on to the floor.

It is this beautiful flower! I quickly rush indoors to get my phone to click a picture.

And as it lies against the grey tiled floor, its beautiful red colour warms my heart. It reminds me of the beautiful hues of the red saree worn by a new Indian bride, it reminds of the deep red chillies that my mom would always sun- dry on our terrace when we were kids; it reminds me of the deep red spine of old books on our bookshelf, dog-eared and cherished; it reminds me of a perfect layer of raspberry jam on a slice of toast. It makes me smile.

This little flower has flown-in with the breeze, a simple gift that enlivens my day – bringing with it stories of its life experiences, and stories of how it was nurtured and cared-for by a loving pair of hands. Now it lies on my balcony, beautiful and poised, ready for whatever comes next.

Timeless joy


I am quite sleepy, and decide to call it a night. I set the alarm on my phone for six thirty in the morning. Ah! the absolute joy of sleep – after what’s been a really long day! The cool sheets are soothing, and the soft hum of the aircon lulls me to sleep.

I am far away in a land unknown; a land that is inhabited by people that I don’t recognize. And as I am fully engaged in my dreams, my phone trills loudly. The trilling cuts like a saw through the soft layers of my sleep. I groan in irritation, is it morning already!!! “Not fair”, I mumble. It feels like I just went to sleep. I stretch out my hand to switch off the annoying alarm.

I open my eyes into thin slits to press ‘snooze’, but it’s only then that I realize that it is my daughter who is calling from a different time zone. My irritation vanishes; I am alert and fully awake now, and I pick up her call with a huge smile on my face.

She sounds so excited when she greets me! We exchange sweet pleasantries! And then she says, “Amma, I am in a quaint bookshop and I just found a collection of poems for you.”

She knows my love for books and poetry! I am very excited. She adds, “Guess what? This book was published in 1929. Can you believe that? 1929; it’s ninety-two years old!”

She quickly turns her phone’s camera towards the book. The book has a faded blue cover. Its pages are yellowed with age. My daughter points out to the first page. It has the name of the owner and the name of a college. Inside the book, at many places, one can see pencil annotations.

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I sigh in pleasure. My daughter reads out the names of the poems that are featured in the book. I recognize some of them.

I wonder how many people have read this book over these ninety-two years. The contents of the book have not changed, but the poets who wrote those poems are no longer here. The world has also gone through so many changes!

My daughter says that she has to go now. As I hang up, a sense of timelessness pervades me. Most things around us keep changing, but good books and poetry remain for all time, lighting up our lives with their beauty and profundity.

I go back to sleep with a sigh of pure contentment!

On a walk with Dad


One of my most enduring memories of my childhood is going on walks with my Dad – sometimes to the milk booth to pick up packets of milk, or to take the bus into town or to go to the post office or the temple.

My sister and I would each hold one of his hands; and we would then set off. Just as the road from our home sloped upwards, sweet little singing birds would call out merrily from the electric lines or from the bushes and trees.

My Dad would mimic the birds’ songs and the birds would call back again, and my Dad would respond. My sister and I would also try to mimic the sounds.

And as we walked under a perfectly blue sky, with cotton puff clouds floating about lazily, we would badger our Dad with all kinds of questions; questions that he always answered patiently.

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We would laugh, talk, skip and come back home – rejuvenated by yet another beautiful and memorable walk with Dad.

As we grew older, the walks stopped – we were busy being teenagers; but the conversations with Dad continued at the dinner table, long after dinner.

Conversations that were interspersed with good natured teasing, sibling fights and of course lots of music. We would all often break into song, and my Dad would start drumming the beat on the dining table.

Long, beautiful evenings they were – times when we could discuss anything with our Dad, and be assured that he would always hear us out.

Later, when we moved away to our college dorms, he would write to each of us every week, giving us simple and beautiful updates of home. We would write back promptly, keeping him updated about our lives.

When we would go home for the holidays, he would be waiting for us at the bus station, hugging us and welcoming us back home – where mom would be waiting with a yummy home-cooked meal of sambhar rice, roasted potato curry and hot cups of filter coffee!

And as we started working and moved away to different cities, the letters continued, which were then gradually replaced by emails and text messages.

After marriage, my Dad had specific days and time slots to call each of us. Mine was on Friday mornings at 9 a.m. Lovely catch-up conversations; conversations that now included my husband and children. But I would call him whenever I felt like, to catch up or to ask him something.

After my Dad passed away, for many many months after, I would remember the 9 a.m. calls on Friday and yearn to hear his voice greeting me.

From simple walks to long talks, I remember and treasure all those precious moments with my Dad. Holding his hand and drawing comfort from his letters and calls. Knowing that he was always there for us – his little girls. Love you Dad!

Tinkling bells


I stand on the balcony with my morning cup of coffee – strong, South Indian filter coffee brewed to perfection. What better way to begin the day!

It’s the weekend, and the world outside is slowly waking up. The usual morning rush of traffic is missing; just a few early morning joggers – moving neon spots on grey pavements.

I sip my coffee and sigh in contentment. It is then that I hear them – gentle tinkling bells. Maybe the neighbour’s chimes?

Where I grew up, cows and horses were common visitors to our neighbourhood, as there were lots of green meadows around the area where we lived.

While the horses were wild, the cows usually belonged to local shepherds. Most of these cows had bells tied around their necks. Beautiful little bells that tinkled when the cows grazed and mooed to each other.

The cows could be seen on and off on the hillside all through the day, as we went about our daily lives. And when the sun would finally head west, the shepherd would appear out of nowhere and drive the cows home.

In those days, there was a lady who came to our home each day to help my mom with household chores. She would arrive by eleven a.m. and leave late in the afternoon.

This lady’s husband owned a few cows, and on some afternoons, when the lady was in the backyard, her cows would pass by our home.

One of the cows – whom the lady lovingly called Lakshmi – would always come close to the fence as if to talk to her. The lady would talk in ‘cow-language’, love dripping in her every sentence. Lakshmi, the cow, would stand and listen, hanging on to her every word.

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It was such a special bond, a pure outpouring of love. And as Lakshmi walked away, the bell around her neck would tinkle. The lady would then settle down to her post lunch betelnut ritual, her eyes following Lakshmi with love, till the sounds of the bell would finally merge with the breeze.

I come back to the present. These bells that I hear now are reminiscent of those perfect, lovely afternoons and the bonds of a very special love!