‘Tis a brother-sister thing!


Today is Raksha Bandhan, a day that celebrates the special and deep bond between brothers and sisters. A day when sisters tie raakhis on their brothers’ wrists. A day when the brother promises to care for and protect his sister; and also gives her a gift.

A truly beautiful celebration indeed!

In our home, we celebrate this special bond every year. I have the raakhi and other paraphernalia required, ready for my children.

Image courtesy – Dreamstime.com

They stand in front of each other. My daughter picks up the raakhi and ties it on my son’s wrist. They don’t say much. They just high five each other, exchange a quick hug, and go their separate ways.

There is no talk about a gift.

It is business as usual, they are each back in their own world, where the other does not exist. When they do acknowledge each other, they tease each other ruthlessly, argue constantly or ignore each other.

I observe this.

The day has flown past, the sun has already set. My kids are talking animatedly. Very soon, my son comes to me and tells me that he is taking his sister to the mall nearby for a treat, and to buy her a gift.

And before I nod, the two of them are already at the door, arguing about something inconsequential, as all siblings do.

I smile. I walk back in.

Many years from now, when my kids move out of home and make their own lives, these bonds will deepen further.

But this bond, this love – will always be expressed this playfully, through silly arguments, high fives and awkward hugs!

‘Tis a brother sister thing, after all.

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The sweet little girl…


It is evening. I am waiting for a friend by the poolside. A little girl of about four walks by. She looks at me, and I wave. She smiles and waves back.

After a few minutes, she comes over and shows me her hands. She is wearing four colourful bangles on each wrist. She gently jiggles her arms and tells me, “My grandma bought these for me.”

I tell her that the bangles are lovely.

She talks about a few other things that her grandma has bought for her.

Then, I ask her, “Do you have brothers or sisters?”

She suddenly looks confused. She furrows her eyebrows, and tries mouthing the answer.

She starts replying and stops. She still hasn’t quite figured out what she wants to say.

After a few minutes she announces confidently, “I am the sister.”

I nod.

She continues, “…… because I have a baby brother, I am the sister, and my baby brother is small and I love him.”

Image courtesy – clipartXtras

I smile at her innocence and love. She was trying to tell me that she had no sisters, but was a sister herself!

A dollar worth millions….


My son has just walked in from school. He drops his bag and other paraphernalia, and comes straight to share key snippets from his day with me.

He starts from the moment he reached school, and takes me on a journey through his day, where I get glimpses of his world.

He rushes through the ‘vanilla’ parts and cuts to the most important part of his day, which was a bazaar, where the children had to promote and sell products that they had brought to school. My son and his friend had taken stationery items and chocolates to sell.

My son’s eyes light up as he talks about how much he had enjoyed the whole project, and about how much money they had made.

And then, he rummages in his pocket and takes out a small white paper pouch. A really tiny one.

He opens it and shakes it gently. Something falls out of the pouch. He picks it up and gives it to me.

“This is for you, mom”, he says.

He has bought a pair of pretty green, stone earrings for me.

He adds, “I got them for a dollar!”

My throat catches, as I turn the earrings and admire them.

“They are exquisite”, I say.

“The green stones are the closest I could find to your birthstone, mom, but the green stones are surrounded by tiny white diamonds”, he finishes with enthusiasm.

I hug my son and thank him.

To me, this dollar is worth millions.

Truly priceless!

Mom


Whichever way I turned this last week, there was only one theme – Mother. There was ‘mommy love’ everywhere. If there was an energy meter that could measure this love, it would have probably burst!

Cards, gifts, letters, cookies…..and a million other ways to express one’s love for one’s mom!

When we were kids, if we did something wrong, one look from mom had us quaking…for we knew what was coming. The same mom would, with a twinkle in her eye, hide a gift for us on our birthdays.

She made the loveliest and yummiest foods at home, but also watched us like a hawk to ensure that we ate our veggies, even all those ‘healthy’, green ones!

She spent hours helping us with so many projects, but never hesitated to have us go up and apologize if we had said or done something to hurt someone.

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

She never interfered in sibling fights, but always had a kind word or a hug to share after the fights, when we moped.

Her greatest joys came from our achievements, however small. Her eyes always lit up in excitement. She told us repeatedly that we could achieve whatever we envisioned; and gently admonished us when we stopped trying. She jumped for joy when we succeeded, but held us close to her heart when we lost – comforting us in the way only a mom can.

She inspired us with her positive attitude and her energy.

Even now…when I speak to her, she is the first one to ask me about ‘me’, and what I have been doing.

And that’s what it is…Moms are the ones who teach us our values. They are the needles in our moral compasses, always telling us the difference between right and wrong, good and bad; teaching us about humility, letting go, having the courage to stand up for oneself, having the strength to accept and rectify one’s mistakes…and many more.

Mothers prepare us for life – sometimes with love, sometimes with a gentle nudge, sometimes in anger, sometimes with strictness…..but always rooting for her children. Always!

And that’s why all these cards and gifts can express only a fraction of that love…!

A Tech Tutorial for Grandma


It is late in the afternoon. My mom is visiting. My son has just come back from school. He chatters about his day, hugs his grandma, washes up and disappears to his room to change.

In a few minutes, he comes out with the iPad to play games on it – only for the 10 precious minutes that he has been allotted every evening. He doesn’t want to waste even a second.

I watch the intensity with which he plays the game. His eyes, hands and brain are all alert; his eyes flitting about, taking in all the action, his reflexes sharp. At that point, only he and the game exist.

My mom finishes her afternoon coffee, and brings her smartphone to check her messages. She swipes the screen and starts reading.

Then she clucks in exasperation. I ask her what it is. She says that the messaging app has vanished. Hearing the cluck, my son pauses his game and ambles over. My daughter also joins in. They ask her what the problem is. She shows them.

They sit on either side of her to explain the finer nuances of a technology that comes so naturally and easily to them. She is overwhelmed by it all.

They patiently teach her. One step at a time. My mom’s eyes light up! She understands more than she did before. My daughter writes down the instructions for easy reference; lest the same problems show up again.

My mom preserves the document carefully. She then asks my children all her doubts – technology transfer is happening, a tech-tutorial is in progress.

My kids are both amused and filled with love and patience. My husband and I don’t get to experience this special love; a love that is reserved only for the grandparents.

Image courtesy – http://www.123rf.com

They patiently explain the three dots on the top right hand corner of the screen. My mom’s concentration is now absolute.

She loves technology she says, and marvels at all it does. She loves her grandchildren even more she says, hugging them.

Circle of friendship


When we first go to school, we are reluctant to let go of our parents’ hands. We stare at this new world that is inhabited by other kids, from the security of our mom’s lap or dad’s shoulders. The world outside is scary, so strange, a little exciting..and many other things.

Three or four days into school, we take tentative steps towards friendship, with that girl in the cute pink frock or the boy with the dinosaur shaped lunch box!

Courtesy – http://www.shutterstock.com

Soon our evenings are spent with friends, playing tag, playing with toys or learning to ride a bicycle together.

We plow through primary school and birthday parties with friends, sharing innocent secrets and giggles. We then move to the teen years, where friends become life, and family fades into the background. A time when we learn so many things, a time when we experiment with identity, looks, cliques; a time when we try to be noticed or not noticed at all. A time of tumultuous friendships sometimes, and great moments sometimes too! By this time some friends have been there with us forever, some have vanished!

Then on to university, where more friends get added, many new shared experiences happen; more serious talk happens – about life, career prospects, marriage…!

Then out in the world to earn a living – new dynamics, new friendships, a taste of independence, hosting parties, more relaxed in friendship, more comfortable in one’s skin.

And then marriage, befriending other young couples, visiting each others’ homes, going on trips with them.

Then, when kids arrive, friends become other parents – comparing notes on food and child-related topics, all the time. When friendships only revolve around kids.

As the kids enter their teens and become independent, there’s more time for and with friends. By this time, we are settled in our friendships and views. We have a close-knit group of friends, whom we meet regularly. Friends who have our backs; where there is absolute comfort, where there is no worry about being judged, or about food or cooking.

A kind of friendship where one can just be – talkative or silent, eat in or take out, laugh with or cry with…so many, many beautiful things – when one feels complete in a warm circle of friendship!

It takes time and effort to get there, but when you do get there and find that circle, life is perfect!

Mom’s Magic Masala Powders


Indian cooking is both an art and a science. It is as much about mixing and experimenting with different flavours, as it is about precise quantities and ingredients-in-recipes that cannot be altered.

Indian cooking is about flavour, culture, local produce and the local weather. It is also about blending, grinding and pounding techniques that are used to extract ‘that’ perfect flavour!

But more than anything else, Indian cooking is about the hundreds of masalas and spices that are added to make each dish unique.

A lot of cooking happens in Indian homes. This whole cooking phenomenon in Indian homes rests on a very strong base.

What is this base, you may ask? It is what I choose to call “Moms’ Masala Network”.

If you visited my home and raved about my spicy potato curry or my onion sambar, I would probably tell you that both the sambar powder and the spicy powder mix I used for the potatoes, were home made; made by my mother.

Go to any Indian home, ask the lady of the house, and her best dishes will be those ones, where her mom or grandmom have made the masala powders at home; if not made by them, the recipes that she uses would be theirs, for sure!

My refrigerator has at least ten types of these masala powders.

However, of these, three masala powders are most precious, as my mom makes them at home and gives them to me.

Every summer, when the Indian sun is roasting everything in sight, my mom shops for the ingredients for sambar powder, rasam powder and chutney powder.

She reserves a day to do the shopping. She sun-dries the ingredients, roasts them and then gives them to a small mill in the neighbourhood, where the ingredients are ground to fine powder.

My mom sends huge steel containers to the mill. Once the powders make it home, she carefully packs them in huge zip-loc bags for her three daughters.

On each package is a small sticker label, which gives details about the type of powder and the date on which it was made.

I treasure these masala powders, because my kitchen runs on their strength and their flavour.

A yummy South Indian breakfast of idli or dosa is incomplete without my mom’s chutney powder. On a typical Sunday afternoon, the kitchen is filled with the aroma of onion sambar, thanks to my mom.

These products are available in the market, but the taste of mom’s masala powders cannot ever be matched.

Thank you, Amma.