The afternoon mystery parcel…


My day is usually crazy till around two in the afternoon. By then, my batteries need recharging.

By 2 pm, my mind slowly starts switching off, and my eyes start crossing, as words on my computer start blurring. That is when I head to take a power nap.

My power nap usually does not last more than thirty minutes, but if I do not get my quota for the day, meet me at your own risk.

Image courtesy – Cartoonstock.com

Immediately after my power nap, I have a nice strong cup of filter coffee; and I am then ready to take on the rest of the day, the children’s arrival from school, cooking, writing, household chores and the hundred other things that one needs to do!

However, in the last month, the schedule for my afternoon power naps has gone awry. The reason for it is quite simple.

Between 2 and 3 pm every afternoon, the door bell rings, and a mystery parcel arrives by courier. I sign and take the package, keep it on the side table, and try to go back to ‘power nap mode’.

But, if there are any afternoon-nappers around, you would all agree with me that if a power nap is interrupted, one can never go back to that zone again!

These mystery parcels are the result of my husband’s sudden interest in and realization of the ease and convenience of online shopping.

Sometimes, the mystery parcel is as small as a match box, sometimes it is big and fluffy. Being rudely awakened by the door bell on most afternoons as I am, I don’t even bother opening the packages. I leave them for when my husband gets back.

Yesterday afternoon, three different packages arrived. When my husband got back, I pointed them out to him and sighed, saying that it was a nuisance to receive so many packages.

He took two of the three parcels and asked me to open them. One was a connector cable for my laptop that I had said I needed, as the old one was not working properly.

The other package turned out to be a zoom lens of the clip-on variety for my smartphone to help me pursue my passion in flower photography! This second one was a surprise gift for me.

I think I may just have to train myself to push my power nap to later in the afternoon, when the gentle rustling of leaves, and the rhythmic call of the cuckoo bird will lull me to sleep; where I will dream of parcels that may hold more surprise gifts for me!!!

The Indian Crow


The sun is not visible today, but it’s heat can still be felt. I stand on my balcony, looking at the traffic at the junction.

My attention is diverted by a streak of bright yellow that is flitting between the branches of a tree. I realize that it is a beautiful oriole, busily going about his day. I keep watching the oriole for a while. My attention is then drawn to the pigeons – sitting on ledges, swooping down, taking a breather. There are so many of them.

Then I begin to wonder. There is not a crow in sight. In fact, I haven’t seen one in the neighbourhood in a long, long time.

I keep seeing mynas, sparrows, parrots and hornbills, but never a crow.

And suddenly I feel nostalgic. Nostalgic for my childhood, where the crow formed an integral part of our lives.

Image courtesy – Wikipedia

Where the crow featured as the hero in many of the stories told to us by our grandmom and aunts – intelligent in some stories, foolish in some stories, thirsty and intelligent in some others. But the crow’s presence in our lives could never be ignored.

Babies were fooled into swallowing uninterestimg vegetables and yummy rasam rice, when a crow swooped into their yards. Babies were mesmerised by this bird, whose caws in the gentle afternoon breeze sounded like lullabies.

When we were growing up, most Indian women would put out some cooked rice for the crows, on their window ledges or terraces, before serving food to the family.

The crows were so used to this that they would show up at the prescribed window ledge or terrace at the appointed hour. And, if for some reason there was a delay in the arrival of their food, the crows would caw loudly, causing the woman of the house to hurry up!

My aunt had names for the crows that visited her window ledge, and would talk to them everyday, and affectionately chide them if they cawed too loudly.

Such was the role that crows played in our childhood. The crow was truly one of our childhood heroes.

A Night on the ‘Mottai Maadi’ (Terrace)


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Recently, I visited the city of Chennai (formerly Madras), after nearly a decade. This city holds very fond memories for me and as the cab drove into the city from the airport I was amazed at how the city had changed and grown.

It was late in the evening when we drove towards the suburbs and here again, I was surprised to see that there were very few independent houses left, most of the landscape consisted only of apartment blocks.

Chennai houses are famous for their terraces or ‘mottai maadis‘ , which are used for drying vegetables for pickling, for sun-drying ‘vadams‘ (cousins of pappadums), for airing mattresses, for family gatherings during functions, and many more things.

But, for me,  the most pleasurable memory of these terraces  was when the entire family would go up to the terrace for nights-out under the stars.  Summers in the city were stifling, and temperatures could soar to above 40 degrees celsius.  Those were the days when we could not afford air-conditioners.

Preparations for such night-outs started just after sundown. A couple of us would go up to the terrace with a broom,  buckets & plastic mugs. We would first sweep the terrace & clear all the dry leaves that had fallen in. Most terraces had a tap connected to the overhead water tank. From this tap we would fill our buckets, and then with the mugs,  splash water all over the terrace. When the first mugs of water fell on the terrace, that distinct and aromatic smell of ‘parched-earth- guzzling-water’, would float our way. A few sniffs, and we would splash a few more rounds of water on the terrace. In about 30 minutes the terrace was dry and cool, the water having carried away the day’s heat.

After a relaxed dinner, the family would make its way up with straw mats, pillows and bed sheets. With a lot of giggling and fun,  the mats were rolled and beds readied. Stainless steel jugs of water and tumblers were kept in a corner.

The family would lie down and feel the gentle evening breeze from the Bay of Bengal whispering through each terrace, through the coconut trees & the neem trees that most houses had. The sounds of the city at night reached our ears – the distant sound of the electric train, the dull roar of traffic on the highway, music blaring from some temple in the neighbourhood, a crow that cawed when it was disturbed in its slumber….

And as the stars twinkled away, my Dad would sing his favourite sixties songs from old Bollywood movies, and we would all join him, our voices echoing through the night.

With the stars as night lamps and the cool lullaby of the breeze, one by one we would all drop off …..   the sounds of the city gently fading away.