Tailor made


Earlier today, I chanced upon some black and white photos from my childhood. The pictures made me smile. My sister and I are wearing identical frocks in most of those pictures.

That was how it was back then. We would go to a garment shop, and choose running lengths of fabric. We would head to the tailor shop afterwards, for our measurements to be taken. The tailor would make identical clothes for my siblings and me, only the sizes were different.

The tailor’s shop was located in the crowded market in our town. It was a small shop that had a narrow entrance. The shop had shelves along all its walls, running from the floor to the ceiling. One could barely see the shelves, crammed as they were with customer orders.

I always wondered how the tailor was able to remember, when each order was due. Deep within the recesses of the shop were the sewing machines, all of them busy all the time, with men or women bent intently on a frock or a blouse or a shirt.

The main tailor, usually had a pencil tucked behind his ear, and a measuring tape slung around his neck. He measured, noted, gave instructions to his staff and managed the whole pipeline.

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

While, during non-festival times, the tailor usually delivered our orders promptly, it was not so during festivals, especially Deepavali.

The fabric buying took place at least a month and a half before Deepavali. We would rush to the tailor to place our orders. And even at that early date, the tailor would lament about the pipeline, and about how difficult it was going to be to deliver our clothes early.

And then the negotiations on the delivery date would commence – between my parents and the tailor. We would come home with a receipt for collection and an acceptable date for pick-up.

Just a fortnight before our due date, whenever we visited the market, we would drop-in at the tailor shop to give him a gentle reminder. There were no mobiles or text messages to do the job. The tailor would nod and wave vigorously each time – to reassure us that he had not forgotten us.

Our dad would usually pick up the tailored clothes on his way back from work. After dinner, we would get a peek at our new clothes. They were packed away and stored carefully till Deepavali.

The years just flew by, and then came the era of off-the shelf clothes, and our visits to the tailor dwindled.

However, after marriage, we Indian woman still go to the tailor to get out saree blouses stitched – ‘tailor made’ exclusively for us!

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Love in a jackfruit seed


I love my work table, and the organized clutter on it. It is where I feel at peace, where I write, and where I keep all the documents and to do lists that I am juggling with, at any given moment.

On my table is also a small rectangular tray, in which I store stickers, post-its, drawings and small gifts from my children.

In this box is a jackfruit seed, its coat a little loose now. This jackfruit seed was gifted to me by my daughter, about four years ago. She drew eyes, a nose and a mouth. The eyes were on all sides, so that any side you turned the seed, a pair of eyes stared back at you.

I still remember that afternoon. We had just come back from the supermarket with two boxes of jackfruit.

We usually cut open the fruit, preserve the seeds and add them to a lentil based gravy. The seed becomes tender upon cooking, and adds a nice flavour to the dish.

My daughter took away one of the seeds for the gift she was to make for me.

As she observed the seed, I told her stories from my childhood. We lived in a small town in the hills, and it was quite cold for eight out of twelve months in a year.

We had a small cast iron stove called a kumutti aduppu that looked like this.

Image courtesy – Pinterest

This stove had many uses. My grandma would load it with coal and light it up. One had to keep fanning the coal to keep the fire going.

On rainy days, when clothes (especially baby clothes) needed to dry, a basket was placed over the kumutti’s embers, and small baby frocks and shirts would dry on them.

Small pieces of fragrant resin called benzoin resin, sambrani, were thrown into the coal embers. The resin emitted a lovely fragrance, considered to be therapeutic.

On the weekends, when all of us had our traditional oil baths, the sambrani would be thrown into the kumutti, and a basket placed over it. The fragrant smoke would seep out through the cracks in the basket, and dry our wet hair and infuse it with fragrance.

We would also throw in jackfruit seeds into the kumutti, and allow them to roast. Our grandma would take them out carefully, cool them and give them to us to eat.

Truly beautiful memories.

I come back to the here and now. My daughter walks in and sees the jackfruit seed.

“Mom, can’t believe you still have this.”

I smile.

I have many such gifts from the kids, each with its own allied memories, and lots of love.

Out of bounds


When we were kids, there were certain things and areas in our home that were out of bounds to us – our Dad’s bookshelf, his stationery cupboard and his files; our mom’s wardrobe and steel almirah, and our aunt’s knitting basket!

My Dad could sense if his files and papers had moved even an inch, and I don’t need to even talk about my mom’s antennae.

On rare occasions, we were given the privilege of peeking into my mom’s wardrobe or seeing my dad’s important papers and stationery.

These treats usually happened on long weekends or holidays, when my Dad would decide to clean his cupboard, or when my mom decided to clean hers.

We were allowed to watch and help as long as we were careful and didn’t behave irresponsibly.

We could barely contain our excitement, when we saw the creamy white paper or pens and lovely paper clips that our father had. My hands wanted to possess one of those notepads – to write (not sure what??).

If our Dad was happy with us, we would usually get something from his treasure trove. He would sometimes read out quotations from his notebook, or show us pencil sketches from his college days.

The things we collected thus were so precious, if only because our father had kept them so beautifully. We felt honoured to receive an old notepad or empty diary or a fountain pen.

When our mom opened her almirah, we would gaze in wonder at her beautiful silk sarees, neatly hanging in a line. There was the beautiful fragrance of sandalwood that gushed out of the wardrobe from the fragrance pouches she used.

Image courtesy – Dreamstime.com

Shiny sarees, the occasional sequinned saree, ornate jewelry boxes – we got glimpses of these as mom took out stuff, cleaned her cupboards and put them back in.

There was also a small, square, metal piggy bank that our mom had. It had the picture of a happy family on one side, and for the longest time I thought that it was ‘our family picture’. The piggy bank had a complicated locking mechanism, and we watched our mom pick out the key from a bunch of other important-looking keys to unlock the piggy bank.

When the cleaning was done, we usually went back to play or to study; knowing that those areas were out of bounds to us again….till the next time.

Yay! My Blog turns 3 today


Dear friends,

Three years ago, on the 25th of January 2015, I posted my first blog; to give the words and sentences that constantly dance in my head a chance to narrate their simple, everyday experiences.

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

Writing about these simple moments has made me a keen observer of all those small jigsaw pieces that fit seamlessly into each other, making our lives so vibrant and complete!

This journey, however, is not only about writing. It is also about having met such wonderful bloggers and readers from around the world, who have encouraged and motivated me to keep this blog going. I am deeply grateful to you all for the constant support, and for taking the time to read my blog and leaving your likes and comments.

My blog stats show that I have written 393 posts over these three years! Phew! Can’t believe I have actually written so much.

I hope to continue this journey and capture these simple moments that form the mosaic of our lives.

Thank you all so very much.

Best,

Nimi

Chance meeting


We are in a cab, making our way across the city of Bengaluru in India.

As a mother, I have reached ‘that’ stage, where I am not given a choice to opt for a window seat in any vehicle. I am sandwiched between my kids. It is a pleasant day, and we have rolled down the windows.My husband sits in the front, lost in thought, and I suspect, also trying to catch a few winks.

There is heavy traffic, and our progress is stilted. The kids play a game of word building.

After a while, the congestion eases, and we start moving.

All of a sudden, an autorickshaw pulls up alongside our cab. The auto driver waves wildly at our cab driver, and shouts out a loud greeting.

Our cab driver is pepped-up now. He recognizes an old friend. And for the next hundred meters, the two vehicles drive in perfect synchronization.

Image courtesy – Clipart Panda

A time during which the two men exchange pleasantries and catch-up on each others’ lives. Their grins are infectious, their excitement palpable.

Our cabbie sits up straighter, and looks recharged.

Soon, the time comes for the two friends to part ways. One takes a left, the other takes a right. They say their goodbyes.

Our journey continues.

This makes me think. We meet many people who travel with us on this journey called life, who share our time, space, emotions and memories.

For reasons unknown, we do not meet most of these people ever again; but sometimes we do bump into someone we know from our past.

Life pauses for a bit for us to rewind and remember, and then moves on, taking us towards new experiences and people.

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.

‘Creating’ memories


The days are flying, and there are days when time seems to have vanished between sunrise and sunset. I try to recall what I did or what I ate, but I am simply not able to remember. Where did the day go?

However, I can easily identify every single classmate of mine from old school photos. I can remember the lyrics to most of the songs we heard as children.

But now, when someone asks me to sing any new song, I can only remember the tune, and I make up my own lyrics on the fly, much to the embarrassment of my children.

Earlier this week, I was a participant in an event, where our group performed a medley of songs.

We had lots of fun preparing for the event. However, all of us had a problem with our memories and the lyrics. For the first few days we used papers and our phones.

But as with everything else, confidence comes only if we are word perfect. So we tried our best to do away with the papers and our phones.

But this presented another problem – this effort required absolute concentration, where we could not allow even a stray thought to intrude into our minds.

One stray thought and the lyrics just flew away, leaving us opening and closing our mouths like fish, trying desperately to get the lyrics back into our heads.

Courtesy – http://www.123rf.com

What happened to those memory chain games where a group of us sat and reeled off names of animals or fruits and added a new animal or fruit to the already long list?

These days, if I don’t remember to write things down, there is a 100% chance that they will be washed away from my memory, making sure to come back and haunt me in the future.

Once I make my lists, I need alarms on my phone as back up. What if I don’t remember to see the list?

And this is how it is now, my life, trying to ‘create’ memories of simple, everyday things.