Ain’t so cool!


I got this picture on our family group a few days ago. My little niece is able to stand now, and one of her very first projects was to check out the refrigerator.

In her earlier crawling phase, my niece would smile and gurgle in delight if she was in the vicinity when the door of the refrigerator was opened. But now, she is able to hold on to things and walk, and she heads to the refrigerator often, pointing out and babbling her intentions to her parents.

At 1 year, she looks at each object with fascination. She touches the cold tomatoes and the glass bottles. She tries to pull things out. Her parents are on alert, allowing her to explore this new world, while also ensuring that she is safe. Everything inside the refrigerator is exciting – the colours, the textures and the cold air.

Cut to the scene in my house. My kids are also frequent visitors to our refrigerator. After all, it serves as a pit stop for them during their hectic day, when they seek rejuvenation of both their spirit and their energy.

My kids open the refrigerator. They see its fully stocked insides. They rummage through each rack; they open the freezer. They explore all the sauces and bottles on the door. They can see fresh fruit, some snacks, cans of juice, chocolate and Indian sweets. They cluck in exasperation. “Mooooooommmmmm”, they holler, “…is there anything interesting to eat?”

I deliberately point out all the edible snacks they can devour, but none of them seem to pass muster. And reluctantly, they make their choice from what’s available, muttering to each other that there’s nothing interesting to eat EVER.

What a contrast between the two age groups. Sigh! And as every mom with teenagers knows, this cycle is on autoloop, and the ending will always be the same. I quietly go back to what I was doing.

Amma


After marriage and kids, rare indeed are the opportunities for one to spend quality time with one’s mom, especially if both of you live in different cities.

I’ve suddenly got this opportunity to make a dashing visit to my mom’s place, at the end of a long, busy day.

It is past 11 pm when I reach. I hear my mom’s cheerful voice the moment I ring the calling bell.

I am enveloped in a huge mom-hug. And, as we chatter away, trying to catch up on all news, she walks into the kitchen and comes back with a hot cup of filter coffee, prepared to perfection, just the way I like it.

I stretch out and revel in the joy of spending time with my mom, without the kids to interrupt or ask their hundred questions. Our conversation meanders from the past to the future and back to the present.

She gently prods me to the dining table to eat. And, unbeknownst to myself I wolf down the hottest, softest and yummiest chappatis, with green moong dal sabzi and tomato chutney, washed down with mom’s love and more coffee.

Memories of times past come rushing back – when the whole family used to sit around the table at dinner time arguing, laughing, singing and sharing our fears, success stories and failures.

I stretch and unwind like I haven’t done in a long time. There is a sense of peace and contentment – of being a child again, completely pampered for a few hours, of being at the receiving end of pure unadulterated love, mom’s love.

In the morning, as I leave, she hugs me, and pins a strand of fragrant jasmine flowers on my hair.

My eyes mist over. It is time to go, back to my duties and to my family.

Love you, Amma. There is simply no one like you.

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…!

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.

Shopping with a teen


I love shopping, like every other woman. I can spend hours trying on clothes and accessories, and walking till my heels beg me to sit down. 

But shopping with a teen is another experience altogether. So we have jeans, tees and other tops on our shopping list. My daughter’s requirements are specific. She knows exactly what she wants, and goes looking for them with determination.

So, we go to the jeans store. My eyes pop with the sheer variety and cuts. All kinds of designs.

My daughter wants something cool. The shop assistant brings a pair that has scratches on the thighs. Like a cat clawed the cloth. My daughter finds this appealing.

Then we see ‘distressed’ jeans. I prefer the cat scratches. Sigh!

We move on to the t-shirts. My daughter brings 7 or 8 to try on. But they are all black in colour, with silver or white designs.

I ask her why she would want to look like the night sky all the time. She merely gives me that ‘Mom, I know what I am doing look’.

Courtesy – Clipart Panda

We go around in circles, getting loaded with black. Accessories are not very different – cool is feathers, cool is ‘can’t even see the dot that passes off for a earring’, cool is long chains. 

We finally finish. My daughter is so excited with her shopping. I amble home. I enjoy her energy.

 I know that her tastes will change. Vibrant colours will wash into her wardrobe, she will experiment. She will find her own sense of style that defines the unique person she is. She will stop trying to fit in and learn to be more comfortable in her skin. 

We will go shopping again, my daughter and I. We will sit down with aching feet and smile at the fun day we shared, sipping an aromatic cup of coffee. 

Letter mirrors


A few years ago, when my Dad passed away, and my mom was clearing out some old stuff, she chanced upon a bundle of letters that I had written to my parents, when I was in my twenties and  working in London.

She had preserved them carefully, organized by date; each letter safely tucked in its original envelope. The envelopes had frayed edges, where my parents would have opened or torn them to get to my letters.

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          Courtesy – http://www.123rf.com

A few days later, when I visited my mom, she asked me if I wanted to keep the letters, because they were filled with my everyday observations of London (one of my favourite cities), to my dreams and aspirations, and lots of photos and humourous observations. Of course, every letter was an outpouring of love to my parents, my aunt, my sisters and to my adorable niece, who was 2 months old then.

I took the letters with me, and sat down to read them. I must have had lots of time, especially in winter, for no letter was shorter than 14 pages!

Through those letters, I relived my life in its twenties. I could see that young woman, with so many dreams and aspirations, looking at her future and its immense possibilities.

I loved reliving London, with its tube stations, and the weather, and the long walks I often took. I remembered the scones and jacket potatoes. I remember how many books I read on my trips in the tube. I learnt so many, many things. I travelled, I walked and I read.

I fast forward to the now. How have I changed? Lots of things are still the same, but I have mellowed. I am a wife now, a mom now. My priorities are quite different.

Many of those dreams are still inside, waiting to be realized, maybe after the kids go to university.

Life was independence, fun, young and filled with lots of possibilities ‘then’.

Life is dependence, love, ageing and filled with dreams and possibilities for the family ‘now’.

Different phases, both beautiful. Wouldn’t trade either.

The Curious Case Of The Grazing Sheep


I am spring cleaning my digital cupboard today. A virtual cupboard distributed around the house, across numerous phones and laptops and tablets.  How did we manage to hoard so many files? Music, photos…phew! Millions of them. Selfies…(who started this trend?). My eyes hurt with clearing up.

I am ready to give up within the hour. Maybe I should take this up device-by- device. With that decision made, I feel less daunted.

As I browse through the photos, a couple of them from late last year make me smile.

A couple of years ago, we picked up a unique chess set from New Zealand, during our holiday there.

The chess board has green and yellow squares and all the pieces are sheep – black sheep (ha ha) and white sheep.

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I treasure this chess set a lot; and my kids are banned from using it to play chess – as the material from which the set is made is breakable.

Late last year, my little nephew came to visit. After having his milk in the morning, he would walk around the living room. I conducted conversations with him from the kitchen, as I experience the ‘mom-goes-crazy-every-morning’ syndrome, and was usually tied-up with my chores.

When the children left for school and I sat down for a breather, I was amused to see that the sheep had started grazing in the meadow. My ‘no-one-touches-this-chess set’ policy flew through the window.

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This picture was taken that day.

So everyday, till he was with us, my little nephew grazed his sheep in the green and yellow meadow.

Reverse Spooked


My son has just come back from school. He looks a little off-colour. He has his snack and runs down to play with his friends.

When he gets home, he still looks a little worried. I sit him down for a mom-son talk.

“Is everything ok?” I ask.

“I am scared”, he replies.

“Scared of what?” I ask.

“Today, in school, all the boys talked about an evil ghost called ‘Bloody Mary’. They have warned me that if I visit the bathroom after dark and look into the mirror, I will see her face and her scratch marks. Can I stay with you? I am terrified”, he replies.

I guffaw loudly and rubbish him saying, “Your friends are trying to fool you because this is April. ‘Bloody Mary’ is actually a cocktail, containing vodka and tomato juice. Don’t believe all these stories.”

I continue to smile as I remember such stories that went around when we were kids, but my son still looks  worried and afraid.

I try to calm him down and bring the iPad to show him what a Bloody Mary looks like.

So I sit next to him and type Bloody Mary on Google images.

I do a double take as I see horrible looking pictures of a ghost, blood dripping, hollow eyes…there are only a few pictures of the cocktail.

My son screams in fear, “See, I told you.”

I quickly close Google. I am working on damage control now. Sigh!

Childhood Treasures


It is cleaning time at home. Today I attack the children’s room.  There is a box labeled ‘to be sorted later’, which has art and other school projects that the children have worked on, over the years.  The idea is to make a scrapbook (digital or physical) of these ‘great pieces of art’ that have been instrumental in moulding the children’s personalities.  Today, I decide to get started on this task with fervour.  Setting a deadline of three hours, within which to get a broad sorting done, I plunge into the task.
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Soon, I see the first drawing my daughter ever made of a small girl with curly hair.

I see a green parrot with a red beak.

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I see my son playing weather man, when he actually  made a weather report for the week, after studying the topic ‘weather’ at school. He predicted rain on Thursday!!

I see the world through their eyes, Dad & Mom stick figures with red hearts filled with such innocent and pure love.

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I see mom’s day cards with the pure and innocent love that only children can give unselfishly; I have been given a ‘ruby’, which is somehow more precious to my son than a ‘diamond’, as he has made a special mention of this fact.

I see their simple sketches of a  girl taking her dog out for a walk on a warm sunny day. I see three chickens hatching from Easter eggs.Slide14Slide2

I see their interpretation of a green meadow, with clumps of grass across the page.  I see rainbow coloured elephants and a happy rabbit bounding in a jungle with beautiful butterflies for company.

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I see a desert scene with camels and the Sphinx, I see walruses with two ‘tusksksk’ (not sure of the spelling here), I see ‘dizines’ of flowers and a ‘rangoli’ crafted out of paper.

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I see the repetition of a ‘mom’ & ‘dad’ pattern.

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I see three simple sketches of a hen, corn and the Sun, with labels.

I also see a multi-coloured rooster with an equally vibrant worm on a farm

rooster& a grass hopper in green grass.

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I see a Happy Diwali card and a perfectly juicy summery water-melon; I see a bird guarding her nest, a half-completed fire-spewing dragon, and simple sketches of lions.

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I try to go back in time to see what those afternoons or evenings were like, when the children expressed their creativity through these drawings.  Some I remember, most I don’t.  Did a story that they hear in school cause them to draw what they did? Where did these vibrant colours come from, where did these concepts come from?

When I show it them now, they laugh and giggle as they see each of their drawings.  My son says, “Did we really do that?  Was that actually my very first drawing?”

My daughter is very happy that I have saved all these.  The Easter Eggs were her pre-nursery project, nearly a decade ago.  How time has flown. I am so glad I saved these drawings, so glad I could share it with the children and show them how unique and creative both of them are, and encourage them to spend more time expressing their creativity.

Now, I am ready to scan these pictures.  As I pick up the drawings and move towards the scanner, a small paper flies out of the pile.  I stop to pick it up and then my eyes mist over.  It is a cut-out of my son’s palm…I presume that the topic assigned was, ‘Write a few things about hands’.

With all his innocence my son has written these three sentences about ‘hands’.

“Just like our fingerprints, we are different too.”

“Lend a helping hand for people who need it.”Presentation2

“Our hands are some of the body parts that help us bond with others.”

Needless to say, my 3 hours stretched to almost the whole afternoon and early evening.  I carry these new treasures to digitize them and relive my children’s childhoods.

                      nimi naren, 29 Jan 2015