Mama Oriole


There once lived a beautiful bird couple Mrs & Mr. Golden Oriole. They had met, fallen in love and made their home in a rich tropical jungle that was lush with fruits and vegetation, where the sun played hide and seek with the fronds, where colourful butterflies chased each other all day, and where the beautiful sounds of heavy rainfall were often heard.

After the monsoon season, Mrs. Oriole had three beautiful eggs in her nest, and patiently cared for them and kept them warm. Mr.Oriole was puffed up with pride as a soon-to-be-dad, taking care of the missus and keeping her happy. Mrs.Oriole had many dreams for her three children. She had to be brought out of her reverie quite often!

And soon, there was chirping to be heard from their nest. Mrs.Oriole had now become Mama Oriole, as she would now be known, her own identity subsumed into her role as a mother. From dawn to dusk, the Orioles were busy nurturing and caring for their hatchlings, whom they named Orin, Orion and Oreo.

Courtesy – http://www.shutterstock.com

In a few days, as the chicks opened their eyes and got to know their parents and the world, Mama Oriole seemed rather anxious. She did not know if she was imagining it, but could sense that her little Oreo was different from her other two kids. She did not know how, but she knew. She kept a careful watch, her anxiety increasing as the days flew by. Soon, it was time to teach her babies to fly. And that is when she found that her Oreo had a problem with one of his wings, and could not use it as well as his other one.

In just a few days, Orin and Orion were able to fly and behaved just like other siblings, squabbling and fighting and teasing each other. Mama Oriole watched Oreo, who smiled but could not comprehend or interact with his siblings. He could fly, but only short distances. Her heart filled with pain. From then on, her life transformed. She dedicated herself to encouraging and motivating Oreo all she could. She spent extra time teaching him, coaching him and loving him. Her life, as she knew it had changed, as she put her needs, her friends and her social life on the backburner; for she had to raise her Oreo into a confident young bird, who could take on the world despite all his limitations.

On some afternoons, when she needed some time to think, and when Papa Oriole took over, she flew to the mountains, craving some peace and time to dwell on life and all its machinations.

She came back from such sojourns with renewed vigour, determined to do whatever it took to give Oreo a good chance at life. She identified that Oreo could whistle beautiful tunes. She encouraged him to practice, she constantly clapped and cheered and built Oreo’s confidence. She roped in Orin and Oreon to encourage their sibling, and to take him out and have fun with him.

Her day began and ended with Oreo. At night, when the crickets set up their chorus and the predators were on the prowl, and when her Oreo cuddled up to her, Mama Oriole experienced a love like no other. A mom’s love.

She was his mother, and he was her world, and she believed in him and loved him. She would always be there for him, no matter what.

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.

A Blue Watch and Penne Arrabiata…


My daughter has a blue, digital watch. She received the watch as a gift from her grandparents, when she was nine years old. My daughter fell in love with the watch the moment she set eyes on it, and wears it to this day!

The blue watch has been her constant companion all these years, and would probably qualify as a best-friend-of-sorts.

The colour has faded, the strap is worn in places, the glass has scratches, but my daughter will not hear of retiring this watch.

She is at an age when clothes and accessories are very much in her radar, but this watch, whose colour does not match any of her clothes (read – clothes which are in various shades of black or grey or silver), is on her wrist always.

Yesterday, my daughter suddenly announced that she would prepare dinner for all of us – Penne Arrabiata. This was her first attempt at cooking. She listed the ingredients, went to the supermarket, asked me for measuring cups and spoons, and was soon busy chopping tomatoes, crushing garlic, rolling basil leaves and chopping them artistically.

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Olive oil was warmed in the wok, and soon the heavenly smell of ‘garlic frying’ was in the air. All of us waited patiently, as the aroma wafted and made our tongues water in anticipation.

Soon, she announced that dinner was ready. We rushed to the table. The pasta was served beautifully; with cheese drizzled on top. Fresh basil leaves completed the presentation, and we were ready to tuck-in.

Delicious. Yummy!!! We were in bliss, and heaped compliments on her. Her eyes twinkled in joy, and she acknowledged our praise.

Later, I watched her clearing up the kitchen, her blue watch still on her wrist, a permanent fixture!

And it hit me then! On one hand my daughter did not want to let go of her watch; a watch she’s had for so many years; on the other hand, she would soon be on her own, cooking her own meals and taking her own decisions.

As her mother, both these thoughts played in my head. Much as I wanted her to replace the old watch, a part of me wanted her to keep it, so that it could give her comfort and keep her childhood memories alive, when she leaves home to pursue her own dreams.