Hewwo!!!


What a year 2020 continues to be! Most of us have pretty much lived this year cooped up indoors; while feeling grateful for the gifts of technology and social media that have helped us stay connected with loved ones.

My role as a virtual aunt continues, as I watch and interact with my niece and nephew through video calls.

I was on a video call with my sister last night when my niece, who had gone downstairs with her dad, got back home after getting some fresh air.

My niece, who is 22 months old, recognized me and came over to talk to me, her Pemma (mom’s older sister).

And she gave me the brightest smile ever, and said, “Hewwo Pemma, Hewwo.”

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

I blew kisses. And suddenly the screen turned black. After a few seconds, my niece appeared again, and I said, “Hewwo sweetie” …and the screen went black again.

I called out to my sister, and asked her to help my niece hold the phone properly. My sister told me that my niece knew perfectly well how to hold the phone, but the reason the screen was turning black was because each time I said hello or blew kisses at her, she was hugging me by giving the phone a hug.

Awwwwww….. “Bless you my little one.” Even virtual hugs can melt one’s heart.

Web of imagination


Many, many years ago, when my two-year old son had just started devouring picture books and peg puzzles, one of his favourite books was a peg puzzle book about farm animals. He would constantly take the animal pegs out and put them back in, calling out their names – cow, pig, horse, duck and so on.

Soon after, and when my son was still in love with the book, we visited my husband’s parents. Seeing how much my son loved the farm book, my father-in-law decided to take him to a nearby farm to show him the cows there. All of us went along!

My son kept jabbering away on our drive to the farm. When he finally saw the cows, he froze. His eyes were like saucers. He backed away at jetspeed saying, “These cows are soooooo big…my peg cow is small.”

Courtesy – http://www.pexels.com

Completely overwhelmed, he came running to me and asked to be lifted. When I carried him, he buried his head in my shoulder, trying to make sense of what he had seen and what he had believed was a cow till that point!!!

Only at that time did we realize that he had not yet seen a cow in real life. It took a while for him to process and correlate what he had seen.

Cut to yesterday. I was on a video call with my sister, and the moment we started talking, my niece wanted to tell me a story from a picture book she was reading.

She narrated the story of The Lion and the Mouse. She narrated each line with special effect sounds and voice modulation, her eyes and hands expressing what she couldn’t articulate in words. And then she said, “You know, Pemma, “The lion was caught by a hunter.”

She wanted to convey that the lion was trapped in the hunter’s net. And in her mind, the picture of the hunter’s net she had seen in her book looked like a spider’s web.

She finished her story with a flourish, “The lion was caught in the spider’s web, Pemma. Then the mouse helped the lion escape, and they lived happily ever after.”

As I hung up, I thought about young kids, and their innocent and colourful imagination. And how at some point, reality takes over!!

Healthy clothes


It is yet another humid afternoon in the tropics. My phone buzzes, and I pick it up excitedly. It’s my sister. Soon we are both in that land that sisters inhabit, where conversations can morph from being serious to being silly in a mere second; where we can break into song or seamlessly glide into an argument with each other!!!

Soon, my little niece walks in and seats herself on my sister’s lap. She has just woken up from her mid-morning nap, and looks refreshed and cheerful.

She is wearing a white frock, on which are embroidered various colourful fruits. When I ask her about them, she pretends to pluck at them and feeds me fruit and says cutely, “Pemma, eat.”

I make chomping noises, and she giggles. And this game goes on for sometime. My niece soon gets distracted by a dog, and goes away to watch it from the balcony.

My sister then shares a funny incident that happened earlier this week.

With everyone working from home, my sister had given my niece a box of dates, and had asked her to transfer the dates from that box into another one. After a while, my sister was completely caught up in her work, and quite forgot about both the dates and the boxes.

Photo by Naim Benjelloun from Pexels

Later in the evening, when she took out a load of washed laundry from the washing machine, she found specks of brown on most of the clothes. She tried to figure out what the brown flakes were, but could not.

A couple of days later, when she wanted some dates and looked for the box, she found that it was empty. She called my niece, and asked her where she had put the dates.

My niece walked to the washing machine, and said, “Me put here.”

My sister burst out laughing! The healthy clothes had to be washed again. Sigh!

Virtual Aunt


On a humid evening in February last year, I was in a long, snaking queue of passengers waiting to board a flight.

My evening was magically transformed, when I received a call that my sister had just delivered a baby girl. And from then on, till I boarded the flight, it was just excited texting and calling on our various family and extended family groups.

When I landed at my destination, and switched on my phone, I was greeted by the cutest picture of my tiny niece, her eyes tightly shut, tiny fingers curled around a cosy blanket. And my heart filled with love and tenderness!!!

In mid-June last year, I had the opportunity to visit my sister and of course my darling niece, who was by then gurgling, making eye-contact and dishing out sweet toothless smiles of recognition. She was like a tiny doll, and I carried her with me wherever I went.

Soon it was time to head back home, to catch another flight – back to a world inhabited by teens, a world far removed from gurgles and toothless grins.

And the year flew by on wings, and I watched my niece virtually, on video calls each week – watched her crawl, sit up, have solids, recognize colours; watched her hair grow out into beautiful curly ringlets, watched her smiling with her first cute milk tooth.

And thus 2019 disappeared to inhabit the pages of history. When we rang in the New Year, little did I know that I would not be able to travel at all this year – that I would miss my niece’s first birthday party.

A few months ago, on a call with my sister, I watched my niece taking her first tentative steps.

I am now a fully qualified Virtual Aunt, who engages her niece on video calls. Now, when I call my sister, my niece ambles over to grin and babble with her Virtual Aunt, whom she now recognizes very well.

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

The best gift was last week, when she walked over and said, “Hi Pamma”….( a baby version of Periamma, or mom’s elder sister). My heart just melted.

I thank technology for making such beautiful moments possible during these difficult times.

Little brother, big brother


My little nephew, all of six, keeps his four older cousins on their toes, whenever the whole family meets up during the holidays.

It is fun to watch these four teenagers drop all their eye-rolling and headphone wearing behaviour to play games that my nephew wants. Games that mostly involve buses, cars, airplanes and a lot of role-playing and running around.

Image courtesy – http://www.123rf.com

He demands and gets their undivided attention, from the moment he is up everyday till he decides that he’s had enough.

And woe betide the cousin, who slinks away to do teen things. He goes after them and ensures that they get back to being drivers or pilots. But the older kids indulge their little brother every single time. They call him ‘their bundle of cuteness.’

When we all met up during the December holidays last year, my son and my nephew were engaged in playing games the entire morning. By lunch time, my son wanted a break. He pleaded with my nephew, who would not let go, and the boys ended up squabbling.

In just a few minutes, my son walked out and sat down on the couch, with a loud sigh.

My nephew came to me, clutching the right side of his chest and said, “Periamma, you know he (pointing at my son) punched me on my heart.”

My son jumped up to retaliate, “I did not” and then with his eyes narrowed my son said, “By the way your heart is on the left of your body, not the right, so this proves that I did no wrong.”

My nephew looked slightly taken aback, but was not going to back down. Very quickly he shifted his palm and placed it slightly below his right chest and said, “Ok, not my heart, but he punched my right lung.”

The entire household burst out laughing.

And very soon the two brothers made up and disappeared to play.

How quickly time flies.

And, just this week, my little nephew has a baby sister in his life. A tiny, pretty doll, whom he adores.

He has transitioned smoothly from being a little brother to being a big brother. He spends all his free time looking after her, cooing to her and generally showering her with love.

Time flies, kids grow, but our love only gets deeper for little, big brothers and their even tinier sisters.

A whiff of nostalgia


My daughter and I are out shopping. The mall is crowded with shoppers, all of them on a mission.

My daughter’s list is both simple and complicated. Simple because her colour choices are limited to only black or blue. Complicated because we are scouring every shop looking for that particular top or dress that matches the image she has in her mind. Our time is limited, so we are walking down each aisle, our eyes piercingly intent on the task at hand.

After what seems like ages, my daughter pronounces herself satisfied; mainly because of the addition of a black hoodie to her collection.

On the way out of the mall, I quickly rush to pick up a lip liner and a compact from my favourite brand. And, as I wait in line to pay, my eyes are drawn to a red box that looks familiar. I go over to see it up close.

I was right! This was the first perfume that I had bought with my own money, nearly two decades ago. I had saved up to buy three things – this perfume, a camera and a hair dryer, all of which weresome of my treasured possessions then.

I pick up the tester bottle, and gently spray the perfume on my wrist. I inhale…just a whiff…and I am transported.

Courtesy – http://www.istockphotos.com

Transported to another time in my life, where there was no husband and kids, where life revolved around my career, parents and siblings.

A life that was filled with so many possibilities and fun. It was time spent with friends, and shopping. It was time spent wondering about the future. It was time spent on my red bike that took me everywhere. It was also a time of loss, when my grandmom died, and a time of joyous celebration when my niece was born the next year.

It was the threshold time before both marriage and motherhood; a time that was my own.

I smile and share some of these memories with my daughter. “When did I stop using this perfume”, I ask myself.

But that’s life for you – as it takes you on new journeys, other fragrances and experiences enrich you, making you forget the old and the sweet.

But, all it took was a whiff ….to bring it all back. My daughter sniffs appreciatively and asks if she can use it. I say yes.

And very soon, she will also embark on new journeys and create her own memories, which I hope are as fragrant as this perfume that’s wafting in the air.