Tag Archives: nostalgia

Scratches on the table

I sit on the dining table, working on my laptop. I absently run my hand on the surface of the table, and realize that the surface has become rough and filled with scratches – the result of Bayblades tested on the table, and school craft projects built on its surface.

Picture courtesy – 123rf.com

My eyes scan our home. There is an incense holder that has been around for many years, unobtrusive and remembered only when I light an incense stick. Then there is the coin box, where all members of the family drop coins from their wallets and purses.  There is the fruit bowl, and the dessert tray, the umbrella holder and the kitchen plates, the key holder and the wooden stool, the bottle-opener and the coffee mugs.

All these objects are integral parts of our lives, but we do not stop to think or remember when we bought them or from where. They are mute spectators to our successes and failures, our joys and grief.  

The printer paper, mobile charger, blender, gas lighter – they are our silent supporters and back-office team. Even if one of them stops functioning, there is an impact – the smooth flow of life is broken – it can be as simple as a missing key or a missing bottle-opener.

The scratches on my table remind me that these little memories are what make up our lives – a scratch here, a stain there, a chipped ceramic mug here, a well-worn carpet there. 

Scratches that store fun family memories in their grooves, stains that show that we have been careless and silly at times, doodles on the walls that speak of a child’s creative expression, old fridge magnets that bring back memories of family holidays, dog eared books showing time spent on reading…and many more such.

Life is in simple, everyday things.

The Toy Cupboard

The days seem to whiz past, the hands of the clock seeming to move faster, when nobody watches them.  The newborn has become a toddler, a tween and a teen. 

Picture courtesy – @ Can Stock Photo

Slivers of silver in the hair; time seems to have stopped briefly, only in digital pictures and short video capsules. 
I stand before the Toy Cupboard in the children’s room. I remember  my discussions with a carpenter (fifteen years ago) to design a toy cupboard that would be both child-friendly and visually appealing. The toy cupboard was delivered, and has been used ever since.

Toys are no longer in the ‘radar’ for my kids. Maybe it is time to retire the cupboard and buy something that would be more relevant.

Easier said than done. I stand before the cupboard looking at clearing some old toys. There are dolls and vehicles, predominantly. 

Barbies, dolls that can close and open their eyes, doll accessories (tons of them) from mini-wardrobes to laundry kits to party and dinner sets.  Echoes from the past waft around, a giggle here, a smile there, a teacher’s game, a mom bakes cookies game, playdough colours stretch these memories into wonderful shapes and vibrant moments.

Afternoons spent combing and braiding dolls’ hair. Then, the move to loom bands and badge-makers, and beading and card-making. Wonderful glittery afternoons spent with coloured tape, beads, string and sequins.

Then, there are the dinosaurs and trucks and cars and Transformers and Ben10 Aliens and more trucks, and magnets and tools and diggers and mixers. Days spent chasing imaginary enemies around the home, the sounds of vehicles moving furiously, accompanying the dash through the house.

Bows and arrows and Nerf guns, a warrior here and an action hero there, peeking from under the cot or standing up bravely for a cause.

Cuddly toy comforters, bits and pieces of broken toys, so many more – each and every one of them associated with a precious memory.

Where did the years fly? I relive those moments all over again.

I may not retire the cupboard. At least, not just yet!

The humble ‘upma’

South Indian cooking has a very long list of tasty dishes from its four states; dishes that range from spicy to tangy to salty to sweet, and many other flavours.

There are a few dishes that are common to all four states, and one of them is the ‘upma’. It is not served with too much fanfare. In restaurants, on the menu card, the upma  is usually listed far down the menu, after one has run through the exotic dosas, vadas and idli varieties, all of which have pride of place in South Indian cooking. 

The  upma is made from semolina. It can be cooked plain, or made interesting with vegetables and cashewnuts.

Why do I talk about the upma, you may wonder? This is because the upma has not been given its due.

In India, at least when we were growing up, people did not call and inform that they were visiting. They would just show up,  unannounced. It was the norm, and at any time of day or night, friends and family were very welcome.

The moment the guests landed up, the kitchen committee comprising my mom and grandmom would kick into high gear. 

And this is where the upma requires to be treated with respect. 

      Courtesywww.dreamstime.com

It was the easiest dish to make for impromptu visitors. The base ingredient, semolina, also lends itself beautifully to be made into a sweet dish called kesari. 

Courtesy – http://www.shutterstock.com
So, the upma was served along with piping hot, frothy filter coffee. Adults had the upma with pickle, while kids had it with sugar.
The upma usually saved the day. It is one of my favourite dishes, though there were times when my sisters and I would pick out all the vegetables in the upma and hide them under our plates, in total innocence, not realizing that our mom could figure out what we had been upto.

Do you have any such dish like the upma? Would love to know!


Mom’s kitchen

The kids are back from school. The humidity is killing, and they look visibly relieved to be back in the cool confines of our home. I get started with preparations to make dosa, a South Indian delicacy that lends itself to many variants.

As I stir the batter and spread it on the tawa, my daughter comes in to the kitchen after her shower. She sniffs and says, “Hmmmm…this smells so good. It smells like grandma’s kitchen.”

I smile. As she eats the crisp, golden dosa with chutney powder, I am transported to my childhood home, and to my mom’s kitchen.

In many ways, the kitchen was the nerve centre of our home. It was rectangular in shape. The cooking range was at one end, while the dining table was at the other end. A square window lit the dining area from 11 am in the morning to mid-afternoon.

Our kitchen was colour coordinated. I remember a red phase and a blue phase. The dining table had an assortment of home-made pickles.

There was always a buzz in the kitchen. With a joint family, there was always something being prepared. We came home from school to the aroma of filter coffee, and dosas with sambhar, or bajjis or some other snack wafting through the air.


Courtesy -www.clipartpanda.com

I spent a lot of time doing Math at the dining table. The radio blared in the background as I tried to solve equations!

My mom would walk between the stove and the table at least a zillion times each day, always cheerful and busy. 

When  all of us sat down to have dinner, even after our plates were dry, we would linger on, either sharing how our day went, or singing or listening to my Dad sharing snippets from his day.

Televesion soaps had not invaded our lives then. We would all listen to the news on the radio, and then head back to our rooms to study or squabble with our siblings, or chit chat with our grandma and aunt.

Truly, the smells of my mom’s kitchen were delicious and filled with love, happiness and bonding.

My Grandma’s Water Bottle

My mom’s generation was lucky enough to have grown up without knowing too much about plastics.

While my grandmom’s generation mostly used brass and bronze vessels and utensils, my mom’s generation used stainless steel.

Today plastics are in. Colourful trendy water bottles of different shapes and sizes, milk cans, lock and lock boxes, and so many more.

Last year my mom distributed all the bronze utensils she had received from my paternal grandmother.  She had earmarked a few pieces for my siblings and me.

I got the cutest looking 100 year old bronze water bottle – we call it a ‘Kooja’. My grandma used to carry milk or water in this Kooja, when she travelled. Most people of the time had Kooja water bottles.

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I so love this beautiful water bottle. It is made of bronze. It is also quite heavy. It brings back memories of my grandma. I can imagine my grandma in her saree, carrying this Kooja.

My Kooja sits on one of my corner tables, constantly reminding me of our lovely traditions and history.

I love my Kooja.

Do you have any such thing from your grandparents? Would love to know.

A tale of two wrist watches

I have a plastic box in my wardrobe, which contains two wrist watches.  The watches are old.  Each of these watches has its own story.

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The bigger watch of the two belonged to my Dad.  After his death, my sisters and I chose a few items from my Dad’s belongings.  I chose a shirt, his books of quotations and this watch. For quite a while after my Dad’s death, I teared up each time I saw these things.

” Can material things ever make-up for a person’s absence?” I asked myself.  But over time, I realized that material things may not fill the void in your heart, but they can bring back wonderful memories.  As the pain of separation wore away, in its place came fun memories that I shared with my Dad.  The way he would take off his wrist watch the moment he came back from work, placing it on his cupboard at a specific place, along with his pen.

In the wee hours of the morning, when my sisters and I peeked at the world from inside our quilts, we would see our Dad humming to himself and winding his watch.  I still remember how his hand felt, and how the watch was positioned on his hand.

He changed the leather strap twice, if I remember right.  We gifted him watches when we each started working, but till the end, this watch was his favourite.  The watch that marched with him, every second.

So many things in this simple watch.

The other smaller watch was my ‘first watch’.  I was in high school, and I still remember I had gone out for extra classes to school.  It was the Indian festival of ‘Sankranti‘ in January, and I walked in to the yummy smell of ‘sweet pongal‘ being cooked.  I remember my parents calling me to the dining table.  They asked me to close my eyes, and to stretch out my arm.  I still remember my Dad wrapping the watch on my hand.  A simple, elegant watch.  They told me it was for my board exams, to help me manage time.  It was a great surprise, and I remember how happy I was.  I hugged both of them.

These two watches are so precious, for they connect me to my Dad, and to my parents for all the dreams they had for me, and believing in me always.

Love you Amma and Dad.  Thank you for everything.

Life and its many moments

Yesterday, after a nice Sunday meal, as I relaxed on the couch, I saw a beatific smile on my husband’s face. Turned out  he was having a ‘Moment of tenderness’ looking at an old image of our kids.

This got me thinking. Our lives are made up of many such moments – some funny, some poignant, some embarrassing and some painful.

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        Courtesy – http://www.zirtlife.com

‘Passage of time moment’ – when you look at an old photo and realize how time has flown.

‘Moment of realization’ – when your children say the same things to you that you said to your mother, and you catch yourself dispensing the same advice as your mother.

‘Moment of horror’ – the day after your visit  to a  hair stylist – when you are not able to set your hair the same way, and each peek into the mirror makes you feel terrible.

‘Moment of tenderness’ – when you look at your children while they are asleep, and all your love bursts forth.

‘Moment of irritation’ – when you know that you are coming down with a bad cold, and your head and nose announce it.

‘Moment of stupidity’ – when you come back home from the supermarket without the two main items you had gone to buy.

‘Moment of aggravation’ – when you are typing a message, and your cell phone battery drains.

‘Moment of nostalgia’ – when you see an old dress that fit you at one point in time.

‘Moment of joy’ – when you receive a card from your kids or a gift from your husband.

‘Moment of giggling’ – when a dear friend calls and you let off steam.

‘Moment of solitude’ –  when you read a good  book on a rainy day

‘Moment of contemplation’ – thinking about the deeper meaning of life, while sipping delicious coffee.

And many, many more such. What other moments do you have? Would love to know.