A hundred years


I am filling up an online form. When I am filling in the date, I accidentally type the year 1919 instead of 2019.

One typo error and my mind travels back in time to a hundred years ago. I wonder what the world would have been like at that time. Then I think about my family. My grandmom would have been a little girl of about nine. Slightly older than one of her great- grandsons is now.

My grandmom had eleven siblings. She was the ninth child. When my siblings and I were kids, we would badger our grandmom to tell us stories about her childhood. She would talk about her marriage to my granddad and the grand celebrations in their village to mark the occasion.

When my grandma was in pigtails and ribbons, the world was at war. Between the two wars, she grew into a beautiful young woman, got married and had her children.

Image courtesy – http://www.123rf.com

We always lived in a joint family, and I can still remember how active my grandmom always was – right from sunrise to sundown. The kitchen was her realm, and her energy flowed from there in the form of love, cooking and chiding.

Every morning, for as long as she was active, my grandmom would finish her morning chores and rush to the temple to pray. On her way back, she would stop to buy vegetables and fruits. If she was planning on buying a lot, she would ask one of us, her grandchildren, to be on the lookout from the top of the hill where we lived. When we would see her at the bottom of the hill, we would skip down to help her carry the heavy bags home.

The moment we got home, she would give us candies that she had bought for us – in small brown paper pouches – lemon, orange and raspberry flavoured.

Time flew past, and we grew, went to high school and college. Each time we came home for vacation, we realized that our busy grandmom had aged just a little more than the last time we had seen her. When she was in her mid-seventies, she retired from her domestic world, handing over the reins to the next generation.

She spent her time reading books, or meditating or praying. She would watch some television on and off. But her eyes would light up the moment any of us went and sat next to her, to talk to her. She would ask us questions about our lives and hold our hands in her small wrinkled palms, demonstrating her love, without saying much.

My dad would come home every evening from work, have his shower and dinner, and sit down with his mom, asking about her health, her cough and about her day. He would lovingly bring her dinner, a glass of water, and her medicines, every night.

Our grandma always had a ready stock of mint lozenges that she ate to soothe her throat. She stored these in a small pouch. One of the highlights of the day was when she would call us and give us these lozenges to eat. She would break them up and give us just a small bit. We cherished both the lozenges and the love behind them.

It is 2019. A hundred years have flown by, since a small girl grew up in a time before ours, and became our grandmom. And now, our parents are at that age, vulnerable and frail.

Where did time fly? When did we become this responsible?

It is literally as if someone changed 1919 to 2019 with the mere flick of a button – a hundred years, four generations, lovely memories and the relentless onslaught of time.

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.

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.

Love engraved


I was doing the dishes earlier today, when my fingers moved over what appeared to be some sort of small stain. I scrubbed hard, but it seemed to remain. On closer inspection, I realized that it was an inscription in the steel.

I smiled. Why? Read on…

We Indians, especially down South, love stainless steel. Most of our kitchens are filled with stainless steel cookware – spoons, ladles, forks, knives, glasses (steel ones, we call them tumblers😆), plates, pots, pans, cookers – every single item in steel.

When a girl gets married, her mom typically gives her a basic set of kitchen utensils and cutlery to take with her to her new home.

Back in the 70s and 80s, most Indians lived in joint families, and if a home had many daughters-in-law, each with her own kitchenware, how did they tell all the utensils apart?  So, the moms of these girls usually got the girls’ initials engraved on their utensils. No confusion. All one had to do was look closely for the initials, to know which was yours.

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Though people moved away from their homes, and families became nuclear, this practice of monogramming kitchenware was in vogue even when I got married.

I still remember the days before my wedding, when my Dad and Mom, had the utensils engraved with my new initials NN. I remember how they came home, and told me, happily, that the job was done.

The days before the wedding were filled with fun and nostalgia, for all that I would leave behind and for all the things I would embrace in my new home.

I come back to the now and look at the engraving NN ….parents’ love captured forever. Miss you Dad and Mom. Thank you for everything

Steel dabbas


Indian kitchens are usually loaded with stainless steel – cutlery, utensils, ladles and cookers.

As kids, most of us carried lunch to school in small round or rectangular steel boxes. In India, they are called ‘dabbas’ (singular ‘dabba’).

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

The dabbas usually had two compartments, one for the roti or rice, and the other for the vegetable.

My Dad and uncles had a bigger and more sophisticated version of the steel dabba, which was called the ‘tiffen carrier’. The carrier had three, four, five or six compartments, stacked one on top of the other, held together on top by a metal clip.  The ones my Dad usually carried had three layers – one each for rice, gravy and vegetable.

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

When we ordered food for family functions, the caterer usually supplied food in huge ‘carriers’ – those that had many layers! It was a joy to open these carriers and see what was inside each layer.

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               Picture courtesy    
           http://www.meeramarketing.com

I have a four-compartment tiffen carrier at home now, which I use when we go out on picnics. It stands vertical, and hence occupies very little space.

Steel dabbas usually served us for many, many years. Except for a dulling in their silver sheen, they carried warm, lovingly-packed, home-cooked meals for us throughout our school days.

The dabbas carried special treats on our birthdays, and small notes from mom or dad sometimes.

There was this group of friends, who went to school with me, from Grade 1 through Grade 12. Over all those years, on every school day, all of us had lunch together. We would open our steel dabbas and share our food with each other. We knew which mom made the best rice dishes or rotis. By the time we reached high school, we were such good friends that we actually demanded certain dishes for lunch, from each other, and our loving moms usually obliged.

My mom’s specialty was her sambhar rice with potato fry, which my dabba lovingly carried for many years.

So many wonderful memories contained in a small steel dabba.

Little hearts that beat


Just outside our condo, there runs a fairly long road. There is no taxi stand there, so people queue up on a first-come-first-hail basis.

It was peak-hour this morning, when I stood in line to hail a taxi. The line was fairly long, and all of us lifted our hands and craned our necks like hooded serpents, trying to speed things up, by hailing taxis for people ahead of us.

It was very hot, and rivulets of sweat poured down my face.Finally, I moved to first place. Yay! I hailed the next taxi and got in. I wished the taxi driver a good morning and he shouted out a cheery Hi!

We chatted about the weather, as the taxi weaved its way through heavy traffic, to my destination

On the small display screen in front of the cabbie, a slideshow was on, about the taxi company, promotion offers and the like. The last image on the screen was the image of a card, with a big red heart, obviously coloured by a child. It had a message that said – ‘Come home safe, Daddy.’
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Image courtesy : Shutterstock

That kind of choked me up. I asked the cabbie if his children had made the card for him? He told me that all taxis from his company had this image on their slideshow.

This got me thinking, a simple card from your child, whose heart is filled with love for you and whose world revolves around you!

Everyday, millions of people drive, walk on construction sites, operate cranes, go down into mines, dive into the ocean, and thousands of other jobs – where safety and alertness are extremely important.

While safety measures and procedures are followed in most of these places, these men and women should take extra care, both for themselves and for the little hearts, who beat for their Dads and Moms – to come home safe and sound.