A flash of red


Heavy rain is imminent. Dark, grey clouds are hanging heavy and low in the sky. The gentle breeze ‘that was’ is now gathering momentum, and the leaves are rustling and giggling in anticipation.

I am on my walk, my mind filled with a hundred thoughts, as restless as the leaves. The usual calm that prevails on my walk is missing today. I just accept it and plod on, allowing my thoughts free rein and watching their play.

As I begin my ascent on one of the roads, a flash of red on the pavement catches my eye. From where I am, it looks like a bright red stone or a shiny bit of paper.

When I get closer to this shiny object, I stop in wonder! It is a beautiful petal, reddish-orange in colour, fallen on the grey pavement. Beautiful water droplets adorn this petal, reflecting its vibrant colours even more, and sparkling in the dull evening light.

I am fascinated. The petal lies there, its days over, but still seeking to give joy, still seeking to bring a moment of softness and gentleness to this hard road called life.

I quickly whisk out my phone and capture a picture. The skies open up, and I dash for cover.

I stand under the sheltered walkway, watching the dancing raindrops, the pitter-patter of the rain on the glass ceiling, the swaying plants, the rivulets of water….such beauty.

I think back to my beautiful petal. The rain would have carried away the petal, a drop of bright red floating away in a stream of joy, to places unknown.

The rain peters out. I sigh. I wait awhile. And slowly, the crickets start tuning their instruments for their nightly chorus. Huge silver water drops fall with big plops from the trees. The sky is clear. My mind is bereft of any thought. I walk back home.

Rain


Another day has ended. I am stretched out on the recliner, staring at nothing in particular. My kids are nowhere in sight, while my husband is still busy at work.

A cool breeze enters from the balcony door and teases tendrils of hair onto my face. The sky is dark; dark grey clouds are hanging low. There is a deep rumbling of thunder from far away clouds that are at loggerheads with each other. Sparks fly and bright streaks of lightning illumine the firmament, now here, now gone. The rumbling goes on for sometime.

Finally, the clouds seem to have had enough. They let their emotions rain down on earth. Now, along with the breeze is the gentle sound of rain. Thin silver trains that can only be seen against the street lights. The falling rain is soothing. The clouds are spent. They are done with their day. The earth guzzles this welcome treat. The orchids on my balcony are nodding in merriment. The odd plop of a loud drop can be heard on and off.

Photo by Ilias Tsoutsoulis from Pexels

The rain’s music continues. There is the occasional rumble from high above, but down below all is well. The night has arrived with the rain, rejuvenating the earth, in a timeless dance that will repeat even we are all gone.

The magic of rain can never be explained, it can only be experienced. Whether it is the lashing Indian monsoon or a gentle evening drizzle or a continuous downpour at night, rain is love, rain is nostalgia, rain is hot coffee with samosas, rain is poignancy, rain is coziness, rain is music, rain is magic.

Watching the rain….


I received this photo on our family group yesterday – a picture of my little niece and her grandmother watching the heavy rain through the window.

A baby and her grandma, who are seven decades apart, and are looking out the window. My niece is watching the rain, transfixed by the play of the street lights on the falling sheets of rain. Her grandmother derives joy from watching her granddaughter, reveling in her widening eyes, her cooing and her babbling at the rain.

One is beginning this journey called life, where rain will mean splashing fun, paper boats, samosas and hot chocolate. For the other, who has seen life, the rain evokes so many memories of the past, of being a child, of being a teen, a married woman, a mother and now a grandmother. She has seen rainy days and ‘rainy days’ in this long journey called life.

Time seems to stand still, only the lashing rain can be heard. Just like everything else in nature, rainfall is part of the changing seasons; this is also true of our lives, change is happening all around us.

Life flies past in the blink of any eye, but then again, life also stops for a brief beautiful moment like this, when time and age become irrelevant, when only pure love exists.

The school bell


On certain days, at 12 noon, when there is a gentle afternoon breeze, and if the sounds of traffic from the junction below our condo are not too loud, and if my mind is not distracted by the mundane, I can hear them – church bells chiming from the church that is further down our road. There is something magical about these melodious bells; they give me pause and make me ponder for a few minutes.

There are so many different types of bells – all of them designed to draw our attention to something important – prayer bells, alarm bells, fire alarms and door bells. But the most special bell has to be the school bell.

When we were in school, we did not have automated electronic bells to signal the end of each period.

We had a physical bell – a round metallic ring that was suspended from a tree just above the school’s playground. At the prescribed time, the school’s bell-incharge would walk to the bell and strike it with another metal rod, which he would then take back with him.

Courtesy – http://www.alamy.com

The bell was loud, clear, and could be heard from every corner of the school. The bell was sounded differently for different activities – class changes, lunch, recess and the end of the school day.

And on many days, we sat with our friends, willing the recess bell to ring so that we could run out and play outside, or be the first ones on the swings or see-saws.

During the monsoon season, the rain played spoilsport, and we were stuck in the corridors. We made paper boats that we sailed outside the corridors, we splashed water droplets on unsuspecting friends, or huddled together to prevent our teeth from chattering in the cold. At those times, the bells sent us back into the warmth of our classrooms.

Later on, when we were teenagers, and when it was fashionable to eat less, or to skip breakfast because we were late for school, our growling stomachs would wait impatiently for the lunch bell to ring. We would then open our lunch boxes to relish our food, so lovingly packed by our moms.

Sometimes, when we got to miss a class to attend an event or some inter-school competition, and got back to school only to realize that classes were still not over, we would stall and drag our feet to go back to class, hoping to see the bell-incharge walking towards the bell.

The most welcome bell was the one that rang for a prolonged period, to signal the end of the school day. When we were in primary and middle school, the long bell was our cue to rush home, to gobble up our evening snacks, and to run outdoors to play.

As we moved to high school, the long bell meant that we could leave school and hang out with friends. We had plenty to talk about, everyday, and somehow it always seemed that there was never enough time.

Today’s bells are electronic and sound totally different from those bells of old.

Those were memorable times indeed, when life moved to a slower beat.

A lightness of being


It’s been raining on and off over the last few weeks. And as I stand on my balcony, there is the grey of a rainy day, the green of freshly washed plants and the sparkle of water drops all around me.

There is a heaviness to the day outside, as dark grey clouds hang low in the sky, waiting to unleash themselves. Even the vehicles on the road seem to be moving rather slowly.

I feel dull and incapable of productivity. Even my afternoon coffee fails to rev me up. So I enjoy this feeling of laziness, of not wanting to do anything, anything at all. I observe the world with no particular thought in my mind.

But the world seems to be functioning; people with their bright umbrellas are walking purposefully with bags in their hands.

I am a sloth. I am loathe to move. I feel a sense of inertia. I amble over to the couch and settle down. I open my messages and see pictures on our family group.

One of them is a picture of a bubble floating away on a rainy day. The shimmering bubble is light and free, as it floats with abandon, oblivious to the grey and wet day.

It is merry and totally free, for it has within it a lightness of being.

I quickly snap out of my reverie, and feel light and energized.

The bench


It is 5 pm in the evening, and I head out for a walk. The rain has spent itself, and puddles have formed everywhere. Silver water drops hang precariously on leaves and branches. Some droplets catch the evening sun and sparkle.

I walk down the trail, taking in the scents of flowers, rain-soaked leaves and wet soil. I can hear some birds calling out, but I can’t see them. There are beautiful flowers and buds. There is this group of mynas in front of me, their attention drawn to something in the bushes.

I click some pictures, trying to capture the beauty that I am experiencing. Ants on leaves, star jasmine flowers, buds filled with promise and hope, a flower that has fallen down on the trail – totally unmarred – and dried leaves that make squelching sounds when I walk through them.

It is an idyllic evening, and I stop frequently to observe the plants. And then, at about the midpoint of my walk, I see this – a beautiful wooden bench, surrounded by green foliage.

This bench is my pit stop. I sit and close my eyes, and focus on the sounds of the rustling leaves. I focus on my breath, I take long, deep breaths, and life seems perfect just the way it is.

Yesterday is gone, tomorrow seems faraway. I am in the here and the now, and a feeling of peace envelopes me.

Sitting on this bench, I ponder over the mysteries of life and its purpose. I am grateful for this moment that is totally mine, to look within.

The birds are heading home, the plants are settling down for the day, and I leave this beautiful bench, totally rejuvenated.

The art of work


The wipers in our car are working overtime. The skies have opened up, and the rain falls in thin transparent sheets. One layer of rain falls, gets wiped away, and for a mere fraction of a second the world is visible, before another sheet falls.

And thus it goes on till my husband and I reach the concert venue. The concert venue is partly open air, with free seating. As we take our seats, the rain slowly peters out; only the ‘backbencher raindrops’ are left, rushing to join their peers, dropping in huge plops from the roof.

Rich Indian classical music fills the air, as the singer transports us to a different world, making us emote. My husband steps away to take a call. Very soon, a little girl of about seven comes and takes my husband’s seat. She has a packet of wafers in one hand and what looks like a small piece of thick cardboard in the other hand.

She adjusts herself comfortably on the seat, looks up at me and smiles. What a lovely and heart warming smile, I think. I smile in response, and wave hello! She says hello too.

After a few minutes, she touches my hand. When I look at her, she shows me the other side of the cardboard. It is an artwork of a three-dimensional flower in a pot. I mouth a wow and clap gently.

Courtesy – clipartlibrary.com

I ask her if it is play dough. “No, this is air-dry clay”, she says.

She lovingly runs her fingers over her creation, and asks me, “Do you like it?”

I tell her that I like it. She then says, “I like it too, a lot.” And her eyes light up. She continues to admire her artwork and looks content.

I realize how difficult it is to experience this kind of joy from the work we do. We are constantly striving to perform better, to attain the goals that we have set for ourselves. But with our sights set only on these bigger goals and destinations, we seem to have lost the art of experiencing the joy in the good, simple and everyday tasks that we perform.

Another lesson learned from a sweet little girl!

A simple filter


I am home by 7 pm most evenings, when my family envelops me and becomes my world – where my routine revolves around school work, dinner and banter.

But over the last few days, I have been out later than usual, and have been in the central business district on some errand or the other.

Daylight is breathtakingly beautiful, twilight and the star-studded sky are both stunning, but man-made skyscrapers glittering like jewels at night, their backs tall and proud, astound me. I am enticed by this shimmering spectacle of buildings, their reflections bouncing and gently undulating in the water in the bayfront.

Joggers are pounding the pavement, people are heading home from work, tourists are caught up in the magic, and their cameras go click, click, click.

Christmas decorations are everywhere. Twinkling baubles of red and green, silver and blue. There is magic and hope in the air.

The world is alive and bustling. I am so caught up in all the bustle. Cars are like streamers on the road; and people are walking, talking into their phones.

There is a lone bicycle parked on the pavement. The benches are wet, testimony to the heavy rain that lashed all afternoon.

I keep taking pictures. I click this one.

I change the filter on my phone camera to black and white, and click again. The scene transforms into something even more magical.

There is only black and white. The same scene, but so different. I keep looking at the colour image and then the black and white.

While the colour image is vibrant and lively, the black and white image is somehow simpler and clearer.

And, as I head back, I liken these two images to our life. Sometimes it is so difficult to cut through all the noise and colour in our lives, to clearly see what matters.

Maybe we just need a simple filter to see things clearly in black and white, cut out all the things that do not matter and focus on the things that really do!

Change


It was a Friday evening, a few evenings ago, and my kids were home, ensconced in their rooms. I walked around the house, clearing and putting away stuff, room by room. I suddenly looked out of the window, and was stopped in my tracks.

The late evening sky was a breathtaking sight. Trees were silhouetted against a canvas of pinkish-orange; a shade that defied description. I felt transported to another world. Time seemed to stand still. How did I miss this, all these days? Did this magic happen everyday? I was sure it did.

Sometimes work pressure and chores take over your life; where there is simply no choice except to run this race and get things done.

Cut to a few days later, another Friday evening. Mother Nature gets busy, she is racing too. She has no time to show case her verdant beauty. The skies open up and heavy rain lashes all through the week. Rumbling thunder and lightning take turns to make announcements.

I watch this spectacle from my bedroom window. Lashing rain that splatters forcefully on the windows; raindrops who seem to surrender all their energy to the window and slide weakly down the glass in thin streams, joining their brethren in rapidly forming puddles.

I realize that nature has her busy and calm periods, her emotional and peaceful moments too!

Soon, my husband walks in; a spring in his step simply because it is the weekend. He asks if we can go out for dinner?

I am game. The kids…..they want to order-in and do their own thing. The rain has stopped, and the rays of the late evening sun are draped across the sky.

So, it is just us in the restaurant, the kids have ordered pizza at home. We laugh incredulously. There was a time just after marriage when we went out like this, then came the phase when we stayed home and ordered-in for ourselves and cooked healthy meals for the kids at home.

Then came the phase, when we went exploring the world with our kids, from insects to animals to the sky to toys to the movies; when we took them to restaurants and helped them try new foods. We learnt more about them, their preferences and their behaviour and likened it to ourselves and genetics.

Then, now, this! Where the kids are ordering-in and we are out. We talk about this and laugh, we also know deep inside that this will be the norm a few years from now. We talk about our day and the conversation veers back to the children. We laugh and joke about it, but that’s the truth. Because that’s what gives us meaning and purpose.

When we walk out, the skies have opened up again. There is a steady downpour, and lightning streaks illuminate the sky in bursts – now here, now there.

The wipers in the car work overtime to give us a clear view, but the raindrops continue to fall relentlessly.

Everything is constantly changing, the rain, the sun, the children, their parents…..!

We head back home. The evening quickly flies away.

My pedometer shows 10500 steps, but when the clock strikes twelve, even that will change and will be reset to zero.

Another day will begin, filled with hope, possibilities and more changes.

Walking down market street for Pongal


It’s been raining non-stop for the last week. The streets are wet, and water puddles gently splash around people’s footwear.

My friend and I are walking down market street to shop for our harvest festival, Pongal, which will be celebrated on Sunday.

All shops on the street have makeshift stalls outside the main shop to cater to the many hundreds of people who will shop for this festival.

Tender plants of ginger and turmeric are neatly stacked in bunches of bright green, the yellow turmeric roots contrasting beautifully with the green of the leaves.

Fresh and green mango leaves are on sale. Beautiful sugarcane plants are stacked along the walls of most shops.

Most shops also sell pieces of sugarcane for those who want less.

The street is teeming with people, all looking for the perfect mud-pot or stainless steel pot to cook pongal in, on the day of the festival.

Bright colours everywhere – red apples and pomegranates, yellow bananas, golden mangoes.

The flower stalls are doing brisk business, and the heavenly smell of jasmine is in the air. Beautifully threaded garlands hang neatly in every stall. Full coconuts and banana leaves await new customers.

The excitement is palpable. My friend and I get caught up too, as we soak in the spirit of this beautiful festival of harvest.

We offer a quick ‘thank you’ to all the farmers, who toil so hard to bring food to our homes.

Happy Pongal everyone!