Thursday, November 5, 2009

shabna aur suhana

Shabna was the first girl I met in the dormitory in law college. She sat there, eyes red and watery. She was already homesick. Me, in an hour, I thought, sneaking looks at her while mom and I unpacked and made my bed.

Shabna and I shared the same room in the first year. She had asthma and that year because of the climate change and adjusting to college/hostel life pressure, she had more attacks than all the years in law college.

I remember, after studying with my friends and classmates (she was in the other batch), I would come to my room to find her gasping, notes in hand, absolutely sure, she'll fail her test the next day. There were other days, regular college days, when there was always so much time (sigh!), when I would sit up with her, chatting, trying to take her (and my) mind off the painful gasps of air she took.

In second year, I moved to room 10 with my gang of friends and that was to be my residence the next four years. Shabna moved to room 9, next door, with her friend and classmate, Shimla (I know :)). Her shelf space was now covered with large bottles of dark coloured, strong smelling ayurvedic (yes, very much a mallu) medicines and concoctions.

Yet, when sufferring at night or day, she would, sometimes, call me over... I don't know, maybe it was easy for her with me. I have cleaned her vomit, washed her clothes and though we were never together, there were nights that I was thankful she was sleeping across the wall.

She shared stuff with me that she told nobody. When she fell in love, truly, madly, deeply, three years later, I knew of it at least nine months before my roomies or her roomies even got whiff of it. Yes, I am very good at not telling people things!!

She has a daughter and son and is living blissfully in Kerala. But, she's been on my thoughts a lot this last week, especially the nights.

Two days ago, a renowned chest/allergy specialist told us that our daughter has bronchial hypercativity, mainly (his words), because the doctors don't like to use the words asthma with regard to children.

She has been prescribed those inhaler sprays in blue, green and pink - her words. She might grow out of it, but then again, she might not - the doctor's words.

This last week, my little daughter has been coughing (not yet wheezing, thankfully) the entire night and day. I carry her and pace around from bedroom to living room and back. Shabna used to tell me that her earliest memories are of her dad carrying her on his shoulders throughout the night.

By the way, the little wise daughter turned five yesterday. We had a teeny party (if you can call it that) where she jumped and played and laughed a lot and ... did not cough even once. A small but precious miracle!!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

get a life - Anna Quindlen

"I'm a novelist. My work is human nature. Real life is all I know. Don't ever confuse the two, your life and your work. You will walk out of here this afternoon with only one thing that no one else has. "There will be hundreds of people out there with your same degree; there will be thousands of people doing what you want to do for a living. But, you will be the only person alive who has sole custody of your life. Your particular life! Your entire life!

"Not just your life at a desk or your life in a bus or in a car or at the computer. Not just the life of your mind, but the life of your heart. Not just you bank accounts, but also your soul.

"People don't talk about the soul very much anymore. Its so much easier to write a resume than to craft a spirit. But, a resume is cold comfort on a winter's night, or when you're sad, or broke, or when you're lonely, or when you've received your test results and they're not so good.

"Here's my resume: I'm a good mother to three children. I have tried never to let my work stand in the way of being a good parent. I no longer consider myself the centre of the universe. I show up. I listen. I try to laugh.
"I'm a good friend to my husband. I have tried to make marriage vows mean what they say. I am a good friend to my friends and them to me. Without them, there would ne nothing to say to you today, because I would be a cardboard cut out. But, I call them on the phone and I meet them for lunch. I would be rotten, at best mediocre, at my job if those other things were not true.
"You cannot be really first rate at your work if your work is all you are. So, here's what I want to tell you all today: Get a life. A real life, not a manic pursuit of the next promotion, the bigger pay, the larger house. Do you think you'd care so very much about those things if you blew an aneurysm or found a lump in your breast?

"Get a life in which you notice the smell of salt water pushing itself on a breeze at the seaside, a life in which you stop and watch how a red-tailed hawk circles over the water, or how a baby scowls with concentration when she tries to pick up a sweet with her thumb and first finger.
"Get a life in which you are not alone. Find people you love, and who love you. And remember that love is not leisure, it is work. Pick up the phone. Send an e-mail. Write a letter. Get a life in which you are generous. And, realise that life is the best thing ever, and that you have no business taking it for granted.
"Care so deeply about its goodness that you want to spread it around. Take money you would have spent on beer and give it to charity. Work in a soup kitchen. Be a big brother or sister. All of you want to do well. but, if you do not do good, too, then doing well will never be enough.

"It is so easy to waste our lives, our days, our hours and our minutes. It is so easy to take for granted the colour of our kid's eyes, the way the melody in a symphony rises and falls and disappears and rises again. It is so easy to exist in stead of to live.

"I learnt to live many years ago. I learned to love the journey, not the destination. I learnt that it is not a dress rehearsal, and today is the only guarantee you get. I learnt to look at all the good in the world and try to give some of it back because I belived in it, completely and utterly.

"And, I tried to do that, in part, by telling others what I had learned. By telling them this: consider the lillies on the field. Look at the fuzz on a baby's ear. Read in the back yard with the sun on your face.

Learn to be happy. And, think of life as a terminal illness, because if you do, you will live it with joy and passion as it ought to be lived."


This was a speech made by Pulitzer award winning author Anna Quindlen at the graduation ceremony of an American university, where she was awarded an honorary PhD.

... No, I don't think there are any comparisons or connections with the speech and pictures. Just that these words give me hope, inspire me and make me thankful!!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Kasauli, Himachal Pradesh

Just back from Kerala where the rains had made eveything an emerald green. Took me back to holiday in Kasauli where I found lots of green and not just the leaves.
Sunrise School, which was seen if we leaned out of the balcony in our room, had selective shades of green.

The pine tree and the little bit of green on the church.

Even the people there seemed to prefer wearing the colour.

See, I was not exaggerating.

Striped door and a delightful menu.

Pretty buds, too.

A shut shop in the middle of a bustling street. The locks and the notices add to the drama and lead your imagination.

Seeing green from another window in our hotel.

Some more of the church.

Looking up at a natural kind of green.

The green fence and signs of spring.
Go green :)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

falling dreams

Momma, what did you dream on (sic) today? asked Suhana, very proper at four. I dreamt we missed your school bus, said I, frazzled and scurrying in the kitchen, packing her lunch and filling her water bottle.

Momma, what did Abi dream on (sic) today? asked she, now staring doubtfully at her feet. He dreamt that he fell from the bed, said I removing her socks and shoving her feet into them the right way.

Not again, said she, wry tone and shake of her head. But, he did, really, fall a lot - at the bus stop this morning, grazing his sweet, soft hands and making shopkeepers look out in concern with his crying!

While coming back from the bus stop with his sister in the afternoon, he tripped on nothing (!) and fell. And then, after the siblings had some water, washed their hands, changed their dress, they decided to jump on the bed, while momma got ready their lunch all the time screaming at them not to.

Momma had to drop everything and rush to the bedroom as Abi had fallen off the bed, banged his head and had two little cuts on his tongue. Lots of sugar and cooing later, he fell asleep, no doubt, dreaming of falling, yet again!

And, what did you dream today, asked I, while walking her to the bus stop. I dream that you watching 'pappu can't dance saala' song, said she.
Oh well. Sweet dreams then!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Yesterday evening, we ventured out for the monthly grocery shopping to my favourite D-mart. I did notice that the sky had become a threatening grey and there was thunder rolling some distance away, so I (luckily) remembered to take in the laundry.

By the time the kids, me, husband, last additions to grocery list after frantically opening and shutting drawers and kitchen cabinets, water bottle, umbrellas, were heading to the lift, it was quite near pitch black. The three minutes in the lift later, it was pouring and husband volunteered to bring the car to us.

Out on the highway, lightning flashed, thunder cracked and traffic was slow. There was an eerie yellow haze beyond the hills lining one side and palm trees bending to half their height in the strong gusts of wind on the other. Again, I had forgotten to carry my camera!

I cringed, not because I missed a splendid photo opportunity - the little box of assorted biscuits was back at home, right next to my wallet on the dining table, where I'd put them both down before I took a large gulp of water straight out of a bottle.

I must, at this point, make it clear to dear readers creasing their brows and wondering why, I didn't just carry a bag. Well, D-marts in Mumbai and suburbs have this policy of making you put your handbag in another green duffel tote and sealing it. The said green tote is officially unsealed at the billing counter - best bet against shop lifters, I have been told.

Also, adding that this little ritual took some getting used to, for readers now staring in disbelief. So, I just carried my wallet, which is not put in another green (official D-mart colour) wallet, rather than have a bag (for however little a time) used by many hanging by my shoulder.

So, now, we were almost there and had to park already! Looked like everyone else had our brilliant plan of shopping for long list of grocery in the middle of the month to beat the crowds, sigh! It was still raining, water running down the car windows in rivulets.

Darling husband peered out and decided it was best for four-year-old-just- recovering-from-a- ferocious-viral-fever (not H1N1) and two-year-old-just-about-to-catch-the-same-virus-from-sister to stay in the car rather than brave the two blocks to store in the pouring rivers of rain.

I told him, in the sweetest voice I have, about the wallet resting at home and he gave me a look, that will not restore him to darling husband status for a long time. There wasn't an ATM nearby, actually never when you need cash and fast. Tired of looking at vipers swishing viciously at the water under the street light made the little one cry.

Not wanting to risk another 'look' if I volunteered information of a little box of biscuits absolutely vital now, I sighed and said we would come another day. As I swung with inertia at the sharp u-turn, I didn't know what was worse - taking a 35 minute drive in the rain, thunder, lightning to the grocery store or turning back, after having braved the unexpected rain storm , for fear the kids would not last the shopping session without throwing hunger tantrums.

Pfft, I sat staring at the wet roads whizzing by, occassionally glaring at husband, who made a quick call to a friend and got directions to another D-mart with basement parking. I could say, he was trying his best to become the darling once again!

Well, the grocery shopping done, we each had a cup of steamed corn, from a vendor down the road, in the car to take care of hunger pangs and drove back leisurely home, in the peace after the storm...

Sunday, September 20, 2009

I call this art

It was teacher's day on Sept 5th. The kinder garten students were required to carry a rose each. Since I was sure my little girl would have loved to make something for her teacher, I thought of adding a hand-made card for the celebration.
As usual, I had checked the school diary a bit late, so, I had no option but to fold an A4 paper in half, draw margins and shade it using the daughter's water colours.
The next morning, I woke her up twenty minutes earlier than usual. She was as excited as I had expected her to be. She made little tulips out of two small squares I had cut the night before. They have been taught that in school.
She coloured one pink and the other orange. There was a sad moment when I refused to let her stick the hand-made flowers on the card. She so loves to use the "gloom stick," as she calls it.
She can spell her name and it was only befitting she sign her work of art.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

all things wilted

the circle of life :)

there really is a thing as so much sun :I

by my kitchen window, stirred by a soft wind :)

wilted mangosteen, at my in-laws'

weeds dried and standing in the summer sun

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

these days

Our family grew larger one Sunday. The husband went out to drop some cheques and came back with a fish tank and a complimentary packet of little fish - very intiriguing to the two year old, who kept saying "fih!"
It was the first time he was seeing "real" fish. The wise and worldly daughter exclaimed, "I thought you joking when you said you buy fish." Aaaha, so this is what was conspiring behind my back!

After the whole process of setting up the fish tank was finished, we lay down on the bed and admired our handiwork. There is a pump in there that makes a soft gurgling sound when all is quiet. Not a bad way to relax at all!
There really is something about gazing at fish - you realise you spent quite sometime (oh no!!!) standing and staring and oh well, since all that time is gone, you might as well stare at it for some more time.

A fungal infection and three mortalities later, the fish -and whatever it is they are doing confined in the glass walls - are as captivating and fascinating as ever. All that is needed is a lot more time.
"I love pets. I also love fish. But, I don't want crocodile or elephant as pets, " said the wisest one in our family. Whew! Now that really is a relief.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

the quiet after

Our Ganapathi left yesterday. The emptiness is loud, almost, in the quiet that followed an hour of puja and shouting "ganapathi bappa moriya, mangal murthi moriya!"

Now, it is only a few of us left with children who decide not to walk with Ganesha to a lake nearby, where he will be immersed. A lady is weeping as she carries her ganesha in her arms and places it on the truck, alongwith the other statues of the Elephant God.

Next year, I hope to walk the whole stretch, shouting and singing, and get gulaal on my hair and everywhere. Next year, I also hope to have it in me to carry my camera out of the house and take proper pictures...
These pictures were taken by my husband, who sat at home with the kids, and let me have some fun. It was drizzling and the two year old is terrified of crackers.

Monday, August 24, 2009

sounding it right

Its festival time in Mumbai... and I am thoroughly enjoying it despite the faces my husband is making. The sights come alive in the night but the sounds captivate you through the day' till the 10.00 pm deadline since the past two years, lol!

Even after Ganesh Chathurthi and Ganapati Visarjan, the festivities will extend untill Diwali and the Navratras and no one will remove the lights and decorations untill after ringing in the New Year, which leaves only the stars to be hung around Christmas time.

I am loving the mithai, the bhajans blaring through loudspeakers and sometimes, alternating with the latest Bollywood Hits and the divine sound of arathis twice a day in our residential society's Ganapati Mandal.

Due to my husband's preference for quiet celebrations (and exclamations!!!) of all kinds, we usually celebrate every festival with the needed colours and lights - more of the sights than the sounds in our home!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

and she walked away without a sigh or a tear

Two nights ago, I went to bed dreading the tough morning the next day. The husband and daughter were leaving for a short stay with the grandparents.

It bothered her that her brother and I would not be accompanying her. In the middle of making sure her little pink hair brush, her tooth brush, her pink jewellry box and her very own cherry lip gloss were secure in the large suitcase, she said, " A will be worried where I am!"

I made the appropriate noises and said I would tell him she was in school or in dance class. the look she gave me told me she was not convinced at all.
In the middle of deciding, very enthusiastically, the clothes she would wear on her four-day trip, she would hug me and say she would miss me and A too much. As if it wasn't hard enough being mindful of the business of packing without thinking of the days ahead, sigh!
Come morning, I whispered, "Its airport day!" and she was up and asking for milk. She brushed her teeth, freshened up, drank her milk and was ready by the door with her purple fluffy bag!
My husband reminded her to say "bye!" and after a big hug to me, she walked down the hallway and into the lift, without so much as a backward glance, without a sigh or a tear...

I sat staring at the computer screen, secretly proud of her dignity but my heart contracting at the ease with which she managed the goodbyes!
come back soon, my little girl, so dignified in your poise, containing your nervousness and excitement. miss you lots :)

Saturday, August 8, 2009

think Sunday

... and I think orange. It has to do with an article in The Sunday Times more than a year ago. All of us have an aura and for it to be balanced we must have a regular dose of colours everyday, said an expert.

So, it is white/light blue on Mondays, red on Tuesdays, green on Wednesdays, yellow on Thursdays, pink on Fridays, brown/black/grey/navy blue on Saturdays and (you guessed right) orange on Sundays.

At first, I started experimenting with the clothes I wear daily, rather than rotating the four sets of pyjamas I lounged in, after delivering my second child. In less than three weeks, I had my neighbour exclaiming how much "neater and groomed" (cringing at the memory) I looked.

Later, with more time on hand, I extended colours in little things around the house. Having a vase of vibrant yellow flowers on the dining table on a Thursday brings cheer and kickstarts the spirit of the weekend.

Arranging pink scented candles on a side board adds to the relaxed mood on a Friday, bringing out orange plates for the Sunday lunch energises the languid pace of the holiday and nothing beats the sensation of starting the work week looking composed in white or my favourite sky-blue fabindia kurti, which is my Monday uniform!

Just in case you feel unattached and too spiritual on the first day of the week (white has that effect, according to the author of the article), get passionate and energetic with red on a Tuesday and the calming green will sooth the fiery temper and ground you mid-week.

The next door neighbour swears it has been lucky for her and makes her children dress accordingly. No such good fortune for me, but, I like the creative spurts and the vibrance in my small house and little life.

Fill your week with colour and have a happy sunday!

Friday, August 7, 2009


My son and I slowly walk back from the front gate after seeing the yellow school bus take the turn far away. I usually am making lists in my head during this time. Today, I feel tired.

As we do everyday, he drinks another glass of milk (he wakes earlier than his sister) and me another cup of tea. I do linger a bit too long after this cup is empty. I almost feel guilty to be so tired, after all the facilities at hand.

Yet my neck hurts, my dining table is cluttered and I don't want to look at the toys and 'things' strewn about for fear I'll cry. How? Why?, I whisper.

Two things come to me, almost flash before my eyes - too much multi-tasking and trying to smile all the time. I am always doing two things, at least, all the time. Watching TV and ironing/feeding the kids/ sorting clothes, cutting vegetables or talking on the phone and typing away at the computer and whatever else I'm doing, I'll constantly be answering to all the " whys?" of a four year old.

I can still deal with all of this, if not for having to sound nice all the time and forcing a smile at people who feel I have so much time in the world because my husband is away for days together at work, I think. Then why do I, ugh!

I like the way my life is right now, it almost hurts to think of cutting off from any one thing. I will have to find a way.

Friday, July 24, 2009

rain makes me hungry

Waking to the pitter-patter of rain and a howling wind (one of the sliding windows does not shut completely) makes me ravenous. I, desperately desire, something oily, fried and hot - now!

Sigh, since I gotto do all the work, I channelise my thoughts and actions to boiling the milk and making tea - using all my will power not to make the slightest bit of noise. I have two left hands untill I have gulped down half a large cup of tea!

Oh no! have I run out of horlicks? after rummaging frantically and as quietly as I could, I find the Horlicks refill packet and am genuinely thankful while putting away the other packets of flour, sugar, sugar, toor dal, poha, channa... poha... (with a glint in my eye) perfect!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

a cake, a child and a story

There was a birthday in the house. My husband turned a year older and my daughter delighted in the anticipation of a cake and candles and celebration.

Both the husband and I were tired of the annual black forest cake ritual. As if on cue, my friend posted a picture of an apple cake on flickr and I rose to the challenge.

Challenging, because, I am just discovering the joys of smelling aromas wafting through the house. The recipe was everything but challenging, and healthy, too.

Four-year-old hands kept getting in my way and I am proud of the way I answered her queries while desperately trying to measure ingredients and follow instructions, though I did lose it twice, thrice, maybe.

"Hmmm," she said aloud, voicing my exact thought at the moment. We were staring at the cake that smelt deliciously of warm apple and cinnamon, but it didn't look very nice. Thinking just like a momma (we were made for crisis management), I set about mixing white sugar powder and the leftover cinnamon powder.

As she shook my steel seive and the white powder fell on the warm cake, the joy in her eye was what I lived for. It was her labour of love and oh, was she mighty pleased with herself!

She recited the entire recipe to her father as they cut the cake together. She gave due credit to me for teaching her, wow!

My touch, lol! I lighted a row of scented candles that I had been hoarding for special times when we might be able to linger on long after the meal was over. Today was special!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

rainy afternoon

It hasn't stopped raining the whole day. Little madam has been water-colouring. I am pleasantly surprised to see her colour preference deviate from pinks, peaches and oranges to purples and blues. Peering closely, I realise, it has more to do with the bleak skies and dark clouds that she views from the dining room window than anything else.

Chotte Saheb is getting restless and has more energy than ever and hardly any place to spend it with the onset of monsoons.

It is a Sunday, after all, and with the little ones gaping at their cartoons, I slip into my bedroom overlooking a wet balcony and a wetter park four storeys below. I sigh as I hold a fistful of rice puffs warmed in the microwave and the aroma of hot coffe wafts softly from a large mug placed on the desk.

I am tempted to stretch my legs and let the stress ebb away, but I don't want to break the languid ambience... lo and behold, there are paint stained fingers dipping into the bowl of rice puffs and sticky, tinier ones trying to secure his place on my lap.

Suddenly, the desk is cluttered with pages of water colour in various stages of dryness and ricepuffs are falling to the floor not unlike snowflakes, but messier!

oh well! the two minutes of quiet were well-worth it!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

pangs of hunger

Come Sunday and it seems like I am cooking in the kitchen every two hours. Sometime in the evening, had to concoct a snack. So, I sliced leftover idlis and deep fried them. Delicious and crunchy, perfect for cloudy afternoons.

languid saturdays

... are for hot pancakes floating in golden syrup and melting butter :)

in a pickle

The first batch of mangoes arrived in the market. After smelling them, eating them raw with salt and chilli, I had to pickle them just the way my mother did.

Friday, February 13, 2009

tea at 10

The first cup of tea kick starts my day. A little after 10, with most of my work done in the kitchen, I sit at the table with a HOT cup of tea.
The aroma of the tea infused with cinnamon or cardamom in summers, relaxes me when stressed and invigorates me when tired. In winters, ginger tea soothes my itchy throat and warms my fingers!
While the first cup activates my body , tea at 10 feeds my soul, my spirit. This is the time that I organize my days. To-do lists for the day and for the week and shopping lists are made. I feel energized to get all of it done - the most hopeful time of my day!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Most mornings I wake up to the doorbell ring. Sauntering through the dark hallway, I open the door to find two litres of milk in four half-litre packets. The milk is pasteurized and packed and delivered, as is the norm in India.
The sight of these milk packets, more than the alarm clock, signals the start of my day. I pour the contents of two packets to boil and on another burner, water for my tea.
I like this time of the day, or night - as it is dark outside. As the aroma of the tea wafts around the kitchen, my still sleeping brain wakes up. I inhale deeply, stretch sometimes... and starts the day, and the grind!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

full circle

Five years into our marriage, I woke up one day to realise that I no longer minded entering the kitchen. No, not even for the mundanest of cooking.
Add to that, I found an omen. As I cut into one-third of an onion, I found the layers make a perfect smiling face. Life, as I knew it, had come full circle for me.
Years speed by, changing feelings and perceptions. There had been days, when I wished I woke up in another place, for fear of goofing up in the kitchen, yet again!
It has been an interesting journey. It is the story of my life, chapters of which I will share with you...