This and that

A colleague’s post on his blog got me thinking about this.

About how people do not talk to other people especially on the office bus. Here’s my theory. And this is in defence of these people who come across as snooty or antisocial. 🙂 I like to put these people in the following categories:

1) It scares the hell out of these people to make some more friends! Because they already have too many friends and too little time to give them. These are people who have a bunch of friends they are close to, meet up often and share deep bonds with. They do not want to start new friendships. Imagine remembering more birthdays, anniversaries, kids’ birthdays!

2) These are people who cherish their bus time! Bus time is to catch up on their reading and their favorite music. An interesting book and a babbling neighbor is the worst situation to be in!

3) The constant droning of the bus puts these people in a trance. The buildings and roads zooming past their windows, the changing landscapes, all a perfect setup for zoning or spacing out. This is also a time for introspection and conversations with yourself.

4) These are people for whom bus time = sleep time

So let them be! If you find one of these types sitting next to you on the bus and you have this uncontrollable urge to talk, chew a gum, find your head phones, do anything, but don’t talk to them. Believe me, you don’t want to mess with them! 🙂

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Goodbye to a way of life

My grandmum’s death last week, I realized, is not just the passing away of the beloved person I knew and loved but the passing away of a way of life. I don’t know anybody anymore who uses a mortar and pestle to pound rice flour or uses the stone to grind coconut (ok my aunt is an exception)!

We need excuses to be with nature. Let’s get out from the maddening city, get together at a farmhouse, celebrate the kid’s birthday in the park for that one hour of refuge from the onslaught of the concrete jungles our lives have started to resemble. Office bus, get to work, get on the bus, go home, do more work…

At my work place, I’m blessed to have a beautiful campus rich in it’s flora and fauna. I do stop by to spot an occassional snake, a pretty fish, a flower that is an unusual color or a well hidden nest up in the trees. But that’s far from being one with nature.

I remember as kids we would ask gran to make us a ball and that was a very normal request coming from 6 year olds to a 60 year old woman! Gran would pick up a few leaves from a baby coconut tree, start braiding the leaves together and in 10 miutes flat we had a ball! I wish I had a camera back then to capture the magic of her fingers and the wonder on our faces!

We would all set out in the morning, the bumbling city cousins and the exciting country cousins on our quests for the ripest mangoes from the neighbour’s orchard. Oh there was a specific agenda each day. If it was not the mangoes then it was this beautiful water body we had to get to after half an hour’s trekking through a rocky little path. Creating crowns out of leaves, picking vines and berries to string them for our jewellery, picking huge colocasia leaves to eat our feast in, the little kings and queens of the day would come back blissfully exhausted. Aching hands dug into some simple, non-fancy fare that was laid out on the table, relished it without any complaint and fell into happy slumber dreaming of more adventures and quests in store the next day.

I long to be able to recreate this kind of magic for my children. Because I know that memories of nature and childhood are bound together. There’s no separating the two. It’s like kappa (tapioca in malayalam) and fish, or bread and butter, you think of them together, always! I fret about what my kids’s childhood memories would be like when they grow up – hitting a ball in to the neighbour’s compound and getting yelled at, a car that almost hit them while they were playing street football, watching endless shows on tv, playing video games at their friend’s houses…I can’t help but despair that my kids are missing out.

Huddling together in the cow’s shed and watching an aunt milk the cows, my aunt helping a cow give birth to her calf, all of us watching, waiting and praying. And the pure undiluted joy we felt when the little wet calf stood up on it’s wobbly legs and made that first comical sprint away from mommy,then
the legs giving in and the calf flopping down half way, but getting back to mommy eventually after innumerable flops. Cuddling kittens, chasing chickens and collecting the still warm eggs. Wonderful memories etched forever in my mind that I go back to again and again. They shine like pearls in comparison to what my kids’ memories would be like.

We get our eggs and mangoes from the supermarket, the milk comes in packets. We live in the heart of the city where it is impossible to not notice that there are more vehicles than humans. A sweep of your eyes and you can actually count the number of trees around you on your fingers, there are that few of them. Our eyes are rivetted to the mindless goings on on TV. Our interactions with friends have dwindled to the occassional scrap on facebook or a speedy SMS sent from the bus. The outings we plan are either to the movies or to a fancy restaurant. Between chasing deadlines, homework, yelling at the kids, school projects and recuperating over the weekends, nature outings have sadly been forgotten. Modernization and changed lifestyles have already left imprints everywhere. The ancestral homes I went to during the holidays as a child have changed.

Sometimes I wonder if it is even fair to want a liberal dose of nature in your children’s lives. Times have changed, landscapes have changed. It is only natural that our children will have childhoods and memories that are different and more apt to the changing times. Leave alone wanting to be amidst nature,is it even possible? Maybe not two whole months of living amidst nature, but alteast a couple of weeks once a year is not too much to ask. And I get a resounding yes to that from my eager heart. Well that’s my solution, a measely two weeks plucked out from our whirlwind lives, meanwhile I wave good bye to my grandmum, everything she embodied and to a way of life that has changed for ever.

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To grandma

One of my favorite memories of grandma goes back to the Baywatch days on TV! Yeah! Grandma would happily sit watching the show with me and was always
intrigued how the Baywatch beauties were so flawless and spotless! And I was like, wow! While most grandmas were scandalized by Baywatch, here was mine
enjoying the show thoroughly! That’s how I want to remember her today, it’s two days now since she passed away – grandma with a sense of humor, never
judgemental giving me my space, always a little ahead of her times.

Granma, the busy bee, up and about always upto something doing a little bit of everything. She could white wash the house, chop wood and sew like a dream. When we went visiting during the summer holidays, she would always want to make something special for us to eat. A tasty snack one day, a spicy fish curry the next day and everything made in the old fashioned way, no electric mixers or grinders back then. The masalas would get ground on the stone and the rice flour would come out of the wooden mortar and pestle. And the dishes were simply mouth watering.

She had her theory about everything – God, growing old (she called her wrinkles, frills), death. She even had her stuff packed and ready and everybody knew where to find it just in case God decided to give her an emergency call! And her biggest worry was not having any clean underwear on when that call came! So her advice was “always wear clean underwear, you never know when!”

She’s been waiting for this call for a long long time now. She firmly believed that she would go straight to heaven. Little did she know that she had to serve her own personal hell here on earth, bedridden for over three months.

My relationship with grandmother changed drastically after my son was born. Until then grandma was someone I associated with Kerala, my ancestral home, fish curry, the funny cannoore dialect, white spotless mundu and blouse, the old woman with the huge tummy and the gentle laughter, the expert seamstress… I think the turning point was somewhere between getting a set of hand stitched baby clothes from grandma for my newborn son and grandma saying “you’ve ruined the
baby’s nose, all that sitting during the pregnancy and plastering him against your stomach has flattened his nose!”

Between taking turns to rock the baby during our midnight shifts and our heart to hearts
Granma: why is the baby crying, give him the breast.
Me (exasperated): I have given him the breast for the past half hour!
Granma: Give it to him again!
Me : But the doctor said…
Granma (groaning sleepily): I’ve had 6 kids of my own!
Me (relenting)
Both of us: zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Oh we had a lot of heart to hearts the time gran was staying with us and the time I was at my mum’s after my son was born. Mum taking care of me and my baby.

Gran in charge of the baby’s massage and bath time. While mum got her few winks after an exhausting day of taking care of me, the baby and the household, gran and me talked for hours late into the night about her growing up years. Growing up in Mahe, formerly a French colony, her father remarrying, her
relationship with her step brother and sister, gran marrying a much older and educated man.

I got busy with my job, kid, family. Gran moved back to Kerala to live with her younger widowed daughter. The occasional phone calls kept me updated. When I announced to her that I was going to have another baby, she told me that I would have a daughter this time and that she was praying real hard for that to happen. And I did have a daughter.

Visiting her a month before she passed away, I was apprehensive she wouldn’t recognize me. But she did recognize me, my husband and was very happy to see my daughter. On her good days, she would automatically switch to the jovial person she was and jest around. I was simply awe struck by her grit. Wracked by pain, confined to her bed, she still could laugh and be funny.

Now that she’s gone I was compelled to write this post, to pin down my memories of her so that I can come back to them even if my memories start to fade.

I left Kerala with a heavy heart knowing fully well that I wouldn’t see her alive again, praying for exactly that to happen painlessly and as soon as possible. I planted a kiss on her forehead and told grandma that I was leaving and she said – “your hair is all messy.”

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Bread upma

This one’s a quick fix for your fussy toddler.

Ingredients:

  • Bread – 2 slices. Chop into small cubes and keep aside.
  • onion – one onion sliced small. You can skip the onion if you are short on time. It still tastes nice.
  • mustard – half tsp
  • chilli powder – 1/4 tsp (This one’s optional)
  • turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp
  • oil – 1 or 2 table spoons since this is a recipe for a toddler! you can reduce the oil when you make this for yourself!
  • coriander leaves – 1 stalk
  • curry leaves – 1 stalk
  • Salt to taste

How to make it:

Heat the oil in a pan. Season with mustard, curry leaves. Saute the onion. Add the turmeric powder, chilli powder, and salt. Then dump the bread cubes. The fun and tasty part is the bread soaking up all the oil! Remove to container and garnish with coriander leaves. Give your toddler a fork! This should work! 🙂

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