Thursday, August 6, 2015

The first crush...

It's always very special when your youngest has his first crush! 

I had known for a while that romance was lacing the air around the lakes where we went for our early morning walks. The lakes are beautiful, literally an oasis in the scorching sun and sands of the desert. A deep, dark emerald green, it's a calm and brooding expanse of water occasionally stirred by ripples as the two resident cormorants glide by. Fringed by gorgeous bougainvillea, studded with bursts of bright fuchsias and yellows, ringed in by a meandering brick-paved pathway, surrounded by swathes of green lawn dotted with fragrant frangipanis, the lakes are the perfect setting for young love to blossom.

Every morning they would meet by the lakes, shyly at first, stealing glances from behind their nannies' brightly coloured skirts. Slowly, glances gave way to full blown looks, coy smiles and play time. They would play together as the warm summer sun, a glowing orb,  rose over the tops of the sleeping villas, as the myriad mynahs and parrots started their early morning forage for nuts and seeds. On days when they couldn't meet, he would be rather morose and irritable, snapping at the slightest provocation, real or imagined.

The nanny had dutifully informed me of this romantic development in my son's life, and I had felt amused by it. But he hadn't told his mom anything about it, yet.

This morning, as I retreated to the cool interiors of the house from the rising warmth of the desert outside, he came to me, all happy and terribly excited, bursting with joy and news that he clearly wanted to share with me.

The nanny chirped in, "Oh ma'am, today he had a wonderful time. We let them play a lot. That's why he's so happy." She seemed even more amused than I was. As though to corroborate her report, my little one looked up at me with his beautiful, dark, round eyes and wagged his tail vigorously, the kind of super happy wag where his entire butt shakes from side to side with pure delight. My little puppy is in love!

Monday, May 4, 2015

A little slice of heaven...

Image courtesy: Sommai on

Spring is in the air with a fairly strong whiff of summer...the skies are awash with the flaming orange of blooming gulmohars and supermarkets are flooded with the golden yellow of the king of fruits. There is something so appealing about the mango that I am always attracted to the mango section. Yesterday, I got a bag of small, round Alphonsos. After lunch I sat down to peel them, the way my ammumma (grandmother) had taught me.

Out came a sharp knife and I deftly flicked off the top. Then carefully and painstakingly I started knifing, slipping the blade ever so delicately under the golden yellow skin, while holding the little fruit firmly, yet not so firmly lest I squish it. With the peel completely off and the mango slipping and slithering in my hands, by now smothered in syrupy yellow goo, I sliced off one whole side, and proceeded to cut it up into tidy, sometimes sloppy, little squares. By then, everyone around was in a frenzy, raring to bite into those luscious pieces of heaven :)

But last night, after a long warm day, I was tired. The mangoes were beckoning tantalisingly and I simply couldn't go through the whole peeling, slicing, squaring rigmarole. Then the spouse walked in, took a knife, sliced off a whole side, took a teaspoon and scooped out a spoonful of yummy! Hmmm...that was easy...

In my younger days, we used to get mangoes from the lady who came around selling them in a coir basket perched on her head. Whenever I would see the tiny mound of mangoes bobbing up and down, from beyond the brick wall, over the tops of the blooming bougainvilleas, I would get super excited. The mango lady was here! While ammumma would frown the lady into picking out only the best of mangoes, we children would wait impatiently behind her. My all time favourite was one called 'kappa manga.' I don't know its English name and I don't even know whether that's a real name or one that we used. Anyways, with tough, dark green skin, this was one whopper of a mango...the McMango of mangoes. Eating it was super fun!

You first hold it in your hands and squish it gently. I would sometimes even pummel it softly against the wall, until I could feel the insides become all soft and mushy. But while pummelling, you have to take good care not to break the skin. Finally, once you can feel the squishy yummyness inside, you slice open the top and suck into it and your whole mouth explodes in a burst of heavenly pulp and juice! Needless to say, it was one super messy process with mango juice slathered all over your face and neck. I guess that was the whole fun part of it ...

I haven't ever seen those mangoes again, but where ever I have gone, I have been lucky to have my own little slice of heaven, whether it's a Banganapalli, Badami, Chaunsa, Neelam or Alphonso...what's your mango story?

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Of lilies, books and a lamp...

Image courtesy of dan at

A brightly coloured Lego eagle perched rather precariously atop a Diary of a Wimpy Kid. A pair of rimless spectacles, a doggie leash, a pair of earrings, even a set of boys' pyjamas, and of course, plenty of papers and big fat books, all jostled for space around an iMac and a couple of Gods. 

She glanced wistfully at the messy desktop and wondered, "Where did I vanish to amidst all this? Where is the girl who loved books? And flowers? And all things lovely and beautiful?" 

That young girl would have chosen an antique table lamp for her now all grown up self's writing desk, casting a soft glow on a vase full of fragrant lilies and piles and piles of Agatha Christies...

A tiny wrinkle furrowed its way across her forehead. She threw a downcast look at her 'grown up' desk and the Lego eagle smiled back at her. "Is there any way I could get that dream of a desk back? The days when I was I. Just me, my books and my lilies..."

As she was simmering in a pot of self-indulgent melodrama, she felt a cold, wet nose rub against her knee, an adoring pair of deep black eyes looking up at her and a furiously wagging tail, nope, butt...for his entire butt was shaking at seeing the joy of his life.

"What the heck?! Wake up!" She shook herself out of her lazy reverie. 

"That’s over and done with. Pure, pristine lilies and old, faded books are a thing of the past. Now, this is you...part dog lover, part mom, part wife, part lily girl, part book worm…all melding into a messy mosaic that only women can pull off so elegantly..."

She brightened up, firmly brushed away any sad thought that was threatening to swamp her, picked up her dog, balanced the eagle on one hand and the leash on the other and plunged into yet another day of mothering, dog rearing, professing, a full, messy life.

Friday, April 17, 2015

All for the abaya...
Tintin scrunched his eyebrows and pushed on against the sand storm, his head wrapped up in a brightly coloured scarf, the sand rolling under his feet, with Captain Haddock blistering barnacling right next to him. I thought Tintin did that for a touch of touristy interculturalism ... the storm and the scarf. But man, he knew better!

The other day I was standing by the wayside waiting for a cab, when a slight breeze blew. The pleasant breeze was soon joined by other busy, little breezes and soon they transformed into strong gusts of wind. In seconds, leaves and fine sand, so fine that it actually looked like pale brown mist, were playing havoc with my hair and dress. All I could wish for at that moment was a long piece of cloth to wrap myself in, like a pupa in a cocoon, completely shielded from the swirling sand around me. 

For all the stuff we talk about women's freedom and the abaya I guess the desert dwellers knew what they were doing. Those long elegant gowns are probably the best bet against the shifting sands of the desert. Now I am actually toying with the idea of getting one for myself, maybe in a lovely peach or purple...and look like Tintin, all dressed up for the vagaries of the desert.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Look

Image courtesy: tiverylucky at
Saw a lovely sight today. A couple eating salad...urgh! (or yum! depending on where you fall on the salad-enjoying-spectrum). But many things made that simple salad scene soulful. 

One, he was actually gazing at her. 
Two, she was laughing like a little lass in love. 
Three, neither of them checked their phones once during the meal. 
Four, they were not young, they were in their forties. 

Yet, instead of the constantly distracted, I-have-a-long-to-do-list look, and more commonly these days, a vacuous stare on their faces illuminated by the hazy blue light from their phones, this couple was engaged with each other...truly engaged, almost in the way actors in movies do...locking their eyes together, y’know, the deep, I-can-see-into-your-soul look!

I guess I am not surprised that I was startled by the simple salad scene...for the soulful look is vanishing super fast in today’s iphone crazed, whatsapped world. 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Of tigers and cats

He was a tiger, or so they told me. He terrified people around him. With thick, bushy eyebrows and a ferocious glare I am sure he could have burned people to the ground with just one look. But to me, he was the kindest, nicest father I could have ever got through marriage. Although my own lion of a father has been with me since my teeny weeny days, this new tiger was there right next to the lion at every major juncture of my adult life.

The first time he came to see me at my college hostel, I was such a scaredy little cat. But as I walked out of the visitors’ room I had a sneaky feeling that the tiger had quite liked the cat. And indeed, he did. He used his tiger skills to brusquely brush away any feeble protests from anyone…the girl is from the South, how can she get along with us from the North and such cute stuff…That was just the beginning of a long string of memories.

It might sound silly, but perhaps the gentlest gesture was when he would ensure that my favourite Pears soap would be stocked up in the house when ever I turned up. Whenever life got turbulent, or I felt lost, he was always there with a deeply philosophical thought or a nugget of wisdom that would help me see light. And yes, he read hands. I have a sneaky feeling he often ‘read’ what he wanted us to do. Dream big, do your doctorate, write..not just your research papers, but creative stuff.

A man consumed by passion for his work, he poured himself into the innumerable roads and bridges he built all over India...from border roads on the rugged mountains of the Himalayas to bridges across raging rivers. He always had an arsenal of stories to tell…when he came face to face with a tiger, when his jeep plummeted down a ravine and he was thrown into the air, when he refused police protection in an area ravaged by dacoits, when rising rivers threatened to sweep away the hard work of many a man and woman, when he refused to kowtow to corporate power games and stood strong and proud and charted his own path through life.

Yes, he was a proud man indeed. And he left us that way…on his own, went to bed, never to wake up again. I think he would have liked it that way. Because everyone’s last memory of him remains that of a tiger, ferocious and fiercely independent. But as the fires raged on the beach as a final tribute to his life, a few souls sobbed gently, quietly into the night, remembering every gentle moment spent with the tiger.

Today, as his family and friends gather together to offer him his favourite foods on the 40th day of his passing away, I offer him this tiny tribute with a promise that I’ll restart writing. I am sure he’ll be very pleased.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


After 9 years of motherhood….

“Amma…,” he lisped…

And I swooned.

After nine months of waddling like a rubber ducky, six months of zombie nights, one year of colicky nighttime vigil, and all the zillions of stuff you do to raise kids without causing too much damage...the least you expect is a quiet acknowledgment over the guy who scurried off to the other room to have a peaceful night of sleep. But no, despite all my maternal 'sacrifices' I had resigned to being the second favourite or at the most, an unfair equal in the all-time favourite parenting contest…‘kuttu, ammede monaano, achante monaano?” (A silly game in Mallu circles…kinda means “are you mummy’s son or daddy’s son?” A rather dumb question, considering that it takes two to tango!)

Anyways,...whaddaya think? Having three kids heightens the chances of landing the much anticipated answer??? Na, na, way...2 out of 3 turned out to be diplomats…the question would either be met with a coy smile or with a deft change to some inane discussion of.....Power Rangers, of all things!

But, yesterday…after 9 years of motherhood…one whispered the golden word… “amma!”

I couldn’t believe my silly ringing ears! The spouse’s face fell a little. To make sure it hadn’t been an accidental slip of the tongue, he hopefully repeated the question. Pat came the firm answer, “Amma!”

Yea, ye, ye , ye, yea!!!!!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

When the little boy smashed his beak

Sonny boy smashed his face against my heavy duty arms and pulled back, his little nose reddening and face squirming with pain.

"Goodness, Nandu, what the......" I started, rubbing my hurting arm.
I stopped, seeing Nandu's brimming eyes...
"But amma, Jafar's bird smashed his beak against the door and he's okay!" do I explain to him that Jafar and his bird in Aladdin are not real, they are just cartoons? And that Tom, their favourite cat, can get flattened into a sheet and shiver back into shape, but that, well, isn't quite the order of things with little boys.

How do I explain all those subtle differences between real and unreal? That dinosaurs are not really real, while komodo dragons are; that ghosts and monsters are not real, but thieves and kidnappers are; that Barack Obama is actually Barack Obama, but Karan in HumTum is not Karan, but Saif Ali Khan and that the Khan takes on very many forms in different movies, but well, that's a little different from Vishnu taking on a dasha avatars?!!!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Lovely & Loved

She: I am dark...
He: You are dusky and sesky!

She: The world loves fair folks...

He: The world loves Rani and Michelle!

He: Listen, let me tell you a story.
He wrapped his fair lanky arms around her drooping dusky shoulders and pulled her closer...

"Once upon a time, there was a village. The village was ruled by a king and a queen. The villagers adored their royals. They even hoisted a statue of the beautiful queen in the village square....curvy, graceful and chocolatey, like a.......chocolate fountain.

All the womenfolk of the village craved to be like the queen.

They tried a clutch of home remedies, secret recipes jealously guarded and handed down through generations of mothers and grandmothers.... a dribble of olive oil and a few slivers of the early morn sun, a steaming bath with the most fragrant cocoa and cinnamon and a few drops of hazelnut essence...

One enterprising villager even made a cream that would make one succulusciously chocolatey. The
Royale fancy store in the village square sold the cream in a hazel and honey-coloured tube....Dusky & Lovely. It came in different shades-cocoa, chestnut, cinnamon, caramel, butterscotch, ginger, mahogany and toast. The Sunday paper was splashed with advertisements for Dusky & Lovely featuring bronzed models draped in smooth velvets coiled around chestnut brown hunks. The ads promised tantalizing shades of mahogany and butterscotch within a few weeks of use, or your money back.

The matrimonial ads screamed, "Curvy, elegant, butterscotch woman seeks robust, bronzed man" Marriage brokers waxed eloquent describing the buxom beauties in their clutch....chocolatey, cinnamony, mochaey, lattey......They had such a hard time with the pale, creamy ones...goodness, they had to insist that the moms paint their wards' faces with the deepest shades of coffee or chocolate powder before clicking pictures. But darn it, it's so difficult to cover up the paleness beneath!"

By now, she was smiling through her tears....the sun had peeped out and sprinkled rays of golden sunshine over her smiling face....dusky & lovely or fair & lovely, it didn't seem to matter long as she felt lovely, and loved.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

By the mossy green well

Once upon a time, there was a little boy and his sister. They were very close to each other, maybe because they were close in age, or maybe because they shared the same chores around the rambling household.

They had to be up before dawn to draw water from the mossy fern-lined well near the paddy fields. He would run along the mud banks criss-crossing the paddy fields in his valli-nikkar (suspenders of sorts) with a "Brrrrrrr......." emanating from his pursed lips, imitating an engine. She would traipse along behind.....with pot-fuls of water swinging from her dark lanky arms.

Then there was the mad rush back to freshen up and race to school. They would squat cross-legged on the ground and trace the alphabets on the sand. Whenever he got caught for some childish misdemeanor, she would watch from afar, eyes scrunched, as acha rained sharp smacks on his hand with a thin branch broken off the kilichundan maavu that grew on the outskirts of the compound.

Then, life intervened....seventy years of it...universities, spouses, children, homes, careers, egos, cold wars.....and they drifted apart....

Today, she is dying. And he is by her side.

Cold wars forgotten
Bruised egos forgotten
Broken promises forgotten

He slipped into the darkened room, sat by her bedside and held her hands. She looked up, a weak smile weaving through her bloated features...eyes misted over...and, once again, it was just the little boy and his sister, by the mossy green well.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Why did God make daddies?

: Why did God make daddies?
Mom : Hemmm......errr.....maybe...
Son : So that mummies won't be lonely.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Mango-pineapple pachadi...

Onam felt like the mango-pineapple pachadi I had made....sweet and sour...

Sweet, because, far away from Maveli's land, I could celebrate a lovely Onam with a bunch of multinational kids pouring over the athappoo, licking the ada pradhaman off the banana leaf, wearing Sohan's cream-coloured kurta and jeans.

Sour, because, ammumma and appuppa were in Trivandrum, achamma and achacha were in Ramanathapuram, maman, mami & baby cousin in Kansas and ileyamma, ileyachan and cousins in Gujarat.*

And I thought of my ammumma...
And of the lovely Onams we used to have....

One day, I think it was the day before Thiruvonam, we would all gather at Chathannoor, my dad's home. Mind you, my dad has 10 siblings....add in the families and you know the numbers I am talking about! Appuppa would be waiting for us, sprawled out on his wooden sofa. All the ladies would gather in the dark cavernous kitchen, its high roof darkened with soot from many a smouldering many stories would the soot be able to tell.....of the innumerable kanji and puzhukku prepared for the workers in the paddy fields, of the occasional chicken that would've been chased all over the yard before ending up with a fistful of spicy chillies in the blackened claypot....

After the sadya, everyone would leave, with a "poyittu varatte" to my appuppa...loosely translated that means, "We'll return." And return we did, every year, for an Onam together...

The next day we would gather at my mom's home in Trivandrum. This was a smaller gathering for you need to do the math only for four families. Ammumma would busy about, fussing over the tiny details, muttering at her horde of kitchen helpers. My dear ammumma was eternally fretting over the inordinate use of kothumbu, the most prized part of the coconut tree used as firewood. Finally, after a thousand frets and fusses, the sadya would be laid out on banana leaves and ammumma's yummy ada pradhaman would usher in the grand finale....

Yesterday, I thought of ammumma...
And of ada pradhaman...

I made the ada pradhaman, not the Double Horse instant variety, but the kind that is simmered over a slow fire for three hours, with jaggery and coconut milk, the way ammumma would have made it....
But I missed ammumma, and the Onams at her place...with all of us together.

*For those not familiar with Mallu, all these refer to grandparents, uncles and aunts

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Little lock-lovers

What's with kids and their moms' golden, err...raven locks? Mine freak out whenever I even think about getting a haircut. It's not that I am talking about cascading locks that sashay with every swagger of mine. C'mon, ever since they've started seeing me, I've only had a shoulder length crop. But hah, those little men! They fantasize about long, wavy locks that they can wrap their chubby little fingers through, and scrunch and knead and twist...

As though to drive home their point, whenever my mom visits, they immediately ditch my pathetic excuse of Rapunzelian locks and scoot to my mom's headful of springy curls, with a sly, "look, this is called hair!" look thrown at me! And to think that my mom has never been an ardent fan of her unmanageable mane of curls!

A democratic discussion on the right length of my locks was certainly out of question. Emotions would run too high, the arguments superheated. So when the Singaporean summer literally barbecued my neck and nerves, I decided to take matters into my own...ummm...into the hairdresser's hands.

When I got back, you should've seen their faces! 3 little boys who had just lost their gummy bears! My feeble protests of "See, now we all look the same!" fell on reddening little deaf ears!

Nandu (thoroughly distressed), "Amma, how can I draw you now? With spiky hair? Like acha?"

Oh no! I'd never thought of that! Nandu's family picture had to be perfect.....moms must have long hair and dads short.

Goodness! When did I create such cute little MCPs? Is it simply a man thing or did I do something to create such crazy little lock lovers?

But then, my self-doubts were somewhat allayed when my friends reassured me that they also have little lock-lovers at home...boys or girls, they seem to love mama's locks....the longer, the better!


Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Once Cinderella, the Prince and her kids lived happily. She loved them dearly. How she sighed, remembering those happy days before her helper went on her annual vacation to Philippines. Soon, Cinderella had to do all the housework. She was dressed in a raggedy frock, a faded IKEA apron and pink gloves.

Then one morning, as Cinderella was furiously working the froth into the glasses, pots and pans, she heard a loud alarm. It was a reminder flashing on her iPhone. "Project meeting with students at Graduate Room at 10". Cinderella's heart began to beat.

She ran up the kitchen steps, almost bumping into her Prince. "Darling, the project meeting in the Grad room! I can make it, can't I?"

But before the Prince could answer, something from inside her shouted out: "You? Go to the University dressed in your rags? Talk sense, Cinderella! You're only fit to stay at home!"

The Prince was in a tearing hurry and hastened off to meet his Council. Cinderella was so unhappy she could hardly bear it. Alone in the house, she sat by the gas, her sighs escaping her bosom.

Then, a dazzling glow of light seemed to fill up her insides, making her feel bright and warm. "Do not cry, Cinderella," came a soft voice from within. "I am here to help you."

"H-help me?" Cinderella stammered. "But, how? Who-who are you?"

"Your Fairy Godmother," came the reply. "And with my magic wand, I shall see that you go to the University!"

Before Cinderella could answer, the mop had been banished and the apron discarded. In an instant, her rags became a smart beige blouse, coffee brown Marks and Spencer skirt and suede shoes! She was ready to be whisked by her Honda to the school, to discuss the intricacies of intercultural communication.

"Thank you, Fairy Godmother!" Cinderella whispered.
"Just remember, the magic can only last until noon, when the kids have to be picked up from school!"

Well, what excitement when Cinderella arrived at the University! Cinderella and her students discussed the intricacies of intercultural communication. Was the Wasta system similar to the Chinese concept of Guanxi? Which negotiation styles could be considered while interacting with colleagues from China? They discussed the whole morning, enjoying the debates as each hour slipped by.

No one had a clue that the animated girl in the smart outfit was Cinderella!

On the first stroke of noon, Cinderella remembered what her Fairy Godmother had said. The kids had to be picked up from school at 1!

"I-I have to go!" she cried, and turned to run down the hallway....

This is a toast to the Queen of Cinderellas, my mom...
...And a standing ovation to the many Cinderellas I know, who harbour precious little Fairy Godmothers in their souls, juggling home and work so beautifully that one simply wouldn't recognize the smartly turned out office goer, teacher, researcher... to be a Cinderella!!!

This story has been adapted from Spurgeon, M. (2001). Cinderella. England: Brown Watson
Image from

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The sun of my life!!!

"A good and healthy flower with a thing to take care of it. The Sun. Mothers are like the you!"


The moment.
I caught it and tucked it away.
To take out on a cold, lonely day.
I ran to my (amused) hubby.
I was all bubbly.
I called my mom.
A song in my bosom...

For my son had just scribbled those words on a card he had made for me. To be was followed by a rather suspicious "Thank you for the match attax" (that's his latest soccer trading card craze and I had just gotten him a pack!)

Well, so what? I just ignored the most probable incentive behind the poetic outpouring and went back to my sighing! For it's rarely that a flower thanks the sun...