Thursday, June 11, 2015


How do I lighten this load of an absence?
Is it grief, or fear, or both?
Grief, missing her in so many ways;
so many things remind me of her presence: her many many presents!
The tulsi plant, the flour scoop, the click-shut kitchen boxes,
the snack bowls Dad and I had bought
at Cottage Emporium long years ago
which she insisted that I keep
the embroidered hand towels,
and the small hanky sized ones for my morning walk.
The book she decided that my husband would like.
The Tanchoi the colours of our mother's wedding saree
The yellow silk saree that she wanted me to wear on Basant Panchmi
The Kota she couriered to me in Kolkata.....
The block print that was exactly my type of saree
the bed covers, the cushion covers, the generous presents to all my kids,
the presents that came in handy for giving away, too.....

And the landline, that hardly ever rings now,
it was like our exclusive, personal, sisterly phone.
It hardly ever rings now.
Its silence underlines her absence.
I miss her calls, all the family news she gave me.

Soon before she left us, I noticed her wonderful dark eyes and lashes
that looked kohl-rimmed, but never were.
How had I never noticed them before????

We were so different but so similar too that it scares me:
Our voices apparently similar, or maybe it was the way we spoke.
We did resemble each other, apparently, although we didn't always want to!
Both my siblings gone before sixty two. A very scary fact.
And yet pointless, this fear.
Each day has to be lived
the best it can be, whether there are just a few days, or many.
Who knows? Not me.

But how, pray, will this burden of an absence be lightened?

Saturday, May 16, 2015

An Unimaginable Shock

My sister passed away very suddenly on the 25th April. 
She had called me just a few hours before that.
I am still trying to come to terms with this strange new world in which she longer exists, 
her absence a huge gaping void.

From a childhood of having her as an additional mother figure,
who plaited my hair tight, and ironed our school uniforms,
( the two years between us seemed insurmountable:
she'll always be two years older than me, I'd wail,
at her bossiness, at the special privileges she had)
an illustrious role model in our school,
where she was an avid sportswoman, athlete, all-rounder,
the head girl of our school
(almost to the point where I resented her
for practically defining my identity)
to our lives diverging through college
(different streams, different campuses)
and marriage, different cities and countries,
our lives' trajectories taking us far away from each other

And yet, always there for me
Sewing clothes for my babies, giver of many gifts,
taking us around her beloved city,
visiting mine......

Being a rock solid support during our parents' last few months
and years, there whenever I needed her.......

I suppose God knew what he was doing 
when we were inspired to move back to the capital.
Even though we lived at different ends of the city,
At least we were in the same place, 
(meeting occasionally, speaking often)
for this final chapter of her life......

It feels much too soon, 
this sudden departure, not even sixty-two,
just like our brother, who went as suddenly
at almost the same age, so many years ago.

Memories: from long ago, and from the recent past.
From being the youngest of three siblings, to having none.
Two families with only a single parent left in each.
A three year old looking for his grandmother all over her house.
A four month old who never ever knew his grandfather
But both of them live on in our thoughts, in our lives, and in our memories......

Monday, April 13, 2015

Toothpaste Tales

I have a magic toothpaste tube
that has been living in my bathroom
for a while now.
It is squeezed out, and ready for the bin,
but every time I give it
'one last squeeze'
out comes enough
for yet another brushing.
I can see my father chuckling away,
wherever he may be,
knowing that he may be gone, but never forgotten!

As a child I used to seriously hate
the almost empty toothpaste tube
that Dad would insist on our finishing completely,
every last smidgeon of toothpaste squeezed out, ruthlessly.
He would even cut the tube in the middle
to extricate the last tiny bits,
which annoyed me even more,
and I dreamt of an adulthood
of toothpaste extravagance.
I dreamt of wasting whole tubes of toothpaste,
making jalebi squggles with them on the floor,
something that I never ever did.

And I see myself in the bathroom mirror,
squeezing that damn tube till the very end
Not quite knowing whether to laugh or cry.

Even if I wanted to, Daddy, (which I know I don't)
I can never ever forget you.......

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Delightful folktales!

My friend Riti Prasad is on a roll! I have before me her second book for children, Folktales from Around the World. It has five delightful stories, one each from Malaysia, South Africa, Czechoslovakia, Nigeria and Japan. The book is beautifully illustrated by Navleen Kohli.

The first story tells the tale of a clever mouse deer, who manages to outwit several far more powerful animals in the forest in which he lives.

The next, a Zulu folktale, tells us how stories were born, and is a charming account of a family whose children are hungry for stories, and how the mother's sincere efforts to get them stories bear fruit.

The Czech story is about two sisters, Marushka and Helena, and also why the Czech weather is so unpredictable.  Marushka's efforts to fulfull her  sister Helena's demands take her to the top of the mountain, at the base of which they live with their parents, where she meets the twelve months, who help her. Of course there is a moral too.

The Yoruba tale from Nigeria, about an elephant and a tortoise, is an absolute delight. Anything more about this story would detract from the fun of it!

The Moonflower, a story from Japan, is a beautiful story about a baby girl who is found in the forest by a childless woodcutter, who takes her home to his wife, and they bring her up as their own child.
Once she grows up, her destiny takes an unexpected turn. A gentle, poignant story.

I only wish there had been more stories. These are refreshingly different, and also a reminder of the world's amazingly rich heritage of folk tales.

Published by Mango Books, an imprint of DC Books.
You can order it here:

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Neighbours!

I first encountered these neighbours last spring, and was delighted to know that they were part of our environs. The husband was more frequently visible, although he'd often perform apparently magical disappearing tricks. I managed to spy his hideaway one day: the hole in the balcony ceiling for a ceiling fan fixture.
Now Mr. And Mrs. Sparrow were lithe and agile creatures,who hopped/flew in and out of their home with alacrity, but it certainly seemed to be a strange place for a nest. The laws of gravity seemed to be beyond the understanding of this couple. ( Besides the fact that the laundry drying on the stands in the balcony was often decorated by bird-droppings).
A couple of eggs smashed onto the floor. I sincerely hoped that Mrs.Sparrow had laid enough eggs for at least some to hatch. And then it was time for me to leave for several weeks, for the birth of my grandchild.
The spouse followed a month later, and the house was closed for about a fortnight.

When I opened the balcony door, I was saddened to see two almost dessicated baby bird carcasses on the floor. I don't know if their were any survivors out of that clutch of eggs.

It's spring again, Mr. Sparrow is visible, while his mate is only heard. I truly wonder at the chances of the survival of their chicks. I am fond of these neighbours and only wish that they weren't such bird brains.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015


A lady with whom I have a nodding/smiling  acquaintance accosted me on my walk this morning.

'I haven't seen your mom around for a while,' she said.

'It's been five years since my mother passed away,' I told her.

'Aren't you an artitect (sic)? She had said that her daughter's an artitect. She looks exactly like you.'

Much as I would love to be an artitect/artytect, I respectfully declined.

But there's someone in our complex who's a dead ringer for me!

Maybe I can be a good  'arty'tect.

Especially since I painted a couple of oil paintings in recent months.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Number Love!

The fact that I did not do particularly well in the last maths exam that I appeared for several decades ago does not mean that I do not appreciate the beauty of numbers. I was delighted to learn that my friend Riti Prasad has written a fun maths book for children ( age10and above) and was very pleased when Mango Books (an imprint of DC Books) sent me a copy to review.

Some famous mathematicians find their place in the first chapter of the book- there are brief notes about the ancient Greek mathematicians from Thales, Pythagoras, Euclid, Archimedes and Erastosthenes, the Indians Aryabhatta, Brahmagupta, Bhaskaracharya, Ramanujan and Shakuntala Devi, British contributors such as Ada Lovelace, Bertrand Russell, G.H. Hardy, and Andrew Wiles, as well as Egyptian, European and Iranian mathematicians.I would have loved more details and stories about some of these personalities, such as the legendary Bhaskaracharya lessons to  his daughter Lilavati, and the friendship between Hardy and Ramanujan.

Riti then narrates several delightful stories in which numbers play a central role. "Who Is The Brave Man?" is based on an African folktale. A Liberian folktale forms the basis for the next story, "How Do They Add Up."
A simple and systematic account of Fibonacci numbers makes the beautiful numbering patterns of nature extremely clear.
We have the famous chessboard reward story from India next, as well as a story that involves dividing chapatis!
Another famous story, "The Father's Will", is used to illustrate dividing into fractions.
A Chinese legend illustrates the concept of a magic square. Time cycle and rhythm in Indian music essentially apply the principles of magic square. It also forms the underlying principle of Sudoku and the Rubik's cube.
Each chapter narrates an interesting story about its central concept. There are puzzles and quizzes after each chapter, and the answers are explained clearly and systematically at the back of the book.

It is a compact book with a lot of subject matter. I personally feel that it could be printed in a bigger format, with more illustrations, and in colour. It was extremely interesting even for someone of my age, and helped renew my appreciation of the magic of numbers.

You can order it at:,_facts_and_fiction