Friday, October 10, 2014

On being grandparents

One little infant,
not so long in this world of ours
is the reason for us, 
two more or less salient beings
to turn into puddles of mush.

Technology adds to our obsession,
we drool over her latest pictures
that our phones compel us to take
whenever we meet her.
We may have left her just minutes ago
and then we pore over her latest photo. 

If we're somewhere near their home,
we call to ask if the baby is awake:
only then shall we deign to come!!!
Just to meet that baby.
Which is not to say, of course,
that we don't have great conversations
minus the Little One, but..........

And now, and now, time rushes past
it will soon be time to say goodbye
The thought of living on mere memories
is enough to make one cry.

That delectable softness,
those sturdy little limbs
the start-and-stop crawling
her small baby whims
her grumpy expression
that makes us all laugh
her gurgles and coos
her cries and her yells:
we find ourselves copying her every sound!
What does that tell you about us,
Crazy grandparents?

Each moment so precious
each day with this child
of our child, someone so special
such magic she has wrought.....
We were not like this just some months ago,
but a permanent change has now come about:

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Dussehra Vacation

The little girl,
perhaps seven, or eight,
accompanies her father
and even smaller, silent sister
to the vegetable shop
in our gated community,
a place of almost
hallowed silence,
with sotto voce
requests for paneer
which is cut off the block
and weighed by one of the shop boys.

(People rarely speak to strangers
or newcomers
in these communities.
Smiles are rare, each person
in a parallel orbit ignored.
What would you lose
if you smiled at a 'stranger'
I have always wondered,
as I walk along the road
skirting our seventeen towers)?

The little girl
with her enthusiastic,
chirping little voice
excited by the bhindi
and the small eggplants,
showing her father
a mummy, a daddy and a baby baingan
brings back memories of my father and I,
going on his bicycle,
(me perched on the cross bar)
to the local mandi.
I'd come home and arrange
all the produce in the fridge
and relevant baskets,
being a sabziwallah all the while.

Schools will open now,
no more chattering children
in the vegetable shop,
only at the bus stop, at the gate,
a place I no longer need to frequent......



Saturday, September 27, 2014

In eternal orbit (No, not Mangalyaan)

In eternal orbit
are the strange gifts you receive
from people who don't care enough
to know what you like
but who insist, nevertheless,
on giving you some strange
unwanted item that
you know you cannot give away
to anyone you really know:
basically because you wouldn't
be seen dead giving a gift
so crass or tasteless.

(And your children also give to you
to keep/store or redistribute
strange gifts that they've received).

You also get given gifts
recycled so gracelessly,
that they have the original recipient's
name on a card inside,
or a fifteen year old newspaper as
the inside wrapping of a set of glasses.
And then you give them away
to charity, for raffles, to your maid,
hoping that someone, somewhere,
will be happy to win
the strange objets d'art
or the umpteenth lemon set
or glass bowl,
or casserole
or impractical stuff given
for the child who lives abroad.

I pray that I may
continue to receive 
these unwanted gifts
with grace, in a spirit of love,
as, I presume, they are given.

And then I pray that givers everywhere,
including me, of course,
be more enlightened in their giving.

And finally, that these
eternally orbiting unwanted objects
find Nirvana: a place, any place,
where they are loved and cherished
and finally used,
away from my home and my life.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Saturday morning

The two young boys
in the next-door balcony
hanging out their bath towels
on the washing line
smiling and laughing,
happy brothers.

Friday, August 29, 2014

'Cat'astrophic memories on this blog's seventh birthday!

Today marks seven years of this blog's existence! I know it has been sadly neglected of late, but let me assure you, dear readers, that I constantly have good intentions of posting, and so much to share, and the hope that I will pull up my blogging socks really soon. The following are stories which have been ready to share for quite some time, so here goes:

When we moved to Lucknow in the early eighties, we had to manage without a fridge for a few days.
During those few days, the biggest problem was making sure that the milk did not spoil till the next morning, which meant boiling it a couple of times, and keeping it safe from whichever stray cat decided that it could get into the kitchen. We were slowly acquiring some worldly goods including furniture, as we had moved from a furnished flat abroad. The cat was smarter than we were, until my younger daughter actually stuck a notice in the kitchen, requesting Billi Mausi not to drink our milk.
It worked, and then the fridge came, and that was the end of that particular problem.
                 A few years later I was visiting my cousin in Allahabad, and learned that her house was plagued by an even smarter cat. If she ever forgot to lock the fridge, the visiting cat would put her claws into the rubber gasket lining the door, and pull it open, and raid whatever she could. My youngest child had just started talking then, and would narrate, with big round eyes, the story of his maasi, fridge, cat and taala.
                 Many years later, at the behest of our youngest son, on several mornings the spouse and I  would take a bowl of milk down to our building garden and feed the stray kitten he had found there, until she was strong enough to leave the shelter of our garden and fend for herself in the great wide world. Cats were also wonderful to read about: Paul Gallico's Thomasina comes to mind, as does the more recent The Dalai Lama's Cat, by David Michie.
But cats invading my home were another story..........

                   When we lived in a small township in Tamil Nadu, our house was fitted with Netlon screens, a nylon mesh attached to the window frames with Velcro tapes. Good enough to keep out household pests, we thought, when we moved in to the flat. Little did we know........

                    My oldest sister-in-law and her husband were celebrating their golden anniversary that year, and so we travelled to Jaipur to attend the celebrations. My parents stayed alone for the couple  of days that we were away, knowing that it was a short trip, and that we had good neighbours who would help them in case of need. Our township was a couple of hours away from Chennai, and my return flight was a late one. I was sure that my parents would be fast asleep when I got home. (The spouse had to travel on work from Delhi, so I was returning alone). However, both of them were awake and anxiously waiting for me, and all the internal doors were tightly closed, and the house was stifling. There had been an influx of kittens, three or four of them, and they had managed to keep them out of the bedrooms by keeping the doors firmly shut. We finally retired for the remains of the night. I was quite upset that all my arrangements for my parents' well being in my absence were not fool proof, or should I say kitten proof?.

                    The next morning I investigated the matter. The sitting room windows were kept open for ventilation, ostensibly safe from pests with the Netlon screens. The bottom of one screen was completely loose, the mother cat must have pushed it open. I remembered wondering how the lid of the pan of ghee I had made some days earlier had mysteriously fallen to the floor........
The bedrooms and the kitchen were kitten free. Which meant that the kittens were hiding in the drawing room, behind the sofas or floor length curtains. I opened the front door and one escaped.
I chased the remaining two into the second balcony, but how to release them from there? I couldn't leave them there to starve either. I scooped one up into the handle of the walking stick and tossed it onto the lawn below, hoping that it would survive the one-storey drop. Seeing it land safely on all fours, I quickly despatched the other one as well, and then went in to make tea for us all.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Not a 'melon'choly post at all

Growing up in Delhi meant long hot summers.
The scorching heat could be a killer, but it also meant fabulous summer fruit: mangoes, melons and watermelons, peaches, cherries, litchies, phaalsas and jamun. Several varieties of mango, and mango pickles and chutneys made in a variety of ways (I can think of five offhand), the delicious sweet and sour 'launji' which was tempered with fenugreek, the heat beating aam ka panna (which I still make) gave mangoes a special status each summer.

For me, though, it was the fabulous variety of melons which made summer even more special. There were the dull beige ones with peach coloured flesh, the beige and green striped ones, the brown and green striped, the small deep golden skinned Baghpat melons with white flesh, other ones with pale green flesh. I loved (and still do) the subtle sweetness and fragrance of a good musk melon.
My father added to their magic. Besides buying them with great enthusiasm, sniffing each one for the fragrance which said that it was sweet, my father would make the cutting of each melon a great adventure. Post dinner we would be eagerly watching him cut the melon(s), (depending on their size), and pronounce judgement as he tasted the first slice. If it was sweet, he would wax poetic. If not, there was always a box of powdered sugar to render it palatable. His enthusiasm for whatever life had to offer made him the very special person he was.

It's been four years since he left us. I know that I do remember him several times a day, even though I remembered the actual day of his passing a few days late. Each melon that we eat reminds me of the good times we had. We are living in the NCR after decades far away from the dry heat of a North Indian summer, so the RE and I are revelling in the fruit of the season. He has taken on the mantle of the family's melon buyer, and we have had several exquisitely sweet and juicy melons this year. I'm sure my father's watching us enjoy them!

A friend posted this poem on her Facebook page yesterday:

Those whom we love and lose are no longer where they were.
They are now wherever we are.

St John Chrysostom

I know that as long as I live, my father lives on in my heart.

I see my husband as a loving father and now a grandfather, large hearted and generous always. 

It is  my older son's first Father's Day, and I have absolutely loved his utterly joyful, totally committed involvement with his infant daughter.

Happy Father's Day, Anand.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Mystery of the Missing Rolling Pin


I've used the same rolling pin for decades, ever since my mother gave it to me when I got married.
It's a longish, slender variety of 'belan'.
When I went to the USA to spend some time with my son in 2009, I was quite horrified when I had to pay 8 US dollars for a rolling pin. On this visit I decided to carry one from the motherland, and bought one polycarbonate/synthetic rolling pin with accupressure handles from the shop below our building.
It so happened that my daughter-in-law did have a rolling pin in her kitchen, but it was really huge and unwieldy, so I used the polycarbonate one.

The fun starts once I'm home.
The rolling pin in the kitchen is most definitely not mine.
It is slender, but much too small. It also has distinct handles, while mine has a more streamlined, flowing design.
Mine also has some nicks from when I used it to crush cardamom seeds.

The spouse thinks I'm confused, and feeling that it's smaller because of the larger one I was using at the son's house.
Both daughters also seem to think the same.

I think that there is a big mystery here,
Maybe the maid broke mine and bought a new one to replace it.
My regular part-time help says she has no idea.
My daughter's maid, who'd stayed over at our place to look after the spouse also claims complete ignorance of the mysterious rolling pin.

My younger son, however, agrees with me. He has even used my rolling pin in Kolkata, when he'd made alu parathas for self and friends while I was away. Thank goodness someone agrees with me.

It doesn't help solve the mystery, though.

The spouse think it is now part of a parallel universe. (He'd watched several episodes of  Fringe in recent months).

Any ideas, gentle readers?