Just another day in my life…

It was a beautiful morning two weeks back. Despite being awakened by the rooster on my mobile phone alarm, I lay on my bed wondering about the mystery of life. Why are we born? This led to more meanderings of an idle mind – Who are we? Where do we come from? Where do we go to? Is there any meaning to our collective existence? Would the world be any different if any of us just vanished into thin air? This was followed by deeper mulling on whether mankind can ever find its collective soul and live in harmony with nature and so on.

Just then a stray thought entered and I realised it was my birthday; the shock of mid-life crisis had set in. Suddenly I did not want to wake up and face the day or do anything at all. What if I could just vanish into neverland and come back another day as if the birthday had never really come. What if I could turn back the clock and return to middle age when I was more equipped to handle it?

Talking about handles, I had tyres now, also laugh lines, a greying mane, a stretch of beard and a double chin to boot!

Goodbye teddy

Whoa! I am something to reckon with. But then, I remembered the mister and me having celebrated my brave entry into the terrible mid-ages, with a chocolate cake at midnight. It hadn’t seemed that terrifying then.

Why was it so scary now? I began to think – what if I live another three decades at the most and still feel the same? I couldn’t risk feeling this way forever. One has to somehow face the moment of truth and take it as it comes. And so, I make it out of bed and into the balcony to look at my plants. They are so freshly green and as happy as the morning. They only asked me for water, knowing fully well they had to prepare their own food using the water and sunlight.

I watered the plants realising that I have to prepare my own food for my own soul. Life will provide the ingredients but I was responsible for making something nutritious for my soul.

I listened to the many birds atop the trees. They were excited about the day, and chirping about as if there was no tomorrow. They seemed to be living for the moment – no mid-life crisis for them.

I looked at some birthday wishes on WhatsApp. These were the mandatory ones aided by smartphones; birthday reminders set up by friends from over the globe. It’s just that it happened to be my birthday too with many others. The day will move along and it will be like just any other spring day. The cake pictures on Instagram brought a few more wishes by virtual friends. A blogger uncle’s egreeting cheered me up – a dancing elephant clutching flowers in his trunk. That was it.

It was a working Friday and I had a dozen chores to do and age had nothing to do with it. I knew the day was going to be a good one, because age did not matter any more. It was my soul I needed to nourish.

My maid and her newfound efficiency

indian-maidMy bai has stopped giving me the cold shoulder. Ever since I wrote this post called “Maid in India” describing how we (the Mister & me) are the hostages in this employment contract, she has been acting strangely. The first quarter of this year is round the corner and I still haven’t been able to figure out why.

I am scared, very scared to write this post; I have an uncanny feeling she knows about this blog therapy I follow. Perhaps through some extra sensory perception, she knows what I think about her.

In fact, she demanded a raise right after the post, leaving me feeling quite stupid for having written that. Anyways, we had to concede to her demands if we wanted peace at home and some cleanliness if you may!

But lately I’ve been noticing a peculiar work ethos in my maid. She has transformed into an efficient worker since the two weeks of March. I fear a massive uprising is on the cards soon…but no!

For starters, the utensils are squeaky clean and you can see your face in it. Seen the vessels in the VIM washing bar ad, which the brand new daughter-in-law is brandishing away at her sceptical mother-in-law? My maid is washing the vessels like that, can you beat that?

The deep bottomed kadai might not come out squeaky clean, but there is no trace of any oil on it, not even on the handles, like it used to be before. Spoons, ladles, the butter knife, every little thing is washed both sides. There was a time when the holding side had traces of what I had cooked earlier. Now, I don’t feel like cooking in these vessels anymore, why dirty them again?!

Earlier, there used to be a puddle of water on the platform where she dumped all the vessels. Now it is dry and vessels are placed intelligently so that all sides of the vessel dry up faster. She should be awarded a ‘Kaizen’ for finally bringing up a continuous improvement approach to her work!

She isn’t stopping at that. The kitchen sink is brushed hard at all the edges too. Washing the sink was never in her to-do list. All she did was merely pour tons of water on all sides and let drain it on its own. She even gave me a big surprise two days back. She washed up the cooking range squeaky clean, without me telling her to do it, which is the case usually. As a matter of fact, I remember a time until a month ago where I was begging her to do it.

To add to this, my home is immaculately clean. The floors are swept with a vengeance like never before. She mops away in a beautiful rhythmic pattern; replace the mop and water with a paintbrush and colours, this would create a masterpiece for keeps.

She was a good worker, she came with neighbour recommendation a year ago. That was the time, when a few maids had taken us on a royal ride. My next door neighbour suggested this lady, and added that she works in and around a few homes in the same wing. This lady, however, took too many leaves without informing us. One time her daughter was sick, the other time her brother was on a visit to her place, and at other times she would even get rashes!

Now she hasn’t skipped a single day except for one day, the next day she looked frail but happy to report to work.

Her soaring performance deserves a ‘best performance’ award, her efficiency is a welcome change, her full attendance is inspirational, but I’m breaking my head to know why. A few days ago, I’ve been seeing new maids at the homes she used to work at. Maybe there is a clue there. I would be more than happy to write a new post with all the masala!

Image courtesy: Times Crest

Bangalore New Year and some fishy tales

The mister and me were bored. Out performing each other with the help of Fruit Ninja and other highly competitive mobile games, was getting too mainstream. We wanted to ‘do something.’ Having arrived in Bangalore one morning for a surprise visit to my in-laws boomeranged. The surprise was on us; there was no one to welcome or hug or make us feel wanted, as both ma and pa in law were away completing chores on the last day of2013.

After the epic train journey that we had had in Udayan Express, this was just what we needed. We had the keys to the apartment, so we snuggled in and made ourselves at home. Soon we were planning on doing something, but what exactly could one do after having endured 20 hours in a train? We ended up watching ‘Captain Phillips’ starring our common favourite ‘Tom Hanks’.

Our folks arrived home in the evening and received a grand surprise. The day ended with talks, debates and ‘why did you not inform us’ with the company of some good food and loads of hugs.

The next day was 1st of January 2014. We again decided to ‘do something’.

Bangalore is the city of gardens; you’re always stepping into one garden or the other. But, Bangalore is also the city of museums, rich cultural history, temples, mosques, churches, gurudwaras each with their architectural wonder and more.

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Cubbon Park, Source: Wikipedia

We decided to enhance our knowledge of flora, while in the city. So Cubbon Park it would be with a visit to the aquarium adjacent to it. Located in the heart of the city, one cannot have missed the Cubbon Park while travelling anywhere in Bangalore. Starting off with 100 acres, the park was extended to around 300 acres because everybody likes a little more greenery. 300 acres is equal to 1.2 square kilometres by the way, so that’s a lot of flora watching. Named after Sir Mark Cubbon, the longest serving commissioner of Mysore, the park has a variety of bamboos, imported ornamental trees, a toy train and many historical monuments.

It is New Year day and the whole of Bangalore had made similar plans. After having braved the traffic jams and changing two buses, we arrived at Cubbon Park to realise that sightseeing 300 acres of flora with nearly 300 thousand people is not a fun way to start off 2014.

So we started with the aquarium located at the entrance gate to the park. The Bangalore Aquarium, as it is called, is the second largest in the country. Surprisingly, it wasn’t crowded so I could have all the fun with the fishes. I was all excited like a kid who visits an aquarium for the first time.

I don’t know how to describe this but the second largest aquarium in the country had me disappointed. Some of the tanks were empty, while some of them had their labels torn. Most of the fishes have lived in these artificial environments for so many years that they do not have a motive left to explore it anymore. They don’t bother to swim across the next manmade underwater cave to meet with their friends.

But, there was one enthusiastic guy that I fell in love with. He went up and down his little tank frantically looking for something – worms perhaps. Or maybe he has a story of a lost love. Maybe she was taken to another tank, we would never know.

Sadly, his label was pulled off so I might not be able to identify his species. To the discerning fish buff, the bulging eyes are a clear giveaway though. Here’s a little video shoot of the smarty:

We then decided to skip the Cubbon Park for another day when it is less crowded.

The second day of the year, we visited the Lal Baug botanical garden spread across 240 acres in the southern part of the city. Both of these were being managed by the horticulture department of the state who are fairly good at their jobs. The floral clock works but the aquarium is defunct. For a nature enthusiast especially of flora, the garden is a treasure house.

Most of the trees are more than a hundred years old and being near them makes you feel like a child under the care of loving elders. I can’t describe the contentment we returned with. It will always remain like a beautiful memory within us.

Butterfly garden Bangalore
Butterfly garden, Bangalore

So the Google search for ‘exciting places to visit in bangalore’ served us well indeed! Hope you too visit places in your city and discover the beauty hidden in its hustle and bustle.

The last epic train journey of 2013

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India is a densely populated country. I bet you know that and have a very own personal experience to vouch for, for if you’re living in this country other than the remotest towns lying strewn across the bosom of the Himalayas, you sure have been magically transported from point A to point B through the Great Indian Railway Network at least once in your life.

I live in the Queen of the Deccan, Pune – the twin city of the country’s financial capital, Mumbai, and often travel by trains. I’m travelling on one right now – the Pune-Bangalore Udayan Express and do not have many better things to do, other than observe this cacophony called co-passengers. This is my last train journey of 2013 and it seems to be as epic as the ones before.

Trains form the lifeline of this country. With over a billion and another 270 million people travelling across the length and breadth of this country, the Indian Railways sure deserves a pat on its back, or rather it’s amazing maze of rails that work in clockwork precision. Thanks to the British rule, this is one system that works at sigma level 4 to 6, depending on the assorted group of passengers it is dealing with.

Right now my Udayan Express is dealing with an assortment of passengers from all corners of Pune. The noon sun isn’t kind either. The Express train has just overcome a massive panic attack. Passengers have invaded it from each of its doors and windows. And most of them haven’t even bothered to reserve their seats. But, that goes because in India just about anything goes.

The ticket checker is working hard to ensure this. After securing a cancelled seat for his daughter, he goes about allotting vacant seats to the hundreds of distressed souls moving helter skelter inside the express train. (It doesn’t move like one though!) And by the way, I also learnt that TCs have a special quota reserved for their sons and daughters. And, there are free meals for them too!

There’s more going on –

There are guys selling ‘thanda pani bottles’ (read empty mineral water bottles refilled at the railway drinking water tap). Remember – anything goes? This isn’t adulteration; it’s called ‘innovation’ and it is a thriving business in a tropical country like ours.

Some guys making the rounds are selling everything from safety pins to recycled tea/coffee/meals to metal chains for anchoring your luggage to your seat. They want to make the most sales in these 20 hours, by whatever means possible, even if it means scaring you enough to buy it.

Even more interesting to observe are my co-passengers. There’s a party of colourful people returning from a wedding. I know because the women’s palms are smothered with intricate mehendi designs, and the men are carrying in all the booty. For starters, there are endless boxes of fragile porcelain, just what the doctor prescribed to carry on a jam packed passenger train.

The cartons say ‘Handle with care’ and the party has been fighting tooth and nail to handle them with care. There are tea cups, saucers and a teapot in one box. There are dinner plates, bowls, and casseroles in another. I read the branded labels on the other carton boxes  – XYZ air freshener, LMN microwave, PQR cooking range, UVW cooler and EFG something something . If all this was not enough, there is a carton of possibly fifty 200 gm packets of unopened potato wafers too. Some poor soul has been fleeced at the wedding.

Plus there has been a scene at the wedding; I can tell for sure. One of the young lad has a bandage across his wrists and is also making gigantic efforts at standing on his feet. Nobody is bothered a teeny bit though.

And then there is the ‘distinctive’ ubiquitous fragrance of the Indian Railways emanating from each and every nook and cranny of the express. Food mixed with poop or is that pee, I don’t know nor do I care. The family beside with the know-it-all mom, the errand-boy dad, their darling daughter and her super irritating little toddler, are also adding their distinctive smells to it. A floral perfumed hand spray goes foosh foosh on each of their palms every one hour. The combination is lethal. My olfactory senses have been deadened by now.

And, let’s not talk about my auditory senses. The darling daughter with her high-pitched voice has successfully managed to out-perform the many wheels chugging along the rails. Her know-it-all mom has been giving her a piece of advice on ‘how you should not disturb your co-passengers’ while being completely oblivious of the noise pollution she has been spreading around. The only adult male has visibly surrendered to these female forces. Life goes on as they discuss what’s wrong with the State Railway Minister.

Evening has arrived and we are now waiting at the Gulbarga train station, the letters of the language are rounded now; we’ve crossed Maharashtra and are now at Karnataka. The telecom service providers are always happy to welcome passengers in roaming, aren’t they? All of us receive welcome SMS’s from our delighted service providers.

Talking about my co-passengers, there’s also a trio of boys who are dead bored. I guess they could do with a real Temple Run 2 kinda adventure right now. They’ve been talking all the time and wondering what the hell am I typing away on my laptop!

I am thankful to this last moment tatkal quota ticket the agent could get us in the sleeper class, because nowhere else could I have had experienced such an epic journey at the end of the year. I consider myself the chosen one. In fact the mister and me are equal in status of being the chosen ones.

Here’s to more epic train journeys in 2014. Cheers!

Image courtesy: Amit Kulkarni

Maid in India

I can’t do without her. Nor can we live in harmony. She knows the place she holds in my life. And she uses it to her benefit. So when this noble lady tells me, “Pocha kal” I obey at once with a respectful nod.

Today she reports nearly three hours later than her scheduled time, but I say nothing because being present on the job is an even bigger quality than punctuality, isn’t it? She is reporting after 50 hours, which is fine because little breaks from work helps keep her mind fresh and active. Besides, it gives me and the mister a chance to do some house chores as a break from our very humdrum life of blogging.

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Last December, right after my back injury, I knew I couldn’t avoid this anymore. To give up washing our utensils, to give up on sweeping and mopping our one-bedroom home office, to give up on my freedom to do whatever I want with my home was something very tough for me. We had shifted home just a couple of months back and hired the maid who claimed to be the most ‘in demand’ in our housing society. We had no choice but to believe her and depute her. Soon after the transfer of power, a familiar feeling began to overpower us.

Our endeavour to keep our home clean had failed again. This maid hardly turned up. And God forbid, if she ever did turn up, she also made sure to leave within ten minutes. So quick and efficient was she, that all the utensils self-washed themselves, all the dust vanished from the floors before they got magically moped with glassfuls of Lizol. It took me a week to decode her modus operandi.

She transferred dirt to nooks and crannies that are invisible to the human eye. Though, these were visible to the pests that lived with us and often laughed at our ignorance. How I got rid of the pests is an altogether different story that needs to be told as well. Living in rented homes teaches you a lot about human behaviour, I tell you!

I had questioned this lady holding in my palm a portion of evidence although it was ‘dirty’ – dust, hair, a few pulses, some shedded skin too I guess. She was deeply hurt that someone could question her integrity like this. She left at once and promised to never come again. She came the next day to collect her salary for the days she deceived us though.

So 2013 began with this new maid who came with recommendations from the neighbours. This time I got smarter to not rely on self- proclamations. She takes her time at the kitchen sink. Then she carefully sweeps away dust (hair and all) from all nooks and crannies too. Then she mops the floor with a corkful of Lizol and leaves a fragrant home for the two of us.

But, she hardly reports to work.

Sometimes, her daughter is sick or at times she takes a week-long sojourn to her native land. That way she prefers to keep away from the dim of city life and rejuvenate through all the greenery in the countryside.

She works at nearly seven homes everyday, thus earning our empathy. So when she does report to work, she finds herself with more than a day’s dirt to wash, sweep or mop. She made sure it wasn’t too hard on her. So the invariable response was ‘Pocha kal’ which meant ‘mopping tomorrow as today there is too much work load’. Also, ‘you guys don’t seem to mind not having a squeaky clean floor anyways’!

Every thing including her absenteeism was going fine up until I saw her leaving a neighbour’s home after finishing their chores, and leaving on the sly. And, she has been doing this for the whole of this year, right under our nose!

Out of the 350 days she took salary for, she must have reported for only 280 as every month sees her sickness, her daughter’s sickness, or her wish to take a breath of fresh air from her countryside.

She is a good worker who knows her value and her employers very well. This November, I gifted her a saree along with Diwali bonus, although me and the mister did all the pre-festive deep cleaning. She was apprehensive in taking it then. Unlike other maids who rejoice over getting gifts over Diwali, or blackmail into getting them, she seemed a tad bit guilty. Her uninformed absence for the next 11 days gave me the answer.

Well, this is my maid. My very own ‘Maid in India!’ I am hoping you have your very own maid stories to share too 🙂

Turning three and feeling young again!

I can’t believe our blog – that is also our source of bread and butter – turns three today! Here’s our mascot with the birthday cake:

LI-mascot-cakeAfter a false start on April fool’s day, our blog ‘Lighthouse Insights’ was formally launched on December 1, 2010. A day before I had confided to my hubby and partner-in-crime (then fiancé) that I plan to look for content related jobs to help moonlight my daytime struggle with design assignments I was struggling to find.

Why go outside when you can join me?” he said. Surprised and amused, I asked him what was he talking about!

He sent me a blog link with around 10 posts on marketing, word of mouth marketing, customer service, social media magic and more. I liked the substance in this blog but would I be paid? It was named ‘Bee Societal’ and I couldn’t imagine working for a blog named like that. Also, I was living in Mumbai and we didn’t know when to get married!

When everything is a big question mark, you surrender to the divine forces. I did that and almost magically, we worked on this blog with me in Mumbai and him in Pune. First things first – ‘Bee Societal’ was renamed to ‘Lighthouse Insights’ after a brainstorming session on the phone, minus our brains!

The initial months were full of self-training and observation – social media practices, human behaviour, blog content, SEO basics and link building, digital marketing, Seth Godin, English & grammar (actually studied through Wren and Martin which was optional in school!) and much more. This process of learning kept me engaged and excited as well.

But, the location difference was still a problem and we couldn’t be engaged forever. So we got married. One month later, we moved to a personal domain and there has been no looking back ever since. Within seven months of marriage and the blog’s first anniversary, the hubby put down his papers at the IT company that used to pay our rent and bills. January 1, 2012 to December 31, 2012 was a complete roller-coaster ride of a year, we didn’t know what we had gotten into and didn’t know where it was leading us. With God’s grace, we were able to pass through painful wrists, a broken back, and some ‘medical conditions’ caused from insomnia, nervous tension et al. The most exciting bit was, of course, paying our bills right on the due date!

2013 has been a ‘floating’ experience. Both of our systems have been reconfigured and we don’t remember much of when we fell in love with each other, or when we met and decided to get married. Survival has taught us focus, discipline and perseverance, something our parents tried in vain!

Three years and counting…three years young and getting to kindergarten…relearning the childish way to explore…Thank you God for everything!

The Avian Invasion of 2013!

The Mayans were wrong. The world had not ended after all and the happy new year was peeping in all its false glory. But, my world had certainly reached a dead end and good thing was I didn’t know it then. Struck by a back injury, I could barely sit or stand, let alone shoo away that pair of pigeons whose 2013 resolution was to spend some ‘cozy’ time in our kitchen attic.

If any of you ever happen to be in my city and walk past a bus depot near Kothrud, don’t forget to ask for the smelly house. You will be led to our apartment unfailingly. That’s how bad the scene was back then.

The mister was already juggling with cleaning, cooking, laundry, and keeping a check on me all round the clock, lest I make superheroic stunts like jump on a trampoline or something. The doctor had advised for a complete bed rest, but I managed to keep my ears open. My hunch was right – we were going to be invaded soon and how!

cozy pigeonsOne day sometime on a cold February afternoon, we heard the flapping of many wings and were quite taken aback to find two dusky grey pigeons making themselves at home, in our kitchen attic. The mister tried shooing them away but his pleas fell on deaf ears. These two smart fellows had also built a nice little nest complete with dried twigs and a chocolate brown rope. At once I realised the handles of my designer paper bag were not really stolen after all. What a relief!

These guys had long been following a modus operandi of sorts. They had been sneaking in twigs one at a time, when it was ‘all-clear’ in our kitchen – the long interval between breakfast and lunch and the few hours before tea time. The braver of the two made his/her way in through the window and stayed vigilant for some time. With a bunch of little twigs in his/her beak, he/she ensured we were where they wanted us to be, and nodded to the other one waiting at the window sill.

This guy would set the twig and fly out while the other got in and set his/her twig. The twigs that fell off their beaks and onto our floor was promptly picked up and set in place. Their operations were so smooth, little did we get an inkling of what’s happening in our kitchen. In this way, perhaps a thousand tos and fros later, their nest had been built on the sly, while I was sleeping…quite literally!

But, I swear I did hear some sounds, some very low frequency squeaks like pigeon whispers or something. But then I imagined these sounds as part of my wild imagination and let it go. However, I also did smell a faint poultry-like odour in the house, and blamed it on my strong sense of imagination.

By mid-March, I was able to walk around. Despite our pleading and shooing and then pleading again, this duo did not bother to move an inch, giving rise to our deepest fears – what if they have laid eggs? How long will the eggs take to hatch? What if the eggs fall down before hatching? In case, the baby pigeons do hatch, what if they fall down and we are held responsible. And worse, the place will get even more smelly. These stupid stupid pigeons!

Then came a day when they were gone. Yes, vanished before one could say ‘Shoo!’ after having a good time in our home for nearly two months. I managed to climb on top of the kitchen platform and investigate upon the smelly mess they had left behind.

But, what I saw was a couple of tiny little pale white eggs lying cuddled beside each other. “These two would surely hatch a very close-knit sibling love,” I thought to myself with a melting heart. All disgust vanished; I named them changu-mangu and immediately called out to the mister to supply me with some maize for the new parents.

pigeon eggs

Ever since then, our home was full of smiles and happiness, all four of us waited anxiously for the new members. The eggs hatched and what came out of them was ‘not so cute’ to look at, but an amazing act of nature, nevertheless. Never before had we been so happy with an invasion on our territory.

These dark ash balls covered with pale yellow hair and really long beaks were breathing away quite rapidly, while sleeping most of the time. It was a fascinating sight; one that deserved to be captured forever. Here is a video I managed to shoot of changu-mangu, balancing myself atop the kitchen platform, with one hand holding the attic base and the other holding a nearly-SLR Olympus camera recording from a safe distance.

The babies grew up so fast and flew away, leaving us with smelly memories and this smiley video.

P.S: This is my entry for Ambipur’s ‘From smelly to smiley“. When I took these pictures and the video, little did I know they would play a vital role one day.

Of gardening lessons and life…

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We had almost given up on this one and even tried consulting the nursery we bought this from. “Only shade, no watering every day,” an experienced advice came our way. We did that but no luck. The poor beauty was dying away and that was sad news for another reason too.

I had bought this red beauty on our second marriage anniversary this May; I wanted something that would mark the miraculous milestone. Me and the Mister had survived two years of marriage or lets just say we had tolerated each other successfully for 730 days! Now that was something, wasn’t it?  So, I went to the neighboring nursery in the peak summer heat, with the intention to buy a marigold plant.

You see marigolds are bright, cheerful and resembling the sun; these flowers can really brighten up your day. In fact, a little search on the internet tells me – Marigolds are known as the “Herb of the Sun” and are symbolic of passion and creativity. The Welsh believed that if marigolds were not open early in the morning, then a storm was on the way. Marigolds have been used as love charms and incorporated into wedding garlands. Yes, we had many marigolds adorn our wedding garlands two years back. In fact, marigolds also dominated our wedding ‘mandap‘ decorations with an assortment of other flowers including red roses. So, it was these culprit marigolds that saved us, but let me not digress.

I visited the nursery dreaming of the bright saffron marigolds that would soon grace my balcony garden and brighten up our life. But, my eyes fell on these red blossoms instead. A little shrub with many branches that ended up with a flaming red flower each. It was love at first sight. Then I examined the flowers quite closely and was delighted to find the velvety texture. I touched the petals to confirm. Yes, they were soft and velvety to the core and I was now truly, madly, deeply in love. I bought it in a jiffy.

A week passed by and the flaming red flowers stayed on. Another week passed by and the new buds began to harden instead of opening up; the existing flowers shriveled slowly and then fell off eventually. I got it diagnosed by the nursery guy – he may be semi-literate but he knows his plants in and out. ‘Only shade, no watering every day,’ he said with an all-knowing smile. He even taught me the ‘finger-test’ where one presses the index finger against the soil to judge its moisture level. Then there was a practical training session where I had to press the soil in the various pots at the nursery, while he explained the significance of moisture in each of the plant’s life.

However, two weeks later the plant was all leaves, barely resembling its former glory and the sad part was that some of the branches had paled at the bottom. My love was dying and I stood watching helplessly. The finger test had failed. I tried changing places so that the sun does not catch it, but in vain. Finally, I surrendered to the almighty, in an almost hopeless situation.

A miracle happened…and it happened in the form of rain!

The first drops of rains coincided with the beginning of the new month on the 1st of June. Monsoons had banished the sun and the weather was a pleasant cool. My love started breathing again – quite literally. A few days later the leaves and branches grew with renewed vigor. Next came the buds and this time they blossomed. The soft, red, velvety petals are a delight to experience. And, if you look closely, you can actually feel them talking to you.

Nature teaches you so much about life and the spiritual pillars on which it stands. Man cannot heal everything, no matter however scientific his methods may be. Nature knows what each of her beings need, indeed!

Deep down we are all a little selfish but…

It was a good half an hour past 9 pm yesterday. Our table was all set after an adventurous bike journey to the far end of Pune. While we waited patiently for our rather sumptuous dinner, I decided the time was just right to pop up a question that was bugging me ever since the Mister had interviewed a food blogger.

Every time the Mister had talked about the passionate Bengali blogger’s story and his constant struggle to maintain a delicious food blog along with a demanding day job, he had also made a passing reference to his Parsi wife being a foodie. The reference that came again and again felt like a constant jab to my wifely duties. Was the Mister making an indirect hint? Was he trying to tell me that his not being a food blogger despite being a foodie has got anything to do with me?

I confess I am not a foodie. I did mention this on our very first telephone call itself. He said food was not at all a vital factor for a successful marriage. I had given up non-veg (read eating animals) many years ago. He said it is perfectly ok with him. But, today after a year of being engaged and 2 years of being married, I was being rebuked for not being a foodie and a non-veggie at that!

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So how would it be if you had married a non-veg foodie just like you?” I asked the Mister while we waited for our dinner at Tawaah!, a restaurant located at the wee end of Sus  Road in Pune. Tawaah! specialises in North Indian cuisine with luscious chicken and lamb delicacies. The instant reaction was of amazement at my logical reasoning. He had quickly realised where this question was coming from.

The first round of piping hot chicken gravy arrived with lachcha parathas for the two of us.

I began serving myself anxiously waiting for his response. The gravy also called ‘tandoori murg tikka masala’ looked and smelt the same as the others that go by the name ‘tandoori murg makkhani‘, ‘tandoori murg handi‘ and other tandoori chicken and mutton dishes. But, these are in fact very very different like distant cousins or like chalk and cheese if you may. Only a diehard foodie can make it out. For me it was just a spicy gravy that I could finish my lachcha parathas with!

He had decided to buy time so he could think artfully before giving a ‘politically correct’ answer. So, while the Mister continued with serving himself, carefully taking the right proportion of gravy and chicken pieces and a portion of the onion-cabbage-carrot combo gratings, I became a little impatient. As always, he then squeezed the quarter lemon that accompanies such dishes though I do not understand the significance. Does the citric acid add to the flavour of the chicken? I always use the lemon quarters to wash off my greasy fingers 😛

The Mister realised that he had bought an enormous amount of time, so it was now soon approaching the Moment of Truth. Noticing the rising impatience in me, he took a deep breath just before he blurted out that many a times he did think about it – “How would my life be if I had married a crazy non-veggie like me? Both of us would be on the lookout for a foodie adventure every weekend and married life would be so much foodie…err fun. But then what if she did not like to read or take my tantrums or worse still watch those dreaded TV soaps?!”

I was already feeling better 🙂

After weighing the pros and cons of having a non-veg foodie wife, the Mister had realised that my con (read being a non-foodie) carried no weight when compared to her one pro (read being a non-veg foodie) and my multiple pros – only I can handle his extreme mood swings, temper tantrums, pamper demands and above all eating animals for him!

And, we had dinner in contented silence, not the one associated with unasked queries. The ‘mutton kheema pulao‘ became tolerable. Perhaps, we are a little selfish deep down but there is something called ‘love’ that makes us behave better.

Things only a mother can teach

mother and daughter

Every morning I wake up to a sudden rush of consciousness and take a good amount of time to configure myself to reality. A reality that I am now married and do not have the privilege to be awakened lovingly by my mother. Or to be near her. “Wake up, kitty,” she would coo softly at first before picking me up in her arms till about I was nine years old. She also fed me with her hands till I was ten; I wouldn’t eat otherwise!

Today is Mother’s Day, a day when mothers over the world would be serenaded for their infinite love. I am taking the effort to remember everything she did for me as a daughter and which I took for granted. Perhaps, this is an escape route for my guilty conscience but strangely she has never expected me to be grateful. Today we will talk on the telephone as is usual on weekends and share about everyday woes regarding house chores. And we will argue again that I am not taking required care of my health along with work and family.

Anyway, let me share some incidents I remember. One day while we kids were playing in the society grounds, a brilliant idea struck us. We decided to climb a very gigantic and old tree and spend the day there. It was our summer holidays and adventure was all we had on our little minds. But, most mothers got a whiff of our plans and found it too risky for our inexperienced little limbs. Except for my mother –

Mum said it’s a genius idea, that we would always cherish its memories, only this tree is too big for us. We were all under three to four feet in height and the first branch of that tree was at least at three times our height. We searched for younger trees in the grounds but found nothing suitable for us. Finally, we climbed a water tank and stayed there with some tiffin boxes and water bottles with us. A little less adventurous than a day on a tree but fun nevertheless!

Many years later I realised the importance of what mum had taught me that day and indeed these are very practical words of advice to a growing up daughter!

Do not fear to take risks but also calculate before you do that, so that you know what is at stake.

Another memorable incident was when the first showers of rain had hit Mumbai bringing on the severe monsoons when I was in senior college. The day had just started with a pleasant cool weather that belied the hot summer just exiting around the corner. And then it began pouring large coin-sized drops of rain. Thick grey clouds formed a sheet around the sky hiding the sun behind them. There were intermittent bouts of lightning followed by thunder, with a heavy shower of rain just falling nonstop.

The academic year had not yet begun and I began to dread the thought of heavy rains, flooded roads, painfully slow traffic and all the muck through which I will have to wade through to college. In my mind I’ve always maintained Mumbai to be the worst city during monsoons and always wished to get out of there. Moreover, a patch of road between my home and college would get severely flooded even with half a day of nonstop rain. But, very soon all of that changed for me.

Mum said, “Let’s go to the terrace”. “What!” I exclaimed and she managed to drag me along up three floors to our building terrace. There she and I got wet in the rains, holding hands at first and then letting go to enjoy pure bliss on our one. I was reluctant at first and also began to shiver but then the magic of rain drops on my skin had worked. It was the most beautiful experience I had ever had.

Feeling drops of rain falling free from the sky right onto your skin is the most enriching shower one can get. It cleanses your soul most of all. Rain was fun and Mumbai became tolerable. This piece of learning has served me quite well over the years, where I look at Mumbai rains as a metaphor for life’s challenges.

No matter how many hurdles are there on your path, you need to accept them, enjoy them so that you can learn something from them.

There are many more stories that have spotted my entire life like pearls of wisdom. Yet mum never takes credit for all that. She believes it to be her duty to shape up her children’s character, make them strong from within, just like all mothers do. The next time I talk to her, I’ll not argue when she says I’m not taking care of myself. Instead, I’ll take care of myself, as that is the only gift I can give her.

Yes, God could not be everywhere, and therefore he made mothers!

Image source: Carla’s Sculptures