Wednesday, August 31, 2016

My house

As little girls we are obsessed with playing "house". There is a father, a mother and children. So the pretend play starts with the family waking up, mother making breakfast, sending off the kids to school and father to office. There is a makeshift house made with bedsheets or mom's sarees. There are toy utensils in the kitchen, made of plastic or steel or clay. The children come back from school and go to play. The father is back tired. The mother serves her family dinner in tiny plates, everyone pretends to eat and they all go to sleep.
I am sure there is hardly anyone who has not been part of the "house" drama that we have scripted as children.
I guess the seed of owning your house is sown at this stage. Or the encouragement from parents to own your dwelling. Whatever the root cause, I have carried this dream all my life. And today my dream came true, reinforcing my belief in dreams.

Sunday, August 7, 2016


"Do you know how it feels like to keep quiet for like a day? It's not that you don't have anything to say. It's that there is nobody to listen?" said Veena.
Tripti and Neena listened quietly.  Obviously they didn't know. Their lives were filled with families who loved them. Friends, colleagues, parents, in-laws.
"I wake up, make breakfast, sit on my laptop, make lunch, again work, take the kids to classes, make dinner, sleep. During the seventeen hours that I am awake, I am mostly quiet. It is very rare that I express what I feel. That's why I write." continued Veena.
"But that's so unbelievable Veena.. quiet and you? It's hard to believe. You are the one who talks the most amongst us,  right Tripti?"
"Hmm.. she lives in a world that is unknown to us. Yes Neena, she has transformed into somebody else. But I am glad that she is the same old Veena when we are together", said Tripti.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Vaygeettu entha parupaadi / What plans for the evening ?

Come Friday evening and a John calls a Varghese or a Rajesh and asks this question -
A John - Vaygeettu entha parupaadi? [What plans for the evening]
A Varghese - Prathyekichu onnum illa.. [Nothing special]
A John - Enna koodiyaalo [Shall we meet up]
A Varghese - Aa pinnentha [Sure why not]
A John - Ingottu varunno atho njangal angottu varaano? [You guys coming over or should we come over]
A Varghese to his wife Daisy - Daisy, ivide vallathum undo di.. [Daisy, is there anything here]
Daisy - Meen curry undu, kappa undakaam.. [There is fish curry, I can make some tapioca]
A Varghese to A John - Enna ningal ingu pore [Then you guys come over]

If the phones of Indians in the US are tapped over a Friday or Saturday evening, then majority of the conversations would go this way. It could be different languages, but this is the essence of most conversations in 'family sets' that we Indians form in the US.

So what's a 'family set'.. Its a group of similar frequency or like-minded Indians living in a city in the US. Religion is not a restriction. It never is. There could be a Christian, a Hindu or a Muslim. There could be state-wise demarcations. Kannadigas, Malayalis, Tamilians, Andhraites, Bengalis, North Indians (typically anything other than these states are all collectively called 'North Indians', by South Indians like me :); just like anything below Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh are South Indians for our fellow countrymen in the North!). So where was I? Oh yes, family sets. A typical, individual family set consists of three or four families. Then there are groups of family sets that meet at birthday celebrations, or festivals of India. The size of this family set is kept this way in case this group decides to travel, then the 15 seater van would suffice. 

How are these family sets formed? Since we come from a flourishing social background in India, our hormones are actively trying to find and fit into a family set the moment we step into the United States. There are some hits and misses, but eventually you will find your family set. When you move from one place to another, you hang on to your previous family set but again start looking out for your new one. The forming usually starts with one family inviting you to their house for dinner. This is a major custom here in the US, calling someone home for dinner. You show off your house, keep it impeccably clean, cook the best dishes you know and the spread is enormous. The first few dinners are all polished. If you find your home family set, then you slowly start to unwind. Once gelled into the set, the initial polish wears away. The house is a mess, kids are screaming, you will even do with leftovers.

Do everyone have family sets? No. There are families who live on their own, the only answer to that is, probably they didn't have social circles in India or they have not found their family set yet.

So a typical Friday evening. John comes over to Varghese's house and they call Rajesh as well. Daisy is cooking tapioca and heating up the fish curry. Varghese is washing the glasses and ensuring he has ice stocked up. The cars are lines up in the driveway. John comes, his wife walks beside him, their kids are running into Varghese's house. By the time Rajesh walks in John and Varghese have their glasses filled with Jack Daniels and Club soda. A glass with Jack Daniels on the rocks is waiting for Rajesh. The men sit in the backyard and make merry. Jack Daniels emptying out in no time.
The wives are huddled around the dining table, gossiping about a Leela or a Neha, her clothes, her make up, the latest movies, Mohanlal (a Malayali family set) and what not. Some family sets indulge in a game of cards. In between the kids fight, somebody goes to resolve that, to SShhhhhh! the kids, John plays a movie. The kids eat and by the time the husbands' and wives hoolahoo is over, its 1am and the kids are asleep. They carry the kids out to the cars and since the husbands are sloshed, wives take the driving seat.

Same episode, next week. Add John's or Varghese's parents to the mix and you have some good food, better than what Daisy would cook. Maybe there is not so much drinking in the other states family sets and hits the roof in Malayali family sets, because drinking is his birthright! Oh and I missed to mention, if the women folk drink, then the menfolk churn out some margaritas and mojitos. Some evenings are BBQ evenings, with chicken, shrimp, fish, steak, corn and veggies.

At the end of the day its all about unwinding from a long week with some good food, friends and laughter. Good times the Indian way, on the other side of the globe!

So.. vaygeettu entha parupadi?

Sunday, July 31, 2016

To be or not to be

To be or not to be- that is the question
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And, by opposing, end them.

This is the opening phrase of a soliloquy in the "Nunnery Scene" of Shakespeare's play Hamlet. In the speech, the despondent Prince Hamlet contemplates death and suicide while waiting for Ophelia, the love of his life.

To be or not to be - was a question of death and suicide. As I see people in their late 60's or early 70's, I draw a parallel to this quote from Shakespeare who wrote his in 1600. Now the question is not suicide or death, but to live or die.

There are only two paths or perspectives people see life in, as they get to their 70's - Live to Die or Die to Live. And this perspective defines the quality of life they lead, the relationships they have, their every waking moment.

I have seen people who are predicting or constantly tapping at an astrologer's door trying to find out when they would die. From their standpoint its preparation for the end. Maybe at their age, then need to know. I don't know if I will want to know. Anyways, so they are told a date or month and year of the end. Then what? The group of people who 'live to die' magnify each miniscule physical ailment as a door to death. They don't particularly do anything significant during the day. They are just killing time, waiting almost impatiently. They wake up each morning, eat three meals a day, take their medicines, sleep, talk to a few people over the course of the day and go to bed at night. They are happy watching the sloppy serials on television and carrying the thoughts and feelings of those serial artists to bed. They choke their life to death.

The other category of people 'Die to live'. They know, like the first category, that they have spent a major portion of their life. But they are fearless about the end. They accept the fact that there is an end, however, they are not looking forward to that. They are also eager to know when the end will come, but they live each day. They too wake up, eat their meals, take their medicines on time. The difference is, this group of people, travel, in whatever financial and physical means they can, meet people, read, enjoy their grandchildren, be a part of their life and growing up. They are excited about new things. They want to learn, explore the possibilities in each day.

It all about perspective; and which perspective one takes depends largely on the journey a person has had till that stage in life and the situations that he or she is in. However, the core of it should lie in a person's inner belief.  

All this rolls back to how one is created. The growth from a cell to human form. The pain of delivering a baby. Learning everything, yes, "everything". Going through human emotions, building and nurturing relationships. Making babies. Shaping them into individuals. Hell! There is a lot one goes through from that tiny cell. Life is precious. We don't become what we become on our own. Its a whole big network of people who shape our lives, play a part in building us cell by cell. Its a magnanimous process, as vast and widespread as the internet itself. So then why waste the precious moments we are blessed with. When we think of it this way, it gives a broader and deeper meaning to life, itself! 

Saturday, July 23, 2016


Faces forgotten
Words long gone
Look them up here and there
Old pictures and words
Some people exit without a trace
With known intent, sometimes
The chord stays, a thin one
Weathered by time
To remind you of its strength
Long ago.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The dress

Where is that dress
I had left it in the garage
Or maybe at the front door
Just as I was rushing out
I had shed it
It was an obedient soul
Deprived of love
Agreeing more
Arguing less
Customised for here
The land I went to
I didn't need it there
Just my skin was enough
My bare soul
Weathered with love
It was me
Just me
Now I have come back
And forgot my dress
There was an eruption
A knock on my head
To remember my dress
I found it this morning
Now I am set
My naked soul
Go to bed
Till dawn, for many years
Let my dress protect you
Leave your spirit

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Nuts and bolts

I found this box in my mother's bag. My mother passed a year ago and while goinggoing through her bag found this box which was once packaged with nuts served on domestic indigo flights. On one of my travels many years ago, probably from trivandrum to bangalore, I had bought this box of nuts for my parents. 

It's contents span a lifetime and attributed to people she holds dear to her heart. 

There is a passport size phot of my brother in Bishop Cottons uniform. The struggle she went through to get him an admission at bishop cottons is something best forgotten. She paid a donation of 5000 rupees way back in 1989, at her own intuition and will so that my brother would get the best education possible.

The passport photo of me was taken for my engineering college admission, in 1995. Getting me into MIT, Manipal was a big step for her. Payment seat with a fees of 40,000 rupees per year. I can only imagine the jitters she must have had thinking of this colossal amount she had to make every year along with my brothers bishop cottons fees. I got the last computer science payment seat that year. Was she worried about sending me away from her nest, I don't know, I was engrossed in getting that last seat. 

The picture of her and a boy, is before her marriage. She had come to bangalore to help her sister take care of her son, my cousin, Manoj. He remained her first child always. This was probably 1972..

The next picture is of her, Manoj and his younger brother Babu.. she learnt her first lessons of motherhood from them. They were very dear to her. 

The dice is something I got for her when she came to visit my family in the US, and we went to Las Vegas. Oh! How much fun she had at the slot machines.  By then my elder son was born and this memento says "Grandma's casino, Las Vegas".

The kushtex fabrics book is her phone and address book, her link to the world. This was a complimentary gift from a company whose fabrics my uncle and aunt sold in wholesale at Bangalore.

Then her bank card, hospital cards and some papers.  She has carried these with her for innumerable years, adding to the collection over the years. These little things mattered to her. Today she carries them in her heart, overseeing each one of us, visiting us, assuring us that she is here, somewhere around us.
Lots of love, to the woman, because of whom, I am, who I am..

Wednesday, June 29, 2016


For the past three to four days, I have been spending quite some time in cabs in Bangalore. About three hours a day going places, meeting friends. After a while the ride gets nauseous, but the people I see outside trigger my interest. There are just so many people outside, doing so many things. Each one has a life, each one has a story.
There was this lady who was waiting at the bus stop, with an umbrella to shield her from the rain. I thought she is probably getting back home after a day's work, to her family. Her children might be waiting for her. I wondered how long her bus ride would be. She probably would go home, check her children's homework, cook dinner, feed them and wait for her husband. The same thing tomorrow.
There was this guy getting out of a printing press, with his helmet on, starting his two wheeler. He has this big smile on his face. Probably he got to run an errand, and he could use the opportunity to meet his girlfriend.
The cab drivers driving the cab I was in, they breathe the pollution day after day after day. The windows are rolled down, they bring destinations closer to people seeking them. He is probably going around the city everyday. Same roads, same traffic, same routes, different passengers.
There was this lady walking along the footpath (sidewalk) with a sack on her head. She was dressed in a north Indian attire. A street dog following her diligently, which she was unaware of. She just kept waking, rushing somewhere, with the heavy sack on her head. A few meters away I saw a flour mill, where they powder cereals. Another lady sat there in the same Indian attire. Probably she was waiting for the lady with the sack, and they were taking turns.
These are just few of the hundreds of people I saw on my cab rides. Every person I see on the street, tells me a story. A story of their own, unique to them, me a spectator, more so an imagination freak..!

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Seeing her..

I was walking towards the exit after my son's sports day events. Suddenly, I saw her. She was right in front of me. In the moment of shock, I didn't even say hello. She didn't wait either. I saw her smile, not at me. I looked at my wife, she was smiling and saying hello. Oh my God!
After I was out of my bewilderment, I told her, "that's her".
"You were saying hello to"
I just looked at her to let it dawn upon her.. and it did.. faster than I thought.
"Ooooooooooh! Oh my God!!! She?? She is the beautiful one? And I knew her all along??"
And she burst into laughter. What was she laughing at?
"I never thought it would be her? I am so happy it's her. She is not beautiful. I always had this complex that she was more beautiful than me, she is not!!!"
Women, and their silly complexes, I thought.
So I saw her, after many years. She still looked beautiful to me. In another time, in another life,  maybe...

Friday, June 24, 2016

Going home...

The last time this big Bird took me home, the cold body of my mother lay in an ice box, waiting for my brother and me. Her soul gone. The warmth of her embrace now cold from the ice. Her smile faded, forever. I was dreading the journey. I didn't know myself for the moment and the hours afterward I see her. It was the worst day of my life.
It has been a year. During this one year she visited me a few times. I felt her presence as my husband, children and I reunited after my son's week long summer camp. I felt her smiling beside me as I plucked the first vegetable from my garden. I felt her each time I cooked her recipe. I felt her as I sewed my first handbag. I have felt her, more powerful than ever.
This time I am going to help free her soul, so they say. It maybe a ritual, but maybe it will bring closure to the mourning. I don't know, once again, how I will feel. But, maybe it will help me get over the grieving and celebrate her life. I will continue to feel her presence, I know, till my last breath. She will be there with me, holding my hand when I am weak, rejoicing with me at my successes, watching over me and keeping me blessed.
I dread going home, for the first time. It's the first time, that I will be going home without my mother. It's not that thought that I am dreading. When I open her cupboard, will I catch her smell? Will it feel like she is there, yet not there? I don't know. Another uncertain period of life, where I don't know myself.
I miss you Ma, today and everyday for the years to come. I wish I could hug you, just once more.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Getting up

There are good days and bad days
Like cancer
Being shoved to a corner
Being pushed down
In spirit
Known faces all around
A word
A gesture
Sometimes there are no walls
And yet I get up
With all my might
Sometimes I hold on to that climber
Little, yet it supports me
There are times when oh my way up
I am pushed back again
Yet I get up
I wail
My heart breaks each time
A little
I sew it
And get up
The halo of love
At a distance
Smiling upon me
Playing a game of mirage
Is it there
Yes it should be
Giving me the strength
Each time
To get up
And run.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

It Goes On - In print

Hello readers,
My first book, 'It Goes On', a collection of short stories is in print again.
Enjoy reading and post your review here or on the Amazon page.
Thank you :)

Monday, April 25, 2016

One day

In thirteen years our limbs will be tired
We will move out of this clockwork
Sans responsibilities of our little ones
We will move to familiar lands
Amidst loved ones and known tongue
A place where we took flight
Into our love and our life
There we will see the rain
Holding hands sipping our evening tea
Listen to the birds chirping niceties of their love
In those quiet evenings we will relive our moments
Of love.. Of life..

Friday, April 22, 2016

The inner you...

At the coffee shop...

I hadn't seen him in fifteen years. I was amazed at how the thought of seeing him could still send fritters in my stomach. I was nervous like all those times, many years ago, when I waited for him at the entrance of the hostel. My hands were wet with sweat. I was going through the first hi, hello a thousand times in my head. Would he say hello, would I say hi, will he give me a light friendly hug? Will he just shake hands? Will he be as friendly as he used to be or would have marriage made him more formal? As usual he made me wait, the longest five minutes. I always waited for him back then too. There was a huge clock on the wall, there was a watch on my wrist and a clock on my phone's home screen. They all moved so slowly agonizing my wait and stretching time further. I was idly looking out of the window when to add to my turmoil he suddenly appeared at my table with the same old big smile on his face. God, the smile that I fell for eons ago. I stood up, just in case he wanted to give me a hug. To my disappointment he said, "hey sit down".. So those were the first words, no hi, no hello, no handshake, no hug. I sat down not taking my eyes off his face even for an instant. I hoped I was not gaping and he wouldn't notice that I had butterflies in my stomach. I wanted to appear to be the calm and poised person he would expect me to be after being married to someone else and a mother of three kids. But hell no, how could this guy make me feel this way after all these years? Guess that's what you call first love.. We set off like we had just separated the previous night, first about his travel, then mine, his family, then my family, his children, then my children. There was a lot of catch up conversation. After a while we easily got into talking about the years we spent as soul mates. How friends teased us, the adventures of ladies hostel, night outs at the library, kuchikooing... As we started talking about the night we separated after college, he gently touched my hand and we grew quiet. Our eyes spoke volumes.. why did we part was the question lingering on each other's mind... Suddenly he called for the usherer and asked for the bill, my hand still in his. I asked him "are you leaving?".. he remained silent. The bill came, he paid, grabbed my hand and walked out of the coffee shop....