Category: nostalgia

Traditions

Traditions

I don’t want to wear formals, announces H.

That’s how most of our festive days begin. We have this tussle each year, at every festival. I’ve been giving in to him slowly but surely, bending to his will, letting him have his way. We moved from Kurta pajamas, to short kurtas and trousers and then to a shirt with an Indian jacket and jeans. This year I don’t even have the mind-space to push for that.

I don’t regret it. Not much, at least. I know he’s getting older; he’s a teen and I’ve learnt to choose my battles.

‘Alright’, I tell him, ‘but change out of your shorts and vest’. Crumpled tees and shorts have been his uniform these past few Covid months. I haven’t much bothered. This was but a small trade-off for quiet mornings.

But he isn’t done. ‘Why must I change? ‘What’s wrong with these clothes? They’re clean and that’s what should matter,’ he challenges. He loves a good argument, this son of mine and I indulge him most often, but not today. The cook is on leave and a pile of chores beckon me from the kitchen.

‘This is why I hate festivals,’ he continues.

That gets my attention and stops me on the verge of my don’t-argue-just-go-and-change outburst.

It’s an almost compulsive thing with me, this need to make festivals happy and stress free. Paradoxically, the stress of being stress-free stresses me out.

That is one reason I’ve let go of many traditions. And that’s why H’s remark hits home.

I pull my gaze away from the kitchen, realise I’m frowning and straighten the frown. I will myself to relax as I prepare to gently wade into this sea of arguments.

N walks in holding up a bright orange tee shirt for H. ‘Remember, I gifted you this one? It’s perfect for today. Please please wear it.’

I sigh in relief and quickly push home. ‘Come on H’, I tell him. He gives a huge fake sigh but I know he’s coming around.

As I busy myself with the cooking, I hear them argue.

‘I won’t wear trousers.’
‘But you can’t wear these shorts.’
‘Okay, then I’ll wear my Eminem Tee shirt.’
‘Noooo!! Not on Rakshabandhan. Have you even heard his lyrics? He uses such bad words in his songs.
‘At least he has a message to convey. He’s not just mooning around like your One Direction.’
‘I don’t care. You’re not wearing that ugly black tee. Mamaaaa tell him, pleeease,’ N calls out to me.

I don’t respond. I don’t need to. As I stir the kheer on the stove and get out the dough for the puris, I know already that H will wear what she wants him to, but that doesn’t mean he can’t have his bit of fun. Just as I know N doesn’t really expect me to intervene when she  calls out to me.

When I glance into their room I find them giggling together, playing tug-of-war with the unfortunate Eminem teeshirt.

Finally, they’re ready. Much fuss is made out of tying the rakhis. As per their own weird tradition H smears N’s forehead with the kumkum instead of making a neat little teeka. She’s used to it and stands still while I wipe it off and make a small round one instead. ‘I’ll take revenge,’, she says when it’s her turn. That freaks him out a bit. He takes eons to fix the clasp of her rakhi and ends with pushing an entire kaju roll into her mouth. She does the same and we’re done.

As I put away the puja plate I realise I forgot to ask them to cover their heads, as per tradition. I realise I miss doing things the traditional way. I miss the colourful kurta-pajamas, the chaniya cholis, the laddoos, the elaborately decorated puja thali and the sitting down cross-legged on the ground with a handkerchief on the head. I miss it all. I was wrong when I said I didn’t regret letting go of traditions. I do, at least some part of me does.

I want to tell the children: this is your culture, your heritage, your link to the past. Don’t let it go.

I hear them laughing and arguing and I hold back.

Instead, I tell myself, this is change, embrace it.

Image by minxutopia from Pixabay

Throwback Times

Throwback Times

I must begin with a warning: This one is going to be a completely all-about-me post. The thing is I am writing about twenty years ago, a time when my current twin muses weren’t even a thought. In fact, they were in full danger of not happening at all.

Twenty years ago was so long ago that I didn’t even have to use a sepia setting on my pictures.

Twenty years ago I was as far from being an Obsessivemom as I am now from not being one.

Twenty years ago I was in the process of discovering a whole different side of me, an interest, a passion I didn’t even know existed.

Do bear with me as I roll the flashback just a little further than two decades. I had given up my job in Mumbai and was headed towards a whole new life. Along with The Husband, I landed in a quiet little city that offered absolutely no opportunities in my line of work.

Blissfully unaware of the rather bleak scenario that awaited me, I fished out my resume and began my job hunt. I had a prepared a list of placement agencies and that’s where I went. I ticked off every single placement office on my list and then some more. Some were tiny one room setups, some not even that – just a man with table and chair in the verandah of his home. I read through the telephone directory (they were real things back then) and called each potential office. I even took to cold calling. I’d be treated with respect always, for that I’m grateful, offered a cold glass of water but no job.

Finally, one of the placement agents made me the offer of working with him. He was launching an employment newspaper and wanted me to help him set it up. My sales/finance background and my English speaking skills were the only factors that worked to my advantage. There was no promise of a salary just some vague mention of a commission and the promise of a partnership.

Out of sheer desperation I accepted.

And I slogged.

The name had already been decided (which I thought was all wrong, but I had no say in the matter). I sat with the artist to design the name and logo, I went to the Office of Registrar of Newspapers for the name approval, I followed up for ads and subscriptions, interviewed people, wrote the pieces, helped with the designing of the layout and finally delivered the printed papers to magazine-stores and also stuck labels and posted them to our handful of subscribers. I did it all. Along with my boss/partner and his wife. 

It was a crazy year. I got laughed at constantly for working for ‘free’. It sounds stupid even to me, in retrospect. Perhaps it sounded stupid even then but it wasn’t like I had many options. And I did get paid, occasionally, randomly as and when the money came in. Besides, I have to admit, I was beginning to enjoy myself. There was a certain thrill in creating something from absolute scratch. I polished my writing and interviewing skills, my typing speed increased, I became rather good at Quark Express, the software used back then to design newspapers. I also picked some bit of photoshop.

A year and a half later, a much more skilled me, found a way into a local daily and was given almost independent charge of a weekly Women’s magazine that went with the paper every Wednesday.

And that’s where I was twenty years ago. It was an exciting time. The paper might not have had a national presence but it commanded a certain degree of respect as it was the best known English daily of the city. Besides, since most ‘serious’ reporters focussed on the political stuff (which I wasn’t interested in anyway), as a relative newbie handling a lifestyle magazine, I had a whole large field left to me. I got to meet a host of interesting people – theatre personalities, musicians, litterateurs and sportspersons. The city had a rich cultural milieu and I spent my days watching plays in quaint amphitheatres, covering SPICMACAY music fests, attending food festivals, book fairs and book launches.

A few years later a National Daily came to the city and I found a place on the team, then moved to another city, another paper and finally to Pune.

Twenty years ago seems like a whole different lifetime and yet had that not happened, had I not taken that first ‘stupid’ assignment I wouldn’t have been the person I am now.

Everything, really does happen for a reason.

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I received this tag from Esha M Dutta at MySoulTalks . It’s my pleasure to pass on this tag to Geethica at Thoughts By Geethica. There are 29  of us on this Blog Hop and it will be spread over 3 days – 1st, 2nd and 3rd November  2019. Do follow the #WordsMatter Blog Hop and prepare to be surprised! 

Home

Home

Last November I went home on a short trip for my college reunion. It was the first time I was there without the children and it felt strange, too quiet. One morning I took my cup of tea to the swing on our terrace.

It was a cool morning and the sun felt good on my face. The tea was hot, with a hint of ginger, a little sweeter than necessary, just the way I liked it. Multihued bougainvillea bloomed cheerily in large planters at the far end of the terrace. The freshly watered plants gave off a delicious petrichor.

This wasn’t the house I grew up in. My parents shifted from our University home to this, their own bungalow, about a decade ago, when they both retired. And yet how easily I called it home. The children of course had known no other. This was their nani’s house. Each summer when we went to visit, they marked the room on the terrace  as their territory, forbidding anyone to go there in their absence. Such was the sense of belonging. But me? I moved out long ago. I don’t have many memories in this house, there’s no history.

How has this house, where I spend just a few days each year, come to mean ‘home’?

Perhaps it is because of the sounds of the city that seep in uninvited – the North Indian lilt in the call of the vegetable vendor on the road outside or the maids exchanging gossip and greetings in a familiar language before they rushed off to their chores.

Perhaps it is the flowers that bloom in profusion no matter where my parents live. From our first home in the old city where together they sifted mud and gravel, adding just the right amount of sand to coax out the largest roses, to the carpet grass in our second home that they lovingly tended spending long hours with gardeners discussing which seasonals should go where, to these gorgeous Bougainvillea here on the terrace, we’ve always had flowers.

Perhaps it is the odd pieces of furniture that have survived the moves, like this swing that I sit on, each creak familiar, each squeak telling a story, every languid move bringing with it a memory of long hours lounging on it mugging up for a Geology exam or solving Math equations.

Or perhaps it is simply the sense of space that ‘home’ has always had, the sense that I can never quite get in my flat, no matter how large it is. I go around opening doors and windows somedays when I get claustrophobic, in the vain attempt to make it feel larger. I get nowhere, perhaps because the feeling is only in my head.

Or perhaps it is the comforting presence of my parents as they sit talking, bickering vigorously about everything from why he shouldn’t travel so much to why she shouldn’t stay so long on Facebook.

Perhaps it is all of that.

Perhaps home is not a physical place after all but a feeling, a feeling that I belong.

 

The warmth of fat old quilts

The warmth of fat old quilts


Featured post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers

This winter we decided to change our quilts.

It was like the passing of an era.

For years we’d used the ones I’d carried from home when I moved to Delhi for my first job, decades ago. These wren’t the light fluffy ethnic creations one finds these days. Nor were they anything like modern comforters.

These were big fat heavy cotton quilts encased in old-fashioned paisley patterned cotton cloth.

Up in the North seasons are well defined – winter is winter and summer is summer and the twain barely meet. Sometime after October when the days began to get shorter and the nights slightly cool, it would be time to pull out the quilts. Quite a ritual, that was! We waited for the massive storage boxes to be opened and the quilts taken out, officially heralding the arrival of winter.

They’d be laid in the sun for a day to rid them of the smell of naphthalene balls. Then encased in crisply ironed white cotton covers they were ready to be snuggled into. When you pulled one on, not the slightest whiff of a draft dared enter. They were the best partners to have on long winter nights when your teeth chattered and your feet refused to warm up.

If the rain gods decided to visit, the quilts would be out all day. We’d sit long hours wrapped in them, despite the heater burning bright. We’d munch peanuts with coriander garlic chutney and tell endless stories. And when it was time for bed we’d shake them off to rid them of peanut husk and cuddle down for the night. The faint smell of naphthalene balls mingled with that of peanuts and mum’s Lakme moisturiser and lull us into the best sleep ever.

After years of use, the cotton would gather together in bunches becoming a thick, tough, heavy mass. Then it was time to look out for the rui dhunane wale who roamed the streets calling out ‘rui dhunwa lo’ accompanied with the twang of their instrument. They’d get out the cotton and bit by bit transform it back into soft and fluffy balls to be refilled into the case. Freshly filled it would be carried up to the terrace or laid out in the courtyard. Then, our grand moms would sit for hours in the afternoon sun, their daily chores done, gossiping about friends and family as they threaded the quilt. Once done it was ready to use, good as new.

Those weren’t just quilts, they were a bit of my childhood, perhaps that’s why I clung onto them for so long. But then, old has to yield place to new, and so we finally gave them away. As we turned in for the night in our brand new comforters the Husband said, so very rightly, ‘Woh baat hai nahin in me. They’re just not solid enough!’

For more winter nostlagia do drop by my older post here.

Man maketh the clothes #MondayMusings

Man maketh the clothes #MondayMusings


Featured post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers

A few weeks back I attended the investiture ceremony at my niece’s school. There she was, right in the front, in her spotless white salwar-kurta, her hair in a neat little bun, a smart cap on her head. My heart filled with incredible pride as I watched her march by and accept the head girl sash.

Her salwar-kurta reminded me of my school days. Till we were in class ten we had uniforms – a sky blue blouse with the school initials in a beautiful cursive on the pocket, neatly tucked into a matching sky blue skirt. I still think of it with happy nostalgia perhaps because school was my absolute happy place. Also, that sky blue was so very different from the white, grey and navy of all other schools. We were ‘different’ and that somehow translated as ‘better’ in our young minds. We were a cut above the rest and that uniform was an inherent part of the feeling.

In class eleven, the school did away with uniforms since we were now technically in Junior College and we were free to wear whatever we wanted. That was our first taste of freedom – freedom to wear our own personalities, our first tentative steps in the world of ‘fashionable’ wear.

And yet, so in love we were with that uniform, that a bunch of us continued to wear it at least few days every week. It seems strange now. Why would one choose a uniform, that of a junior class, when one could pick simply anything from the wardrobe? But we did just that.

By the time my sister got to junior college the no-uniform rule was gone and the girls were given a cream and blue salwar-kurta ensemble. How everyone resented that! First there was the whole idea of a uniform and then this – no smart skirts, but this shabby shapeless thing.

Even my classmates and I, who were by now in Colleges and Universities across the country, hated the thought of girls from our alma-mater wearing that ‘behenji’ dress. It somehow diluted our cool-quotient, or so we believed.

How very wrong we were, thought I with the wisdom that comes with age. I looked on as my niece accepted the flag from last year’s office bearers and delivered the Thank You speech. She did so with amazing flair. The way she marched, the way she spoke, the way she carried herself, I barely noticed her clothes, nobody did. All we saw was an accomplished young girl, solemn and earnest, eager to shine in the new role she was being entrusted with.

She completely rocked that salwar-kurta!

In that moment I realised how stupid we were and I was so so proud of the level-headedness of this new generation that wears the LBD with just as much panache as the salwar-suit.

Clothes are after all, just an enhancement of our inner selves, nothing more. Mark Twain was way off the mark when he said Clothes maketh the man; definitely not true for young women, not any more.

 

Linking up with #MondayMusings at Everydaygyan

On my other blog: Beat About The Book

The Bluest Eye #BookReview

The Bluest Eye #BookReview

Book: The Bluest EyeAuthor: Toni Morrison 11-year-old Pecola Breedlove believes she’s ugly. And nothing can change that. Nothing at all. Unless … unless she could trade in her eyes for beautiful blue ones. Now if she had those blue eyes, things would be different; because then, everyone would love her.