Category: nostalgia

Of friends and friendships

Of friends and friendships

Really, writing a post on friends and friendship is so very hard. Not because one doesn’t have much to say but because everything that one would say has already been said, over and over again, till all that remains is a bunch of tired clichés.

I’ve written about it often enough too. Friends have helped me become less judgemental, more accepting. They’ve helped me try out new things, offered a shoulder to cry on, heard out my rants and made me stick to resolutions.

As you grow older you move on from having a single all-purpose BFF, so to say, to a vast category of friends. As I try to write about some of them I’ll go with those that are top of my mind now.

It’s been a week since I got back from my hometown but I’m still a bit hungover so School Friends are bound to top the list. They are the best kind, aren’t they? I mean how can you not be friends with the girl whose plait got yanked by the teacher along with yours? Quite like Krishna yanked the reins of those horses in the battlefield of  Kurukshetra. School friends have been witness to the ultimate insults heaped upon you and not believed a single one of them. They are the ones who’ve known you from the time you were a plump tween battling the bulge and, if you are lucky, they are still with you as you turn into a middle age woman battling the bulge.

The thing is – to them it doesn’t matter.

They only remember you as the girl whose mum made the most smashing tiffin, the one who made a Bollywood parody out of Macbeth, or the one who could touch her tongue to her nose or one who couldn’t stop laughing even when she was sent out of class.

Those are the things that matter to them and that’s why they are special.

Neighbourhood friends were an integral part of my childhood but then as I grew and got caught up in academics and work I thought I’d didn’t need them at all, where was the time? Life seems to have come a full circle and I cannot imagine what I’d do without them.

 

Neighbours might not all be the sexy kind but they’re still a blessing

They are the ones who host you the time the door bangs shut just as you step out to put the trash. They also give you the number of the keymaker and assure you, you looked just fine in your frumpy faded nightdress. They take your couriers when you’re not around and even hand over the COD amount.
 They make rangolis at your doorstep and light diyas for you when you’re out for Diwali.
They’re the ones who hear/see your Taraka avatar with the children. They not only keep your secret but also keep loving you despite that.

How did I ever do without them!

And finally my very favourite kind – the Slightly Crazy-so-not-my-type of friends. This one is a bit of a peculiarity because you are pretty much poles apart and yet you connect at some strange level – the level headedness of one balancing the craziness of the other, mixing excitement and caution for a perfect cocktail that keeps you high but holds you back from going over the edge. These are the friends who got me to do things I’d never have done on my own. Things I would have wished I had done but never actually gone out and taken the plunge. But for them I would never have trekked to a fort with zero level of fitness, run a marathon (not a full one, just a baby one but id did get me walking), bought dangerously high heels or joined a Zumba class. What fun all of that turned out to be. I might soon be heading to Spanish class rather than slogging it out on Youtube as I’d originally planned.

Life would drab and dull without these crazy ones.

There, those are the friends I am grateful for today. Which are the friends you cherish most?

Linking up with Amrita for #ThankfulThursdays. Thank you for a fabulous prompt Amrita.

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Also linking up with Vidya’s Gratitude Circle Blog Hop. Do click on the link and head on over.

A basket of tomatoes and some life lessons

A basket of tomatoes and some life lessons

Picture Credit: PIXABAY
The other day I was at the vegetable vendor’s picking out well.. obviously – vegetables. As I moved to the tomatoes I was joined by a boy of about 14. He dug into the basket turning the tomatoes this way and that, picking out some then dropping them back, then picking out some more. Finally he asked me, ‘How do you know which is a good one?’
Deja vu struck.
While we were growing up we lived in a joint family. While my sister and I did our chores (my mum saw to it) most of the mundane outdoor tasks were handled by others in the family. It might have had to do with the fact that we lived in a crowded area and mum wasn’t certain we could negotiate the roads safely on our own.

One day, perhaps the house help wasn’t around or maybe because my mum decided it was high time I learnt to do this, she handed me a bag, some change and asked me to go buy vegetables.

I mean, seriously? Vegetables? The teen me was completely appalled. I could imagine going out and buying stationery or books or sweets or clothes. But vegetables? What a mundane, unfashionable, low brow task to be saddled with! My entire teen self quailed at the idea rejecting it outright.
I refused.
“If you can eat vegetables, you can go buy them too,” said my mum and I saw her face settle into that familiar determined look my sister and I disliked and dreaded. If you know even a little bit of my mum you will know she can really dig her heels in, specially  when it comes to, what she thinks of as, teaching us a lesson.
I didn’t stand a hair’s breadth chance. So there I was with the most embarrassing jhola (cloth bag) in one hand and the money in the other off to buy vegetables at Chantu ki dukan – that’s what the vegetable vendor was called! I bent my head, praying I wouldn’t bump into anyone I knew, as I threaded my way through the crowded street.
I cannot recall what I bought. I just remember picking up a handful of something, mumbling out, ‘Half kg of this’, handing the money and walking home in a blaze of self-consciousness.

And here was this boy, how easily he asked for my help and how gladly I gave it! Standing side by side in a rather companionable silence we picked out tomatoes. I wish I had been more like him when I was his age.

So dear H and N, here’s the lesson for the day:
People are more likely to offer help than laugh at us if only we cast aside our nervousness and ask for it. We might be laughed at for pretending to know something but the moment we voluntarily expose our vulnerability and  enlist someone’s assistance we create a bond putting them firmly on ‘our side’, so to say.
No matter where you are – at a new school, at the library or in the sports ground, don’t be too shy or scared to enlist people’s support, even if they are strangers. Ask for help and you shall get it in greater measure than you ever expected.
Have you ever been in a situation like this, where you’ve been to embarrassed to ask for help? Do share. I’d love to add your experience to mine when I talk to the kids.

Brothers and sisters and memories #CBF16

Brothers and sisters and memories #CBF16

About a year back the twins had to make a family tree and while helping them I found my side of the family far outnumbering the Husband’s side – my five siblings to his two. It was only later that I realised I had included my cousins in my count of siblings. But then the Hindi language doesn’t really have an exact word for ‘cousin’ and that’s how it was with us.
We didn’t live together but the summer holidays would see the six us of in our hometown. Since we lived with our grandparents our home became the place where some fifteen to twenty of us would gather for one whole month of crazy celebration.
It was an old house, not too large. We wonder now, how we fitted in. What’s more we managed with a single washroom between the entire bunch of us. (We now have two washrooms and three people in the house, with the husband being away, and yet there’s constant squabbling).
Studies and work finally put an end to the tradition and almost a decade rolled by since we were together. We tried to meet up a few times but the magic half-a-dozen was never complete.
Then last month one of our cousins was in India for a couple of days and we decided to give it a serious shot. We realised how hard it is for six people to drop their responsibilities even for the space of a single weekend!
One had to postpone dropping off his daughter to boarding school, another one rushed back from a a holiday with his family, yet another one wrapped up a seminar she was organising.
The Husband flew down to look after the kids(and attend a PTM that had to crop up just that weekend), while I was away.
After much planning and coordination we were there, together, in my aunt’s house. Nothing seemed to have changed. Of course the figures were fuller and the hair was thinner but that was about it.
US: Then and now and that quote is one of my favourites
It was like we’d never been away. We sat around the dining table and talked. Then moved to the verandah and talked some more, then decided to take a siesta and ended up talking again. 
It was two days of catching up, piecing together memories, one filling in details the other one left out, debating who’s fault it was in ‘that’ incident, digging out long-forgotten nicknames, laughing over incorrigible pranks, reminiscing about the time we smuggled cigarettes, got caught and got the blasting of our lifetimes.
And there was food —- enough to feed a garrison.
Those two pictures, taken at the same place, years apart, will remain one of my most cherished memories. Nothing can beat the warmth and affection built over years of togetherness and I shall forever be grateful for that. The memory of this trip will last a long long time but we’re not going to wait another decade to meet again. 
and also to 
Do click on the link and head on for a healthy dose of gratitude.
Have you played Uno cards?

Have you played Uno cards?

Have any of you played Uno cards? I’ve always managed to make good my escape, pitting the kids against each other or passing the buck very gracefully to my mother or sister when they have been available. However this weekend I was well and truly caught.
Stuck as I was, I applied myself diligently to the game. ‘They’re just two ten-year-olds’, I thought, ‘how tough would it be to defeat them and get on with my chores?’ 

After about twenty minutes I was more than willing to eat my words (or even my thoughts). The game just refused to end. The idea is to get rid of all your cards but each time I thought I was almost there I’d be saddled with some more. 

There is a whole big bunch of the most complex rules. (Or maybe is it just me with my terrible memory. I’ll never know). Sometimes I got the sneaking suspicion that the children kept changing the rules to suit themselves. I kept being made to skip chances or reverse the order of playing till I had no clue what was going on.
At the end of half hour I just wanted the game to end. I decided I’d try to lose and get over with it. However, that wasn’t happening in a hurry too.
This game of cards is U.N.E.N.D.I.N.G! 
(Quite like the Game of Thrones, which I am also ploughing through these days.)
After much hard work N finally won and I celebrated harder than she did. Come Monday I will begin work on a strategy to circumvent more Uno card encounters.

Teen Do Paanch and Kot Piece were easier

Did you play cards when you were young? We did. It was’t considered the most respectable of past-times but when six of us cousins got together each summer, card games were a favourite.
Not for us these Unos. We played Teen, Do, Paanch and Kot Piece (or is it Court Piece or Coat Pees, I need to google that). Then there was Bluff which was played with multiple suits and Gun which needed six players. There were also Rummy and Flash which were considered too grown up for us. Even though I did manage to finally officially grow up I never got a hang of those two.
We spent many long afternoons over hotly contested games cooled down by tall glasses of nimbu paani and the fragrant breeze from khas khas mats. Allegations of cheating flew back and forth (Cousin no 2 was a pro at it) and cards would be thrown down with promises of ‘I’ll never play with you again’ (that would be our oldest, Cousin no 1). Many a sad tear was spilt followed by hours of ‘I’m not talking to you’ only to be forgotten in favour of yet another good game.
That’s the way we played cards.
This time when I was home, my father just back from China, got these beautiful dinosaur playing cards. (He’s a Palaeontologist, hence). After we’d admired them enough, I thought it was time to initiate the kids into my kind of game. And so I explained the whole thing about declaring trumps and making hands.
To their credit they took to it way better than I took to their Uno and were soon yelling ‘I trumpeted you’ with great vigour filling me with hope that we’ll stick to these. At least our card games have an end to them.
All in all a weekend well spent.
So what did you do over the weekend. Do you remember any childhood games? Or those that you’ve shared with your kids? I’d love to hear from you.

Linking up with Mackenzie at Reflections from Me

Reflections From Me
How do you eat your mangoes?

How do you eat your mangoes?

The other day I was watching my kids eating mangoes. The fruit is peeled, stones discarded, then diced into neat little cubes or slices (if I’m feeling lazy). I then leave it in the refrigerator to cool till we get on with lunch. Later, the kids pick the fruit off the plate with fruit forks or toothpicks.

Mangoes in Lucknow have always been plentiful. I had once stumbled upon this quote by Ghalib, Aam meethe hon aur bahut saare hon.
That’s exactly how they always are here.
During the summer our cousins would come to stay with us. Each afternoon all six of us aged 4 to 10, would sit around a tub of mangoes out in the aangan. The tub would be full of water to keep the mangoes cool. We’d be dressed in the barest minimum – vests and slips – as we fished out the mangoes, oblivious to the heat, and competed at amassing the largest pile of guthlis. We’d peel the fruit tooth and nail, quite literally, and bite right into the pulp, delicious juice dripping from our hands, running down our chins and smearing our faces.
One of our favourites was the Lucknow Safeda. If you know anything about this particular variety you’ll know it isn’t meant to be pealed and cut at all. It is more juice than pulp and has to be sucked on, not eaten.
There’s a whole art to getting through this fruit and I’m not sure I’m equipped to explain. Let it suffice that it has to be handled with all the Lakhnawi nazakat you can muster. No, I’m not being a snob – the nazakat is crucial. The thing is the fruit has an exceptionally fragile skin. A little inelegant impatience and you’ll have the guthli shooting right out from the wrong end (of the fruit, of course) splattering you with juice and pulp.
Each time that would happen the expression on the face of the callous offender would be priceless, giving us hours of laughter. What’s worse, he would get an earful from his/her mum because mango stains are the devil’s own work when it comes to getting them off.
Anyway, once you’ve got down to the guthli without accident you scrape it off with your teeth and discard it. Finally you slurp off the remaining juice.
I am sure we weren’t the most sightly of sights, yet it was the perfect way to form strong bonds of shared memories. Perhaps that’s why even though we don’t meet, sometimes for years together, we can take up from right where we left off, the sweetness never varying quite like that of the dussehris, langadas and safeda.

Aam will always remain a very khaas part of my childhood memories.