Category: nostalgia

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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


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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

Three is one too many

Three is one too many

They must have been about two and a half and it was H and N’s very first fancy dress show at school. They were then in the Jungle Book phase (we watched that film twice a day for almost one whole year) so N was Mowgli and H was Sher Khan. We practiced for days. N singing the song by Gulzar from the television series and H practicing Sher Khan’s roar. N, ever the talker, knew the song to a tee and H could really growl – about the only thing he had mastered when it came to talking. They were good. Of course I might be biased being related to them and all.

Anyway, the day dawned and soon enough there they were up on stage. And they just froze! Both of them. They came off stage and sobbed their little hearts out. N kept saying, ‘I couldn’t do anything,’ as if she couldn’t believe it. And her disappointment in herself was so heart-breaking I could have cried too. H, wasn’t really perturbed, but he cried in sympathy, I suppose.

I don’t remember much of the programme after that. They refused to let me go, refused to be comforted, refused to walk even, crying to be carried. And carry them I did. I remember standing by the side of the road, a huge bag with the fancy dress paraphernalia across my shoulders, one child in each arm, trying to hail an auto.

Of course it was one small fancy dress show and it didn’t really matter but for the twins their perfect world had just collapsed around them. As I looked from one sad face to the other bawling one I was just glad I could hold and hug both of them.

For me, three would definitely have been a crowd.

 

Three babies crying, three toddlers crawling about, three kindergarteners running around, three children asking for help with homework and then THREE TEEN MOODSWINGS TO LOOK OUT FOR. Lord my God!

If one and one are eleven, three and three would certainly be thirty-three. So thank you very much but I’m happy with my twins.

And if you’re a parent to triplets (or more), I totally bow to thee.

***************

Picture credit: Juliane Liebermann on Unsplash

 

I’m taking part in the Bar-A-Thon – the fortnight long Blogging Challenge. It’s Day 3 and I’m keeping it really short for the prompt ‘Three’s a crowd’. Pretty predictable I think.

The tree with a swing #ThursdayTreeLove

The tree with a swing #ThursdayTreeLove

This is N’s favourite tree. The reason is pretty obvious, isn’t it? That tyre swing. She loves it and each time we go on a morning walk it is a given that I’ll let her have a go at it for as long as she wants. Do scroll down for a better picture of the tree. I love how its branches spread out in an all-encompassing manner.

It was I who first spotted it and exclaimed happily because we hardly get to see swings like these now. She couldn’t figure out how one would ‘get inside’. But once I explained, she completely adored it.

How I would have loved to have a go at it too. However I had this terrible mental image of getting stuck in that tyre with my newly acquired girth and having to roam around forever with it around my waist and the idea disappeared almost as soon as it had come. I decided it was safer to simply stand by and watch.

This swing reminds me of one of my favourite books The Boy in Striped Pajamas. Remember how a bored Bruno builds himself a swing out of a tyre? Have you read it? It’s a heartbreaking story.

When we were children our uncle, who was an engineer in the Irrigation Department, used to be posted in small towns and cities. The upside was that the Government bungalows he was allotted, came with a huge space around them. The one I remember best of all had this large Jackfruit orchard that was crowded with tall dense trees bent low with an abundance of fruit. A huge swing would be put up on one of those trees. It wasn’t anything glamorous – just a large very sturdy plank of wood held up with sturdier ropes. Four to six of us would climb up – the younger ones would sit down clinging to the ropes while the older adventurous ones would stand behind them and we’d swing really really high. The target would be to touch the leaves of the tree up above. Uff The thrill of it! The smaller steel versions at school didn’t even come close.

Recently when we went to the garden, to N’s immense dismay, the tyre had been tied up out of reach. How crestfallen she was! All we can do is wait and hope someone brings it down soon.

Did you ever play on a home-made swing?

 

Linking up with Parul’s #ThursdayTreeLove

On my other blog: Beat About The Book

Not everything is awesome #BookBytes 6

Not everything is awesome #BookBytes 6

I’m sharing a quote from the book 1984 by Gerorge Orwell. The first time I read it I must have been in my early teens. I have little memory of it perhaps because I would have had little or no understanding of it. Then I read it again some seven or eight years ago and […]