A Celebration like No Other

Home

On summer afternoons, sometimes, I watch the sunlight streak in through the window and drop onto the floor. It is usually golden. It reminds me of sitting on the floor surrounded by sketch-pens and drawing paper, accompanied by a glass of lemonade, a bowl of mangoes and a very excited Mom. She laughs when I tell her about my reminiscence. “That is a nice and subtle way of saying you miss me. I had warned you as much when you were busy buying wedding saris.” To make me smile, she sends me pictures of the potted plants in our backyard. The colourful new blossoms dancing in the wind instantly cheer me up.

To be honest, nostalgia can be immensely absorbing. Ditto for foreshadowing. When I am on my own, in the solitude Wordsworth talked about so generously in his poetry, I find myself indulging in both. Going out into the evening to play Badminton with Grandpa. Fidgeting all around the dining room in anticipation of the chicken I could smell in Grandma’s kitchen. Penning down a perfectly crafted tale. Dreaming of my next vacation when I would see clouds peep in at my door. Planning my wardrobe revamp for Durga Puja in October. The exercise always ends with a bang – or rather, the ring of my mobile phone, a knock on the door, the beep of my microwave.

Interestingly, when I am transported back to the present, the little gifts in my life become evident. My husband returns from work and we have another glorious evening to spend together – something which was only a dream back when we were dating. Distant thunder rumbles in the sky and the plants in the neighbourhood park whisper melodies of rain. Little kids in the colony abandon their outdoor sports in favour of a game of table-tennis in the club house.  We stand in the balcony, holding hands and nibbling at potato pakoras.

By the time the first stars come up, we have fixed yet another date to renew our gym enrolment. We have also planned to spend the weekend re-watching our favourite movies, this time with home-made summer beverages in our special crystal glasses. “But I had kept them away for special occasions.” I complain. “Life with you is special enough to be celebrated every day.” I roll my eyes; he hums a little tune over and over till I throw a cushion at him.

In all the hard work that life can be, we end up taking so much for granted. A grumpy boss overshadows the satisfying work we are assigned; fatigue makes us irritable and oblivious to the peace that is home. Putting off all our plans for “when I have more time” makes our happiness elusive. We can see it up there – tantalisingly close – but never quite reach it. Over time, I have realized that my “big” moments in life have been as much that milestone birthday as that time Mom and I spent our Sunday watching television, eating pizza and singing Hindi film songs.

When the sun rises over our home every morning, I let go of a little regret, make peace with a painful memory, and forgive myself for last night’s show of temper. I wave at the plants taking in the early morning breeze. I eat a hearty breakfast, feel the sun warm my freshly showered skin, and celebrate the fresh opportunity to take stock, make amends, laugh. Then, I open a blank page on my word processor and proceed to tell the stories that have grown up with me. With every fresh word, I celebrate life – a celebration like no other.

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*Picture from imgarcade.com

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Coke and Margarita

I was drunk with questions after my large glass of Coke at the multiplex yesterday. Drunk without having been served a margarita, that is. One of my perennial concerns is the curious price of the glass, which I fail to arrive at even after factoring in all costs. The second pertains to audience attitude in the theatre. This is scary because it leaves me feeling depressed, out of place and at odds with the world.

What, for instance, can explain the presence of several babbling, very young children during the screening of Shonali Bose’s “Margarita with a Straw”? I, for one, clearly remember the A-rated notification that popped up when I made my booking. The parents figured a straw is for kids, perhaps?

MWAS

Another question that comes to mind refers to the peals of laughter that accompany cinematic love-making or allusion to sex. I can understand the giggles of a twelve-year old, reading about the quirky human body for the first time. It however is unfathomable when similar behaviour is exhibited by adults, seemingly mature and all there. If I manage to watch a “sexy” scene – or one that is low on conversation and background music – undisturbed in the theatre, I consider it a red letter day.

Anyhow, I felt heady after my Coke and Margarita cocktail and decided to look around a nearby bookstore. Splashed all across the Indian Fiction shelves were tales involving college pass-outs and their promiscuous relationships. The books boasted of colourful, vivid covers, to say nothing of their equally colourful titles. I Kissed You, You Didn’t. You are not my Only Girlfriend. It seems strange that a generation with such, err, vast experience of love, lust and all things carnal should giggle during a heartfelt attempt to portray a physically challenged girl’s sensuality.

Back home, I poured myself some iced tea and sat down to reflect. I figured I would need to be sober to hit upon just why the world seems to be growing shallower and more tiresome by the minute.

All and Nothing

Meera looked around the living room. Several years ago, it had served as the auditorium for her impromptu dance performances, set to the tune of the latest Bollywood numbers. It was in the living room that she had cut her birthday cakes, pored over Christmas gifts and spent many peaceful hours with her pastel colours. Tired out from her adventures, it was here that she had contentedly dozed off in Grandpa’s lap.

The room had changed. It now served as the venue for family squabbles and disagreements. Her entry to the room was no longer rewarded with little hugs, chocolates and attention. She often stood by the window, unnoticed, trying to tune out the cruel repercussions of the passage of time.

The kitchen too had suffered. The ceiling was dark; the shelves cobwebbed. There was no glass of lemonade on the counter, no bowl of coconut cookies. Her Grandma cooked silently. She occasionally stared at the lemon-tree in the backyard. The view from the window was sombre; the sunlight came down in what appeared to be a monochrome, all colours of the sky stripped away in favour of a melancholic grey.

Meera walked out to the balcony and sat down on the swing. Mom usually accompanied her and the two chatted about the strange ways of the world. On Friday evenings, they would wait it out here till the Dominos’ guy arrived with their pizzas. Presently, the swing too had changed. It was dusty, creaky, and generally ill-mannered. No wonder Mom had decided to stay away.

She saw a cab in the driveway. Dad must have called for an early pick-up, though it was several hours until her flight. Meera picked up her baggage and started to walk down the stairs. As she turned around to see what she was leaving behind, she was witness to an overdose of activity. The squabbles evaporated from the living room. The kitchen shelves filled with all conceivable goodies from the local grocery store. The swing blew itself free of dust and proceeded to sing tunes from her childhood.

A lot had changed back home. But, as the cab took her farther away, she realized nothing had. In the sanctum sanctorum that her memories were, untouched by time, loss and longing, her home would always be the best place in the world.

A Midday Spell

Tiffin Box

I was absolutely uninterested in the day ahead. Outside the window, the world was silent as the grave, still as the mountains you could see from some localities in Pune. All I wanted to do was snuggle up in bed and stare into the distance, except that this can be particularly hard when you have a growling stomach. More so, when the stomach refuses to welcome instant noodles.

Mom and Dad had come over to visit a fortnight ago and we had spent a delightful weekend shopping, hogging and talking into the night. Mom had also packed in a vigorous round of spring-cleaning everything she could lay her hands on: clothes, the windows, my hair. “Is this your idea of spending a Sunday?” “I think it’s brilliant exercise.” The empty flat still resounded with our chatter, the words and songs echoing as they collided with the rather bare walls.

Presently, I dialled the landline in Delhi. I could hear the phone ringing – with intermittent static – itself to silence. While my grandparents could be snoozing, it was uncharacteristic of Mom to not pick up the phone. Ever since I had moved to Pune, she made it a point to keep me posted each time she stepped out of the house. “This way, you can tell me if you need anything from the market. I can store it and hand it over to you when you are home for Durga Puja.” Four months prior to Puja, my clothes-shopping had already been initiated. “We will get a smaller size.” She had frowned as I fitted my jeans with a belt, and rolled her eyes.

I sat by the window and decided I needed some food to feel alive. I lazily sifted through the few home delivery menus I had stacked in a corner. Back home, Mom would have quickly listed out Chinese and Italian options and also brought out her purse, ready to pay before the order could be placed. She would then set the table with two sets of spoons and forks, tissues and beverages. On dull afternoons such as these, she would plan for us to spend the evening in the large bookshop that had newly opened in our locality.

I chucked the menus away; none had caught my fancy. The doorbell rang just then – two shrill hoots, my roommate’s quintessential style. A heady aroma of chicken, onions and capsicum poured in through the door. Outside, stood my beaming roommate with a large bottle of Coke. Beside her, holding a large tiffin box I recognized from home, stood my Mom. In the pink salwar-suit I had bought her with my salary. She smiled when I stared at her.

“You wouldn’t believe I have been thinking of you all morning!”

“Precisely why I am here.”

“But you came only a fortnight ago! Did you win free airline tickets or what?”

“Nope. But I did win some free spirit and decided to surprise you. I was missing you very much.”

We sat at the table minutes later, greedily eating the world’s most delicious chicken. The room had been magically wiped clean of the morning’s despondency and longing. I had wished for Mom and here she was. Here only because she had listened to her heart and allowed it to overrule all else. This was surely among the finest magic that exists in the otherwise drab world we live in.

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Of blankets and ice-creams

“I don’t think we will need that blanket until after June.” I said to R the other day, while opening the bedroom windows for some air. All the fans in the house were whirring at top speed – or at least, trying to – and the number of bottles in the refrigerator had noticeably increased since we moved in.

“I would keep it somewhere handy.” R sounded cautious. “I have known Pune to be as moody as my wife.”

Moody or no, the very sight of the blanket was making me sweat. I proceeded to neatly pack it away in the bed-cabinet. “Shall we go out for ice-creams this evening?”

A few hours later, we sat by the window in our living room, dressed to go out but hindered by circumstances. The sky was a speckled-grey, overcast with clouds of all shapes and sizes. Rain came down in large drops and if the thunder was anything to go by, showed no signs of abating soon.

Rainy Sunday

Pune gears up for a rainy Sunday

“It is no longer hot enough for ice-creams.” said R, after the rain had softened. The man doesn’t know much about ice-creams. “It always is.” I explained.

Early this morning, when the first birds started singing, I sprung awake and sat up in bed. A light breeze was blowing in from under the door; the sun had started its ascent. However, the beauty of dawn was half-lost on me. I missed my blanket.

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