Archive for March, 2015

Back porch

We have a beautiful porch to the back of our home. It’s not a large area, it’s a tiny space. But sitting there, looking into the backyard filled with tall Pine trees, imparts a deep sense of peace. In fact, it is one of the main reasons behind why I chose to make this house our home instead of any other that we’d seen when we moved years almost three years ago. I still remember the excitement I felt the first time I walked in and discovered this place… it seemed magical.

Right away, I could picture myself hanging around there on a nice summer day, possibly reading a good book as the breeze graced through gently. Or just sitting there gazing into the thick woods as the spring brought back greenery all around. Or having an amusing conversation with K while sipping on a cup of coffee. Or merely taking a nap, letting the lull of the afternoon lure me into a sweet slumber. Or lazing around there while the sun blazes down, listening to the songs of the million birds that seem to be chirping outside. Before I knew it, my mind drew up myriad possibilities of how I would enjoy living here and I leaped into my world of dreams.

After moving in, the first thing that we bought was a Hammock to hang in the back porch. Both of us had pretty much fallen for that idea as soon as it had taken shape months ago. So there was no question, no debating, no waiting. We went, we bought. Then we got back home and set it up, making it one of the most beloved and sought out corners of the home.

We spend quite some time there on warm hours of the year. Weekdays mostly are out of the question, unless we make it a point to get home early and relax before hitting the bed. Otherwise, we pass time there on all those weekends that we are not traveling one place or another, doing all that I’d imagined we’d one day do in that space, and more.

Lying down on the Hammock and letting the gust of wind weave a trance is delightful in its own way. I’ve splurged hours there, in that cozy corner, reading on numerous evenings. Friends have joined us, now and then, to unwind… clicking of beer bottles as everyone settles in, crackling of the milk that boils in the kitchen getting ready for coffee or tea to be prepared, playing music to create a pleasant milieu, echoing of laughter as someone tells a joke… those walls have seen a lot of happiness being shared in various occasions.

Last year, once tickets were reserved and I eagerly awaited everyone’s arrival, I started envisioning the times they might spend in the back porch. I wanted them to bask in the glory of the porch as much as we had done so far. Perhaps they will come to appreciate this little area and use it during the day as and when they pleased. I hoped that it would give me chance to write and add chapters to the memory book that I held so dear. That space, however, went mostly unnoticed during the months of their stay.

Daylight hours were consumed indoors by completing chores or by watching tv or by going for walks on a nearby trail. And evenings and weekends we mostly traveled, leaving little time to none to spend at home. The only stint that they opened the door to the porch for was when it was an especially hot day and they saw an opportunity to use the sunlight to dry clothes. K and I pushed the idea of sitting there and relaxing every now and then, but after a few nods it was instantly forgotten.

So, one evening, as soon as we came home, K declared that we would have that night’s dinner on the porch. While the idea was met with a little resistance, we got each person to agree soon after and preparations were made. Everything was setup on the little table outside and we all gathered around, with plates in hand. It wasn’t easy to fit in so many people in that space, but it wasn’t impossible either. We adjusted, we settled and we started dinner. Conversations went on and on, as they did on most of the nights during supper. All of us were having a good time.

Suddenly, I realized I hadn’t carried the keys out with me. With colossal optimism that someone else remembered to get the keys with them, I looked at my SIL and presented my question without anyone else noticing. All that hope for nothing; it was hanging on a thin rope and the rope gave away. Before she could mouth her answer to me, her eyes, lucidly, conveyed that she doesn’t have it either. Quiet still, as to not panic the elders, we both looked at K, and let him know that we were possibly locked out of the house. While he sat there conjuring brilliant plans to get us in, I walked over to the door, again with big fat hope sitting on thin slab of glass, and tried to open it, expecting it to not resist… who knows, maybe the knob on the inside wasn’t turned to lock position before the door was closed. Alas, that effort was rather otiose.

And now everyone knew.

I tried picking the lock with a hairpin that someone had handy, which didn’t work. In those few minutes, K let me and SIL know that he left the big glass leading to the living room unlocked, and he could get in from there if it came down to that. So, now with the escape plan was now established amongst the three of us, K decided to hold on to it and not let the others know that there was a strategy in motion.

There was not as much dread as I expected, but a few of them, especially the ones who challenged the dinner plan in the first place, were now extra eager to get into the house. Points were thrown around as to what could be done – what about spare keys, wouldn’t any of your friends have one? how about calling the police, would they be able to help? well, we can easily do what police may do if we were to call them – break the glass on the door above the lock and unlock, we will be in, shall we do that? what about getting in through one of the windows, would we be able to pry it open?

We let continue the discussion into despair. How so callous of us, right? Some of them were certain K had a plan in mind and hence he was quiet and not participating in offering suggestions, while the others were sure we were doomed and would spend the night freezing outside. And it went on like this for a sometime, panic was starting to strike hard.

A few of them were so keen on charting a fail proof plan to execute soon that they missed K walking out of the porch into the backyard to enter the house through the unlocked door to the family room. And only when we saw him walk towards the porch door from inside that we all came back to normal and started to calm down.

Each second leading up to the end was well worth it, even though not every last person who had dinner with us on the porch that night may agree. It was super intense, but it was equally entertaining, at least to some of us.

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Around the dining table

Growing up, dinner time was not of much significance.

We lived in a joint family setup – with my paternal grandparents, and, sometimes, my uncle and his family – until my teens. Dinner, or any meal for that matter, was served to children first, along with maybe the men in the family, while the women, especially the daughter-in-laws, cooked and served and cleaned before they got their chance at relaxing and enjoying the food. And it was more of getting a chore completed than a pleasurable ritual of sort – we would all sit and finish the food that was on our plates, sometimes complaining, sometimes merrily, and hurry up to get it out of the way.

As I entered my teens, my parents moved us out of the joint family setup and we, the five of us, were now on our own. Still, we never ended up making a memorable tradition out of our mealtimes. If Appa were around, TV would be on, indubitably. And all of us would plop ourselves in front of the idiot box while munching on the food bites. If Appa weren’t around, Amma would have us sit in the kitchen, and it would either be us chatting away letting the food get cold or us silently chewing with only a few words exchanged here and there. Regardless, there was no habit of sorts; it’s just what suited our whims day after another, with no set norm.

Years later, I started living on my own. Now, I had roommate(s) with whom I shared an apartment. Again, in those years nothing changed much. If we were eating at the same time, roommate(s) and I would maybe sit together in front of the tv and eat the food. Else, we ate when each of us fancied and did what we wanted to do. It worked extremely well for this setting though, since we each had our own schedules and moods, so didn’t make much sense bothering others around to adhere to the same. Around and hungry at the same time? Great, we ate together. But there were no issues if it didn’t work out either.

A handful of years of living with roommate(s) gave way to me and K moving into a place that was our home. We started living together, just the two of us. We filled our space with our little quirks and customs we thought was important to us. And the only request K ever had as we started building our own traditions as a family was that whenever we had a meal together, we should make sure that the tv isn’t turned on, hence helping us concentrate on the food and eat well, and also giving us time to connect with each other without any major distractions. I happily gave in to the request; it was something I was not used to and I was looking forward to experiencing it his way.

So, ever since then, we have always made it a point to focus on the food, and each other, while having our meals; we seldom turn the tv on. And I must say, I immensely relish this time of the day. Most of the evenings, we cook after we head back home and then eat after we finish cleaning the kitchen. Most times we talk, generally about the day’s happenings. And at other times, we eat in silence. Even in that quietness, though, rings a calming melody. And all that I cherish, thanks to K.

Last year, we played hosts to a number of guests at our place for the majority of the time. My mother, K’s parents, sister, brother-in-law, cousins, aunts and uncles – all of them traveled all the way from India to spend time with the two of us. And with so many folks around, meal times became even more delightful. I am not sure if K mentioned our practice to them or if they follow it as a family as well, but right from the beginning we all started dining together. No exceptions were made.

Roars of laughter would rise as someone shares a funny anecdote. Polite arguments would arise as someone brings forth a controversial discussion. Tunes of more than one person talking at the same time would have the rest of us in splits. High-pitched voice would be heard as someone is vying for attention from another person across the table. Sentences would be spoken and repeated, for some were hard of hearing, while others (like K) sometimes followed selective hearing in an overly sincere fashion, much to the exasperation of others.

Silence, though, would only fall when someone decided to talk about a heart wrenching incident from the past. Illness. Death. Family problems. Broaching these topics was never easy but it happened from time to time. Be what it may, in those moist eyes of the person recalling the horrific episode, one could invariably spot the reflection of all the other pair of eyes around the table. Silence would break with every pair of eye expressing a million words of consolation. Silence would break with every heavy breath. Silence would break with those first words of request of change in dialogues, reverting attention to some lighthearted chatter.

Suppertime was my favorite time of the day during the eight or so months last year. Even now, months after their departure, every time I walk over to our dining room and look around, I can distinctly see the happy faces; I can close my eyes and hear the voices clearly, as if everyone were still around. And it never fails to bring a big wide smile on my face.

Needless to say, this is the one ritual that I am sure I will follow zealously for years to come.

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Between silence and murmur

There’s that moment between silence and murmur when the mind is pregnant with thoughts. At that moment, the mind is busy with words that are ready be poured out, marking the end of the silence; the mind is gushing with feelings that are ready to be shared, marking the beginning of the murmur. Sometimes that moment is fleeting, while at other times that moment can stretch and stretch to what may seem like an incessant eon.

Ephemeral pain. Eternal satisfaction. Colossal damage. Mounds of joy. Abysmal boredom. Perhaps, all of the aforementioned. What really goes on between those two distinct notes – first, when everything goes eerily silent and the second, when there’s the birth of a gentle murmur – one may never know. No matter what, though, the fact still remains that the silence eventually ends and that the thoughts most definitely take shape in form of little murmurs.

In that twinkling tick of time, as the first few words scurry out to give way to the rest, there is immeasurable gratification. And, of course, there’s also that tinge of naïve hope that the next period of silence isn’t approaching anytime soon in the foreseeable future. Let’s wait and watch how that goes, shall we?

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