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Reading nook

In that cozy little corner 

where faded rays of the sun 

seeps through

and the booming sound of the rain 

echoes – 

I settle with a book in hand

and get lost

in a world 

unlike my own. 

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Conference Call

It’s been a couple of days since parents landed here.

A jetlagged Appa can be seen walking around the house like a zombie at times, and an over enthusiastic Amma can be found clitter-clattering around the kitchen most of the times. To avoid being disturbed, I lock myself in the study as I work from home and step out only to take little breaks every now and then.

This afternoon, at the stroke of lunch hour, I go down to get some food and promptly come back to the study with a bowl of rice. I turn on some show on Netflix on my phone and mindlessly start to devour what’s in my hands. Within seconds, I hear footsteps outside the door and Appa makes an appearance.

Even before I make eye contact with him, even before I can utter a word, even before I have a chance to pick up my phone and put the show on pause, he profusely apologizes for walking in on me during what he thinks is an official conference call, and walks out feeling utterly guilty for disturbing me.

You know what’s funny? – what he heard and assumed to be a “conference call” was nothing but a steamy / extremely passionate moment between two people in the episode.

“Conference call” it is then; the not-so-poetic but supremely funny metaphor will never fail to elicit laughter bouts in our household for eons.

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My Happy Place

Our library.

Yes, library! All these years it was bookshelves scattered all over the place with just a dream of having a dedicated space for a library. And now, we finally have one – one small room with wall to wall bookshelves to hold the woven pages that we’ve collected and cherished over the years.

While we were looking for a place to move into as we relocated to Boston, we walked through house after house, rejecting most of them because of not feeling a sense of home while there, among other factors. And this particular house was no exception; there were quite a few reasons to disregard the positives and keep on looking. But all that changed as we walked into that one room. As soon as our eyes caught a glimpse of what it comprised and what it could potentially be, we knew this was home.

A home with a library!

I make it a point to spend some time in there every day. It’s time devoted to practicing meditation of sorts… I sit there, calm and quiet, not being bothered by what happened or what is to come; I sit there as if time has stopped to let me take advantage of the beauty in the stillness and silence that surrounds; I sit there, lost in a million spattered thoughts, yet at the same time with a clear mind, one that’s free of it all… It’s time devoted to experiencing the poetic depth of solitude.

It’s my time in my happy place.

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Moved back Home

Back in 2012 when the topic of moving out of the city, our home – a place that both K and I were extremely fond of – came about, the decision was kind of already made for us. There were several factors to consider, both positive and negative, but out of all those the main reason to leave was the visa situation. K’s job was moving and there was no way he could elect to stay back. Had he done that, he would’ve lost his job and by inference his work visa. So, like I said, the outcome was pretty clear even before we could sit down and discuss in length – we had to move.

And move we did.

We welcomed the new phase of life with open hearts, albeit a little reluctant in the beginning. We had our close friends just a stone’s throw away. We spent countless days and nights with them sharing meals, playing board games, discussing all sorts of topics under the sun, traveling together – all that fun stuff. We bought a home big enough to host a dozen people; so we sponsored visas, invited our family from India and had a blast when during their visit. We celebrated Holi and Diwali one of the years with a large gathering of friends.

All in all, things were going fine, but there was always that nagging feeling somewhere hiding deep in the shadows of our minds about how everything could be even better. And every now and then we kept revisiting the idea of someday returning to the one place where both of us felt at Home. Visa situation had changed, and slowly, but surely, the light at the end of the tunnel got brighter and brighter.

Late in 2014, K came home one evening with the news that there might a prospect of moving to a new position within the company and it would require transferring to exactly where we wanted to be. Without any second thoughts both of us agreed that it would be a great break. He liked the new job role, and both of us fancied what it brought with it in terms of relocation. He pursued it rigorously while we waited patiently for it to finally take shape.

We spent hours together deliberating whether it made sense to leave behind all that we’d built together in the past three years. We wrote down pros and cons, debating whether one evidently won over the other. The key point that made us sway from side to side was the enormous financial hit that we had to take with the move (the cost of living being the main culprit; it would be much higher here, but neither of us would got any sort of increment to compensate for that. Bummer, huh?). In the end, though, all things considered, we unequivocally decided that we had to do what our hearts desired without bringing money into the equation. Money might come and go, but opportunity like this might not knock on our doors again. Hence, the fact that we would both be immensely happier in every which way if we shifted made our decision for us.

Consequently, almost a year later, in October of 2015, we found ourselves back in Boston. And there has been looking back ever since.

This city has always been (and will forever be) Home to me. And now that I’m back here, I have a feeling I’m going to embrace it closer to my heart than ever, never wanting to even consider the thought of moving elsewhere.

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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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That moment…

…when everything else around seemed to slowly drown in the sea of ordinary, and there I was, lifted above, catching a glimpse of an emotion so pure that it’s hard to put in words.

On a hot sunny afternoon we (eight of us) take a stroll on the Brooklyn Bridge. While K leads the way, I keep to the back of the line to make sure no one gets lost. Everyone takes their time to absorb the views of the city from different spots, marveling at its grandiose, to click photos here and there, freezing those moments over and over again.

Me? I am lost in a world of my own as is the case most of the times.

The surrounding crowd of tourists stopped at every foot to capture their dazed expressions with the city in the background makes me smile. The surrounding crowd of locals, walking or cycling along, infuriated to some extent by the sightseers’ antics makes me smile. The surrounding crowd of vehicles moving inch by inch, playing music so loud, at times, making the conversations of the person next to one inaudible makes me smile.

Happy faces, tired faces; English speaking minority, non-English speaking majority; excited voices, exasperated voices; calm river underneath, frantic drivers to the side; colors aplenty. Walking amidst this chaos brings me peace, so undefinable.

Suddenly, I hear someone calling out my name. I know exactly what it is that I am being invited to do – pose for a photo with everyone except K as he more than gladly hides takes the spot behind the camera. And what do I do? Well, shockingly, not the usual. I don’t pretend never to have heard my name being hollered across the bridge; I don’t turn around to grin and then protest vehemently the need for a photo with me in it; I don’t roll my eyes or grit my teeth or cringe before walking over unwillingly to stand in front of the camera.

To my disbelief (and, possibly, the others’ too), I hop over, as if there’s a spring under my feet, without any inhibitions and take my place next to Mum (K‘s mom). I am not over thinking these two seconds, making it a trice of refreshing change. But before I can pat myself on my back for being such a good team player for once something of more importance happens.

Mum puts her hand around my shoulders and pulls me closer to her. Readily, my feet move an inch or two. She then places her palm on my cheek and draws my head close enough to have it lie on her shoulder; I gladly follow her lead. She lovingly pinches my cheek, as a mother would her child’s; my eyes – they are both beaming and tearful.

The tenderness and purity of emotions of these few seconds makes my day. This raw display of affection in the most unexpected time and way makes my smile wide. This gentleness of it all screaming of motherly love clouds my eyes. My heart skips a beat.

The photo is taken.

I wear my goggles to make sure my misty eyes go unnoticed and try to move over, but I feel a hand tightly holding mine. Mum, again. I hold hers back, savoring every bit of what is being showered on me. My mind wanders to whether it was my immediate acceptance of the invitation to be in a photograph that has made her communicate with me in this way, out of the blue. But then I quickly come back to the present – why / how does that matter? I cherish the time, for then and for ever, and move on with a heart overflowing with deep sentiments.

To anyone noticing the two of us those few seconds it may have seemed like a simple, random, insignificant, ordinary act. But to me that flash in time is / will always be monumental. I can’t put a pin on exactly why, but why should there be a need for that? I know what will stay with me indefinitely when I look back at this trip anytime in the future, near or far; I know precisely what has made an eternal mark in my mind’s eye. It’s not the reason why there’s so much love, but the fact that there is abundance of love in my life. And for that I am infinitely grateful.

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