Archive for category Love

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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Sounds around a happy home

The sweet drumming of various utensils in the kitchen heard alongside the birds’ chirping early in the morning. The voices of people merrily sharing stories as they sit together sipping on tea or eating breakfast. The chorus of good mornings / good evenings heard as K or I walk into the living room. The phone bell ringing every now and then in the house where phone was used oh so rarely. The musical hum of laughter from someone or the other heard throughout the day. The clatter of more than a dozen pair of shoes as the invitation to embrace the evening outdoors is welcomed. The pleasant hullabaloo in the hurry to narrate the day’s happenings to us as we return home from work. The big bustle in the dining room every night as everyone settles down for dinner. The hushed sigh of relief as we all gather in the living room after finishing all the chores in the kitchen and elsewhere.

And the silent sound of love that lingers even during those wee hours of night when everyone has blissfully fallen asleep.

P.S: Mummy and Papa (K’s parents), along with their friends, and two of K’s cousins are visiting us from India. They’ve been here for about ten days now and will be around until October. A few more relatives (his sister, Aunt and Uncle) are scheduled to arrive in June. Needless to say, it’s been a full house, and I’ve been thoroughly enjoying their company. 

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Happiness is…

…picking up K from work and noticing that rather mischievous smile plastered on his face.

It was extremely curious that he kept at it all evening long – through our drive home, through the time we spent at the coffee shop with our friends – but wouldn’t let me in on what was going on in that spirited mind of his. I kept prodding him to let me in on what he was up to, but all he would share was that he was happy to be home, away from work. And then he made an impromptu plan for us to visit the nearby planetarium. We have lived here for almost two years now, but have never been to the planetarium which is merely three or four miles away. So his proposal to visit the place that evening sounded good to me. Little did I know at that time about the big plan brewing in his mind!

When we reached the planetarium, I went to browse around in the gift shop while K promptly walked over to the Info Desk to make inquiries. Or so I thought. What he was actually doing there was checking in for their Spring time Starry Nights show that he had bought tickets for weeks ago. Considering how much I enjoyed sky gazing that happened one of the Saturday evenings this month, K had bought tickets for this show at the planetarium days after that and had been planning to surprise me with it ever since. And he made sure I had no clue whatsoever about this plot of his. Even when he took my hands and walked towards the auditorium, I had no idea where I was going. Once we were seated there, he let me in on his plan, and I was totally flabbergasted.

And what followed was two hours of complete bliss. We watched the sky as the presenter told us fables, showed us various constellations, stars, planets, taught us how to differentiate a star from a planet, provided clarifications for all our questions, etc. It was one of the best evenings ever. Thank you, love.

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Bye-Bye Mickey. Hello TARDIS.

A month ago we were visiting one my aunts here. After spending a day and half with her family, it was time to leave and we were in the process of loading the bags into the car. Just as we got ready to bid goodbye, my little cousin noticed the palm sized Mickey Mouse that hung about behind the rear-view mirror. “How cute is that!” she exclaimed. And that comment got me working on moving Mickey out of there and into her hands. K echoed my thoughts; he helped me get Mickey out of his constricted state. Within a couple of minutes, we handed Mickey over to her, and then we left.

Mickey had been with me for at least eight years. I’d hung him there the day the car came to be mine and it’s been his home ever since. He’d been enjoying all the trips with us so far. So, understandably, seeing him go pinched the strings of my heart a wee bit, albeit only for a few microseconds. I wasn’t essentially too attached to that toy in any way – when he was around, I’d hardly paid any attention to him… only when someone (read: Amma or K) deliberately disturbed him, I would get bothered; else, his presence always went unnoticed; it was just that he had been an integral part of all the fun rides so far, and the void came about abruptly. Nevertheless, I was mature enough to see that my cousin would cherish his existence more than I ever did, and she would most definitely adore him and love him incomparably. So letting him go wasn’t as hard as I may have thought it would be.

As we drove back home that evening, K kept insisting that he would get me another Mickey to hang there since he didn’t want me to miss Mickey all that much. I dismissed his thoughtfulness saying that I was indeed ok and I didn’t really have any special liking towards Mickey to begin with.

Mickey and I had parted ways. I was glad that Mickey had found a new home, and I moved on.

Fast forward a month to yesterday…

I am working from home. K walks in with a package in his hand. When I ask him what it is, he promptly answers that it is for his friend (a friend of his has recently moved here and he’s been forwarding his mails to our address). And I let it be as we’ve been getting mails/parcels every other day for the said friend, even though I notice that K’s name, not his friend’s, appears prominently on this particular one. K goes around doing his chores and both of us get busy getting ready for an evening out. Just as it is time to step out, K grabs the scissors and cuts open the envelope. I stand there, befuddled, watching him and wondering why he is opening his friend’s mail.

And out the envelope comes a TARDIS key-chain.

My jaw drops. My eyes open as big as an owl’s. My smile is as wide as an ocean. My heart goes on a thrill ride, beating rhythms of perpetual delight. My mind goes wild with euphoria. This is one of the coolest things ever, I am thinking to myself. I grab it from him and gape at it as if I’ve been starved of any amusing sight for a long time.

“It’s for the car,” K says, “you can hang it there. Hopefully this will bring a smile on your face every time you see it, and hopefully you will be more attached to it.”

“Of course, of course. For a self-proclaimed Doctor Who fanatic, having the TARDIS along every time I drive / ride in that car would feel nothing but perfect.  Thank you, love.” I don’t recall if I said these words out loud to him or if I merely played it all in my mind, lest I lose focus on the magnificent miniature time traveling machine replica resting on my palm.

Tiny TARDIS!

Tiny TARDIS!

So, yeah, in a month it’s gone from Bye-Bye Mickey to Hello TARDIS. Life is beautiful, indeed.

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Full house

I hear a lot of noise coming from downstairs as I open the bedroom door. What’s all the hullabaloo about? I thought Amma was alone down there. The partner bid me goodbye to go to work, so he’s definitely not home now. Maybe she’s on the phone; in that case, how am I able to listen to the whole conversation? She never uses the speaker mode. Perhaps someone has called her on Skype. That must be it because only yesterday she learned some of the functions and I bet she’s already using it. Still, where’s all the different voices coming from? How many people is she talking to?

I walk down and first lay my eyes on Amma’s Uncle and Aunt. When did they get here? I wonder if they are mad at me for not chatting with them properly the last time they were on Skype with Amma. I was pre-occupied with something else when they’d called and I appeared in front of the camera once to fix some issue Amma was having. I only said hello before letting them continue their chitchat with Amma. I hope they won’t drill me about why I disappeared so quickly.

I greet them with a smile. They smile back and ask me how I am. I tell them I am fine and go into the living room to ask them further about when they got here, if they are tired after their journey, etc. It’s a pleasant surprise, their visit to my place all of a sudden. Maybe because Amma is here; she may have invited them over and forgotten to mention it to me. It’s all good, they are here and let’s hope they have a good time.

My sisters and my father are here too. What? How come no one brought any of this up when they talked to me? Appa being here is a shock, actually. I wouldn’t, even in my wildest dreams, imagine my father ever standing in my living room. What am I missing here? He seems comfortable. I wasn’t expecting the day to turn out to be anything like this when I woke up this morning. Am I dead? Is this heaven? I have so many questions, all for my mother. Where is she?

Wait a minute… this voice that I am hearing right now, who is it? It sounds so familiar, yet so alien. A lot of memories come gushing. I know who it is, there’s no mistaking in this case. Who let him in? Appa? Amma, or even my sisters, sure as hell would never open the door for him. I haven’t heard his voice in so many years. I haven’t seen him in over a decade and half. I haven’t forgotten him, even though I haven’t been in touch with him all this time. It’s strange that he should be here. It could be that this is all in my mind. But is it? I can hear him, loud and clear. He’s singing; still as good at it as he used to be way back when. Should I go see for myself if he’s indeed here?

My heart is racing, but not in the way that I would have expected it to. Where is all that pent-up rage? Where are all those hidden tears? Isn’t that what I have always imagined would burst out whenever I bumped into him next – all those tears and all that rage? Then why is it so that all I feel is numbness, and also a sort of vague calmness? Weird. Why can’t I move? With only a few more steps I will be face to face with a man who was a Superhero to me once upon a time. Within a few seconds I will look into the eyes of the man who shattered the image that I’d built of him with that ignominious deed of his. Should I go? He’s here. In my house. Of course I should go talk to him. That’s good manners, right?

I wonder what I will do when our eyes meet. Will I, at that instant, turn into the happy ten year old I once was, always bristling with the excitement in his presence? Or will I somehow become that slightly older girl that waged a silent war against the devil that she found him to be? Will I merrily reminisce our mountainous happy past? Or will I focus on the one thing that went wrong, which to date affects me in the biggest of ways? Which side will I lean towards? Should I risk finding out? Sure, why not. Whatever may come next, he deserves it. I take careful steps, one after another. And there he is.

My Chittappa*.

He’s smiling, as he moves around singing and chopping some vegetables in the kitchen. Our eyes meet. And at this point I would’ve anticipated for the waterworks begin from my end. Alas, my eyes are still dry. He grins wide. I hear him call out the same nickname that he’s always used for me, probably since I was days old. He made up special names for all of us in the family. Nobody else uses that nickname to address me. Ever. It’s always only been him. So, at least now I know for sure that it’s really my Chittappa that’s standing in front of me. Not that I had an iota of doubt before; I could never mistake his voice or his charisma for anyone else’s. ‘We’ve all been waiting for you. It’s so nice to see you after all these years’, he says. And the doorbell rings.

Suddenly I remember that it’s time for the partner’s return. The fact that Amma missed even hinting about this family gathering to me has taken me by surprise. What about the partner? He doesn’t have a clue, just as I didn’t as I walked down the stairs only a while ago. This will doubtless be an enormous revelation to him. I run and go open the door, before someone else does, so I can ease him into it.

The partner walks in, and before I can say anything, he listens to the sound variety of conversations from every nook and corner of the house, that too in a language he barely comprehends, and smiles. He sure doesn’t know who all are here, but he has a hospitable heart, and with that he puts his backpack down and enters the living area to warmly welcome everyone with his gracious smile. My mind runs wild again, with another set of million questions. Where in the world is Amma?

Is Appa still here? What should I expect from him, if at all anything? I make up my mind to keep my hopes low, as always, and let things roll in their own accord. It’s better that way. It has always been. But it’s hard, so hard, I tell you. Before I can even think of relaxing my curious mind, I get my answer, though. Thanks to Appa, he does precisely what I’d foreseen him doing. But, no matter how much I’d apparently prepared for it, it still comes as a blow. Oh well, he never disappoints, does he? His staunch stubbornness delivers every single time. Sigh.

Look who’s walking towards us as Appa is leaving. Oh my goodness, I can’t even begin to conceive what would come out of Chittappa meeting the partner. Only months ago when I’d already hit rock bottom I found a way to dig a little deeper and fall further in, as I opened up and shared with the partner the tale of why my relationship with Chittappa was strained / why it fell apart. And now he’s going to meet that man from my past. What good can ever come out of this? I hope, against all odds, that the partner’s elephant memory fails him now. Or, at best, he reacts the same way I did, freeze. And he does, or should I say he acts as if he does, as I introduce him to Chittappa. I guess he doesn’t want any unwanted drama to ensue from their first encounter. But his eyes – look at those eyes – it’s full of fury. I can tell because it’s like seeing myself in the mirror and finding all that wrath hiding there, turning red all that was white before.

Tears trickle down my cheeks, now. My ire, my melancholy – I see it all in his eyes. A burden shared, is that what kept me composed all this time? I pull him aside, hug him, and let him wipe my tears. He plants a peck on my cheek and that’s enough melt away all the pain.

From that kiss stems a happy ending.

Tell me, should this be categorized a dream or a nightmare?

*Chittappa – father’s younger brother.

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The rough hand that stroked my cheek

I dozed off on the couch in the middle of the day. I am quite capable of sleeping anytime, anywhere, really. But to do it in the middle of a work day before finishing up the tasks that have been neatly lined up is saying something. Did I drift off to slumber land because of the gloomy weather outside? Or because of previous night’s disturbed sleep? Or because of the sluggish feeling that I’ve been suffering from all day? Be what the reason behind it may, it only matters that I dozed off on the couch in the middle of the day.

I don’t know how much time had really passed (it sure didn’t feel like it was enough to label the episode a ‘nap’), but within what seemed to be the opposite of an eon, I was being woken up. I sensed a hand, a rough hand, stroking my cheek. My first instinct was to shoot a grim expression to air my annoyance and continue my affair with the afternoon siesta. Before I could act on that impulse, though, I took a step back. Figuratively, of course. Why? For that touch translated to stories. That hand held in it stories of our intertwined love. That palm clasped together with mine could easily speak the story of my life. And, just then, those fingers upon my cheek wrote a new chapter capturing that moment in time and space, adding to the story of both of our lives.

After successfully fighting that initial urge to react harshly, I slowly opened by eyes, careful not to blind myself temporarily because of the brightness of the surrounding. It was afternoon, after all. Yes, it was cloudy out when I had fallen asleep, but who knows what happened in those few minutes that I was oblivious to the ever changing climatic conditions. One has to be careful, right? So, yes, I opened my eyes slowly. The first thing I saw was that hand, the rough hand that had stroked my cheek.

Would you like some coffee?’ inquired a gentle voice. I nodded, with my half-open eyes still fixated on that hand, the rough hand that had stroked my cheek.

I observed for a while to find if I can read what made the hand’s touch so rough. And there, then, I saw it all flash in front of my eyes in a matter of seconds. That hand, the rough hand that had stroked my cheek, revealed to me a lifetime of experiences that were inscribed on it. Every line, every dry patch, every nail, every wrinkle had a story to share. Some stories happy. Some stories heartrending. Some stories bittersweet. There were stories of proud successes, and then there were stories of nasty failures. There were stories that echoed smiles and laughter, and then there were stories that ricocheted the sound of silent tears. Put together, though, all these stories equate to unending doses positivity and patience.

That hand, the rough hand that had stroked my cheek, is of a person who boldly faces all that life throws at her, even after a million setbacks. Now, there’s something I need to learn from my mother – perseverance and forbearance, no matter what life brings on, even if I end up with a rough hand. How does it matter if the hand is rough when it has the perpetual potential to hold in it brimming amounts of love?

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