Dear Grandma

After a conversation at school, with a five-year-old yesterday, who shared with me how much he loves his grandma I ended up reminiscing about my own rich experiences with my grandmas. Both my grandmas were known to be very strong women, who endured a lot and also came out loved and respected by one and all. They seemed to have touched many lives in some way or the other and I feel lucky to have known them somewhat in my growing up years.

My paternal grandmother passed away when I was 8 years old so I don’t really remember much, except the nostalgic sense of scent that comes with that memory. I  distinctly remember how she smelled and it always brings comforting thoughts to mind. She had this little multi-colored cloth pouch with many pockets that she carried around everywhere in her waistband and I loved playing with it. The pockets hid money, betel leaves, nuts and some kind of tobacco. Those scents intrigued me and I remember asking to chew on the betel leaves and enjoying the strong flavor.  Another recollection I have is of her telling me stories as we sat basking in the sun when I was little or when I lay next to her in the night begging for one more story! I remember the stories so vividly because many of her stories involved ‘poop’ and we all know how that genre of discussions appeals to the young minds! She must’ve been a very creative person because they were all stories she made up on her own. People tell me she was very funny and quick-witted,  but she was gone too soon and I didn’t really get to know her much personally.

My maternal grandmother was the one I have an abundance of memories with. She was what one would call a typical grandma; affectionate, loving, doting, warm and huggable.  The big red bindi on her forehead, nose rings on both sides, flowers in her hair and the colorful soft saris that she always wore, is a visual and tactile memory that is etched in my mind.  We would spend most of our vacation time and many important festivals at Screen Shot 2018-03-28 at 10.46.32 AMmy grandparents’ village. I have many memories of her waiting by the door, waiting to greet us with tears of happiness in her eyes, and again tears of sadness, everytime we went back to our homes. There are memories of her yelling to the helpers, to pick the best chickens to chop for lunch (Yeah! gruesome but true), go to the fields and cut some fresh chillies and vegetables, milk some fresh milk for the kids and so on. Her excitement never waned no matter how old she got or how many times we visited. We always got treated like we were special.

I always felt I was her most favorite grandchild but then she was such that probably all her grandkids felt so special. I remember her picking out the best pieces of meat from the curry and very slickly put it on my plate without the others realizing. She would also send out some guys to find some raw mangoes, tamarind, tender coconuts, raw peanuts, sugarcanes, and so on which were all my favorites (yes, I spent a lot of time eating on my vacations!). She made sure I had enough to eat and take back home at the end of the trip. I have memories of her bathing me as a child and scrubbing me with her rough hands, until my skin turned raw and red,  murmuring under her breath that we don’t take care of ourselves properly and how important it is to do that. I know I complained to my mom that she was too rough, but I miss that love with which she took care of me! I miss that special tall shiny brass glass of milk with Ovaltine that I got, topped with puffed rice, or the twenty-five-paisas that she would give me without my mom’s knowledge to go buy a candy from the village shop, or that she let me have the fluffiest pillow and bed to sleep on every night that I was with her in the village or the many times she oiled and braided my hair so tight that it didn’t need rebraiding until my vacation was over!

There were many times in the year that she would visit us and she always walked in armed with food, fruits, and vegetables that she brought for us with lots of love. She would stay with us for a few days and I would get more days of snuggle and cuddle with her. I can still picture her sitting outside in the sun, by the door, waiting for us to come back from school. I would sit with her a few minutes telling her about school before running off to play with my friends. She would often regale us with stories of her childhood, which involved a lot of her taking care of her siblings. I found it shocking that she was one of 25 siblings!

She is no more today as she passed away a few years ago when I was in the USA.  Her absence has left a gaping void that is so real whenever I visit our village on my trips back home. It is not the same anymore. There is no one waiting by the door, there is no hustle-bustle of people in the courtyard because we have arrived… it’s just eerily silent everywhere, reminding me of her absence. I am glad though that my kids got to meet her and know her for a bit. Today, I wish I had spent more time with her, I wish I had taken more pictures with her and documented all her stories. I wish I told her how much she meant to me and how I have silently watched her take care of everyone with so much love and care and absorbed it all. I wish I had listened to more stories about herself instead of just sharing mine. I wish I had listened more than talked. I wish I could just tell her that I am thinking about her and I dearly miss her!

If you are the lucky few to still have your grandparents with you, take some time to listen to them and give them the gift of your attention. Life is short, memories are lasting, so take some time to create that treasure trove of memories.




My Journey through Life —with love {Part-3: Bonding with love}


Another relationship where love happens automatically and without any complications is the one between siblings. Most siblings are known to fight in the early stages of their childhood and almost 90% of the sibling’s rivalries ends in the tightest bonds of friendship as they move into adulthood. In the early childhood days the relationship is more competitive depending on the age difference between the siblings but in almost all these relationships there is an underlying feeling of protectiveness. When an outsider threatens the relationship, the underlying love for each other shows up and they put on a united front to show their protectiveness towards each other. As they grow into adulthood they outgrow their petty fights almost always and they end up being life long friends. What is notable in this relationship is that here again is a relationship based on trust. Once again its blind trust and is unquestionable. Whenever a person needs comfort and there arises a  need to be loved or needed they more often than not turn to their siblings. Here they are sure that they will be trusted, well received, listened too and be loved even if they don’t deserve it.

We all know that people need loving the most when they deserve it the least. It is during those low moments that one needs someone who cares. One is sure in the fact that even if the world shuts them out and even if they don’t deserve it, their siblings are always there for them, that is the basis of this relationship.

I too have a brother and like most other kids fought like the proverbial cats and dogs. I remember beating him and getting beaten up royally by him. Ofcourse I would scream murder after that and get him into royal trouble with my parents. Regardless all thru my childhood I always believed and took it for granted that my brother would always be there for me. Well he was. Being the younger one I would always run to him when I had a problem and he was always there for me, though it was hard to admit I needed his help. Now as adults it comes very naturally to ask for his help, talk to him and pour my heart out. I am also very certain of his unquestionable love and trust, as I am, of my own pledge of love and trust for him. He is one person I can count on always and I know that he will be there for me, as I will for him, no questions asked. That’s the bond we share, that’s the miracle of this relationship. These are relationships which are pre-defined and exist within those parameters and under normal circumstances they function very close together, warmly and affectionately, co-existing but never demanding and always there when you need it.

In my relationship with my brother I realized that it never really mattered that there was a lot of age difference between us. What mattered was that we could connect and it wasn’t always that I needed help. Even though I was younger it never stopped him from sharing his troubles with me. Even if neither of us could do anything about the problem we still found solace in just talking to each other about it. What we both needed and got from each other was the knowledge that there is one person who loved the other a lot no matter what and that gives the strength to move on.

And then  you flip the coin and look at the other side! Sibling rivalry is as real as sibling love, be it Cain & Abel, Thor & Loki or the desi Ambani brothers, we have read all about them. The rivalry arising from a struggle for power and money. They say money can destroy anything and anyone. In the case of these power hungry people, it does stand true. In my journeys, I have come across some siblings who are constantly trying to do better than the other. They expend so much of energy just trying to think up of ways to beat the other. The negativity that starts when they were young stays with them even in their adult life. When talking to one such sibling pair, I was told that the main reason this competition actually started was because of favoritism shown by the parents. So one sibling invariably felt slighted and needed to constantly fight for attention. Yet, they say they don’t feel particularly happy at the other siblings misery but definitely feel miserable at the others’ success. It a competitive rivalry.

There is also the place value of the sibling that matters. Depending on what number you are at in your sibling line, the treatment you get also varies. If you are first in line, you have too much responsibilities, the middle ones are forgotten and the youngest get blamed for everything that happens. When there are many siblings, the oldest takes on the role of protector and cares for the younger ones, especially when there is a big age difference but in families where there are just two, the fight continues until they grow out of it.

To conclude, the typical sibling relationships are very simple. Everyone is sure of what they have and what they give. The boundaries are clear. Ultimately everyone is happy.

Here are some quotes, that sums it all up very beautifully:

  1. “To the outside world, we all grow old. But not to brothers and sisters. We know each other as we always were. We know each other’s hearts. We share private family jokes. We remember family feuds and secrets, family griefs and joys. We live outside the touch of time.”
  2. “Our siblings push buttons that cast us in roles we felt sure we had let go of long ago – the baby, the peacekeeper, the caretaker, the avoider…. It doesn’t seem to matter how much time has elapsed or how far we’ve traveled.”
  3. “I sought my soul, but my soul I could not see. I sought my God, but my God eluded me. I sought my brother and I found all three.”
  4. “Having lots of siblings is like having built-in best friends.”
  5. “Siblings are the people we practice on, the people who teach us about fairness and cooperation and kindness and caring–quite often the hard way.”


….coming up next is friendship! Stay tuned.



My Dad

Punctual, frank and honest are words that I would use to describe my dad. For as far back as I can go, I only remember him as being a person who believed in values and lived by it. Family, near, far and extended; everyone meant a lot to him and he tried to instill the same values in my brother and me.
My earliest memory of him is walking to and back from office on the long road everyday. The road was one long, flat tar road and about a couple of miles one way. So I remember waiting in the evenings by our house trying to see if my dad is on his way home. As soon as I saw him, I would run inside to tell my mom. Then as he got closer home, I would run towards him to carry his lunch bag home. I would hold his long fingers and walk home with him, chattering away endlessly. This was pretty much my daily routine.

Growing up, my dad made sure that my brother and I would make values our priority. We had to be honest no matter what, we always had to try our best and to always be frank and speak our mind. There was always a tussle about the speaking the mind part! Somewhere along the road I realized that, maybe it’s not such a good idea to speak my mind always. So I often found myself trying to put a lid on my mouth. Sometimes I succeeded, sometimes I didn’t!

Although my dad was away for work at different parts of the country, he still made up for his absence by spending quality time with us when he was home. I remember the evenings filled with carrom or ludo or the few magic tricks he knew that he would keep repeating. I was always his carrom partner against my mom and brother. Some evenings he would walk me to the club where I played with my friends or rented books from the library. It was evenings like these that were special in so many ways, filled with talks, laughter and joy.

As far as my dad was concerned, I was his little princess and he treated me like one too. I don’t even remember getting yelled at by my dad. I have seldom seen him get angry but when he did, I felt pity for the person who was in the firing range. He never yelled but somehow he would convey that he was disappointed and I could visibly see the person wilt under his glare. So I made sure, never to give him an opportunity to even be remotely displeased with me.

Today, I am married and live far away but whenever I go back home, I become the little princess all over again. He still pampers me in ways only he knows how. He cuts fruits for me into little neat bite sized pieces, puts a fork in it and forces me to eat it. He gets me a fresh coconut for me to stay hydrated everyday. He dials peoples numbers and asks me to say hello to them, making it look like I called them on my own and get loads of brownie points from them for being affectionate. He packs and unpacks my suitcases. He goes to remote shops to find me that little snack that I used to eat and like as a kid.  He just does so many things and they all come so naturally to him!


I indeed feel special. He is the best dad in the whole wide world. Happy birthday daddy!

Amma: Birth to forever

 Happy birthday Amma!

Amma – a word that has many variations, tones, and inflections. Every experience has a pitch, every emotion has a tone and whenever I call, she is always there! Amma as I call her; my mom, my mother, the lady who has always been my strength for as long as I can remember. I can very well call her the “Iron Lady” of our house.

My earliest memory of my mom is probably when I must’ve been 3-4 years old. This is like a picture stuck in the photo album of my memories. I always remember her cooking for many people and spending most of her time in the kitchen. So my memory also comes from there. I remember lying on her lap, while she sat on the floor rolling rotis for the family. I was a very clingy kid and could always be seen hanging on to her arms or sari. And that’s how I grew up…literally on her!

My mom has done so much for my brother and me growing up that we can’t even imagine what direction our life might have taken, if not for her smartness and determination. Although she herself never went to college, she was very clear that my brother and I should get every opportunity possible to succeed in life. She read books, listened to news, spoke to people and armed herself with knowledge, just to make sure we stayed ahead of everyone else. I remember learning from her as much as I did from school. The foundation laid during my growing up years was all because of her perseverance.


Academics were not as important to her as character building. She believed in all around development. Besides school work, I also had to be good in dance, music, sports, art, needle work, tailoring, fashion, cooking, etc and etc. You name it and she made time for me to learn it all. I remember sitting on the verandah outside our house as she taught me how to sing devotional songs and slokas. The biggest gift she gave me was the ability to learn, a curiosity to discover and today nothing seems challenging…anything is possible. She was always busy with housework but somehow she made time for us. The evenings were spent playing games, telling stories or singing songs. She was my best friend growing up.

As I moved into higher grades, my friendship with her grew. There was nothing I couldn’t talk to her about. Given the time period and society we came from, she was a very broad-minded and forward thinking person. She was way ahead of her peers in her thoughts and ideas. She seemed to be from my generation. While some of my friends had to lie or hide things from their parents, we were always having open discussions about boys or girls in our school. She never objected to me wearing shorts or skirts or tanks like other parents but then in the same breath she also taught me that every outfit has a time and a place. So for example when there were guests or grandparents visiting our house, she didn’t have to remind me to get into my conservative outfits. I was also comfortable enough to brings boys from my class home, she would in fact encourage me to bring them home instead of hanging out outside home and would make tea and pakodas for them! In retrospect, I feel it was a very smart move on her part because this way, I was always within eyesight and she was constantly aware of who I was with. She gave us enough freedom to create our own identity but at the same time, she also managed to keep a tight rein on us at all times. The trick was that we never felt too restricted and I still don’t know how she managed it.

One of the things I am very thankful for was for the amount of trust she placed in us. We could do no wrong. Period. It was this trust in us probably that made sure that we never crossed those invisible lines. Don’t get me wrong, that we never made any mistakes. We did… the kind that we learn from, not the kind that could never be undone. We got royally beaten too for those mistakes but each spanking was a lesson learned. One of the episodes I remember to this day is my Engineering trip. My dad was away on projects to some forsaken remote place and he was able to visit us only for a few days every few months. So running the house was on my mom’s shoulders. During my third year of engineering all students were planning a south India trip. Of course I was excited and wanted to go but I was pretty sure she wouldn’t send me. Anyways, I wanted to try, so I went ahead armed with my friends, behind me and my most whiny voice I could come up with. It took a few days of cajoling but she agreed!! She actually did! This was about a 4 nights-5 day trip and I kept getting nightmares that she would find some major reason why I shouldn’t go and make me cancel the trip. Well the trip date came and off I went without a hitch. She was all smiles letting me go and all smiles when I got back too. I am still amazed that a conservative lady, let her 20 yr old daughter go on a five-day trip with her friends. I did mention it was a co-ed trip right? It was the most memorable trip and again a place where many memories were created.

It was the blind trust she had on us I guess that made sure we never broke it. There were many opportunities during college especially, wherein I could have strayed; many a temptations but her invisible presence held me back everywhere. She was at times like a hawk watching my every move and the moves of anyone who tried to move close to me. At times she was a tigress, protecting me from all danger, at times a teacher and mostly a friend. I remember an episode, which ended in a stinging slap but taught me how to put boundaries around me. I was in college at that time and my neighbor had come home to talk to me. My mom was in the kitchen doing work. He came to ask me something, my back was to the wall and he had stepped close to talk to me. I was uncomfortable but I just stood there talking to him. Minutes later he left and out came my mom from the kitchen and before I knew what was happening, I got slapped right across my cheek! She yelled at me for allowing him to get into my personal space while talking to me. She told me that I have to stand up for myself and not allow anyone into my personal space if I don’t like it. That was the last time I let someone get into my space without my permission. There are many such memorable lessons that impacted me and made me who I am today.

And then the time came for me to leave everyone behind and move on with my married life. I carried with me all of her advice, her teachings and her experiences. I went on to have kids of my own and tried to instill the same values in them that my mom instilled in me. I gave them the freedom to flourish and yet put that invisible fence around them, which they would not try to cross. I am very proud of my kids today and I’m happy that I was able to achieve some part of what I wanted to do as a mom myself.

So today on her birthday, I want to tell her how special she is and how amazing she is.

Without her, I would not be who I am today.


A Night At The Lagoon, ’12

“Oh God! Please help us” I prayed like never before. I prayed with my eyes open, although it didn’t matter, as it was past midnight and I could see nothing. The wind blew violently across my Kayak and I tried valiantly to keep it afloat.

It was a cool, wintery, midnight in Puerto Rico, on my first Kayak trip where a boat trip was turning into a nightmare. My family got sucked into one of those tour hawkers that greet you as soon as you get off a plane about all the awesome trips their island has to offer. Well the ‘Bio-luminescence Kayak trip’ sounded pretty good to the eyes and ears. They described it as an underwater world of lights and the pictures they shared were breathtaking. People travel silently on Kayaks into the lagoon, in the middle of the night for this experience. So upon my sons’ insistence we also took the plunge (Literally!) and made reservations for the midnight tour.

Just before midnight, we arrived at the rendezvous, as advised in our swimsuits and found many people there waiting for the tour to begin. Soon enough the tour guides came up and gave us directions on what to do and not do on the ride into the lagoon. They warned us that sometimes the Kayak would topple over and we just had to simply climb back on top and get going again. Sounded pretty simple. At that point of course we had no idea that we were soon going to part of the statistic that includes toppled Kayaks.

It was pretty exciting as the four of us got on top of the Kayak and were soon underway, silently slithering over the cool waters. At some spots we seemed to be travelling between a tunnel of trees and vines and we could hear the creatures of the night, making their presence felt. We were not very good rowers and we kind of straggled behind the other Kayaks. There were two guides with the expedition, one way up in the front leading the pack and one a little behind us.


As we reached the middle of the lagoon, I felt little raindrops on my skin. Slowly, I could feel the heaviness creep up my chest and I tried to ignore it. Then the wind started to blow. I now left the oars and held on to the side of the Kayak. I was starting to let the fear creep up. The wind blew even stronger and the Kayak started to shake. I was sitting up front, so I turned around to look at my husband and kids. Everyone had fear painted on their faces. The little raindrops turned into rain and with that I saw my little one allow his tears to silently flow down his cheeks. I was terrified for them and started to pray. “Oh God! Please help us”.

And then it happened! There was a sudden gust of wind and all of us toppled over like a house of cards. We went head first into the water with the Kayak over us. All the panic buttons in my body were pressed. I forgot we all had life jackets on. I forgot we were all trained swimmers. I forgot the lagoon was only 8 feet deep. I forgot we have swum in oceans before. I forgot there was a guide close by. It was dark; I couldn’t see my kids and I could hear my insides scream under water. All I cared about was for my kids to be safe. I scrambled up for air and immediately looked around for my kids. I caught hold of my older ones hand and told him to hold on to the Kayak. My husband had gotten hold of my younger one and I saw them holding on to the Kayak on the other side. We were all above water. I took a deep breath; at least everyone was above water.

The guide came to us soon enough and tried to help us get back on the Kayak. That part was another ordeal in itself. He helped my husband to get on the Kayak first, then together they helped both my sons get on the middle but the trickiest was getting me on top of it. I tried to get on it and the Kayak toppled over again! I was in tears and my sons were in tears. They were so worried for me. They got on it again and when the guide asked me to climb up, I was hesitant. Each time I put some weight on the Kayak it seemed to wobble and I would let go for fear of toppling it again. I refused to do it. I thought I could just swim along the Kayak until we got to land. The guide tried to coax me back on the Kayak but I refused. Finally he whistled for the other guide and then they both held on to the Kayak from both sides and held it steady, while I climbed back on it carefully.

Finally, we were all on the kayak. We were too numb with shock to row back and so the guide had to tie our Kayak to his and we sailed along in silence behind him. No one noticed the lights in the water or the chirping birds or the cool wind blowing so softly. It was an unforgettable experience, just for the fact that, I think it is my first memory of fear and panic. I had never faced it before and I don’t think I want to ever face such sheer panic again.


A few bruises and a wedding ’95

Unbelievable! This shouldn’t be happening to me I thought. It was just a week more to go for supposedly the-most-important-day in a girl’s life, and here I was studying for exams in my room. The whole house was bustling with activity, my cousins were discussing clothes and jewelry, my aunts were fighting about traditions that should be followed, my parents and brother were looking at the dwindling money pot and even my dog was running around in a state of excitement! The only one who was sour and dowdy was poor me.

I was in my final year engineering and had three more days of mid-year exams to finish. I wanted to do well but couldn’t focus. I was torn between exams and my wedding. A choice no one should have to face. I was mad at everyone for spoiling such an important life event but I knew they could do nothing, as the date was ‘auspicious’. Everyone, except me was discussing me, and to top it my mom was yelling at me to focus on my exams. I wanted to scream!

Giving up, I realized that staying in the house would be detrimental to my health and maybe others too. My friend Shubha had come over to my place so we could study together but since that was not happening, we decided to go to her house instead.

She had come to my house on a motorized bike and since my brother had taken our bike out, my only option was to take the bicycle. I hopped on it and sped away with my friend.

Obviously Shubha was going faster and I was struggling to stay with her. I then got the brilliant idea to hold on to her shoulders while she smoothly dragged me along with the power of her bike. Well, need I continue??


It was thrilling and exciting, the wind in my face and riding alongside her without breaking a sweat. It was easy and breezy! Suddenly, she made a sharp turn onto a gravel path, that lead towards her house and as I did not expect the friction change of paths, the expected did happen! I struggled to stay in control of my bike but I slipped and went flying towards the ground, bike, body, gravel and all. The gravel made the fall worse and I ended up with many bruises on my elbows, hands and knees. The thought of breaking the news to my mom brought more tears to my eyes but somehow survived her wrath. Needless to say, I had huge bruises on my wedding day and had to use lot of band-aids and make up to conceal it all.

Scar On My Forehead ‘81

Normal people do normal things; hence abnormal people do abnormal stuff. Anyone who knew me during my childhood would never label me as a normal child. I was a tomboy and was always getting into trouble. Be it climbing trees, roofs and then crying that I couldn’t get down or troubling boys (my brother) and even making some cry, I was there! Getting into trouble was my forte. My brother and me played a lot of games growing up, some when I was invited and many uninvited. Today, years later, we have stopped fighting, I love him so much and we still play together, except it’s from different parts of the world on a battle of strategies with a game called ‘Candy Crush’!

One incident that I remember, not only because the incident by itself is too crazy but also because it left a scar on me for life. This is no profound scar on my psyche but a simple scar on my forehead that stares back at me everyday from the mirror, reminding me and mocking me of my stupidity. Over the years the scar has gotten lighter but the memory still stays strong.

This was probably happened when I was in my 3rd grade, just another normal evening and my brother and I were outside our house playing together. We decided to play catch with each other for sometime, except after some time we decided to play catch with stones! Did I mention I was abnormal? My brother was about half a decade older than me, and whole foot taller than me, so we were mismatched from the start. That little detail did not deter me in anyway from accepting the challenge of playing with stones.


Initially he played nice and threw stones, low, slow and straight into my hands. Then I guess he got bored and started playing rough and so did I! We started aiming the stones high, very low, sideways…anywhere except directly into the hands. And then as expected he threw that ill-fated stone that would scar me for life. He threw this stone higher than normal, I refused to let it go, I leaped high into the air, missed catching it and then ouch!

I felt something hot on my forehead; numbness at first and then the pain came. I took my palm to the pain and it came away bloody. Next came my tears and screams. I ran towards my house trying to find my mom. I had a lot of dope to get my brother into trouble 😀

Needless to say, my mom was livid and my brother was grounded. My mom was actually worried no one would marry me if I had a huge scar on my forehead! I didn’t care about it much though, I felt it was pretty cool to have scars, made me look and feel tough. Little did I know then that it was just one of the first scars of my life, there were many more to come!