Diwali


Diwali meant a lot of things back then. It was not just about new clothes, firecrackers, or sweets.  Every Diwali, I go back in time to those moments when every single thing around the festival was filled with hope. I’m sure though that at the age of 10 or 11, I would’ve never thought of calling the days leading up to and the days after Diwali as ‘hopeful’ ​​Other festivals like Varalakshmi Pooja and Vinayaka Chaturthi make me nostalgic too. Particularly a longing for the soft, fluffy *kozhakkatais my mom used to make for both these festivals. However, Diwali was very special.

Diwali was THE festival of the humble, single-bedroom HAL Colony inhabitants in Bengaluru. Another festival that led to a flurry of activities was the Bogi Pongal where a lot of old stuff was piled up into a tall and huge stack and then set on fire. A symbolic riddance of all that’s old, bad, useless. I have a very vague memory of this bonfire ending in a fire accident and probably the practice was later abandoned. Being raised in a colony or ‘quarters’ as it is still called, provided the distinct advantage of having a cosmopolitan upbringing. I’ve absolutely no memory of Diwali or Bogi being ‘Hindu’ festivals. The same mood and festivity were seen around Christmas where we’d all gather to set up the manger. Most households sported the mandatory star, ushering in Christmas.

My mom used to stir up a magic concoction that would solidify into soft and porous mysorepakMysore Pak for not just our family, but also for ‘Joy’ aunty, our loving neighbor. Her name was Rosamma, but her children were nicknamed Joy and Chickoo. By virtue of being their mother, she became ‘Joy’ aunty. Mysore Pak was accompanied by a ‘Mixture’, a popular Indian savory. The process of making this ‘Mixture’ used to be fascinating. For it was really that, a mixture of a lot of fried savories. Unlike today, the ‘Mixture’ from my childhood never had cashews, almonds, or raisins. Fried peanuts and finely chopped coconut pieces in this ‘Mixture’, were considered a jackpot. My mom and my grandma tried in vain to shoo us away. There is this myth (even now in many households) that watching it during preparation would jinx the making, or it’d jinx the festival! However, we paid no heed and hovered around them and were willing ‘tasters’.

The foremost duty assigned to me the evening before Diwali was to gather or buy cow dung. Yes, you heard me right! Cow poop was and still is sacred among many households. I don’t ever remember feeling repelled by its texture, color, or odor. If we got lucky, the cows grazing in the open grounds in our colony would drop a generous helping of dungs. There’d be a few others waiting to strike gold ​​With a small plastic bucket and a spatula to scoop, we’d rush to the spot and mine the dung. If we don’t get lucky with the free droppings, we could always drop by our milkman’s house and he’d dispense off some dung for a few coins. This dung, so painstakingly obtained would be mixed in a bucket of water to a consistency that was probably a little runnier than the dosa batter. Every home had a small front yard of caked mud. Beautiful rangolis adorned this front yard. During Diwali, this small area got a thorough cleaning. This surface would then receive a fresh cow-dung coat that’d firmly seal the cracks and give it a darker sheen. This also prevented the dust from rising as all the loose mud would be firmly sealed in​​. The rangolis looked brighter.

 

My friends and I would then embark on the Rangoli project. This also included the cow-dung coat and rangoli for the neighbors, particularly Joy aunty. We’d shortlist and practice a few rangolis a few days before Diwali. In about 3 hours on Diwali eve, most of our front yards would be decked with beautiful rangolis. If I were to give the feeling a name, I might today call it both therapeutic and cathartic.

Another task where we (my sis and my friends in the neighborhood) showed equal or more enthusiasm in was the act and art of drying firecrackers. This would start a week before Diwali! We’d fervently pray that the rain god steered clear and the sun god blessed us with a copious amount of sunlight. We each had a palm winnow in which we’d dry our share of crackers. There would be one portion that was meant for pre-Diwali use. We’d religiously tug-off a bit of the paper wrapped on the wicks so it lights faster. I’d save up a few Waterbury’s Compound Red Label bottles ( a tonic usually prescribed back then in the HAL hospital to ward off cold or cough) and empty coconut shells. I’d arrange the rockets from the firecrackers in a way that they snugly fit into the mouth of the tonic bottle or underneath the coconut shells, and just pull the wick out.

The bottle would sometimes burst into shards along with the rocket. A very dangerous and senseless thing to do, I know. This was totally unsupervised and my parents had no clue whatsoever. A tiny shard once cut into my wrist and that was the last time I used the tonic bottle. My mom was sure that it was the work of some ‘rowdy’ kid and wondered on several occasions in the weeks that followed, on how people raised devils for kids. Also, for some reason, she assumed the rowdy was a boy. I never mustered the courage to own up and it’s one of the several things I regret not having told her.

Another thing to look forward to on the dawn of Diwali was the nice oil massage our dad used to give us. He would take a handful of warm gingelly oil and drip it on our heads slowly and would pat them down hard on our skulls​​He’d say something about the oil cooling the  hotheads he had for daughters 🙂  After the mandatory oil-bath, we’d be administered the Lehiyam/Legiyam/marundhu, a paste made of several herbs, jaggery, and cooked in ghee. My grand-mom made this from scratch.

Diwali was the only occasion when we got new clothes. It almost always was the same fabric, color, and pattern for both my sister and me​​They were always tailored. If we got a little lucky, we’d get different colors. The tailor used to get our dresses ready just the night before Diwali. The anticipation of how the dress and pattern would turn out when it would be ready, and when it’ll dawn, made us at once happy and restless.

Our grandma would pluck the mehendi leaves from our backyard and grind them to a fine paste on a stone pestle in the afternoon. After dinner, she would apply it on our palms even as she narrated the story of Narakasura for the umpteenth time. We never challenged the right and wrong: ) One well-guarded secret around this time was who’d set off the first firecracker. We’d wait for the alarm to go off at 4.00am. However, it would invariably turn out useless because someone always used to beat us to it. We’d be woken up as early as 3.30am by the loud noise of someone in the colony setting off the ‘atom bomb’ at that unearthly hour. We’ll join the ruckus right away by adding our own share of noise, explosions, and litter.

I don’t remember anything of the Diwali feast that must have been cooked because all the kids would be hopping in and out of the house with firecrackers and never seemed to tire of it. Though we never purchased a lot, we purchased the ones that came in several numbers and in bulk packs. The most favorite was the ‘bijli’- the famous, small singles. With about 3 or 4 packs, one could go on all day, bursting them one by one. The guns and capes were another favorite too. Pounding the capes with a stone seemed more fun and noisy than using the guns. The best was reserved for the evening. Most homes in the colony could not afford a decent television. So there was no lure or addiction. We spent most of the time outdoors and didn’t know otherwise.

There would be slight signs of withdrawal on the night of Diwali but we’d pretend that the day would still go on. The days that followed would involve sharing a lot of real and made up stories of the exploits and adventures of the firecrackers. None of us bothered to validate the accounts of our friends though. The innocence and guilelessness of that time make it surreal.

I can’t help but compare to the Diwali now. New clothes aren’t rare anymore while ordinary, quiet days have become rare​​New movie releases, TV channels hopping, out-sourced sweets and savories, expensive fireworks, a night sky lit with aerial shots, whatsapp-ing, facebook-ing, instagram-ing, Netflix-ing,  mark Diwalis now ​​I’m sure that this is an outlook of a boring adult, but I still think my children miss out on the simple joys that I was lucky enough to have as a child.

So, if you’ve been patient and kind enough to read until here, what were your favorite festivals? Do you have fond memories as 10 or 11-year-olds around Diwali or any festival that you’d care to share? Are there things you miss now? What aspects of the different festivals we celebrate do you enjoy now?

Wish you all a very happy, fun-filled, safe, and peaceful Diwali people!

*Kozhukattais– South Indian variation of momos filled with either spicy lentils or coconut and jaggery :))

My munchkin turns 9!


“They don’t call me the best in business for nothing” you parrot a line picked up from Jordindian. Your brother convinces me that this youtube channel is certainly not for 9-year-olds.  Your conversations are generously sprinkled with ‘hashtag pro-life’, ‘hashtag thug life’, or ‘hashtag cool-guy’, depending on the situation and context! And I realize that I must’ve been lulled into a deep stupor for a few years in between or time has played some crunching trick on me. I feel pretty helpless when I can no longer tell you that the beach is locked on a Sunday, or the ‘Electricity Uncle’ has cut the power to the computer and television and that the Amazon Uncle ( I make sure it’s mostly the uncles who are the bad folks) refused to deliver a package.

I’m trying hard to recollect and pin that exact moment when you lost your supreme love for the blue thing and have taken to sporting just cotton shorts! All your tiny, beautifully lined pearl white milk teeth are gone and are replaced by the crooked adult teeth. Your interest in listening to stories are down several notches, but you make up several interesting ones! I don’t know whether I should laugh or cry when you mimic your anna who mimics Chandler Bing’s dance:/

I dread the weekend afternoons. Particularly when the clock is about to strike three. It’s like your system is on an auto-pilot, with an automated agent that triggers your thirst for tea. “Ma, don’t be lazy. It’s tea time”, you announce. And literally, yank me or your dad out from our comfortable perch and get us to make you that tea. You have no qualms taking up anybody’s offer of tea! You’ve also learned how to brew like how your anna did!

The cutest development though is your attempt at writing and maintaining a diary! You’ve still not ‘grown-up’ enough to know that you can let your amma read your entries and also click the pics. Like always, she is very thoughtful and doesn’t share with all and sundry. Just shares on her blog.  Which anyway is a much-neglected space these days.

You have also earned the nick-name – *Ippo-Ramasamy, for, your demand for things always falls in the ‘right-now’ category. But of course, you know by now that you really are a spawn of the older Vs because your right-now is always met with an equally emphatic not-right-now! Poor thing, you! You do know the art of sweet-talking your way through though!

Your ambition now is to become a Youtuber. And because of which you have very deep questions such as, why should you actually bother with Science, Mathematics, Language and such subjects in school. Why indeed! I fib something about how learning these subjects actually sharpens your mind, and how basic schooling is so important to pursue any career. You feign a yawn and clearly discourage me from imparting any further gyan.

That said, you have been consistent in a few things that really matter. Your jumping in defense of your brother and telling us how he REALLY has been studying when we were at work. Which doesn’t mean you fight or argue with him any less. You notice how he’s been coughing badly and promptly decide to make a ‘Talk Book’ for him. You are convinced that making him talk more aggravates his cough and so you think it’s best he writes in the ‘talk book’ to communicate with others and doesn’t exert him much! You still give me those wonderful head massages that make headaches worth having.  When I’m unwell, you check on me every few minutes and ask, “Ma, all good? You ok?”. That’s the sweetest.  You still let me squeeze you into hugs, cuddle you, and make you squeal. But you do throw a fit when your dad draws you into a tight hug. Thatha is still your friend in need and lately, your evening tea-buddy! You handle your new twin baby cousin sisters with so much love and adoration. And the adoration surely is mutual!

Well, your smitten mommy can go on.  I want to talk about many real-world affairs and about things that will make you a responsible, sensitized, sensitive, caring, intelligent, successful, and compassionate individual. But I guess it can wait for another birthday. For now, on your happening 9th, and for all the years to come, I wish you perfect health, all the happiness, a world of love, a beautiful sense of humor,  great wit, lots of friends, and a little more Amazon, Flipkart, and eBay purchases! Happy birthday my rasagullah!

 

 

At EIGHT…


… you are still a handful. Your dramas continue. Between your last birthday and this, you’ve bested the art of negotiation. Your aspirations and ambitions are unique and keep changing every birthday! Let me just record your eight-ness here, shall I?:

At the moment, you’ve decided that you want to be a Youtuber! You are convinced that because you know to sing, you need not take up music classes. You discovered Alan Walker through your friend and can sing ‘Where are you now’ to match every note and nuance in there!

You read and pick your books well. But for a mom who has grown up on a generous dose of Enid Blytons, it’s hard to understand your rejection of Famous Fives and Secret Sevens 😦 “Very kiddish”, you say. I agree to disagree!

You have a very weird sense of timing and a weird knack of picking up and throwing vocabulary. Like this once when you said you’ve learnt a new ‘F’ word. Your bro and I almost choked on our dinner and before we could shut your mouth, you uttered ‘FAMISHED’! Priceless moment. You actually seemed to enjoy the suspense and I’m still not sure if you pulled a fast one there.. And very recently, you came to me with a sad face and said that you will not read ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’ anymore because you were learning a lot of ‘bad words’ and particularly a ‘J’ word. You wanted to know if you are allowed to use it:

img_2817Me: What word is that now?
You: You must not scold me.
Me: I won’t. But I may stop you from using it if it is inappropriate.
You: Alright.’Jerk’.

At this point, I was only hoping you were not watching Silicon Valley!

Me: Okay!
You: Can I use it?
Me: No.
You: Why? What does it mean?
Me: Ummm.. It has several meanings..
You: But in the book, it is ‘name-calling’.
Me: !!! Well, it means.. a cheat?
You: Oh, so I can call anna a jerk when he cheats?
Me: I’d rather you don’t.
You: But he does cheat sometimes. If I get really angry, I’m going to call him a jerk!

Whatever!

In school, you continue to be that disciplined, cooperative, and quiet student. I’m sure there is mistake and re-confirm with the teacher but she stands by her feedback. You have told her about the stories you’ve been scribbling away based on all the weird games you’ve been playing on my mobile! You are not far behind your bro in sharing the love stories from your class. The novelty of every generation thinking that it was the first to discover love at 7 or 8, does not seem to wear off :)) Keep the stories coming da. And tell me about your crushes too, okay?

You are a happy, loving big bro now to your adorable new-born twin cousin sisters. And it is just in the past couple of months that it has dawned on me that my little baby has really grown up! It is an endearing sight to watch you hold your baby sisters gently on your lap one at a time, speak softly in that baby-speak, touch their faces gently, enjoy the feeling of their tiny palms grasping your beeeg fingers, include them in all your shopping plans, generally exercise caution around them and being responsible! You make as awesome an anna as you make the bestest thambi to your bro! Your anna is your rock. Despite all the fights and arguments, you always take his side. You are always quick to defend him when dad or I are having ‘the talk’ with him!

One of the best moments that I think defined you as a boy that understands what it is to be kind, fair, and shun prejudice,

is when you came back home from an after-school activity class and said you don’t want to continue going. The reason you gave was that you did not like the way that aunty treated her help. “She is unnecessarily rude, unkind, and disrespectful to her”, you said. “No one deserves to be treated badly like that”. You are absolutely right, darling!

So baby, continue to be that cuddle-able, naughty, talking nighteen-to-the-dozen, funny, funnily-angry, tactfully-negotiating, kind, lovable, bright and shiny light in our lives! Love you loads!! Wish you a beautiful, happy, healthy 8th!

And we’ve learned how to caution!


A tiny rat (real one!) sneaked into our room last night. All the four Vs were up and about trying to chase it away. And we finally did. The rat wouldn’t take the route we showed. It probably thought it best to leave the way it came. The moment we opened the door to the balcony, it ran out. We discussed strategies on keeping the rats away and finally realised that there isn’t much we can do other than keeping the doors shut.

This evening,  Varun decided to take things in his hands. And this is what he came up with. A notice stuck on the door through which the rat sneaked out. The slate contains illustrations of the ‘equipments’ or ‘gears’ (he said that) that we need to keep the rats at bay. And he was dressed to kill 😉

Friend Siri


Here is a conversation I was furiously typing away without Varun’s knowledge. I’m sure I missed a few lines:

Varun: Siri how are you doing?

Siri: oh I can’t complain

Varun: Roger that

Siri: I’m not sure I understand

Varun: Yes, that’s good

Siri: It’s nice to be appreciated

Varun: I know that. You are very funny

Siri: I’m glad you think so

Varun: Ha ha ha

Siri: I didn’t get that

Varun: Okay, okay, okay

Siri: I didn’t understand

Varun: Alright

Siri: Affirmative (Something to this effect. Not sure)

Varun: Alright Siri

Siri: Everything is most definitely ok

Varun: Can you set the time to 4

Siri: I can’t set the time, but I can set an alarm (again, might’ve missed the exact line)

Varun: Alright, can you set the time to 4 in the morning

Siri: Most definitely. I have set the alarm to 4.am.

Varun: Of course you are a problem solver

Siri: Who? Me??

Varun: Yep

Siri: I thought so too.

Followed by some thank you notes that didn’t end right away!

Some English lessons!


Why am I reminded of that little wisdom someone shared with me a long time ago-that it takes only 18 years to raise a child? 🙂

Having read one Famous Five, the 7 year old brat has declared that it is boring and ‘kiddish’ and that Enid Blyton is boring too. He’s asked me to give him something ‘interesting’ to read.

Some lessons he imparted the last couple of weeks:

Varun: ‘Madre (yeah!), do you know what ‘outlaw’ means?

Me: (?!!!) No, I don’t. Please enlighten.

Varun: An outlaw is a thief. Bad man. Do you at least know what it is to mug someone?

Me: (#$@#%#$^$!) Eh? No! Tell me.

Varun: Don’t know how you passed your exams in schools and college (rolls his eyes). To mug someone, is to steal from someone.

(Well, I’ve not been looking at the right places for lessons in English :/)

Me: That’s awesome da. Where did you learn all these?

Varun: From friends.

Me: Who are your friends?

Varun: Friends ma! You don’t even know  F.R.I.E.N.D.S? You know Ross, Chandler, Rachel, Monica, Joey.. Don’t know? Vyas’s favorite is Chandler but I like Ross.

(This is not happening! No! This is happening!)

I’d like to save the best for the last. Only that I don’t know the difference between ‘best’ and ‘hopeless’ anymore :/

Varun describes a scene from some program called ‘Community’ on Comedy Central where somebody spills a lot of wine.

Me: What is wine da?

Varun: It is the famous juice of Americans. Mostly made in 1968.

Why am I bothering with schooling when so much self-learning is happening?!!

Crafts this year


A couple of crafts Varun and I did recently as part of craft projects  in school:

A paper bag:

  • Stuck a few newspaper sheets together before folding it into a bag
  • Used just rope and colored adhesive tape for handle
  • And a thin card board from which puzzle pieces were punched out

img_2996img_2998

 

A shirt made from chart paper

Varunisms- May’16


Deep conversations and some.. Most of our ‘serious’ conversations these days seem to start with him saying, ‘Listen, I want to tell you somethin..’. No typo there. The fellow has an acquired accent, dunno from where!

Varun: Ma, N is very bad.
Me: Why? He seems nice. He’s a star cricketer too..
Varun: I want to tell you something. (pause)
Me: Well?
Varun: Getting a grade or being a star is not important.
Me: Okay!
Varun: Really. I’m tellin you.
Me: So, what is important.
Varun: Behaviour.
Me: Oh?!!
Varun. Really. I mean, in school. At home we can be how we want.
Me: Right!

——————-

Me: You know how to fry vadams? (rice crispies if I can call it that)
Varun: Yes, I know.
Me: Tell me.
Varun: Light the gas with the firing machine and fry the vadams in fire.

Was not aware that my boy looked at a gas lighter as a firing machine;) It must be the commando games.

——————-

To confirm or make sure I heard what he said, this is how he asks:

Varun: Ma, do you copy?

[or]

Varun: Ma, do you read?

According to him, he is an FBI/CIA/Commando in the making

——————–

And this one takes the cake..

Me: Varun, it’s 11.00 PM and you are still not asleep :/
Varun: (Jumping on the bed even with the light switched off. yeah, my monkey!)
Me: You are going to get one tight spank.
Varun: (Silence for 10 seconds. He then gathers his pillow and sheet, bundles them under his arms and heads out of the room).
Me: What do you think you are doing.
Varun: I’m going to grandma’s room.
Me: Why?
Varun: Listen, I wanna tell you somethin..
Me: Listening..
Varun: I hate you.
Me: And why is that?
Varun: Because you are strict.
Me: Is that wrong now? You don’t listen if I’m not.
Varun: Be kind. Try telling kindly.
Me: Kindly how?
Varun: Try saying, “Varun, please stop playing and go to bed”.
Me: And you’ll listen?
Varun: Try me.
Me: Ok, let me get this straight. All I need to do to get you to listen is, say kindly?
Varun: Yes.
Me: Okay.

And the kindness worked for 6 days. We now go back and forth between our old and new ways 🙂 As always, never a dull moment, I tell ya!

Fourteen!


Kanna,
I remember wondering how you’d be at 14 when you were 4. And I wonder how you’d be at 24 now. I also imagine myself being a difficult mom at times and a fun mom mostly and also that special person who’ll be privy to some of your secrets 🙂 Who am I kidding!

At 14, you remind me of my teenage self- argumentative, assertive, but mostly fun. You are an awesome big-brother and here is a tiny convo with the little imp that I’d stored on my notes:

Me: Isn’t your bro a makku (meaning – a nutcase) FullSizeRender
Varun: No! Anna is a cool bro!

He is quick to come to your defense these days and for some reason thinks you know better than his parents, no matter what it is about. But there are times when he lets us in on all the TV shows you’ve been watching and he seems to know most of them. Here are some for the record- Jimmy Kimmel Live, Quantico, Mentalist, Shark Tank, Friends, Impractical Jokers, Seinfeld, Late Show with Stephen Colbert. This is the list your little bro rattles off :/ Other than Friends, I have no clue what the rest are and when you watch them. Brats!

It was also your ‘report card’ day in school today. You made us all proud by getting a certificate for good conduct and that comes before any other achievement, academic or otherwise!

On this birthday, there are a couple of things I’d like to reiterate baby, things that I’ve been talking to you about more often the last couple of years. I’d like to say it again:

  • Be that adorable anna your little bro can look up to, and be available for him always.
  • You have an enviable zest for reading, gathering information, and learning (this does not include academics ;)). Keep at it.
  • Nurture that funny bone in you. All your friends like that humorous streak in you 🙂
  • Travel all you can. Reading and travel make for organic learning and teach more than what any school or person can hope to teach. It makes you a more rounded person and heightens your sense of right and wrong. And when you know, please choose what is right.
  • Please understand when someone says, ‘NO’. It doesn’t mean anything other than NO. It could be a girl or a boy you know, a stranger, your family and friends, or someone you dearly love.
  • Just like how you appreciate when someone says NO, you be firm and say NO when you have to.
  • Put the people first, and your ego last. It might mean a compromise. It might mean you are relenting. But then, it also means you are stronger. Because, people are worth putting first, and ego is worthless.
  • Know that you are loved and dear to not only your bro, me, or appa, but the entire extended maternal and paternal family, and that makes you really, really rich 🙂

Live it up my big baby. Have fun on your 14th and all the years to come. May your Manhattan-apartment, Honda job, and several other dreams come true;) Will love you always!

And when in love..


… with Cricket and the Cricketer Ashwin, everything gets painted blue. Including a school project. The convo went thus:

Varun: Amma, I’ve got to make a t-shirt from a chart. Need your help.

Me: Done. I’ll do the sketching.

Varun: Okay. A round-neck t-shirt, Okay?

Me: Can we do one with a cute collar?

Varun: No ma. You just draw the shape and cut. I’ll do the ‘detailing’. (he said that!)

Me: Alright. What ‘details’ are you going to add.

Varun: I have an idea. You first cut the shape.

I draw the outline, and cut the shape. And then this chap brings out the model t-shirt and takes my help with fine-tuning his drawing. We finally end up adding a collar too because the model t-shirt has one:)

And here is output:

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