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Friday, December 9, 2016

The December Nostalgia Series..

The husband is working late. It's 2.30 am, when he calls to say he'll be ready to leave in another 10 minutes. He hasn't had his dinner, he adds.

I put away my phone. The newly acquired Jio sim card - 4G and 'free data' - had ensured I was glued to YouTube, watching a Marathi natak..

I reheat the dinner and am at the window as soon as I hear a car coming in near the gate. Yes, it is the husband. I go up to the door, and leave the door ajar, the safety door still unlocked. A waft of cool breeze hits my face. It is the nip in the air which startles me at first and then the fragrance which has been carried by the breeze. It is a very familiar fragrance , familiar yet distant.

A vague feeling of happiness and sadness sets my heart aflutter...... where?.. when?... where?...the mind races back and forth and suddenly, it is the Eureka moment! Pune! Pimpri to be precise. Pimpri in the late 1970's and the early 1980's.

My aunt worked with the Hindustan Penicillin factory in Pimpri and she lived in the company quarters, HA colony. Away from the bustling city of Pune, Pimpri was a quiet little place and HA colony with its housing quarters based on hierarchy - apartments in single storeyed stone buildings for the seniors and the little rows of houses for the others, was a cosy litttle settlement .

For the people in the colony, life revolved around the factory. For my aunt too. She usually worked the 7 am to 4 pm shift. Wake up time for her was 4.30 am and it was a busy 2 hours as she cooked for the family , the cats and the one stray dog, bought the milk from milk booth, lit the kerosene stove to heat the water for her bath, swept clean, the strip of service street outside the house, settled the dust there with a liberal sprinkling of water and drew the rangoli. Little gusts of really cold air would stream into the house as she traipsed through the house, opening and shutting the front door in one moment and then the back door. Me, my grand mum, and my cousin would be sleeping in the drawing room and I would make little protesting sounds each time the very cold breeze hit me. I would coax an 'easy to please', plump little cat, curled up somewhere close, into snuggling with me and would draw the blanket tighter round the body.

While still tucked into bed and still in slumber, the olfactory nerves would now be treated to a plethora of whiffs and smells emanating from the kitchen and permeating though the house ...over the next 2 hrs.

Aunt had this habit of toasting a bit of tobacco, and then applying it to her teeth.,...her one addiction. The 'Kaagda' ( a two pronged bit of apparatus) dipped in kerosene to light the stove would also toast the tobacco on a aluminum plate... the smell of the kerosene, the roasting tobacco, the smell of the bath water boiling in the aluminum pot, the aroma of freshly brewed coffee, of the many chapatis she baked, of the oil as it touched a piping hot chapati , the 'kanda lasun' masala or the ' goda masalaa she sprinkled in the vegetable she prepared for the day, the seasoning of ghee, curry leaves hing and the red chilly which made the dal sizzle....

A little before 7 am she would rush out of the house, her synthetic saree crackling with the static, leaving behind a whiff of her Emami face cream and talc.

And through the open door, would enter the fragrance..... of the dew laden moist air, infused with a grassy fragrance as the plump dew drops fell off the blades of grass and leaves on to the soil....a fragrance of freshness..

Yes.. yes.... it is this scent which tickles my nostrils, now, as I stand at my door step...The pictures unwinding in my mind like from a film spool!

Is this what they mean when they say , - 'the fragrance of memories??

It is just the first week of December and though Mumbai doesn't boast of a winter , not until Christmas at least, the slight dip in temperature , funnily enough, warms the cockles of my heart!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

'Jab we met' to 'Ab we met' !

He stood in my path, blocking me,  as I was rushing along the street.  Daring me to walk past. 

Mighty irritated, I looked up.   The face stared at me.  

The face - a mature one.. the hair sparse... the eyes - tired.. and yet there was that sparkle.. of a mischief...a challenge.  .  A soft smile played on those dark lips. 

 It took me a moment to shake myself out of the thoughts that crowded my mind and focus on that face.

It was HIM.

"Hiii!, .......Hello! "..

I could manage only this much.

I was a mess. Always incapable of saying the right things, at the right time !!

 what was I feeling??

Well, it had taken me a couple of seconds to place the face. and from then on, it was a jumble of emotions. Shock, surprise,  joy, sadness....  

Having croaked the 'Hi!',  no more words spilled from my mouth  .I went silent.  All those evenings spent reminiscing  the times  "Jab we (had) met", visualizing and practicing for "Jab we'd meet" ,  yet , when the moment of reckoning  had  finally arrived, I had forgotten my lines.  

What I didn't forget however, was to curse myself for not looking my best. 

Today of all days!!! 

Here I was, the silver   showing in my hair. the green of my dress not  really complimenting me....

My eyes and my lips were displaying a mismatch in emotions..

The mouth hurt from the tight smile.. the eyes - they were spilling over with tears..

It had really been too long.  Too many years.

As  I stared at him.   the 6 months when we had  known each other,  the 6 months,  when I had fallen in love with him, the 23 years where not a day had passed without a  thought of him, ........the memories came rushing back..... the joyous ones, the heartbreaking ones....every one of them....

I could almost hear the crickets of that night when he had told me of his impending marriage . 

I could almost  hear the  buzz of the Avantika express as it whizzed by when I had entered the railway station, on my way home.  It had  helped  release my  tears while I pretended,  the speeding train had gotten the dust in my eyes.

And here he was now... 23 years later. 

"How have you been?", I heard myself ask him.

' Did you  think of me at all?   All these years?   Did you ever wish that it  should have been me by your side?  Wondered?   And today??  Now?  What are you feeling?    Talk to me..Tell me !! '  These are words, I speak in my mind, of course!

I look at him.  I take in the gray in his hair, the speckled beard,  the eyebrows. I take in the crow's feet near his crinkling smiling eyes...And yet for me, he is the lanky 27 year old,  I once knew. 

Hmmm !

'Now that we have met, met once again, what do I do with him?', I say to myself

I had  loved him too much to let go of him now with the perfunctory  'Hello ' and a 'How are you ?'

I love myself too much to probe  more.

He is not helping matters with his silence!

Honestly,  I love his silence as he quietly looks at me. I dread a flippant comment.....even as an icebreaker.

"I have thought of you often".  " Even today when I walk down the streets we once walked  together , my eyes well up and I come back with a throbbing headache"  The words form in my mouth ...No, I don't say them aloud.

My eyes really mist up .  And as I stand there, I wonder...

Had it been  love? Or just the immense attraction, he had admitted to ?

Both of us have had a good life, since.   I can say that about myself for sure.

And yet, the yawning gap between what had happened  and what hadn't,  had often left me wondering about what could have, what might have!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

He had envisaged his future, he had said.

Having led a righteous life, fulfilling his duty, hurting no one even in thought, he believed life would give him his due

He had nurtured a dream, he had said,
Of living a comfortable life in his old age, well provided by the fruits of his labuor, and the achievements of his son.

He had nurtured a dream, he had said.
Of his son building a bungalow, in this place where his home stood.

He had nurtured a dream, he had said..
Of being driven around , in a car owned by his son.

Dreams he had a right to, he felt. He had discharged his duties. He sought recompense.

And Life happened !

He was a frustrated old man, he had said.

He was old.
His wife was ill.
She needed constant care.
His son was away in a different city.
His son could not move back to his home town.
His son asked him to leave behind his home, the hometown, and move in with him in the city.

All he had wanted was to leave behind his legacy in the town where he was born.
All he wanted was to be remembered in the town where he had lived all his life, by the people he moved around with.

When he had expected his rewards for playing by the rules, Life played truant.

He was uprooted, forcibly replanted in an alien soil.
He lived with his son now,
under the same roof.

He had not wanted it this way !

He did not thrive

The unhappiness, his grief ate into him. Nothing we did, could wipe away the sorrow, which clouded that corner of his heart.

And then, Parkinsons struck !

While he had resented his wife's ailments, he had been affected by one too.

A self - made man, an honest man, a man of solid principles , who had passed on every one of his virtues to his son. .......
He died one day!

And with him his dreams.

It's 12 years since he passed away. But his despondency.. those words of his - laced with disappointment, the acceptance of defeat in that voice.... ring clear in my ears......

Today...when I see this thing coming up...' concretely' ...I am deliriously happy.

A weight off my chest.

I eagerly await the completion of the project.

To see his dream cast in stone.

His name etched out in stone!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

my experiment with making kokam sarbat

This post happened because of :

1.   A childhood memory of a lady in the neighbourhood who used to sell products from Konkan -  kokam, Kokam fruit ( known as Raatamba in Marathi, Birind in Konkani ) -  in sugar syrup, papads, pickles, preserves like the mango and jackfruit leather etc.  My mother visited her and came home raving about  the Kokam/ mangostien fruit  which had been deseeded, stuffed with sugar, packed neatly in a glass bottle and then  placed in the sun. This caused the mangostein to  steep and release juice.  My mother was absolutely taken in by the bright red coloured syrup in those glass bottles.

2. Too many food blogs which raved about Kokam sharbat and the making of the kokam syrup.

3.  I loved these pictures  I had clicked,  of the fruit and syrup making process.

We happened to be in Udupi in the summer,  last year .  During  a visit to the local market, I found the kokam fruit. This is what it looks like. 

I washed these, dried them and then cut them into half.  I removed the pulp and filled these with sugar and then bottled them.

The bottle was placed in the balcony in a sunny spot.  I did this on a Saturday.  In  the days to follow, I gave the bottle a generous shake, once a day.  Soon the sugar dissolved  in the heat of the sun, and along with the fruit,  it  released a thick bright red extract.

On  Thursday , I couldn't resist  the temptation anymore.   I tried some, diluting it  in water, in a 1:3 proportion.   It tasted as good as it looked while it sparkled in my glass.    The sweet, very slightly sour,  fruity - fresh notes were balanced.

In my greed and ignorance I let it steep some more.  On the following Monday when I sampled it again, it hit my throat sharply.. made me end up coughing.  It was tart and something was not right about it.   I had a feeling some fermentation  had set it .  I drained the contents down  my sink.  

I really hope to get it right the next time.. IF, I am able to get hold of some fruit !

Friday, January 15, 2016


owyacha vaas

dudhaacha waas

johnson and johnson talc cha suvaas

with a faint hint of the Pears glycerine soap

of the calcium drops

..the baby smell

the soft curls

the 'luslushit' built

fat folds...on the arms.the thighs.. .

...the armful of you

no wonder you  are called

 A bundle of joy