Wednesday, December 17, 2014


Our housing society was agog with excitement at the impending BIG FAT WEDDING in its very own 'Ambani' family! It was the second and last wedding in the family - everyone had either experienced the lavishness of the first wedding or heard about it from others. And everyone wanted to be be a part of this too. The desire turned into resolve as the hosts visited every house to personally hand over the massive invitation card along with a box of 'designer' chocolates and also informed about the bus facility available from our society.

There was one hitch though for the invitees - there was another wedding in our building the same day. At first we thought our whole day was booked but it so turned out that both weddings were in the evening - the muhurats almost an hour apart - both in two different ends of the city. Some of us decided pack off our husbands to the neighbor's wedding and we'd ourselves take the bus to the other. Some of my ambitious building friends decided to put in an appearance at the first and then take off for the second. Hubby was hitchhiking with them - on my insistence. 

The big day dawned. A casual glance at the newspaper somewhat unnerved me - it forecast thundershowers in parts of the city. Not that I have faith in our Met department but when I'm all excited about something, I am wary of some hitch! Anyway, it seemed a pretty bright December  day. 

The luxury bus was abuzz with the banter of enthusiastic ladies and chatter of excited kids - all attired in their colorful best! I didn't fail to notice the wet roads in parts of our drive - I felt relieved that the rains had come and gone, thank God! 

We landed at the venue well in advance and we were glad we could have a good 'dekho' at the grand decorations. 
As we entered we let ourselves be photographed individually - my number was 12, so you can imagine how early we were! We could collect our copy after thirty minutes. 

The decorations totally floored us as expected and I excitedly captured them on camera - the folk corner, the well-laden fruit stall, the various yet-to-function food stalls, the floral decorations, the artistically decorated stages ....

In fact our group had got split and just three of us stuck together like triplets. We found ourselves a good spot at one of the front tables. The satin-cushioned chairs covered in plastic had raindrops all over - we had to just remove the plastic and sit - I was impressed with their meticulous planning and eye for details. 

Plenty of entertaining shows were lined up - melodious live orchestra  and impressive gymnastics........ 

Soon the bridal pair descended on the venue in their own inimitable style and grandeur and took center stage. The resplendent red-n-white bridal wear of the couple were an eyeful - but naturally! They exchanged garlands and then the groom tied the 'mangalsutra' and the surging crowd blessed them with akshata. More shows were announced. But then I sensed a raindrop on my hand. Oops! We should get going, we decided and joined the closest and shortest line-up for soup. Sensing imminent threat from the dark skies, we proceeded in the queue for the adjacent sweet stall and dinner counter. While waiting in the queue, I kept my mouth and hand active - doing justice to the sweets on my plate. That turned out to be a good move - we barely got seven minutes to enjoy our food. The rains caught us almost unawares - without a prelude or warning. The massive downpour seemed as if the Gods made a last minute decision to descend unceremoniously on the venue in full force. I shoved my clean plate and quickly joined the rest to take shelter in the adjacent spacious hall - but not before getting wet. Surely the bridal couple too would have got wet, not to mention the expensive equipment - cameras, musical instruments, mikes ...... Imagine the hullabaloo as the crowd of young and old, with and without plates standing around drenched to various degrees and the commotion outside as the organizers tried to retrieve the spread laid out even as the decorations were battered mercilessly by the fierce downpour! And the rains lingered on in full throttle for an hour!

We soon bumped into our lost group and realized that they had not had anything except pani-puri and the kids were hungry yet well behaved. It was a good half an hour before people could get something on their plates. My friends brought in a few plates with rice and chana / dal / vegetables and sat down on the floor in their silks and shared their plates. Some shared gulab jamuns / cakes; others shared fruits - whatever they could manage to lay hands upon. I guess I was one of the lucky few to have had a basic meal accompanied with sweets.

I called my husband to know his status - he told me that they had blessed the couple at the first wedding and were on the way to the second in the pouring rain. Another fifteen minutes and the rest of my building folks landed there. I did manage to locate my husband as soon as he landed. They all took a stock of the situation and chose to start for home around 9.30 after attending two weddings and not having had a morsel - with another long drive on traffic-filled, rain-battered roads. Many of them stopped by restaurants and either ate there or did a take-away.

And what about us? The 'bus' group wanted to stay put together and so none of them accepted a ride back home with friends. The crowd had petered out in the confusion and melee. When all in our group had eaten something, the driver was given a call only to be told that the bus was full and had left the venue. We were shocked - it was 9.45 and there was no transport that our 30-odd group could avail to go back to our far-off homes. Even if the husbands were to come in cars to ferry us back, it wouldn't be before 90 minutes. We checked out the parking lot for other buses but all of them had left. Frantic by now, we were cursing ourselves for putting ourselves in this predicament and vowed never to take any means of transport other than our own vehicle. Soon we were pacified by the manager in charge of transport that we would be sent in the bus as soon as it returned. That meant a wait of not less than an hour. We were cribbing about our plight and cursing the torrential rains. Spoilsport rain chose to trouble us again and we sought refuge in shelters - as we looked around we could see how rain had battered the venue so meticulously decorated. 

As we took the bus, we could not but heave a sigh of relief. So far we had been so engrossed in our own predicament that we did not think beyond ourselves. It was during this hour-long drive that we pondered about the feelings of the parents who had painstakingly planned and executed this massive function catering to some thousands of guests who they had personally invited and welcomed with warmth and sincerity. And that of the bride who had personally supervised all the rehearsals of the entire shows, the bridal couple who lost out on the personal handshakes, greetings and blessings from the well-wishers, the tons of photos and reels of video footage they would have wished to cherish ... and the caterers who had presented the spread most of which were washed out and barely tasted. I did not have the heart to take shots of the battered place - such was my sorrow. No words can adequately describe the depth of the hosts' disappointment and grief - all the lavish preparations for their darling daughter's wedding had been so unceremoniously washed away by the uninvited, unexpected, nonseasonal rains - reminding the adage 'Man proposes, God disposes'. In spite of man's prowess, we have to admit Nature's supremacy. As our heart went out to the family, we renewed our blessings for the couple from the bottom of our hearts - the abundant blessings should be some consolation and compensation for them.

Let's not fail to see the silver lining in the cloud - the rains timed themselves soon after the marriage and not before!

Saturday, October 4, 2014


How often do we take stock of the trivia that have been 'living' with us? We do acknowledge them with a smile or a touch now and then. It was during the recent 'repaint the house' project that all my collectibles came together and vied for my attention. As I lovingly tried to bring back their original sparkle, each took me for a stroll down memory lane .......

Allow me to present glimpses of some of the exclusive stuff that have been occupying a space of their own at our place. Not necessarily dear cost-wise but definitely dear to our hearts. Not huge or expensive but definitely unique and irreplaceable.

You see I have these shells - from my parents. The shell lamp is a souvenir of my father's tenure in Port Blair as Principal Engineer in the sixties - custom-made; he had very thoughtfully got one made for the parents as well as for us children. 
So it became a part of my 'dowry' and is still sitting pretty in our showcase. I know you will get better ones from the sophisticated shops in Andamans now but there is a part of my father in this nearly fifty year old piece! 

Coming to this second shell, it must be around 35 years old. 
This is custom-made too - it has my name on it. My mother had got such souvenirs for her children when they had once visited Kanyakumari. Again not a big deal but a sweet gesture! And I still have it on display at home.

Trophies and mementos are treasured by most of us. I want to tell you only about my unique collectibles.
I have had this cute little trophy which reads 'Best Teacher Trophy'.
It is a simple 4 inch bone china trophy gifted by a group of my students - I'm ashamed to admit I don't remember the students who gifted me this nor the year. Must be in the early 90's. Again not costly but so very endearing that you will love it when you see it! 

We are saddled with a large number of mementos - reminders of our activities in College of Military Engineering where hubby served for several years. Though they are nothing like A R Rahman's collection of trophies, they do take us down memory lane and help relive the prime time of our lives. So I still have them lined up in some corner of the house as I don't have the heart to discard them. 

Again they are special. My hubby has mementos for his association with the plays put up year after year and a few for the Musical Evening too. 

As for my part, I have reminders of my prize-winning Phool Rangoli entries at the annual Flower Show in the campus. 
They would flood my mind with nostalgic memories about my ambitious projects year after year. I started the first year on a humble note by making a 'Kathakali' face with flowers and was happy to get the second prize. The next year it was a 5 x 4 ft butterfly which brought me the first prize. The following year I became over-ambitious - made two - Kathakali dancer as well as Appu the elephant and bagged the first and second prizes! My my, I do sound boastful, don't I? 

When I look back on those efforts I really wonder how I managed to do that. Of course my hubby and school-going boys did lend a hand in procuring colorful flowers ( from our garden as well as friends') and helping me get them in small pieces and sort them out in separate plastic bags. Also in making the stencil for the rangoli. The flowers for each part would be pre-decided but there was always this doubt whether there were sufficient flowers for the whole rangoli. Adding to the tension was the time factor - without a help, I had to finish by 8 am - so I'd start as early as 5 am. Hubby would come around 7.30 to inquire if I needed any more flowers. When the mega efforts were rewarded, the house would be agog with exhilaration.  The next couple of days would witness me limp and my cramped legs would beg for mercy!

The boys have brought home their share of trophies too. Most of them are tucked away in a box in the loft - just a few are within arm's reach.

My sons are particularly nostalgic about their trophies earned in CME for various campus activities.

I have preserved them all ......

but my favorites are senior's Best Outgoing Student Trophy - it still looks so shiny within though tarnished outwardly.....

and Junior's cute silver Memento from Agarwal Classes for his 66th rank in IIT-JEE. 

I also have this big airtight plastic container. Well this was what my elder son got for coming first in cycle race on a Children's Day celebration in the early 80's - he was disappointed with his prize but it has stood the test of time!
I still use it to store the mixture / chakli prepared during Diwali or even to store fried pappadam during family get-togethers. It is still airtight. 

Another interesting collection that we have is that of Hot Wheel cars - prized possession of my younger son. As a boy, he'd keep adding to his collection with his pocket money. 

He'd be so careful with them that even a small dent would break his heart and he'd be seen 'nursing' the car with concern. Needless to say he'd not share them with anyone except his brother! I have still treasured the good ones. He still remembers which of them are the smoothest and shows them off to his kids when he comes on holidays.

After my kids were born, my mom handed me two stainless steel possessions which had been bought for me by my paternal grandma when I was a kid. 

One is a an early version of the 'sippy cup' ( called 'kindi'). This was bought for me when I broke my chin as a four year old and found difficulty in drinking milk from the glass. 
Another is a small steel 'thookku' which was my first 'lunchbox' - I remember my grandma packing pieces of steamed 'nendrapazham' (big Kerala plantain) for snack when she put me in Nursery school. Both of these items have my name in Malayalam - interestingly it is 'Vrinda' (interestingly it was my grandma who had chosen my name)!

As mentioned earlier I am only highlighting the really unique possessions among all my valuable 'inheritance'! My maternal grandma visited us in the mid seventies, a few years after my marriage and enjoyed a week with us. Among other gifts, she had given me a green plastic container with lid - I have many steel 'doonga's but a plastic one is unique! 
I still use it to keep some stuff. You won't believe it but the color hasn't faded to this day.

My paternal grandfather was a voracious reader; he would gift us classics during every visit and make sure we read them. Of course I have them all with me. But I'd like to make special mention of the Oxford English Dictionary he gifted me and my brother 51 years ago. 
I think I use it even today more than any present-day student!

Next in the list is my maternal grandpa. He was a prim-n-proper gentleman, suited and booted for formal occasions and wearing 'pattu veshti' and 'angavastram' for traditional functions. For his 'sashtiabdapoorthi' (60th birthday) which was celebrated on a grand scale, silk saris were purchased for all relatives. I was 13 then and I was also getting a sari. They took me to Nalli's and wanted me to select mine. I have always loved grand saris, so I chose the grey Kanchipuram sari with tomato red border with grand jari. 

Grandpa pointed to a light green one - I liked it but it didn't have that much jari. The price for my selection was marginally more but I knew it  was not an issue. But the color was - Thatha felt grey wouldn't suit me. But I was in no mood to relent, so grandma put in a word for me and Thatha gave in. I still don't know how much he approved of my choice but it has elicited compliments whenever I drape it. Even after 49 years, it still looks so rich and beautiful!

This was just a sample of my store of little treasures and souvenirs sharing space with us. Not antiques but exclusive personal 'treasures' - 'heirlooms-in-the-making' perhaps?!


Friday, September 26, 2014


Both sets of parents were visiting our son's family in North Carolina - and we had an overlap of a week. It was then that all of us set off for Carolina Beach. It wasn't our first visit to that beach - our entire family had been there during an earlier visit - we had then checked in at the Courtyard Marriott right on the beach and had a swell time. This time it was going to be a different experience. What was special during this trip was that we were 'carrying our home' to the beach! We were planning to cook simple, homely Indian meals at our 'cottage' - among three couples and two half-tickets, it promised a lot of fun-filled moments!

Our son and daughter-in-law had booked a sprawling 3 bedroom house for the jing-bang of six adults and two kids. It was a full-fledged house with all amenities. The plan was to cook at home during our stay. So we packed Indian groceries from home along with some typical utensils for our Indian cooking - pressure cooker and rice cooker. The rest of the pots and pans and cutlery would be available at the house. The kids had packed their load of beach stuff including their brand new surf boards. We had planned to pick up regular groceries on approaching Carolina Beach.

Every place in the US - big or small has some of the chain stores for groceries as well as for home-stuff. So we procured the stuff we'd need for our 2 1/2 days' stay - bread, eggs & accessories, milk, tea, coffee, sugar, drinks, yogurt, oil,veggies - fresh as well as frozen, fruits and ready-to-eat snacks like cookies and dry fruits. Each one of us went about picking what might be needed, so we ended up with a big booty! Of course we had also packed all the yummy Indian snacks that had landed with us from India. 
We reached the house which was bang on the beach - this was one of the three similar houses. And it was at a stone's throw from Courtyard Marriott! This house was a two-storeyed sprawling house given on rent to tourists. Basically two different sets of tenants could rent one house. One set would be given the entire ground floor and half portion of the first floor. The second set would be alloted the second half of the first floor and the entire second floor: basically 1 1/2 floors for each set of tenants. We were the second set - occupying the second floor with a big kitchen and dining hall, a very spacious living room cum family room with a terrace overlooking the sea, and one bedroom. There were a flight of steps internally leading to the first floor where we had two bedrooms with attached bathrooms; one of the bedrooms had a terrace facing the beach. And there was a laundry room too with washer & dryer. The building had an elevator but it looked very crude. And to top it, at the very outset, it didn't oblige us. Climbing two flights of stairs was not a big problem for most of us. Only my daughter-in-law's mother had a knee problem, so she chose to wait for the lift to be set right. And it was - before we had even finished unloading the stuff from the car. The bedroom on the second floor was offered to our senior counterparts, so they wouldn't have to take the stairs down to their bedroom. 


Our bedroom was the one with a small terrace, with the view - of the sea shore. 
Relaxing on our bed, we could flit our eyes between the dancing waves through the french windows and the shows on TV. Cool, ain't it? And with two munchkins joining us, the fun became multifold - we could grab such moments only when the rain gods chose to drive the beach-bums indoors! 
The kiddos were impatient to be in the waters - who could resist the beckoning waves and spend more minutes indoors? We quickly stuffed them and ourselves with sandwiches and willingly allowed ourselves to be dragged to the seashore. We didn't mind the 5 o'clock sun as we could cool our limbs in the lashing waves. But my daughter-in-law thoughtfully booked a set of beach chairs and a parasol for the next day. The beach was crowded but not overcrowded. My grand daughter enjoyed showing off her 'surfing skills' as she managed to balance herself on the waves. 
Her younger brother held on to his surf board and wouldn't allow it to get wet! Nor did he like the idea of getting himself wet! 
He then settled himself on the beach and enjoyed using his beach toys to make tunnels and castles, even as big sister intermittently joined him for supervision or suggestions. 
Courtyard Marriott hotel is in the background at the far right
He did change his mind and eventually befriended the constantly beckoning waves! After letting the waves kiss our feet till they started getting wrinkled, we ladies quietly sneaked away to cook dinner before the rest of the gang realized they were hungry. 

My daughter-in-law realized she had forgotten to pack the inner vessel of the rice cooker. No big deal - only the rice had to be made in one of the big pots. The three of us took charge of one item each - and in less than 45 minutes, piping hot dinner of rice, 'paruppu' (for the kids), thick tomato rasam, and mixed vegetable fry was ready, and laid out on the large dining table for 8 along with accompaniments like yogurt, pickles, Lays chips .... - a full-fledged South Indian meal. The brat pack was back after a mini shower right outside the house, so that minimum sand sneaked into the house. After another quick shower, and changing into comfy clothes, everybody plonked themselves on their chairs for the family dinner. It was indeed a quick dinner - everything was lapped up without a word of protest (from the kiddos I mean). 
Post-dinner, all of us chilled out in front of the big TV and enjoyed some cartoons with the kids. Meanwhile my daughter-in-law collected all the wet clothes for a quick wash in the washing machine, so they'd be ready for the next day at the beach. Soon all of us were ready to hit the bed, so we said our good-nights and went to our bedrooms. Both of us stood gazing for some time at the incessantly lashing waves and the star-studded skies. We observed the night patrol driving along the beach to turn away the few odd ones still lingering on the beach.
Both of us have always been early birds. We were ready for our morning walk as usual before 6. Only this time it was a nice walk along the beach. It was fun to watch the quickly changing hues of the sky from grey to pink, to orange and bright yellow as the sun started rising. There were just an odd couple here and there. And yes, birds were there - sometimes even running ahead of us as quick as their twig-like thin legs could carry them! Romance was in the air as we walked hand in hand, letting the waves wash our legs and drag our feet into the sand as the waves receded - the ticklish-
dizzy feeling in the feet is a unique experience. In between, I also indulged in my favorite pastime of collecting seashells on the deserted shore.

When we returned after an hour-long walk, the house was just stirring. Others were envious of our pristine walk and resolved to accompany us the next morning. For breakfast, we used the dosa batter we had carried from home along with 'molagappodi' (spiced chutney powder). Some had dosas, others had for toast and eggs. After a sumptuous breakfast, washed down with a cuppa, all of us got ready for the beach. 
The first house on the left in the background was 'our' house
Our chairs and umbrella were waiting for us on the beach right in front of our house. All of us cavorted on the beach as the sun was low and made the most of the forenoon hours. When we elders never got tired of the waves and sand, what to say about the kids? 
No need to say they had a blast riding the waves with daddy or building sand castles with mamma as the grandparents watched them indulgently. We had packed some snacks in our backpacks to munch in between. Around mid-morning, the ladies again vanished to take up their kitchen duties after a quick shower. We opened cans of chickpeas and made a potload of chana masala using minimum onions so that we wouldn't stink up the place. A large pot of steaming hot vegetable pulao and chana along with chips and salad and yogurt and pickle sat invitingly on the dining table and the hungry stomachs relished everything. The dishwasher took care of the dirty dishes.

We chilled for an hour. We had planned another round of the beach at 4 but as luck would have it, the rain gods chose to play spoilsport! 
The yellow umbrellas are still out there on the beach ......
Suddenly the sky turned black with flashes of lightning to the accompaniment of thunder. The black clouds made night of day even as the winds started raging. As we remembered the hired chairs on the beach, we went to the terrace and noticed that all of them were being collected in the vehicle of the company - quick, efficient work! Also the coast guards made several rounds to make sure no daredevils still lingered on the beach. 

The sky cleared as quickly as it had darkened and turned benign towards the beach-bums in an hour! Once again the beach started buzzing with people. We could spend a couple of hours there. I joined my grand daughter in collecting shells in ziplocs - I was interested in the halves dreading the ones from which some little creature would wiggle out, but she wanted those which housed some little creature! I knew that only some ziplocs would make it to home - the others would 'get lost' during our return trip - no thanks to my son! For dinner the kids had a great treat - pasta was made specially for them. For the adults, we opened packets of uncooked chapathis (from the Indian store) and heated them. So it was chapathi - chana - shrikhand, yogurt and pickle.... yummy!  We lounged in the living room for a good chit-chat and also spent some time listening to the sea for half an hour before retiring for the night.
The next morning too we had a nice long beach-walk. Then after a short beach-time with the kids, it was pack-up time. The clothes went in for a quick wash. We made vegetable upma (minus onion) for breakfast and also finished the dosa batter. We used the leftover slices of bread to make sandwiches for the drive back. You wouldn't believe it but all the groceries and foodstuff we had brought with us had been  well utilized - we ended up dumping very little. We ran the dishwasher once we were done with our breakfast. My son and daughter-in-law did a quick sweep to clear the place of sand. You see the culture there is to make sure the the place is clean when you leave - almost as clean as you found it when you arrived.

As we started back on our drive, we bid goodbye to the waves and sands with a heavy heart even as we wished we could take them home with us .