A letter to my ailing Grandfather

Dear Grandfather,

Mom called to say that you are very sick.

In the five second pause, between mom saying that the doctor offered little hope and her bursting into tears, the memories of you roller-coastered around in my head.

Memories of us may not belong in the Chicken Soup for the Grandparent’s Soul. You were a busy man. Retired from the military where you were a flight engineer, you set up a cafeteria, travel agency, telephone booth… You built a home for your  family and the business generated revenue and did not go under. The house had a big garden. Grandma had coconut trees, guava, custard apple, drumstick, spinach, a whole terrace wall of jasmine, lots of hibiscus, mehandi, curry leaves and this is where my memories begin.

The fact still remains though that I never felt attached to you. A chauvinist and misanthrope, we learnt to steer well clear of you early in our childhood. You were also a contradiction of sorts, you would favour some grandkid (s) over others, son over daughters, you know. However one can’t deny that you provided for your wife and children while they lived with you. You called my brother and I to the room on the first floor of the house and opened up your old trunk to show your medals. You told us how the war was, that you didn’t have to go to the battle field but stay in the yard and work on fighter planes. You loved those medals and went ballistic when grandma lost a few of them.

You loved your scooter (Bajaj Super FE) and would let me clean it. We loved that scooter – you and I. I knew how to repair the brakes, oil the wheels and get it to start on troublesome days and you let me.

I’m lost on details but you and your son decided to tear down the house and have these builders construct an apartment complex. I was there that demolition day; I watched how you caressed a last intact portion of wall with tears in your eyes. It was obvious that you wanted your son to have the best at whatever cost. Though a lot of people criticized you that day, I felt sorry for you.

Through the years that you were sick, we used to visit you and if we stayed more than five minutes, you would get mad and say hurtful things. We kept coming back because mom made us. I felt jealous and angry that you would have a daughter who loved you so unconditionally despite everything. You had someone to shed tears over your condition. Mom loves you inspite of… inspite of… you must have done something to deserve that love. If I have children who loved me half as much as my mom loves you, I would count myself very lucky indeed.

You asked me to forgive you and I asked if you would bless me instead. It was so hard to answer you. It is not hard to fathom why you are terrified to look at yourself. Now you are a mere shadow of your former self. Your eyes are like haunted pools of fear and confusion. It is hard to look into them. You are afraid to pray.

Grandfather, you may be scared, but we are not. We are praying for you – your grandchildren and children. We know that behind that terrifying veil, there is no pain. We believe in God and that when you meet him, life would not have ravaged you. Raising children, building a home, loosing things in life would all be behind you.

I’d like to think that you would be just a little boy to God, who would envelop you with his wide arms. He would guide you to streams of sparkling water like then ones you would bathe in as a child. You would look in and see your eyes glistening with merriment. There are no lines on your face, no scars that the world gave you. Maybe there would be juicy mangoes that you love there. You could eat them whole, the juices running down your hand and dripping down from your elbow.

Maybe God would pick you up and throw you into the air like your dad used to when you were a little boy and punctuate the air with your laugh that the world hasn’t heard in a long time. Don’t be scared grandpa, we are praying for you. We know that there is no darkness behind the veil, just God waiting to say “Michael, welcome home”



How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard

Sunday mornings all over the world are meant for leisure and absolute abandonment. But here in the Middle East, it is the first day of the week for the public sector employees. Our weekend falls in Friday and Saturday. Not that I’m complaining, my husband who works for the private sector gets just Friday off.

So here I am on a cold Sunday morning at crossroads, ‘To snooze or not to snooze’. If I snooze and miss transport, there is no way I can get to office on time. Annoyed at the prospect I toss the sheet and stop dead at the unfamiliar sight. This is not our bedroom… The haze lifts and I realise we have fallen asleep on our couch. Kooorumpf…kaar…kaar. Hmmm. He is asleep. He sounds like he is on the set of The Fast and the Furious movie, but he is most definitely asleep right here on our couch.

My Ji is from a small hill town in India. Absolutely gorgeous, just fresh

Photo Courtesy: Arun Joseph - thatphotocompany

Photo Courtesy: Arun Joseph 

air and greenery all round. Nice people, small town gossip, loyal friends and a cozy family. Moving to the Middle East was a big step for him. The scorching heat and culture shock was monumental. They say big challenges can either make a man wiser or send him away shallow. If you get to know him, there are three things that would stand out. He is painfully honest, passionate in love and unbelievably patient.

For these very same reasons he has been hurt unfairly by shallow pretentious jerks who hide behind a veil of lies and deceit. Every time I ask Ji to expose these frauds, he merely states, ‘That is not for me to do. It is for people to find out’ and I cry in frustration ‘It is ok to be a jerk to other jerks’ and he calmly replies ‘People who love you will stick by your side no matter what. People who don’t are not worth fighting again and again for!’ Argh!

On the other hand, there is still the child in him. Like all other men I suppose. Remote controlled cars, Ferrari Racer on I pad, 45 mins to use the toilet… the whole deal.

What makes me want to wake up next to him for the rest of my life is the fact that I will never get tired of aspiring to be like him. Like a strong oak that is patient, generous, wise, playful and always watching over you; I know his love for his family will stay firmly rooted for ages to come.

Watching him sleep, my mind flashes back to last week’s party where our eyes met across the room, Ji picking up three squealing little nieces all the same time, the girls shrieking in delight, their hair ticking his nose, he was happiest to love, to be loved and at his happiest he looked for me.

Padding slowly to the bathroom, I hear him stumble straight to the kitchen not wanting me to miss breakfast. Can we just take the day off and go back to the couch… maybe turn back time? My job is interesting and I like going to work, but, just need more ‘Ji’ time.

He looks at me and sees his soul mate, a friend, a fellow traveller. He thinks I’m beautiful and likes my crazy incoherent blog. Ji is proud of my talents and interests (which are limited to being a good language coach, cooking the perfect steak and trying to make a difference in the world). He makes me happy, he makes me blush; he makes my heart race and stop. He simply takes my breath away.

I wonder if I’m selfish to love him because I know that all the happiness in the world could be squeezed into the small hazel pool of his eyes and my reflection in them.

Thank you for the prompt WordPress!


Children play carefree

Monsters glare from the shadows

Angels wanted – apply

My 100th post – Haiku dedicated to Bachpan Bachao Andolan – Save the Childhood Movement.Their mission is ‘To identify, liberate, rehabilitate and educate children in servitude through direct intervention, child and community participation, coalition building, consumer action, promoting ethical trade practices and mass mobilisation.’


They have rescued 82808 children from from bonded labour and slavery since 1980 till today. Watch their video that went viral recently here

I wanted to write a bigger article, but, wordpress inspired me with the Haiku Challenge

In loving memory of a Culinary Virgin

The year was 2010… getting married was the most amazing thing that happened to me in life. As I reveled in the blessing that was my husband, I never planned for one of the major responsibilities that married couple share – Cooking.

Growing up I had always held duties that involved, climbing, electrical equipment, automotive, dirt, elbow grease… you get the drift. Doing the dishes was on my list of Culinary Skills and that made my entire list.

We lived in a studio apartment in Dubai. There I was in the tiny kitchenette. Pots and pans were there. There was a stove that I could manage to turn on and off. ‘Keep it simple’ I told myself. Rotis (Indian flatbread) and Tomato Chutney would have to do. After a few frantic calls to mom and firefighting lessons revised I set about creating the most horrendous Tomato Chutney in the history of civilisation. All you have to remember is that it had ketchup, habanero sauce, tomatoes, green chilies and a host of other ingredients. My sweet Ji made a few jokes about it to make me feel better and whipped up dinner in no time. I was in awe of the man.

For a person whose career warranted public speaking, I had no confidence in the kitchen. To add salt to the wound, one of our close friends said “Poor him [my husband], he loves to eat… how sad” to which my husband promptly replied “Lucky her [me] I love cooking for my wife”

Beaming with pride, I came home with a slightly troubled heart all the same. Is cooking so unbelievably complicated? Can the mile long Indian recipes never be conquered? Am I so retarded that I cannot follow instructions in plain English? Food was always something that was on the table at home. Mom’s recipes were dutifully appreciated and eaten with as much table manners as possible. Never did I think that there was more to food.

Ji offered to show me the basics. It was embarrassing standing there trying to get a grip on the darn tomatoes whilst my eyes flooded with tears from the stupid onions I had just butchered. Not one piece looked symmetrical and I marvelled at the way Ji could chop and dice and season and not break a sweat. When I burnt the onions he smiled; when we had to throw away a pot because of the congealed mess at the bottom, he brought me a single red rose; if the eggs had shells in them he calmly picked them out and kissed me. A month in and the (air quotes) friend made her comment again. This time I didn’t feel hurt. This time I knew that my cooking will improve. Over the months my love for produce and baking grew. Mom bought me a microwave with convection option. The pineapple upside down cake I made using it was a hit. Slowly I graduate to baking our own bread and grilling chicken with it. When the microwave broke down, I mourned for the loss of a friend.

The first anniversary dinner featured pasta, a loaf of bread and a cake decorated like a gift box (cheesy right?). I did throw cheese and ham into the pasta so he would like it regardless, turned down the lights and lit up candles so the fare won’t look so bad… We passed on the bread because I was found to have been a tad heavy handed with the yeast.

The second year of our wedding, we moved to a larger one bedroom apartment overlooking a creek. The second anniversary dinner featured baked chicken and herb sauce, some steamed veggies, cream of chicken soup, grilled eggplant, a salad… Dessert was a triple layered berry crumble topped with ice cream. Passion for cooking was growing along with my love and happiness in our marriage.

Slowly, my death grip on recipes and measurements loosened. Having been an inquisitive child, the array of products available for experiments excited me. Friends and family had good things to say, Ji continued to be my rock. If something tasted awful, I’d know from him. Indian recipes that seemed scary at first became easier to comprehend. My father – in – law and mother – in – law gave me pointers about their cuisine (Kerala, India), my mother about ours (Tamil, India). Continental and baking tips I read and learnt from various blogs and chefs.

Beef was my nemesis. Being allergic to red meat, there was no way to taste it. Having never eaten it growing up, this delicacy favoured by my in-laws and husband stared at me in the face.

A lover of all Kerala style beef dishes, Ji was enamoured with one style of beef. On one occasion I attempted Ji’s number one -all time – all-star – favoured in every fancy restaurant – the king of all dead animal related meals – The Steak.

The rubber disk like, chew till your jaw seizes up, grey unappetising block of meat I produced was received with gentle appreciation and feedback that it was a bit tough but still good for a maiden attempt. I felt pretty good – until I saw Gordon Ramsay throw out a steak that looked remarkably like mine and told a shaky chef where she could shove it. Damn! My confidence was wavering. It was the one thing that my Ji loved and there was no way to learn how to overcome that hurdle. Gordon Ramsay looked like someone who knew what he was talking about, so I scoured the internet looking for his tutorials and reading.

Telling myself that I was no longer the culinary virgin in the family, plans began to take root for our third anniversary dinner.

The third anniversary dinner(last week!) featured his favourite Gnocchi, lobster bisque (a cousin gave us a last minute lobster surprise!), breaded calamari rings, mashed potatoes and of course a surprise steak with rum glazed mushroom and shallot sauce… as he cut into the steak I remember feeling a rush. God please let it be rare … (medium-rare is ok too) let it taste decent, please… I won’t trick Ji into doing the laundry weeks in a row I swore. Dessert was farthest from my mind… the fried ice-cream just needed to be fried. Ji had been fascinated with the ‘fried ice cream’ concept when I had mentioned it and he was looking forward to it… But my steak Dear Lord Jesus! – You heard about the laundry duty right? Please… I begged.

I smiled while loading the washing machine this morning 🙂

Click on the first photo and just fly through the gallery.



Have you been bitten by the FB Bug? Do you have the Ville Virus? I’ve had both and I survived.

Facebook was slow to take off. People signed up mostly to play Farmville. Boy did I sign up for that one! I ploughed, watered, harvested, shopped, helped my neighbours, built fences, repaired and god knows what with the precision of a navy seal. Confident in my abilities to keep track of my farm and with more contacts than the CIA to help me harvest, my days and nights were spent in utter Farmville Heaven.

Meanwhile the social connectivity options were growing by leaps and bounds. Facebook helped me find long lost friends, connect with fellow bloggers. Facebook made me clear my conscience once a day by helping spread knowledge about sick children and dead war heroes. My faith was unwavering as I feverishly tried to share divine messages in fear of being smitten by the wrath of God or trampled under a rampaging dinosaur. Some friends and family I met used to say “I’m not very interested in Facebook and all” and then they signed up let’s just leave it at that.

At one point of time, we realised that though there are billions of people using it for connecting, sharing, caring, playing and all that, it was quickly becoming an open forum for airing dirty laundry, hate wars, like begging, trolling and a mass of seemingly mundane and shallow things that people really don’t care about. Getting to updates that mattered from family and friends was suddenly next to impossible. Obstacle courses of FORWARD OR DIE, SHARE AND FIND TRUE LOVE, trolls and memes and all other kinds of trash stood in the way. Posts were pushed far back and at one point people just lost the damn will to do the drill. My friend’s adorable babies are sandwiched between a crude boob joke and a video of a guy being run over. Seriously, what were you thinking?

Blog posts from friends are pushed back by stories asking me to LIKE if I respect dead soldiers and COMMENT if I have a heart. Of course there are free psychotherapy sessions going on and a million other app updates on the side as well.

So I decided, it was time to do something about it. It was harder than spring cleaning. All the apps I didn’t use – blocked and updates deleted. Trollers are mindless ‘sharers’ – muted. My friends and family were put in proper groups. Double profiles were deleted. Many shocking discoveries were made too. For example, my husband Jose and I discovered the creepy IDs of someone that was being used under a false name just to make ‘friends’ and we shall leave it at that too. Argh!

Facebook is a wonderful medium. There is something for everyone. But too much of something just tends to go over the top. Even conversations between friends went from interesting to “Did you see that pic I shared on Facebook and his reply to that and no wonder she didn’t ‘like’ that and I think they are having problems and remember that video with the dog and the train”… I can see some of you saying, ok ‘Aamish woman, what are you getting at?’

We seem to have taken a social networking medium and made it the centre of our lives. Some of us can’t take a leak without posting it on Facebook. Others battle to see who has the most popular life. Breakups, fights, ragging, racism, depression, hate wars … it’s all there. And then there are the sensitive ones taking offence at harmless jokes and kicking and screaming bloody murder.

Unplugging from Facebook brought me back to blogging. Being Freshly Pressed motivated me to keep writing. Jose and I started picking up books to read that we had previously cast aside. Our discussions and debates have gone back to our widespread areas of interest. When we meet friends and family, there are many things to discuss because we were not a part of every minute of their lives. So we actually had stuff to talk about rather than the so out- of- fashion line ‘yeah I read your status on Facebook’.

Courtesy:thatphotocompany(dot)in and UNPLUGGING!

Courtesy:thatphotocompany(dot)in and UNPLUGGING!

We still visit social networking sites to wish people, check photographs and join interesting discussions. We post pictures of important occasions and things we wish to share. But a social networking profile is not what we are defined by. We don’t begin sentences with “I had shared this on my profile”

Absence of the frenzy of posting the smartest, wittiest and other superlative degrees of useless information is a welcome relief. Now I know what is meant by ‘social after self’.  People around us have been wonderful in adapting to the change. At first they looked at us like we were weird and crazy with a sprinkle of Flintstone dust… But now, it is wonderful to visit people and go – “So what’s new?”

Unplugging from Facebook has made me realise the massive positive impact it has had on our lives. It has also made me thankful that we haven’t sunk into the quagmire that its unbridled usage may create.