That Christmas-y Feeling

As Christmas approaches, I am reminded of childhood days I spent in the wonderful city Calcutta. Every year, unfailingly.

It’s where I was introduced to the festival for the first time. We had moved to the big city a few months before I turned 10. Soon, Christmas was upon us and my parents made a number of plans for us to spend the holiday time frolicking around the city’s pockets that celebrated this festival with much fanfare.

I’m reminded of the beautifully decorated streets, lit with sparkly balls and colourful stars. They would adorn the buildings all around in areas like Park Street and Esplanade. We lived far from these areas, but that was the most fun part actually. The tram lines connected us to these places and we would jump on for a joy ride through the busy & bustling alleys of the city, observing the slow unravelling of the celebrations!

There were more than a fair share of street-sellers on this day, calling out at us to buy balloons, whistles, decoration items, small plastic toys and what not. I’d go for a couple of balloons for sure. But, we always headed out there for one reason, and one reason alone!

We would make our way through the crowd to a shop named Kathleen Confectioners – one of the best places in the city to get creamy (dreamy!), rich, most delicious cakes and pastries! And, Christmas would be our time for a treat at this wonderful (and heavily crowded!) place.

I read somewhere that Christmas is really a state of mind. It’s not only about the treats and presents we got, but also about creating a loving and warm atmosphere! And, my parents did exactly that! They helped us create wonderful memories of spending quality time together, amidst all the hustle-bustle of the city.

So, as the Christmas Day 2018 unfolded for us, we spent it connecting with loved ones, and (re)creating some of those memories! I hope yours was as joyful too!

Merry Christmas!

What’s New This Summer?

Summers are a promise of activity, cheer and adventure. It is that beautiful time of the year when everything around us is in full bloom – be it the gardens, or the massive sales in the mall. As the bright sunshine sprawls all around, refrigerators are stocked with bottles of juices, ciders and white wines. All the parks look greener than ever before, and are dotted with people soaking up the sun, walking their dogs, or just playing with kids – the colourful sights we don’t get tired of! Picnics with friends and prolonged outdoorsy evenings crawl back into our routine; all those stylish dresses, skirts and tops make a much awaited come back and suddenly, days seem so full of possibility! I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said people seem happier in summer – they actually are!

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August sun shining on Lake Windermere!

That’s how the last three English summers have been for me. And, in all honesty, all of this wonderfulness lasts about two weeks every year. Maybe three, if you can put up with the downpour during the third week, without a scowl.

In my tropical mind, it is not summer if I am wearing a coat to work, or walking to Waitrose with my umbrella receiving some pitter-patter! Unless I spend at least two months sweating it out, drinking copious amounts of Rooh Afza and gulping down scores of mango pieces after every meal, it does not qualify as a well-lived summer. As a kid, the summer season was synonymous with vacation time with family, and that meant long train journeys to Granny’s towns. Splitting our time between the paternal and maternal sides of my family, these vacations were all about reconnecting with parts of me scattered in many places, within the lives of so many. The emphasis also used to be on learning something new each year. From learning to sow, to making own paper envelopes, to writing letters, to learning to recite morning prayers in Sanskrit, to mastering the game of Brainvita and Solitaire! A new skill, something exciting, and spending time with people to create fond memories of, perhaps to look back upon on a day like this.

I am sitting in my balcony having the last bite of what was a delicious Coffee & Walnut flavoured cake that I bought from Waitrose. I almost want to keep this post aside and look for its exact recipe online – it was that yum! A light breeze ruffles my hair, and I get back to thinking about summers in India. While I don’t particularly miss the scorching heat that envelopes my country during these months, I have definitely missed doing something new, as the season swung by year after year.

So, this summer I decided to bring into our home six little and lovely living beings. (That’s how my brother framed their arrival!). Having never been an animal lover, I inclined myself towards flora and picked some hardy flowering plants, an ornamental citrus fruit tree and to give my English home a touch of traditional India, a pot of basil leaves too! I wish I had a huge courtyard to place it in the middle of, but I make do with our 7th floor balcony for now.

It feels good! To stand in the sun with them, smiling and happy. Just how India Knight put it, ‘when the sun is out, it’s the smallest adventures that can bring the greatest pleasure.’

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Osteospermums pose for a happy picture!

 

 

Perils of having a good memory

Quoting my favourite, Nora Ephron, from one of her essays as a journalist :

“I will tell you something else: they didn’t drink wine back in the early fifties and sixties. Nobody knew about wine. I mean, someone did, obviously, but most people drank hard liquor all the way through dinner. Recently, I saw a movie in which people were eating take-out pizza in 1948 and it drove me nuts. There was no take-out pizza in 1948. There was barely any pizza, and barely any takeout. These are some of the things I know, and they’re entirely useless, and take up way too much space in my brain.”

Such ease in her self-realisation.

If you identify with what Nora Ephron says about knowing and remembering (what’s usually perceived as) the useless, then you’d also agree how no one really knows why certain people are able to remember the mundane like they do! I, for one, fit the bill perfectly and have never figured the ‘how’ either (having given up on the ‘why’, a long time ago!)

At work, I know by-heart random 6-digit identifiers, exact folder locations, long names of documents and database tables, exact figures on a report, to the second decimal sometimes. I am the walking-talking reference book for my colleagues to look up such information from! As much as I try to look sheepish about it, I secretly pride myself at the marvellous memory I’ve been blessed with. Like, the other day, I related a search analysis to another we did almost 8 months ago; I recollected the details and later confirmed I was right, at which point of course, my colleague gave me a side glance with a raised brow that probably dubbed as, “Why, Ramya, why, why on earth would you remember that?!”

Continue reading “Perils of having a good memory”

PHOTO: #ThrowbackThursday To ‘The Land Of Clouds’

Conversing with a tweet-friend earlier today, I was reminded of my childhood days. I spent a good ten years of that in the then Bihar, one of the eastern states in India, growing up in the wild among hills! It is an iron-ore mining township, located above and among the hills of the Bonai range. Life there was fun, to put it simply. And very simple too! There were two schools – if you didn’t get into one, you went to the other; one shopping centre – anything you wanted you got there; friends and classmates meant the same thing; all the roads were our playground and the big colony lived like one big family – everyone knew everyone else, sometimes even if they didn’t want to!

And today, sitting in my warm apartment on a cold winter night in London, I cannot help but feel terribly nostalgic about those ‘Wonder Years’! Sal trees, heavy rains, warm sunshine, elephants, waterfalls, picnics – things that are synonymous with my childhood. And no better day than this to dedicate my #ThrowbackThursday post to this wonderful small town called Meghahatuburu (meaning: the land of clouds), where I spent the most blissful of times!

I took this photo during my visit with my family in 2007. This is close to the guest house we stayed in, right next to the colony – of course quite away from the main road. I couldn’t resist the call of the valleys and hills!

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The Wait

A girl all of fifteen

So genial and genteel,
Swayed like a tree
At her favorite spot, by the sea;
Her giggles filled the air
With a charm quite rare;
She picked her pebbles
And blew those soap bubbles,
Which naughtily at times chose
To pop right on her nose;
Those waves kissed her feet
She tasted the water, oh not-so-sweet!
She wrote with her hands
On the golden sands
Her favorite names
And played her games
With sea shells and stars
Soothing her scars
Of a wound still livin’
But long forgiven
For, she knows better
It was not just petter
Sweet-bitter
As those memories hit her
She continues to sway
By the tree, to this day
Longing for her gait
And hoping for the end to wait.