Why I love doing the dishes.

A few years ago, I took a quiz ( I know, I am that crazy personality quiz freak ) named, ” Which Greek Goddess are you?” The answer in front of my eyes, asking to be shared, was puzzling. I was a mix of Persephone and Hestia. Persephone, I totally understand : I have a depressive, neurotic personality. But Hestia? The Goddess of Hearth and Home? I did not have a single domestic bone in my body. This is what this site says about Hestia,

” Hestia, as keeper of the hearth, goes about her tasks in a calm, centered, focused manner – whether she is sweeping or doing laundry, she is fully engaged, focusing on her task at hand–like a meditation–and not at all concerned about the clock or what she will be doing next. She experiences a timeless calm in the midst of her immediate tasks. ” 

Ha, indeed. I wondered if these quizzes were a joke, which in all probability, they are. Who wants to identify themselves with a Greek Goddess anyway? However, I was still intrigued. Did I deny my domestic instincts because they would be considered uncool? Perhaps, I feared coming across as a “normal ” person?

I thought some more. No, I was not some organisation freak or a germaphobe or a person who believed “women should stay at home”. I hate cleaning  or cooking, not with a purple passion, but enough to not do some of them for days together. I would rather waste time watching mindless videos on cleaning than actually clean something. I zone out into nostalgia and “what-ifs” in the midst of a major cleaning spree.  Why then, was I a “keeper of the hearth”?

Later, as I did the dishes, the answer did come to me. Normally when I wash the dishes, I have a wave of thoughts that sweep over my soul. It is usually the same wave. I start out feeling thankful that I have food to eat and the energy to make it. Then I revel in how  the specks of food and stains disappear, just like our everyday troubles do, with a little soul-scrubbing. I then wander off into some poetic thoughts as the dishes get shinier and shinier. Towards the end, I break off into a song.

Sometimes, I also process uncomfortable thoughts somewhere in between and scrub a little more than necessary. The physical act of scrubbing brings me peace. Finally, everything is clean and I am more at peace. No, my problems did not disappear by magic. But my heart does feel lighter and I know that, tomorrow, the dishes will get dirty again. Just life Life.  I will have to clean again. Both literally and metaphorically.

I realised, this is why I am a Hestia. Not because I keep a perfect home or that I am a clean freak. It is because  the woman in me “experiences a timeless calm in the midst of her immediate tasks.” It is because, despite my messy home and chaotic surroundings, I do derive a lot of pleasure from making it better. The final product means less to me than the process itself.

Organising the books means endless hours spent reminiscing about the times gone by and thinking of people who are associated with certain books.

Rearranging the clothes in the shelves means an afternoon that is spent in warmth and fragrance and the colours of  our second skin.

Washing the windows is a different perspective to seeing the world around us.

To make it clearer, I do not always approach housework with this attitude. In fact, I rarely do. I leave things lying around or undone. But when I finally get around to doing them, this is how I feel, and this is what truly represents peace to me.

Indeed, I do have a  Hestia within me.

hestia-quotes-3

 

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Home is where the heart is…

A couple of days ago, we moved our fish, Gouglu, from an aquarium in the living room to one in our bedroom. Before we know what happened next, you must know who Gouglu is. A boisterous, ‘happy’ fish.

Indeed, I had never really seen a fish that seemed so happy, before I knew Gouglu.I named him Gouglu because he so loved food : ‘ Gou’ from Gourmand and ‘glu’ from Glutton. He jumped at his food, caught roaches when they fell into his tank and I think he even knew his name. I am not a fish person, as I cannot hug or touch them to my satisfaction, but Gouglu was special. Sometimes in the quiet of the afternoon, I felt he could listen to me speak to him.Not only that, he even seemed to understand.

Maybe I am superimposing my lonely thoughts on him.

Maybe I am reading too much into certain typical behavioural traits exhibited by a Green Terror Cichlid.

Maybe I have just eaten too much sugar.

When I cannot sleep, when insomnia decides to pay me a ‘formal’ visit (we do not know each other so well) , I close my eyes and think back of a certain home.

With two bedrooms and a large balcony.

Where a young couple dreamed their first ever dreams.

Where children walked in at will, laughing and playing.

Where music and uplifting conversation formed a part of everyday life.

The house was small and often messy, yet, I have slept my deepest nights through in that house.

I have tasted the best ice cream there, sitting on the stairs with a much loved friend.

Love was the quilt, in which we were wrapped : snug and warm.

Slowly….. I fall asleep…. one with my thoughts.

And Gouglu?

He died from the move.

I know how you felt, Gouglu. I really do.

(This was written some time ago on my Medium page. I found it today and thought I’d publish it here, too. )

A city, A song..

I have never lived without music. As a child, I woke up to my Amma singing krithis right from dawn until she finished cooking, packing our lunches and finally pushed us out of the door. My Appa’s prayers were always sung, never spoken (he even wanted to become a playback singer after retirement!). A power cut in the evening would mean long, delicious hours of singing (we would fight for our turns, and you can imagine how long those power cuts were!) Navaratri or New Year’s. my brother would be more than willing to bring out his mridangam and play for me. We played the roles of budding singer and aspiring accompanist with aplomb.  I often played cassettes over and over again to ” learn” the songs.

It is probably no surprise that I had a song for each person I knew. Of course, I had to like them and know them well. Every time I saw them, I would be reminded of the song I had matched them to. The matching had no apparent logic, yet, it made sense. Last evening, while returning home from work, I wondered if I could do it for the cities I have lived in. So, here goes :

Hyderabad-  The city I was born in… One that will always tug at my heartstrings, despite the changes over the years. Here’s to you, dear, dear Hyderabad.

Bangalore- The city that keeps me learning, at every step. This song reminds me of what it is at heart, despite the mad buzz and the frightening traffic; soothing and welcoming.

Delhi – One of the most beautiful cities I been to and lived in. The planning, the architecture, the very European feel to some of its markets, I love a lot of things about this city. Every time I think of Delhi, I think of this song, the cafe at the Alliance Francaise and the long chats with friends and of course, Mad Angles!

Coimbatore – The city I married into, one with a very special charm of its own. It almost does not belong to any state, standing apart in its beauty and old world appeal. This is for you, dear Coimbatore.

Chennai – I have never lived in this city, but I keep going there often to meet family and other engagements. The relationship I share is formal, to say the very least.  Yet, I have a song for it. A very energetic, happy and uplifting song.

Hope you liked listening to the songs! Wishing you a beautiful Tuesday evening! ( Something about songs and play lists turns me into an RJ :P)

One fine evening…(Blogathon Post One)

I have been told not to look at the setting sun for as long as I can remember. It was considered inauspicious, unlike the morning sun, which brought joy and new beginnings.  What could the sun bring in the evening, tired as he was of his journey across the world? Yet, there is a certain compelling beauty that makes me want to see him, every single evening and beauty is rarely inauspicious. 

One of the first things that I wrote was an article on evenings. I spoke about the bajji vendors, the flower sellers, the radiance on people’s faces in the evening; “everyone looks beautiful in the evening”, I wrote. I still say that. the best time for a date would be early evening, in an open restaurant, with the sun streaming through the leaves. No make-up will give you that glow, I can guarantee that.  One of my friends (!) once spoke of a girl he saw in the light of a Petromax lamp at a chat bandi, one summer evening. She looked like a goddess, he said. I still think it was not the girl, but the magic of the evening that made him feel that way. The evening sun retouches our faces in ways that Photoshop cannot. 100 % natural, too. 

One thing that I absolutely enjoy in the evenings is a long walk, preferably along the seashore. However, where there is no beach, even a hilly road would do. Some of my best memories include walking up the roads of Jubilee Hills to have tea at a small shop, tucked away between the lanes, with my husband, who was then my boyfriend. All those moments of love and romance we gathered keep us going even today. Another fond memory  is one with a group of my students, walking down Mahendra Hills, after visiting the lovely Buddha temple on the top. In fact, the first time I went to the temple was with a friend, in the evening. He pointed out the view from the top, the breeze was in our face, my skirt was fluttering like a kite in the sky : it was pure MAGIC. 

Beautiful Cloud formations from the steps of the Ananda Buddha Vihara, Buddha Temple, Hyderabad
Back then, when I was still unmarried, I enjoyed running away to coffee shops in the evenings to write, to read, to just be by myself. That was when I grew my wings of independence, where I dreamed of being a bigger person than I was. Now, I do not need a coffee shop to enjoy my solitude (my partner understands my need for space perfectly. thank god for that!) .But I still write my best in the evening, with the setting sun for company. 

At this point in my life, evenings still mean walks, albeit with my four-legged friends ; hot cups of coffee in my petit jardin; some soulful jazz on my player; cooking some dinner ; 

and spinning a few dreams. 

Tell me, have you not fallen in love with evenings too?

A trip down memory lane…

Like this post I wrote a few weeks ago, winter is one of my favourite seasons. I love the other seasons equally, but just that the physical proximity of the cold makes me wax eloquent about the wonders of this season. After a story on monsoon memories I read in a magazine for children, (I wonder when I will ever outgrow that :reading juvenile stuff!), I felt like writing a winter diary.. my memories of winter. Come to think of it, a memory is very much like your job. It can be nourishing, yet like your work when you do not take the weekends off, it can take a toll on your state of mind.
My earliest memory of winter would be my sixth birthday. I went to school and distributed the customary 50 paise candies and basked in all the attention I received. I wore a red sleeveless frock that smelled like new clothes and did not reach my knees. My uncle promised me a cake(they were a luxury in my family-birthdays meant a new dress, candies for friends and a visit to the temple. No fanfare, no parties.) I remember waiting the entire evening. The cake never came. Disappointed, I went to bed, only to be woken up at 11:30 PM. Groggy and shivering in the cold, I blew the candles and cut the cake which was placed on the window-sill. I do not remember how the cake tasted, but I got the cake and that’s what counts!
The next memory of winter was in college, of fetes and celebrations throughout the month. I would wake up very early each morning(say 3 AM) to study for my exams and go back to bed by around 5 AM. I would snooze to wake up to the intro music on Vividha Bharathi at 5:45 AM and thoroughly enjoy the Tiruppavai and all the lovely kritis after. A cup of coffee and the radio on a winter morning, need I add how divine that feels!
After I got married, for the first time in my life, I decorated the Christmas tree. I was so excited! We went shopping for decorations and Santa and packed little gifts in shiny paper and placed them under the tree. It was all so magical. Neighbours poured in to watch in surprise at this crazy couple, who, just a couple of months ago, had put up a very traditional golu.Children played around the whole day around the tree, all from the neighbourhood. With our dogs and fish, it was all total chaos, yet one of the best times of our life.
So there! It was fun writing this post. Thank you, Zai Whitaker , for the wonderful idea. You are a wonderful writer and I can only imagine how much children enjoy your writing!

I dream of death tonight…

Flashes of the past
Memories adhering to my soul
like dog hair on the carpet;
Tormented by visions
and unfinished dreams;
Fear that grips to the soul
Sanguine tears of salty hugs.
thoughts unleashed, leaping
across territory once carefully guarded.
I have lost control now.
They trample, they hurt, they injure.
Feelings that do not belong to me
are being forced upon my being
layered upon years of guilt and shame.
I throb for something deep within you
And I do not know what that it.
Your thoughts, your sadness
live within me now. And I am trapped
to death, in a bubble built on your regret.
I dream of death tonight,
To start living a life
That I can call my own.

I remember…

I remember when I fell off my tricycle and broke my arm.

I remember when I gave a school crush a dead cockroach for a gift.

I remember when my drawing teacher slapped me hard for colouring a flower wrong.

I remember Mowgli, Potli Baba and Pingu.

I remember Kya banoge Munna on DD  and morning-school breakfasts of curd rice and mango thokku.

I remember the kachoriwaala outside college.

I remember Nithya and our long talks on the porch behind chem lab. 

I remember my first kiss, on the steps leading to a lily pond, with the geese cackling.

I remember summer nights of mango ‘kuchi’ ice.

I remember the day it rained ice and I ate most of it, even as lightning and thunder threatened to scare me.

I remember my brother’s opinion on horoscopes.

I remember how my kindergarten teacher made me spell my name ” Vaidevi”. 

I remember all the stories of my sister’s crushes and all her pains of growing up.

I remember the first wine I tasted.

I remember sprinting across the Besant Nagar beach, oblivious to the onlookers.

I remember wanting to look like Nandita Das.

I remember Armageddon, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and Maine Pyar Kiya.

I remember the ‘idly’ tank at Kilpauk Reserve Bank Colony. 

I remember a certain roti-gajar halwa lunch at the zoo.

I remember my baby, Uma. And many other babies of mine, some not human. 

I remember my tree back home and how she always made me feel better. 

And how if she had been, this post would not have.

And how I do not understand her anymore.

How we now speak different languages.

[ Idea of ” I remember” inspired by a book : ” Je me souviens” by Georges Perec. ]