Balcony Tales

Balconies have always been important to me. I love balconies. I think they are windows to the world outside, from where you can look out, all the while sitting in the safe comfort of your own home. They are sanctuaries, where you can grab a few moments of peace over a cup of tea or a plate of bajjis. They are in-between, neither inside the house nor outside, a place where you can escape to when the chaos inside the house gets too much for you, and you don’t really want to get out of the house. They make the house outward-looking, I think. Without a balcony, a house would be isolated from the rest of the world, cut off, very inward-looking – of course, my own two cents only, meaning no offense to anyone else. For this very reason, I do not like balconies with grills – they make a house safe, yes, but they also close out a lot of light and action and air and love and make the house, well, suffocating.

I especially love balconies that do not face dead, overgrown plots of vacant land or the back of someone else’s house. I like my balconies to look out onto a road, possibly, where there is a little action – just enough action, mind you, not too much. My ideal balcony is one where there are plants (flowers and a small patch of herbs and some vegetables), a swing and a little nook where I can sit and think and create.

Considering my love of balconies (thankfully, the OH shares a bit of this love), a road-facing balcony was one thing we always look out for while we are looking for an apartment to live. We had three balconies (three! yes, a rarity these days) in the place we used to stay in earlier, and a long road-facing one in the place we shifted to last year. It took us quite some time to set up the balcony garden in the house we presently live in, but now, I can safely say we are almost 70% done. The garden still needs a lot of work to bring it to the shape I want to bring it to, but at least there is some semblance of a garden now, there is a sanctuary in the house for me to go to, there is a little place that fills my heart with joy.

I am happy to say Bubboo seems to love the balcony as much as I do. It is the first place she heads to, as soon as she wakes up in the mornings. It is where she sits and watches the older boys and girls in our apartment play in the evenings. It is where I sit and talk to her about the different kinds of things that we see around us – from dogs and cats to vegetable vendors and trees and flowers. It is where Bubboo sits and watches the rain. She often eats sitting out on the balcony. I sometimes read to her there. We like basking in the sun on the balcony, on days when it is not too hot. We like watching as our neighbours wave to us in the balcony, and waving back to them. We like watching as butterflies and squirrels run in and out of our plants, searching for food. I could just go on and on and on!

Balconies have always, always been a place of solace for me. Our balconies have seen a lot of action. They hold a whole lot of fond memories for us. They have been a place of sharing our own kind of love, of bonding with each other. They have been places of sustenance for us, providing us with some home-grown ingredients for our food.

This new place is slowly, very slowly, beginning to feel like home. We are apart from the rest of the OH’s family now, very far away, but we are slowly finding friends here, bonding, building up relationships. I hope, with all my heart, that we soon forge friendships and relationships of note here, and that our balcony here goes on to witness a whole lot of special, little memories.

 

 

Kids!

The husband is away on work, and the little one seems to be missing cuddling up to him. So, the last time he called me, I broke my no-phone-for-kid rule. I told the pint-sized one her dad was on the line and put the phone to her ear. She smiled as soon as she heard his voice, then grabbed the phone from my hand, and began turning it from side to side, looking at it intently. It dawned on me that she was trying to find her dad inside the phone!

I am immensely touched and heart-broken, both at the same time.

The Girl Who Eats The Moon

“Dearie, look up there at the sky! See, there is the moon!”

“Moon! Moon! Moon!”

“Shall we eat the moon?”

The little girl opens her mouth wide, and her father proceeds to grab the moon from the sky and put it into her mouth.

“Gulp it down quickly!”

“Apakk!”

“Yesterday, after you ate the moon, it got so dark outside. There were people looking for the moon, you know? Two of them came to our house and asked if we had seen the moon. I told them I knew nothing about it.”

*Big smile*

“Now, go to bed. If you go out, you’ll glow. People will think you are the moon.”

*Bigger grin*

This happens almost every day at our place, with almost the same reactions from Bubboo and almost the same dialogues by her father. It is the cutest thing I ever saw. 

Andha nilava thaan naan kai la pudichen, en rasaathi kaga is just about perfect for this father-daughter duo, me thinks!

 

Of Eating Turkish Kestane In Bangalore

Little carts with striped awnings are quite a common sight on the streets of Istanbul, the OH tells me. These carts largely sell boiled corn and smoked water chestnuts, the latter known locally as ‘Kestane’. I am guessing this is a winter thing, and that the corn and water chestnuts will soon be replaced by some other delicacies as summer sets in.

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A cart selling Kestane and boiled corn outside the Blue Mosque, Istanbul. Photo Courtesy: The OH

The OH knew that I would have wanted to try out the Kestane, had I been with him. He was quick to grab a bag of raw chestnuts from a nearby departmental store, to carry back home with him, in spite of being subjected to ridicule by his colleagues, he tells me. Just hearing that made my day, for obvious reasons.:)

One of the perks of having a husband who travels a lot on work is that you get to see the places you might never have thought about earlier, through his eyes. That, and the fact that you get souvenirs of all kinds, from all of these places, water chestnuts included.

For my benefit, the OH went on to take a few close-up shots of the cart, again only to be subjected to ridicule by his colleagues, so that I could know exactly how the chestnuts were cooked – on a charcoal fire. Apparently, there are no trash cans around and the peels left over after the smoked chestnuts have been eaten are added to the hot coals in the grate. They then create energy to cook more chestnuts.

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A close-up of the smoked water chestnuts and the charcoal fire on which they are cooked. Photo Courtesy: The OH

The water chestnuts that the OH got home gave us the perfect opportunity to fire up the Rajasthani charcoal stove that we had picked up ages ago at a fair in Chitrakala Parishath, Bangalore, but never used. We set up the stove in our balcony, kindled the fire, smoked the chestnuts, and went on to hog them. They tasted delicious – sweet and smoky and very different in taste from the singoda aka singhada aka Indian water chestnut. Thanks to the Internet, I now understand that the singoda and this water chestnut come from different plants, and are not the same. This is the water chestnut that is used in the preparation of several Chinese dishes, and not singoda.

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Our charcoal stove being fired in the balcony yesterday

It was a beautiful experience to shell these chestnuts and eat the sweet kernels, enjoying the warmth of them in our hands just when the evening had started to get chilly. I can see why they are a favourite snack out of India on winter evenings – as I have read in quite a few books. I just love it when books and real life intersect like that!

I can only imagine how beautiful it would be to sit with the OH on a bench overlooking the busy Turkish street where he bought the water chestnuts from, eating them out of a paper cone. Some day…

From Turkey, With Love

My love affair with Turkey – Istanbul in particular – started quite a few years back, when I was working with a huge corporate, and I learnt that my colleagues from the Marketing team were headed to Istanbul as an incentive for achieving their sales targets. I was jealous, but more than that, I was intrigued by the place. It was then that I consciously began reading articles and blog posts and tidbits relating to Turkey – I didn’t do any research per se on the place, but listened with open ears whenever anyone had something to say about it. I attended Ruhaniyat a couple of years back just so I could see the whirling dervishes of Turkey in action. I read The Forty Rules Of Love just because the author was Turkish, and though I didn’t like the book much, it did get me intrigued by Turkey all over again. I saw loads of pictures of Istanbul, and knew that this was one of the many places I would definitely want to visit at least once in my life time. This post was written on a whim, inspired by my dream to visit Istanbul. So, I was more than a tad surprised when the OH announced, about a month back, that was expected to head to Istanbul for a work trip, soon. That is the trip I was talking about here.

Much as both of us would have liked it, there were several factors that prevented me and Bubboo from travelling along with him. Before he travelled, though, I made sure I downloaded all that I knew about Turkey onto him.:) He was utterly surprised to know that I knew a whole host of things about the place – from where one can go for a hot-air balloon ride to what souvenirs one can pick up there. I think it was then that he really understood how big a dream of mine it was to visit the place. “Next time, we’ll go to Turkey together,” I told the OH, “For now, you go. Experience the place for me. When you are back, tell me every single thing you did there in minute detail, so that I can see and feel the place through you.” And that is just what he did. The OH is now back from his trip, with loads of photos, experiences, memories, gifts, and things to tell me. Now, Istanbul doesn’t sound like all that distant a place. The OH’s visit there has made me crave even more to plan a trip there, and soon!

Now, I have bits and pieces of Istanbul in my home – hand-made soaps and perfume and evil eye souvenirs, and what not.

I have a box of baklava and one of Turkish delight sitting in my kitchen, waiting to be my post-lunch sweet treat.

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Turkish delight in various flavours
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Baklava in various forms

Sultan Spice and Turkish Biryani Masala from Istanbul’s Spice Market occupy pride of place in my spice rack now. A packet of Turkish coffee waits to go into my coffee filter, for tomorrow morning. Chocolates, walnuts, dates, and hazelnuts travelled all the way from Turkey to my home, too, and I am still figuring out what to do with them. I have a bag of water chestnuts off the streets of Istanbul, waiting to be roasted and devoured in the afternoon.

Most of the souvenirs that the OH has picked up for me are of the foodie type, yes. He knows his wife a tad too well!

The foodie in me is very happy at the moment, content. The traveller in me is yearning, and wants a release for all the pent-up wanderlust in her.

For now, I eat and dream away….

More Baap-Beti Times

Remember these baap-beti conversations of a while ago, and this? Well, the conversations still continue.

Here are some samples.

Bubboo, why do you have to wriggle so when I put on your diaper? When you grow up and have a baby of your own, you will realise how difficult it is. Then, you will come and tell me, ‘Yes, Appa, it is so difficult to put a diaper on a wriggling baby.’

 

You know, when the doctor put you in my arms for the first time, you were so tiny. Appa asked her, ‘Cute baby?’, she said, ‘Yes!’. Appa asked her, ‘Naughty?’, and she said, ‘Not one bit!’. I met the doctor a few days ago, and she asked me, ‘Same cute baby?’, and I said, ‘Yes!’. The doctor asked me ‘Naughty?’, and I told her ‘500 times over, doctor!’

 

You are brilliant, babe. There’s no need for you to go to school.

 

Say ‘Decchu’ in that cute way of yours? (‘Decchu’ is what Bubboo calls her ‘dress’, BTW.)

 

Grow up a little more, and Amma will make yummy home-made pizzas for you, OK?

 

Don’t go out and find a boyfriend for yourself, OK? I’ll find a good guy for you!

These dialogues still melt my heart to a little puddle of mush every time I overhear them.

The Memory Of A Father’s Lullaby

Abbu na dabbu na

Gabbu na bubboo na

Juna nani na

Juna nani na

If you are wondering what on earth that is, let me tell you that it was the lullaby that the OH composed for Bubboo, while I was pregnant with her. Yes, you read that right!:)

Someone told us that pregnant women should keep listening to a particular song, and that the baby inside the tummy would hear it frequently and learn to get comforted by it. Apparently, after the baby is born, whenever he/she is cranky, he/she would immediately be soothed when the same song is played. I didn’t listen to much of music while I was pregnant (somehow it never happened frequently!). The OH decided to make up his own song for Bubboo-inside-my-tummy and would sing it softly to her every once in a while. I would tell him to remember the exact crazy lyrics that he was making up, because he would have to sing the very same thing after the baby’s birth, whenever he/she would get irritable. So, we kept practising at it, and both of us still remember the lyrics.😀

Does Bubboo remember any of this? I’m not sure. When she was a very tiny baby and would cry with colic or teething pains, the OH would croon his home-made lyrics to her, and she would give him a royally ‘Blah!’ look. We stopped trying after a bit.

This reminds me – I should ask the OH to sing the ‘lullaby’ again to Bubboo now, in his signature tune, and see how Madame reacts. Won’t that be fun, now?

Unconditional Love

Dearest Bubboo,

You are growing up so, so, so fast, I can’t keep pace with you, with all the new things that you are learning and doing every day.:) I can’t believe you are going to be ONE next month!! Where exactly did the time fly?

Of late, you have learnt to crawl to me, wherever I am in the house, put your arms around my feet so that I am rooted to the spot and can’t move. Then, you look up at me with puppy-dog eyes or a goofy grin, as if to say ‘Lift me up, please na, Momma?’ How do I resist so much of sheer cuteness? I don’t, at least nine out of 10 times. I pick you up, hug you tight, and play with you till you are sated, and then move on to my chores.

The cuteness continues even after I lift you up. Then, you go to no one else. You want Momma all to yourself. Any attempt to extricate you from my arms is met with a turning away of the face, putting your arms around my neck, and patting me on the chest. The message is clear – ‘I will be here, nowhere else. I want to be with Momma now’.

You are not really a clingy baby. You love playing with your Appa and your grandparents for hours together. But then, there are times when you want me to be around. There are times when you just want to be cuddled by me, just like that. The way you communicate that makes me feel on top of the world, as if I am the princess of a very rich kingdom. You make me feel that way.

Sometimes, I am so busy trying to be my own person and being a mother to you that I end up looking like something even the cat wouldn’t drag in. Hair all out of place, eyebrows not done, face unwashed, and so on and so forth. You still have that special smile of yours for me. If that cannot make me feel special, what else will? You teach me to look beyond the exterior of a person, to what he/she really means to you.

I am so glad you are mine. I am grateful for this chance to mother you. I adore you for the unconditional love you shower on me.

May there be a lot more cuddles and hugs, in the times to come.

Loads of love,

Amma

Chocolate Paan, From Mysore With Love

There’s this little grocery store in Mysore that sells ‘Chocolate Paan‘. That is what the shop calls it, at least. This is not the ordinary meetha-paan-with-chocolate-syrup-wrapped-in-a-betel-leaf that any paan centre anywhere can make for you. This is a proper chocolate – white chocolate, to be precise – filled with all the intricate flavours of a meetha paan. The white chocolate exterior is delicately sweetened, considering the sweetness of the meetha paan inside. To make it even more clear, the white chocolate shell contains a stuffing made of ground meetha paan.

Put it in your mouth and bite into it, and your taste buds will be assaulted, in the most wonderful kind of way. Unlike most ‘unique’ products that have only a ‘novelty value’ and fizzle out in terms of taste, this chocolate paan is mouthwateringly delicious. It is difficult to resist temptation and eat just one! Good that they are so reasonably priced, then, right? Just Rs. 15 per piece.

How do I know all this? Thanks to this Facebook page.

I had been intrigued by the chocolate paan ever since I read about it on Hottebaaka, a few months ago, especially because the post praised it to the high heavens. Since there was no one travelling between Bangalore and Mysore, sampling this delicacy remained a dream. Till last night.

As if the Universe conspired that I should have the chocolate paan after dinner last night, the OH got a sudden work-emergency call on Thursday, requiring him to book his tickets and leave for Mysore immediately. He remembered this little chocolate-ey dream of mine, looked up the place, and got a few home for me. Need I tell you that they tasted extra sweet to me?😉

DSC06131Thank you, OH.😀 May there be the mutual fulfillment of many such little dreams of ours, in the times to come!

For those of you who are interested, the shop that sells this is Badri Maruthi Stores, in Shivrampet, Mysore. The Facebook page says the paan costs Rs. 8 a piece, but we were charged Rs. 15 for the same. They come packed in little plastic wrappers, tied up neatly like a goodie bag, and are super easy to carry for friends and relatives. Ideal for gifting too, I would say!

You like the idea?

Of little sweet gestures, and of love

So, the OH has been away working in Delhi again, and I have been feeling like an army man’s wife all over again.

Recently, the OH sent over some toys he had picked up for Bubboo in Delhi with a friend who was travelling to Bangalore. ‘He will come home and give you a bag,’ the OH told me. ‘There are some toys for the princess, and there is a little something in there for you too,’ he said. ‘For me? What?,’ I asked curiously. ‘Just go through the things in the bag. You will know what I have sent for you,’ he said. And so, I waited, with bated breath, for the friend (and the bag!) to arrive home.

When they did arrive, I found what had been sent for me – a pretty pink toy rose with a pink handle. It is a battery-operated thing, with a tiny bulb hidden inside the rose, glowing when you turn a switch on. The rose is beautifully made, with what looks like minute pink plastic pebbles.

I am touched by the gesture. Immensely. I know the OH has a busy life in Delhi. The fact that he chose to shop for toys on a weekend when he was free means a lot to me. And it means even more that he thought of me while doing so, and sent over something to show that he cares.

The rose sits on my computer table as I work, now. It is a sweet reminder to not feel very low whenever I am lonely.