The sweater sleeves end at the wrists, leaving the palms yearning for warmth. They rub against each other, crawl into woolen pockets, and hide in the folds of an old white throw.
There they rest, until that familiar-but-maddeningly-persistent ringing of the phone. They wriggle out, they have to, and reluctantly inch closer to the icy metallic touch screen that glows ocean blue.
The cold wrinkles the skin, numbs the fingertips and curls them shut. But open they must, to pour some chilled wine and cut some cool cucumbers.
Sometimes, to hide the shivers, the fingers cup the mouth as if in shock; run through the hair as if in doubt. They seek the heat in the folds of the neck, in the slope of the back and in the pit of the arm.
All the while blaming the sleeves that end at the wrists, leaving the palms yearning for warmth.
There was no big celebration inside the hotel room. Outside, the whole town of Nice had come together for the annual carnival. Abba’s Dancing Queen blared from the speakers. We walked past children with painted faces, adults with masked ones. Past the line of high-end boutiques and restaurants with al fresco settings warmed by outdoor heaters. We stood watching the sleepy Mediterranean sea gulp down the hot sun and turn grey.
Back in our hotel room, we switched on a French reality TV show. The participants seemed angry. Probably used expletives. But in French, the words shed their bitterness. It was a new moon night, a pitch dark sky engulfed the last hours of my 20s. When I woke up, I expected a new world. But the sun was already on its long slow dive into the sea. And the sea… the sea lay with a certain disinterest, stretching its blueness like a long yawn, stripping the day of its significance.
That morning, my husband and I caught the train from Gare de-Nice Ville in Nice, to Gare de-Lyon in Paris. We walked along the fifth arrondissement to a bright blue door at 74 Rue du Cardinal Lemoine, where writer Ernest Hemingway lived and loved. Here’s probably where he wrote ‘The end of something’, we wondered while lunching at an Armenian restaurant amid French-speaking crowd. It was our last night in France, we spent it in a hotel that stood floating on Seine.
From inside, we watched the resilient river reflecting with clarity, the bridges that rose from it, the tall yellow street lights, and the high-rise buildings that shimmered in the background. The reflections danced the entire night. Until the dawn swallowed them just like it did the last of my 20s.
Time sometimes severs some relationships so far apart that you have to unspool some old threads of memory to sew them up. Like when meeting a high school friend after long — every conversation inadvertently begins with “Remember when…”
2019 was life changing. My husband and I, we walked in the darkness of Mammoth cave in Kentucky, explored the White Mountains in New Hampshire, and strolled the busy lanes of Miami on a sultry summer evening. We moved houses, and slowly, carefully, turned it into a home. We laughed over Frasier on Netflix, hopped in and out of several art galleries in Texas, Maine and Tennessee, and tasted the best of Bourbon in Kentucky. We had Amish ice cream with his folks, and lazed around in Rehoboth beach with mine. Most evenings, we sat on the couch, enveloped in a white throw, watching a tearjerker like Marriage Story (my pick) or a mythical action flick like The Witcher (his pick). Sometimes, the nights were short, sometimes, they continued to the wee hours of night, with conversations and arguments over several glasses of wine.
Somewhere in between all this, we, he, and I turned a year older.
In 2019, I read 23 books, watched 94 movies and 25 odd series. Over the course of last two years, I covered 29 States in the United States. With each new book, movie, or place, I came to know a little more about myself. Insecurity, fear and doubt surfaced at several instances. But so did bouts of courage, strength and resilience. There were episodes of sadness, happiness, excitement and dismay. Like clouds in the sky, they appeared, and disappeared. This year, I started learning a new language; built a routine that included Yoga and meditation; and took up a new position as the editor of a newsletter in a local women’s club. All the while, writing content for a Pennsylvania-based non-profit (Friends Association for the Care and Protection of Children) that helped 354 men, women and children find a home. I also Marie-Kondo’d my closet, finished a sketch book, and turned to plants as the new home decor option.
It’s been a magnificent journey. And for that I am grateful.
On the week preceding our second year anniversary, we find ourselves at the garden center of Home Depot. From among a plethora of options including Boston Ferns, Burgundy rubber plants and Yucca canes, our eyes rest on a modest looking plant named Peace Lily. Its white shell-shaped flowers wrap around a baby corn-like spadix like a secret. We bring it home, and place it next to our bookshelf. Haruki Murakami’s Dance Dance Dance, and Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink are its new friends. Every once in two days, we water it. Every friend that comes home drenches it further in compliments.
Two weeks hence, we find a new baby leaf. Elated, we buy a new overarching acrylic shade floor lamp, just to shine on it.
Everything is peaceful, until one morning we find a leaf turning yellow. It slowly wilts and falls. The yellow, like over-watered paint, spreads on other leaves, and then to the creamy white of the flower. Concerned, we move it closer to the window hoping the first rays of sunlight would heal it. We fill our living room with plant friends — Anthurium, Kalanchoe, and chocolate mint; we feed it sugar; and till the soil with surgical care. We also bring in the Masters. Vivaldi, Chopin and Beethoven. Every morning, at the strike of dawn, they fill the house with music.
But Lily seems obstinate. She continues to shed some leaves, sprout some. She has grown taller ever since, but now and then, as if overcome by a sense of sadness, her leaves droop and turn color. She is not ideal, but she is resilient. Full of peace, hope and beauty. Just like love, just like a relationship.
Aren’t we glad that – on the week preceding our second year anniversary, we found ourselves at the garden center of Home Depot.
The first time I made an angel in the snow; that cold cold day when we bought our first car; the lazy evenings spent in hammock at our friends’ place in New Jersey; the freshness of a six-month-old wedding; and the exhaustion of moving into a new house… we have captured them all. These fleeting moments remain immortalized in 1.8 * 2.4 inch photos, lit now and then by soft yellow LED bulbs. They are souvenirs of moments drenched in love. Little reminders that life is good. Bursts of memories that keep us warm on cold sunless days.
Home is where the bathroom door groans resisting a push; where a black cotton curtain hangs limply over the bedroom window trying its best to keep away the fierce morning light; where a faint smell of rose petals hangs loosely in the air like a fragment of memory.
Home is where a row of Lego toys sits perched on top of a shelf of books; it’s where the paint on the bathroom wall is slightly peeled off because of a stubborn artwork that refused to let go. Home is where hats and bags adorn a coat stand, and a cactus called ‘Pokey-Mon’ rests on top of a wooden chess board. Home…it’s where mornings are defined by the uproar of Nespresso machine; the clunk of the toaster; and the sight of a listless white cat that sits solemnly at the neighbor’s window.
Home is what we left seeking great adventures, but always came running back to for its yellow lights, soft mattresses, and the familiar cool temperature. It is where we loved, laughed, and grew to be better versions of ourselves, in the last two years.
Home, sweet home, is from where we leave now, with our bags, and a truck load of memories, to start anew. Only, this time, we won’t be back.
Imagine love as a star shining in the sky. Twinkling; sometimes bright, sometimes faint. Stars twinkle because of turbulence in the atmosphere of the earth; love twinkles because of turbulence too. The fights and make-ups after. The separation and closeness. A constant see-saw. A twinkling.
DNA, a new English-Marathi movie, is about this twinkling love. A couple in love with each other want to see themselves in their baby. Only, the miracle of giving birth is so damn common, until it isn’t. The movie gives a brief lesson about hardly-heard-before Mitochondrial disease, which the wife carries. It reduces her chances of natural birthing to almost nil. But their desire to pass their genes to the next generation has now grown into a monster of an obsession. A monster that causes turbulence. The twinkling. Love is now a star whose light is blocked. Until, they find themselves in a situation where they must parent an infant temporarily. Will the infant let the star shine again? The movie is a tearjerker that leaves you silently rooting for love, even as you sit through all the turbulence that rocks a young marriage.
This movie is close to my heart, as my husband Nitish Vasudevan is the Assistant Director for it. He was part of a fabulous team that worked night and day to make this project happen, and hopefully, touch several lives. If you have two hours to spare, check out DNA, now available on Amazon Prime. Click here to watch.
A Sunday afternoon, there is nothing to do. No calls, no guests, just the two of us. And on this blank-calendar day, we decide to make some lip-smacking lasagna.
Angus and Julia Stone plays on the speaker. Soft sunlight filters in through slats of windows on to the carpet.
Lasagna sheets are placed neatly on the pan. On top of it, like a ream of papers in a government office, are several more colorful layers — of cheese, creamed spinach, leftover potato curry, the sun-dried tomato paste, lasagna sheets, and some more cheese.
The tray is sealed and placed in the oven. All that is to be done now is to wait. 30 minutes later, the smell of tomato and garlic fills the room. We squat in front of the oven, face to face with the seething dish. Excitement and anticipation rise within. Just like the billowing cheese. We take it out; a cheesy red perfection.
With forks and knives, we devour our home-made little pan of lasagna, which, more than its taste, would forever remain a reminder of our carefree Sundays in the summer of ’19.
P.s. Remembering late celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, whose birth anniversary it was yesterday. It was he who said: ‘Context and memory play a powerful role in all the truly great meals in one’s life’. Our lasagna, was one such.
Mornings meant seeing dad do yoga in the living room. Breathing exercises followed stretching. Then, he stood upside down on his head, sometimes cracking his eyes open to see my sister and I fight over a pencil. His face red, a few veins still popping out on his forehead, he joined my sister, mom and I for breakfast. He did try to make us practice the routine ourselves, but we had our excuses.
Fast forward to now, when both his daughters are married, and one has a three-year-old kid. Old ways still thrive. He still does Yoga, the same 30-minute sequence. But nowadays with his granddaughter hovering around him like a bee. He still comes to the breakfast table with his face the color of beet. He did try to make us practice the routine ourselves, and thank god for that.
It took three decades, but finally, my mornings also mean a yoga session in the living room today.