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Happy New Year!

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.

At White Mountains, New Hampshire

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.

Happy new year, everyone!

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Peace Lily

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. 

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Love that smells like cake

I remember the taste of my mom’s cake batter. The feel of sugar granules on my tongue, and the shock of seeing so much butter poured into a bowl in one shot. My mom would whisk the egg, butter, sugar, flour and baking powder with a spatula. We didn’t have a food processor, or even a whisk back then. When tired, my sister and I would take the bowl from her and make long strings of the sticky batter; sometimes spilling it all over the floor. Annoyed, the bowl would be taken away, and given to my dad who would patiently bring it to the required cake consistency. Impatient and hungry, we would stand next to my mom in the kitchen, while the cake baked in the pressure cooker. We didn’t have an oven back then. Years later, now, though I cannot recall the smell as easily as a visual memory, what I can recall is how it felt like to be able to slice a piece off the translucent butter paper. It felt like the warmest hug and the softest kiss. Years later, thousands of miles away from my mom, when I tried baking a set of blueberry muffins in the oven recently, all I could think of is that modest pressure cooker that baked some of the happiest memories of my childhood.
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Keep calm

Pic: Done by yours truly; the original work is by AdorableHarvey on Etsy

In a day, it is the first and the last thing we see. Placed in our powder room – every morning, as we brush our teeth, and wash the sleep off our faces – it hangs as a reminder that the day is going to be as light as a floating Indian Milkweed. While applying a dollop of moisturizer before retiring to bed, we look at it and remember to smooth our furrowed brows, and grow a gentle smile. With closed eyes, and unsaid words, the painting suggests that we celebrate today; roll the dice, take chances, smell some flowers, eat some ice cream, watch the moon… love, laugh and simply be.  

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Hanging memories

We used pins to support the black curtain rod on the wall. We ran a string of lights along the length of it, and used paper clips to attach the photos.


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. 


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Home

All packed, ready to move

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.

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DNA

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.

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On the movie set

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. 

Assistant director, Nitish Vasudevan
Team DNA

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.

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Lasagna

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.

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Keep calm and do yoga

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.

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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.

Happy International Day of Yoga!

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Our flying friend

A mourning dove. Her presence is now a habit. We would open our patio door, to soak in some sun, and sip some coffee, and there she would be, as still as a wax model. We saw her first, when she perched on the railing holding a thin twig in her mouth. Soon, the diligent one built a soft brown nest for herself on the ledge. Whenever we wanted fresh air, we turned the door handle slowly, cautiously, without the slightest squeak, like robbers. Once outside, we whispered, about her, about other things. She eavesdropped openly. It took us  a while to realize she had laid eggs, and was now incubating them. One night, it rained non-stop. Thunderstorms. Heavy wind. Would she be alright? We wondered, plastering our faces on to the bedroom window which faced the patio, and her nest. Next morning, we stepped out, on the wet wooden floor, to see a litter of egg shells. Oh the horror. We imagined the worst. But it was the opposite. The family had grown. There was more than one bobbing head. Our little dove was now a mother, feeding her two chicks. It’s been close to a month, and now, walking around dried drops of bird shit in the morning, is the new normal. We don’t whisper, we don’t sneak out. With hot mugs of coffee in hand, we rock in our patio chairs, talking, laughing, while she and her mate sunbathe sitting on the center table. Fearless, secure and in harmony.

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To Ohio and back

To me, Ohio is about watching Steve and Maggie on Youtube; walking amid half empty bottles of milk, an assortment of toys and stray crayons; eating Kirkland’s ice cream bars and madeleines; and getting kissed and hugged by the three-year-old niece.

N and I drove to Stow, Ohio, on Saturday morning. We started around 5 am, when the moon, big and bright, still dominated the blue sky. It followed us, as we began a journey of 430 miles, passing three States. In Ohio, we remained within the comfort of home, even as winds picked up speed, and swayed the trees outside. Indian home food, Malayalam movies, and lots of catch and throw. In the night, once my niece was asleep, we watched the final episode of Game of Thrones, and went to bed, a little disappointed. But the morning brought the sound of happy laughter and excited squeaks from the little one.

We painted, stuck stickers, and watched a new series, Barbie’s Life in the Dreamhouse, on Netflix.  We took a little walk outside, but the wind swept her red cap away. So we walked back home.

After a heavy lunch, it was time to leave. We packed our bags, and started our drive back home. This time, there was no moon following us. Even the sun left us midway. In the darkness, guided by street lights, we crossed the 430 miles, and got back to our warm, cozy bed. Waves of silence slowly rocked us to sleep. Only to take us back to the effortless laughter of the three-year-old niece in Ohio.

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Bonding over coffee

It’s a cloudy morning. A number of cars are parked in line outside; inside a table is spread with Japanese seaweed salad, Brazilian bread, Indian motichoor laddu, and Mexican leche frita. There is a coffee pot, a tea pot, and about 20 glasses filled with champagne, on the kitchen island. Conversations start with Guten Morgen, and Bonjour, and pick up pace in English. Broken and fluent. It’s International Women’s Club morning coffee meet-up, in Delaware.

I go around, gathering tiny tales from people to of different origins. All of them, though from different parts of the world, made America their home at some point. Each has been on a journey strewn with challenges and excitement; their stories ebb from what once was, to what is.

Some stories stay (scroll down to see them), and some fade away. But that’s alright. What matters are the moments of laughter, words of love, and sparks of friendship…They blur borders a little. Broaden your mind a little. And make you love life, a little more.