A simple life

Her name was Shantha, I called her Valliamma (big aunt, in Malayalam).

She loved cooking, and was always proud about what she whipped up in the kitchen. “Wait till you taste the way I make Maggi,” she would say. Next second, we would hear mustard seeds and curry leaves crackling in a hot pan. A plate of Maggi, with a dash of turmeric powder, chili powder, and a strong whiff of coconut oil… It was always “Super”, as she would put it.

Summer holidays in Vellinezhi, a small village in the Indian State of Kerala, was all about rivers, paddy fields, and temples. While the rest of the adults got busy talking and sipping tea in the courtyard, Valliamma would be in the out-kitchen, making banana fritters, or cut mango pickle. My sister and I would nag her into taking us to the nearby river. Never would she say no. So then we would march, a towel and fresh clothes in hand, to take a dip in the cool waters of Kunthi river.


On a rainy evening, it was just Valliamma and I sitting in the living room. While I read a book, she sat looking at a lizard on the wall. I was intrigued. She said the little lizard was helping her make a decision. It cracked me up. She had to decide whether to go to a certain temple the next day despite the heavy rains outside, or not. When the lizard turned right, she got up with a satisfied smile. She was going, no matter what.

Her life was that simple.

She stayed in a small bedroom, on the second floor of our ancestral home in Kerala. She had moved in with my grandparents, after her husband passed away while her son was still a child.

I would sometimes secretly go into her room, and scan her little boxes on her shelf. It was a treasure trove of different things. A suitcase of white saris, albums filled with black and white photos, gold chains and bangles, different sizes of black bindis, and a range of perfumes. She would save them all, hardly use any.

One afternoon, when the rest of them in the house were taking an afternoon nap, she came up to me, and said that she likes writing too. From her bag, she took out a stack of yellowed letters, with words written in dark black ink. Updates about what she cooked, guests who came to visit her, her parents’ health… she wrote extensively to her son, over several years, after he left for Saudi Arabia for work. Only, she never posted them. All the letters, soon after they were written, went inside a clear plastic cover. And traveled only with her in her brown bag.

Now she’s gone where her letters can’t.

Valliamma passed away this morning after battling cancer for over a year. For me, she would continue to remain in “super” dishes, unread letters, flowing rivers, and clicks of lizards…


Back from Poconos

Relaxed and refreshed.

It’s summertime wanderlust. We have been travelling every weekend ever since the sun got brighter and days got longer. This also explains the brief dry spells before every new post. We just got back from Poconos last evening after spending a couple of days pampering ourselves in a house nestled in the deep lush woods of the scenic town. In the mornings, we let our bodies float in the hot bath tub for hours, and in the evenings, we sat by the fireplace having good old campfire s’mores. Sometime during the day we walked by the different shades of green outside, and caught sight of adorable bunnies, squirrels and deer. Ludovico Einaudi’s tune complimented the sound of the crackling of wood, as we warmed our feet, and drained our wine glasses, by the fire. In the patio, under the warm sunshine, we delved into the question of existence, the purpose of life, and dreams. The conversation was washed down with swigs of cold grapefruit shandy. A little over a two-hour drive back home later, we unpacked, and continued to savor the beauty of Poconos that lingered in our head. It still does.

Our little place of stay at Poconos

Mom, me and the Jazz

A Mother’s Day post.

Mother’s Day post. A late one. But it’s straight from the heart. And the heart cannot be rushed.

After my dad retired three years ago, I had to drop my mom and pick her up from office, everyday. My workplace was close to hers, I just had to take a short detour from my normal route. I resisted at first, made a few excuses, and then reluctantly decided to take up the responsibility. On the first day of us travelling together, we were trapped in a pattern-less clotted traffic. Sia’s Cheap Thrills kept me calm, but annoyed my mom. She reduced the volume, and with her eyebrows furrowed, looked at the jam around, and then her watch, and then cursed the jam some. I dropped her late to work that day.


Months went by, she had begun to like my playlist. So much so that, her hand subconsciously tapped on her thighs whenever Cheap Thrills was on. Some nights, I stayed up late and copied new songs into my pen drive, just to see my mom’s reaction the next day. Though she disapproved of Imagine Dragons and Linkin Park first, she never lowered the volume. And slowly, together, amid the snail-paced traffic on hot sunny days, we bobbed our heads to Coldplay’s Up and Up and Kygo’s Firestone, while snacking on Britannia ‘Good Day’ cookies that she packed from home.


A year after, I quit working at the office close to hers. And just like that, the two hours that we spent within the air-conditioned frame of our little Jazz car everyday, became a luxury of the past. Before, we used to hurry our breakfast down our throats together, and curse the clock in chorus while reversing the car out of the garage. Now, from my bed that was still unmade, I watched her get ready and wait with a certain calmness for her cab. Our Jazz, packed with a ton of memories, stood motionless on the road. One evening, she came home and told me excitedly that her Uber driver had played ‘my’ song. “Which one?” I asked. She hummed a line from Cheap Thrills. Fresh hot tears welled up, but were efficiently dismissed by a thousand blinks, and a choked laugh.