Happy 2017

I declare February 1 to be the start of 2017. After having had a crazy November with lots of travel and work (had to leave the blogathon midway), a tense December that ended with a lot of happiness and a terribly rude shock on January 1st with K’s mother’s unexpected demise, we haven’t had a chance to even think of anything remotely celebratory. I am/was very close to her, so it was really hard. Now, back in Singapore, I still feel like she is back home in India and just a phone call away. We hate how we have to remind ourselves that we will never get one of those warm hugs but rather she will live on in us in the things we do and the principles we live by.

I see people summing up 2016 and eagerly welcoming 2017, but I haven’t had a chance to think of what I want from this year. Like always, I will let the moments guide me and give me the strength like they always have. I am going to take this week to bring myself together and look forward to 2017. A year that I sincerely pray will be good to you and us.





The dry-fruits box ritual.

For some reason today, I am reminded of the little ritual of filling the boxes wit dry fruits. Every month, Pa used to bring home 200 grams of anjeer, raisins, cashews, almonds, dates and pistachios from a local store at the market. He’d announce his arrival with a “Tan-ta-daaa, look what I have got!” and we always knew. We always knew that this meant only one thing – filling up the boxes with dry fruits. After getting refreshed, we would all go to the kitchen, get the almost empty boxes of dry fruits and then carefully set them on the dining table. We’d huddle together around Pa. Meticulously he’d open the packet of anjeer, they always went in first, those rings stacked around a fibrous cord. This was followed by the raisins and every time he would take extra care while opening the packet of raisins always tsk-ing away at why they staple these packets and how one has to be very careful lest the pins get mixed with the raisins. And we’d chorus, “We will eat them one by one and not stuff them in our mouth at once,” because that was what we were always told and we knew when we had to give him that reassurance. It was a joy watching him struggle with pins because he had such short nails that it was impossible to say if he had ever had them any other way. Finally, he’d manage to get the pin out (always stubborn to use his fingers). The dates, almonds and cashews followed. What always excited us were the pistachios. Somehow they were the most enticing of nuts, the one that gaped through the gaps waiting for the shell to be broken. The pistachios were always eaten 6 at a time. We did not want to finish them soon. It did not really matter a lot if we did, I am sure Pa would have bought more, but somehow that was how we wanted to pace ourselves always. Once the boxes were all filled, we helped Pa carry them to the kitchen and place them on the rack – the second row from the top, just about the right height for us to reach for it if I tip-toed or stood on one of the chairs from the dining table. 

For some reason, I thought of this and it made me smile and also sad at the same time. I can imagine Pa’s smile as he filled each jar with a small announcement and it was and is easily one of the happiest moments we have had together. 

P.S. Am a bit late for Day 5, but let us assume I am posting from Seattle.

Friday fodder

Psst. I have written this post in spurts through the day. I had no idea where I was going with all this (and still don’t) but these were some thoughts running in my head at some point.

We came to apply for a visa to Australia today. Our appointment was at 1 PM, so once we were done with that, K and I had some lunch together. If you are interested, we had kadhi pakora, kadhai paneer and rice. We were so hungry and it was absolutely delicious. Since K has work for another 2 hours, I decided to wait at Starbucks and work here and then we can ride back together. So, well, here I am.

Let me order a latte because I cannot apparently sit in the cafe and write a post without ordering something. Wait for me, will you?


Got one. Now, where were we? Clearly, this is going to be a ramble. I have no clue what to write today. It is only the fourth so it kind of gets scary. I want to say so much but then I am not in a mood to write about them. Does it happen to you ? I mean, we all have so many stories to tell but somehow they will be told only when “the moment” comes. I am not talking of writing blocks, that happens. I mean like topic-specific inspiration. Let us say I want to share the story of my summer holidays. I cannot do it until I get all nostalgic or am really in that zone. And when I force myself to despite it, the words never say what I want them to say. Sometimes, I read some of my own letters or posts and then I think, “Wait, I couldn’t have said that better!” or “What am I saying?” So that bout of inspiration and mood that people talk about exists.


I got an invite to a party at a Professor’s place. The rule of the party – “No small talk is allowed” But of course! One thing I can never get myself to do is indulge in small talks.  I have always sucked at small talk. I can talk for hours but never small talk. Even if I have, I doit very very unwillingly because someone has initiated it. Sometimes, small talk can take the guise of being important talk and that’s when I dislike it more. I really really think that if people gave up on small talk, conversations would be richer and relationships would last longer. Agreed, everyone cannot dive into a rich conversation. But we don’t need to reach for the low hanging safe fruit a.k.a non-controversial, least opposed or rather uncomfortable topic, right? I can be kind but I don’t really care much for what you think of the mall by the street atleast not until why you think so, where those feelings came from and what makes you so opinionated about it. But the problem is nobody talks that strongly. Correction. Not many want to. If we know someone closely, sure we discuss things more freely and more openly. But when you are in a newer group, there is a tendency to pick a relatively pleasant topic (which is still fine) but then just talk at the surface level never wanting to be too strong in your words even if you absolutely disagree with your conversation partner’s  point of view, right from your gut. One just doesn’t want be off-putting. Which is sad because it is only when you scratch the surface, you really know people better and then can decide if you want to spend time with them or not. I think it should be some kind of a rule. People should be banned from it and then maybe they can talk about whether small talk being banned is a good idea or not.

Which brings me to J, one of the people I adore in my lab. J is from Spain and he asks the most random of questions to people around him, no matter how familiar (or not) he is with them. I remember one of the first questions he asked me was when we were queueing (I hope I got that spelling right, lazy to google) for a buffet lunch at a talk. It was my second day at university and he was right before me in the queue. All of a sudden he goes, “Hey toffee! If I tell you that I have forgotten my favourite pen upstairs and I want it, will you give up your position in the queue and get it for me?”. Now I must give you some context. I was deep in a conversation with someone when he tapped my shoulder and asked hurriedly. I was like, “Ya ya, tell me! What do you want?” Then he goes, “No no, I just wanted to know what you’d do. So tell me, one day you wake up in the middle of the night and you realise that K has turned into a horse. Would you still stay married to him?” I know I tease J, but I love love the way he can ask the most deep of questions and the silliest of them with the same eagerness in his eyes and yet not intimidate the other person. Like a week back, we had the monthly Friday tea party in one of the departments. J, a couple of others and I were chatting away when a post-doc fellow we haven’t met walked over to us and just introduced herself and was like, “Hi, I am L. I am working with …. ” And the first thing J does is, “Hi, I am J. Can I ask you one thing?” and L was like, “Sure sure!” J goes, “Tell me, are you truly happy? ” L was a super sport and said, “Umm yeah, I am happy. I like to think am happy. Are you?” and J was like, “Umm depends. What makes you happy?” Such conversations are for another day. I love J for this. While some of the questions he asks have no semblance of sanity, I love them for that very reason, their insanity. It is so refreshing, so endearing and so honest especially because you can immediately know that he isn’t judging. It is just his way to knowing you better. No “Where are you working? Who is your advisor? How long have you been in Singapore? Oh, this cheese tastes a bit funny or is it my tongue?” None of that. I want to say so much about him but I have to go now.


It is 10:33 PM in Singapore now. I had a nice day, a really nice one. K and I decided to go to try out a new Mexican place for dinner at Duxton Hill called Lucha Loco. I shall definitely write about it with some photos. We then walked around a fair bit and spotted a supremely cute cafe where I had waffles (no ice-cream please I had to specify) and K had ice-cream. This guy, he and his vanilla ice-cream. I think he would choose vanilla scoops over me anyday. Ah but he makes up for it by being extremely patient while I dilly-dally, push my food from one corner to another (when am full but don’t want to waste), so all if forgiven. I am home now and had to post whatever little I had written. Somehow, I seem to get so many ideas to write when I am driving or taking a ride, so I tried something new today. I just recorded my ideas as a voice message in my phone. It will be fun listening to it tomorrow and see what I make of it. I know I would totally sound like Random Rangamma.

Okay, am calling it a night and hitting publish. If you have stayed with me through all this, I salute your patience. Wish you all a lovely weekend and hope you have the best one yet. what do you plan to do? 🙂

Stay awesome!





NaBloPoMo, what?!

So when she wrote about this on Facebook, about teaming up to write everyday a month for NaBloPoMo, it seemed like the best thing ever possible to me. Then. That was mid-October when November was still far off. So the only obvious thing for me to do was volunteer and say,” Hey! I want to be part of it!” And then, I even went on to think why November was so far away. I was itching to say a lot apparently.

Now on 31st, I am err. sort of unsure. I have forgotten what it was that was building up in my head, I wish I had made a note of some ideas atleast 😛 I have never written 30 days at a stretch. Not even in school, like, not even copying from the blackboard. But having said that, I think I need this. I hope to be able to write everyday. I am travelling this month, so I hope to stay regular. I am excited to write. I am more excited to read what others are writing. Okay, I am going to stop rambling and fervently hope that my writing won’t be as tattered as this. Join in the fun or do pop-by and share your thoughts or suggestions as well if you can make some time, okay? 🙂

Okay then, whee!



Flight. And something not-funny.

That feeling when you are actually moving great distances but just can’t feel the motion? Like, during a flight? You wonder if you are moving at all. Turbulence is an occassional reminder but not something you wished for as a reminder in the first place.

My head is amidst so many things. I am loving the innumerable pies that I have snuck my nose and mouth into but I crave for instant gratification. So contradictory! I love the ride but I want to see the finish line. I want to see how it all ends. I want to start more races.

Sorry for abstraction. I will tell you all more. Once I find a wee pause.

Now for what happened yesterday.

A colleague of mine is going to New Delhi for a conference much against her will. That’s okay. But she asked me if a particular hot-shot hotel has safe water and safe food etc. Still okay.

What got me was this:

How about brushing teeth?  And taking a bath? Can I use tap water for that?

The hotel is a 5-star one. Most of us know of it. I understand her apprehension. But only until drinking. Bath? Really?

Funny? NOT.

After more mulling, I realize it was probably harmless. But I get so defensive and so fiercely possessive of India at times that I seem to lose it pretty bad.

All work and no play # 1

It is World Autism Awareness Day today. A day to not just remind ourselves that we are unaware of many many issues surrounding autism and be aware of them, but to do something about them as well. To be more proactive.

Awareness is often used with a powerful connotation. People use it to signify something, often with reference to “need of the hour” strategy. But awareness is not awareness if one doesn’t do anything about it. Autism is not  the “they are special” or “they are different” or “they are unique” part and making grand speeches. Being aware of autism entails something much more simple: acceptance and zero discrimination; creating a mutually conducive space; Providing a little bit of support if needed and if one can. And if one cannot, then refraining from discouraging others who believe they can.

There is a fine line between knowing and being aware, you see. Even if you impart this awareness to one person around you, you have been proactive to some extent. And that, makes me want to do my bit today.

There has been one loooooong post for long in my drafts that I have always wanted to share. I somehow wanted to write it very effectively. I wanted to wait until the moment when it would make an impact. I couldn’t have been more foolish. So many days wasted. Without much ado, let me share some of my thoughts in brief and supplement it with technical terms as well. I plan to do one post a month for 4 months under this section where I will talk about play and how it shapes a child/adult’s communication and behaviour.

I am sure that many if not most of you, have played some game or the other. Hide and seek, hopscotch, tic-tac-toe, monopoly, chess, thief-police, bingo, pictionary, treasure hunt and even an experimental “hypnosis” are a few of them. Sometimes, we may play unknowingly, like trying to stack a few objects one above the other, doodling, playing with food on your plate (not a good thing to do though), trying to make footprints with wet feet etc. To me play was when you are having fun. Little did I then know how powerful play can be.

Imagine a game of hide-n-seek. There is a team involved (under normal circumstances), there is turn-taking on who hides first, there is counting (where it is normal to skip tens of numbers), sharing (2 kids may want to hide behind that small shrub), eye contact and so on and so forth. There is a huge range of skills that a child develops subconsciously. There is so much of language being thrown around in context that children pick up words at the speed of the fastest bullet train when they play. I learnt counting through this and not because my kindergarten teacher made me write each number in that checkered pag, 100 times. I knew what counting was because of the game. It somehow made more sense that way. I learnt the concept of hiding and seeking through the game.I knew I had to wait for my turn to count. If I did something out of turn or context, it would go against the game.

So, you see, a simple game of hide-n-seek that signifies fun, actually stands for more. All those little games we play in our grandparents’ places mean something more. And it all points to one thing – All work and no play does indeed make Jack/Jill a dull boy/girl.

One of the first things I ask during case history is always this – “Tell me what the child likes to play”. And by the time the parents answer, I pretty much know where I need to begin. If the parents tells me that their child is playing, I feel overjoyed. I know that there is something right happening. And I know that things will only get better if this is encouraged.

But what play is good play? Are there types of play? How do I know if my child is playing the right type of play if any? Can I introduce play deliberately? All this and more in my next monthly post.