Author Archive

What’s in a Tag?

Apparently a lot – you can write your whole life down using the beginning of each of these letters of the alphabet. Mandira, as the surviving readers of this blog know very well, has been trying very hard to get me to write. This is her latest attempt – I don’t blame her. By tagging me for the alphabet tag, she has ensured she gets a minimum of 26 words if not sentences. Here goes, the “me” in alphabets.

A- Available? Dear Alphabet A, Please be more specific with your question. With lots of love, Lakshmi.

B-Best friend: …………… – Fill in the Blanks.

C- Cake or Pie? Cake for eating but a Pie seems far more fascinating to throw at someone.

D-Drink of choice: Water

E-Essential thing used everyday: Two actually – Toothbrush and Paste

F-Favourite colour: I am colour neutral

G-Gummi bears or worms: Gummi bears sounds cuter but I wouldn’t want to eat either

H-Hometown: Huh?

I-Indulgence: Chocolates – dark, bitter chocolate.

J-January or February: What if January was called February and February was called January?

K-Kids and names: Whose kids?

L-Life is incomplete without: Good Sleep.

M-Marriage date: Is not available for public consumption – I don’t want unsolicited calls/ emails/ comments for loans or buying those million ideal gifts. My spending is not linked to my anniversary. Believe me, you will face no profit or loss on account of not knowing my marriage date.

N-Number of siblings: One.

O-Oranges or apples: Apples.

P-Phobias: Injection-0-phobia.

Q-Quote: “Adults are always asking little kids what they want to be when they grow up because they’re looking for ideas” – Paula Poundstone

R-Reason to smile: Too many to put down!!! Reason to cry would be easier to do.

S-Season: I live in Chennai. It makes no difference.

T-Tag three people: Asha, Srivalli, Amma.

U-Unknown fact about me: I day dream all the time – its like there’s this television running in my head all the time.

V-Vegetable you do not like: Pondalangai.

W-Worst habit: Pro—–cras————ti—————————-na——————————————I’ll fill in this last bit later.

X-x-rays you have had: X Ray for my Ankle

Y-Your favourite food: Idli – Milagai Podi. Those of you you assume a sambar and vada with it, will get pasted by me.

Z-Zodiac: I am a Lion. Right now, this is sounding better than “Leo”.

An Award for the Sleeping Beauties and Other Random things

Now no one really likes to compete with never ending soap operas – but then there are these rare occasions in life when we can say that we are truly touched – and this is one of them. Our friend Mandira at Churning the Word Mill thinks that we are…..

Thank you Mandira!! 🙂

Unfortunately Mandira is also consumed by grief over the sad untimely demise of this blog – The Quaint Treasures of Life. The “not to be missed” rib tickling obituary will tell you more.

We have made it quite clear that its not really the lack of ideas or time or the absence of will to write that caused this sudden lull in QTOL. Our blog atmas are incorrigibly INTP.

Meanwhile here are some of the things I have been consumed with while “not blogging” on QTOL – this list excludes work that I do for a living:

  1. QTOL isn’t a good place to rant. The past few months I’ve been more in a rant mood than a “so let’s look at quaint things in life :)” mood. Worry not, there is no pent up aggression. I have ensured that a considerable amount of Neha’s chat real estate is occupied with my rants.
  2. I have been busy earning the distinction of Cyber Squatter by blogging on my mom’s blog – until this effort was stopped in its tracks with a “I don’t want to cook” syndrome.
  3. I have been regularly deleting mails that say forward this email to 5 people and you’ll be blessed with good luck, forward to 15 people you’ll be blessed with gold, forward to 20 you’ll be blessed with diamonds, forward to 100 you’ll own Google, forward to 1000, you’ll become god. If you don’t fwd, you’ll be struck with bad luck for the rest of your life. if you ignore and snigger, then the devil will fry you in hell alive.
  4. I have been trying to figure a way to disable a facebook account. I hate to sound dumb, but I actually couldn’t figure how to do this for quite sometime. My random urge to sign in and figure what facebook was all about resulted in days of inbox overflow with overzealous people who wanted to hug me, kiss me, throw something at me at the drop of a hat.
  5. I have been day dreaming about doing a whole lot of things – illustrating a Children’s Series, traveling around the world and getting paid for it, running a marathon (idea credit – here and here), taking an offbeat holiday with Neha (idea credit – here), writing a book, running a retail outlet exclusively dedicated to kitchen gadgets, blah, blah and blah.

Some of these have been so very consuming, that even if I took time out to watch the leaves of the Gulmohar flutter like a butterfly in the wind – I din’t bother to write or share. Perhaps, its time to change that or to imitate a motivational speaker “The Time for Change is NOW”.

Our Blog Atmas

Neha and I haven’t updated this space for a long looooooooong time now. This blog infact seems to suffer from bouts of the Kumbakarna syndrome that Hema has explained so well – rib tickling perhaps but mind you its as real as life can get. Not even the valiant efforts of a dear friend to start a MEME that can get us to write could wake this blog up.

There are somethings about “us” that we can’t explain – we can’t put a finger here and there and say “Oh, I am too busy to find the time” or “I have a writer’s block” because these aren’t true. We have some stuff sitting in our drafts and some more waiting to be read on our hard disk – we just don’t update because that’s how we are – a reason that’s hard to explain and perhaps to many to understand. Many people in our life think we’re positively crazy and strange – and we couldn’t agree more.

I recently stumbled across a link to this 4 question test at Dining Hall that threw up the these four letters as my Blog Atma – INTP – explained as:

“You are an INTP!
As an INTP, you are Introverted, iNtuitive, Thinking, Perceiving.
This makes your primary focus on Introverted Thinking with an Extraverted Intution.

This is defined as a NT personality, which is part of Carl Jung’s Rational (Knowledge Seeking) type, and more specifically the Architect or Thinker.

As a weblogger, you might not be as concerned about popularity, but more with the ideas and theories that you strive to understand. Because routines aren’t your strong point, you might be more likely to work on the concept of how to do a blog, but not be as excited to keep it up.”

Now one could hope for some level of sanity and balance if the co author of the blog has a complementary personality – perhaps QTOL still has some hope if Neha turns out to be more of a stickler for routine.

Neha took the test as well and apparently her blog atma is also denoted by the very same four letters – INTP.

In short we like to explore and think, love change, but aren’t people who do something religiously. Although there are times when I seriously wish I could be as organized and regular as Mandira or my mother, honestly as of now I am quite content being an INTP 🙂

The Stars

This is a poem written by Nikhil, my nephew who is about 8 years old. Besides being an intelligent kid who loves to read and play, he’s an awesome big brother to the impish 2 1/2 year old Sanjana.

The Stars

Come out, come out

My dear little stars

Night will soon be here

If you don’t come out

I can’t see you appear.


I am standing at my balcony

And I can’t stay for long

As my mother is coming back soon

And she’ll call me back


Oh no!

Here she comes

I’m sorry but I must go

I wish I could see you shine

In that vast coat of black

But sadly now I must go

But please you don’t go!!

The River – by Nikhil Idiculla

This is a poem written by Nikhil, my nephew who is about 8 years old. Besides being an intelligent kid who loves to read and play, he’s an awesome big brother to the impish 2 1/2 year old Sanjana.

The River

It squiggles and wriggles
And houses many fish

And at dawn and dusk
It reflects the sun

It makes the land around it fertile
That so many plants can grow

But if you throw any old toy or shoe
You can cause a lot of woe

Be careful and take care of rivers
It is a very precious thing

If we let anyone spoil the river
It can affect the whole world!!!

A Decent Burial

I have mentioned before about the fact that most of my fond memories revolve around my brother who is about six years younger than me. He’s a very special child sensitive and intelligent with unique interests.

One of few things that he is passionate about is wildlife – for years I never saw him watch anything else on television beyond National Geographic, Discovery and Animal Planet. He devours pages after pages of books on animals and birds and rattles off their Latin names and their unique behaviours in an excited tone equivalent to “everyone on earth has just landed gold”. He has always had birds as pets at home and brings up their babies and their babies’ babies with tons of love and affection. I can still remember the excited glint in his eye as a middle school-er when he discovered the first batch of eggs his friends had laid, his crushing disappointment when a clutch failed and his over whelming joy at the sight of new born chicks.

It’s amazing to see him interact with his birds – they respond to his voice, play with him, communicate their worries as parents when a clutch of eggs are laid, let him clean and monitor the health of their new born babies – birds can be so much more personal and attached than one can imagine.

When we moved into a flat of our own in Bangalore after years of travelling through cities and various neighbourhoods, one of first things that we did was to convert his balcony into a well equipped aviary complete with rounded mud pots for nests, nesting material, lovely bowls for food , a smallish tub for them to have a bath and a smaller private area for those who need some space alone because of sickness or injury or plain simple maladjustment.

One of the biggest things that this lovely relationship has taught my brother is “death”. He experienced his first encounter with this heart wrenching separation when he was about 12 years old. One of his birds had fallen very sick and no amount of care could nurse Maco back to health. It almost broke all our hearts to see Maco’s partner hover around his body, trying to wake him up. Its a scene that’s burned in my memory like no other.

After some time when Maco’s partner had reconciled, my dad went ahead to take Maco out of the aviary and proceeded to wrap him in a newspaper and a plastic bag to “dispose”.

“Dispose”??!!!! My brother was extremely angry – now combined with the sadness of this loss you can just imagine how red his face could have gone. In his own words he wanted a “decent burial” which was “respectful”.

And so this Sunday morning was spent performing Maco’s last rites. After a few minutes of searching my brother and my dad zeroed in on a burial spot on an empty plot of land. My dad dug up a small grave while my brother put Maco in. They offered a fist of earth each as a token and said a few silent prayers before covering the grave with earth. To end the ceremony, they planted a small sapling of a bush nearby over Maco’s grave.

Losing a loved one is very sad, but giving a “decent burial” full of love and respect is indeed one of the best treasures of life. It’s a lovely acknowledgment of their moving on in their journey; an acceptance of their passing into another world and a higher plane.


Not so long ago laughter – voluminous, throaty, uncontrolled – had not really been an incessant part of my life. Yes, I was happy and did have “32 sparkling teethy peals” but then HahaHeheLol would become one of my greatest friends and treasure in life only in the December of 2003.

Although it may seem fairly recent if one compares it with human lifespan, I know that the events that took place in the winter of 2003 will remain one of the most QTOLish moments of my life. Just to clarify, I was doing my masters at TISS in Bombay which doesn’t have much of a winter – so this had nothing to do with the weather.

But then it had everything to do with the spirit of Christmas. Having spent three years previously in a Catholic College that gave me the joy of being a part of all the fun and festivities, I was feeling sad about missing out on all of that in TISS. Thankfully though, the campus did have Christmas celebrations and most importantly everybody seemed tuned into the Secret Santa game. “Yippie!!”, I thought and smiled to myself. “Some things in the world continue to be sane”.

Masters in Social Work turned out to be much much harder than I had thought. Apart from tons of assignments, academic pressures and blues of being away from home, the atmosphere was extremely tumultuous. The world suddenly seemed a little too upside down for comfort (note: it already was, which is why many of us were there at TISS – ‘to change’). Each day presented a bunch of new realities that we were supposedly being trained to analyse and develop strategies for – from communities living on garbage dumps to facing an eighteen year old lecherous boy as a ‘child with rights’. By the mid of first year the meaning of ‘develop strategies for’ on campus emerged as endless nonsensical debates, generous amounts of ambiguity and extremely polar ideas. TISS at this point was like being in the company of an eclectic group of beings who’d have issues with the fact that something was a ‘non issue’. The most cliched question of the moment was always ‘But who decides?’, indicating the ever lasting ambiguity of individual freedom versus working in the interests of people. In short every single conversation would begin and end in concentric circles. Now if one adds a dollop of hostel woes, ranging from ‘smoky reeking corridors’ to ‘sleeping with bright lights and loud noises’, to this already confusing and tumultuous situation – you’d understand why I was yearning so much for a game of Secret Santa.

So on this lovely December 2003 afternoon, in a rather unpleasant DH (Dining Hall), we all had to pick small chits of paper with names of people who we were to adopt secretly – and send them gifts, goodies and letters, or torture them till Christmas eve. Soon I became a temporary mother. But then there were unfortunate souls whose names had not been picked. An ominous poster declaring their orphanhood was put up, requesting people to adopt. The idea of two children dint appeal to me, so quite frankly I still don’t know why I adopted ‘HahaHeheLol’. It just took a small suggestion from rather cute and diminutive neighbour Chandni and I had a daughter who was going through as much of a cranky bad patch as I was. Perhaps, this is what is called destiny.

Over the next few weeks, I don’t know what got into me, I sent my child loads and loads of handmade gifts with lovely handmade paper in numerous varieties. Even a small silly note would be laboriously made, I spent hours together each night getting my act to make each day special for my child. It was midnight oil burning at its best. No , this wasn’t a competition, and I dint even know ‘HahaheheLol’ – in fact we had not even exchanged pleasantries. But somehow her booming laughter, excited ‘show off of gifts’ in class, her small notes drizzled with a hundred ‘lols’ – these smaller things just made my day. This world of sheer joy, laughter and child like excitement seemed so far away from endless debates and assignments. And yet it was so truly life like and so much ‘human’ in essence.

I even sent her an embroidered handmade paper folder!!!

Neha and I got to know each other pretty well through that game and we’ve shared a lovely friendship ever since. We’re so connected that one would think that perhaps there is a mini device that aligns our wavelength and thoughts together. We go crazy over little things, laugh like raccoons over frivolous stuff, love the quaint and argue like children. The Internet’s biggest boon has been the fact that I have been able to share the same amount of space and time in spite of the distance – over email, IM or this blog. I continue to receive virtual or sms notes splattered with dozens of smileys, hahas, hehes and lols.

Thanks Neha, alias HahaheheLol, for all the laughter and joy you bring into my life.


I migrated to the world of techies about a year ago, joining my husband in running our small software startup. Before this I worked in a happily “disconnected” environment with a million woes of technology that one could crib about.

Technology woes can be super magnified within the environs of those proclaimed to be “not for profit”. No, this isnt because “social workers” aren’t tech savvy – we surf the net, understand words like “server” and “trojan”, understand blogging and widgets, know what a bluetooth transfer is, understand how wifi works, are plugged into the iphone hype and the rest of the related blah. Rather this annoying jinx with technology is a result of the complicated measures that somehow seem to plague even the simplest of IT solutions in an NGO setup. For example in my previous job, we used Microsoft Exchange Server for email and (ahem) collaboration. Combined with strange connectivity and virus issues that seemed to be confined to the periphery of the organization along with troublesome server settings that seemed to magically change with every single breath, we did anything but “collaborate”.

Most of us were in a perpetual state of “where is this file” , “where is that folder” , “oh that mail dint come” and “all my mails are bouncing back”.

But the QTOL thing about being in such an environment is the fact that one can continue to resemble “humans of this age and time”. Yes, we could all afford to miss the bus of evolution resulting in ” the next generation of humans” and enjoy the bliss of “disconnectedness”.

The happily disconnected lot – surf, use the mobile and perhaps even blog – but they:

1. Do not open a million browser windows (with a zillion tabs within each)

2. Do not need maps for directions in India

3. Do not need something like Twitter to tell the world that they are bored, or super smart, or sleeping or yawning

4. Can do without reading their emails for a week and can stay off their IMs without falling into social isolation

5. Do not substitute Google with plain simple “hellos” and “business cards” in a social gathering

6. Do not get into depression because there is no internet or mobile connectivity

7. Do not need “a Second life”

There are several other such lovely traits of this happily disconnected lot – the fact is that they are so well connected to the presence of living forms through the traditional medium of “air” that they do not crave for the modern “connected” mediums like emails, IMs, tagging, scrapping, linking and the blah.

At a recent conference that I attented, face to face interaction dint seem to suffice and people wanted to get online on their super cool laptops (almost compulsively) to browse, even though listening could have given them the very same information. I swear I could see antennas growing out of their heads, so you can imagine their need to “connect” virtually with the mere whiff of the presence of such a network.

I am happy to say that in spite of being a part of a software startup, I am still miles away from growing an antenna. I blog because I love writing and its a free and convenient way to communicate what I write, I use IM largely to save on phone bills. I recently bought my mobile on the internet because it took me less than 10 minutes to do so, as against several tiring hours negotiating the crowd at UniverCell. More importantly I avoided the mental fatigue resulting from trying to choose between many many models with a zillion features presented by “as a rule I shall be unhelpful” salespeople.

Yet I am not hooked or addicted. I am not in love with the virtual connections and I can live without it.

My happiest moments continue to be random moments that crowd the monotony of life – like puris puffing into full sized balloons and bobbing on the surface the very first time I make them. And I’d exchange “a lifetime of connectivity” for the feel of a vast green virgin beach (minus the “meen fry”, “mulagai bajji” and “xxx chaat” of course).

I am proud to be still swimming in the bliss of “disconnectedness”!!

A Frothy Affair

Holidays at our ancestral home in Kulithalai would always be filled with lovely incidents – moments that you can look back on years later and smile.

My brother and a cousin, Sridhar, both kindergartners at the time of this incident, had gone snooping around the largish family house, while another older cousin, Krishna and I were buried in our books. As the older kids we indulged in more discipline and sitting tolerance while we waited for our daily dose of snacks at regular intervals. Obviously the two smaller kids left to entertain themselves indulged in a variety of unconventional games, from poking toads in the back garden, counting cobwebs in the attic to collecting weird shaped stones.

Life was beautifully lazy and the day just seemed to fit into this description till my chitthi (aunt) spotted some figures peeping into the well in the front yard. Soon she figured that what seemed like “peeping” from a distance, was actually “throwing” rather enthusiastic “throwing”. My brother was busy emptying packets after packets of something while my cousin was egging him on “Pooduda Podu” (roughly translating as “Throw, come on throw” in English).

Oi, you kids scoot from here. What do you think you’re up to?”, my chitthi called out. She approached the well and let out a horrified scream.

The well had transformed into a massive bucket of froth!! The kids had emptied a few packets of Wheel detergent powder into the well!!! It was simple enough for them to give blank stares and get inside the house quickly for some delicious food.

The real project of the day had however just begun. As the news of the latest prank spread, no one thought of scolding the kids. On the contrary, everyone seemed quite entertained in spite of the mammoth task that was ahead of them – the well needed to be rid of all the soapy water. My dad and my uncle began emptying out all the water, while the rest of us watched the show. I dint think it was possible for a well to be emptied!! It took several hours for them to successfully skim off the layer of soapy water. In the process they discovered quite a few random objects like a soap bar, a mug, a soap box which had found their way into the well.

Though no one was admonished for the prank, you can be rest assured that the Wheel detergent packets at Kulithalai have never been anywhere close to the well since that day. In fact no one ever knows where they are hidden, away from the prying eyes of pranksters.

The Pencil that wouldn’t grow

Lower Kindergarten was a wildly interesting year for me. I had met a bunch of other kids and found exciting opportunities to experiment and dabble in all the strange stuff around us together. Predictably much of this was baffling for my mother, who could never figure reasons behind strange phenomena, like a missing lunch box or sudden body rashes (from playing with Parthenium grass) . Though she was clever enough to figure that “I” was involved in some way or the other.

I remember this one particular time when my friend and I decided on a new experiment. We had noticed that each time a pencil was sharpened, its lead grew longer than before. My friend’s hunch was that if we kept sharpening, the lead will probably touch the classroom ceiling. I wasn’t so sure though, after all the lead seemed to be growing with the pencil was shrinking. So my take was that it would probably be as long as the pencil at the maximum. But this of course needed observation and some validation, even as kindergartners we were quite conscious about factual inference. So about five or six of us got together and decided to experiment.

Break time was spent in sharpening all our pencils continuously but none of the leads touched the ceiling or came anywhere close to a pencil’s length. The teacher would be quite bewildered that a whole bunch of us had no proper pencils to write after break. Each day I would return home with one inch pencils, and my mom would patiently lecture me on how I need to use them wisely and give me a new set. A couple of days passed with no success.

Finally my mom, who was growing sick of the “two new pencils a day” norm, threatened that she’d remove the sharpener from my pencil box. In my language this meant reducing it to cave man standards and losing my status as “the kid with the complete pencil box set” in lower kindergarten. She had successfully put me in a spot – I decided not to persist with our experiment of trying to make pencil leads grow. By the end of the year though I did figure how pencils worked.

Ice Cream Cone: Eating Techniques

I had always thought that there was only way to eat an ice cream out of a cone. Start from the top by licking the ice cream scoop and finish by chewing the cone all the way to the bottom. My amma had told me very strictly that this was the proper way – “clean and no spilling”. The right speed of ice cream licking was also equally important, it had to be fast enough to prevent the ice cream from melting and slow enough to savour the taste.

But while attending a largish family wedding in Srirangam when I was around five years old, my cousin busted the myth of “one clean way of eating cone ice cream”.

She was as old as me, but seemed far more experienced when it came to enjoying ice cream in a cone. She said she could eat it bottom up – eating the cone first and savouring the ice cream last. Another interesting technique involved pushing the ice cream all the way to the bottom with your tongue, this again ensured that you ended with the yummy taste of delicious ice cream. She also pointed out that one could always just eat the ice cream and throw away the cone, although I wasn’t convinced about this being another technique. Apparently one could also wait for the ice cream to melt inside the cone and drink this like some kind of a shake. Again, I wasn’t sure if the ice cream would melt on the “inside” or “outside”.

But it was clear that she had experimented with several different innovative ways, this made me feel jealous and unsettled. So highly unsettled that I decided to ignore being a “good obedient girl” for a while. She promised that she would demonstrate at least one of the techniques in the evening when the ice cream vendor usually did his rounds.

The wedding was over and it was time for the quick afternoon resting followed by some good ice cream for the kids. Most kids opted in for the Chocobar, while my cousin and I went in for a scoop of chocolate flavour in a cone. I decided to try the bottom up approach, not too experimental yet unconventional.

Of course my cousin had to first demonstrate and prove that it was a method that actually worked. So she took a neat little bite of the cone’s bottom. Well, nothing awful seemed to happen. I was of course licking my ice cream away, I would switch to the bottom when I was convinced that everything was under control in the alternative method. My cousin progressed quite seamlessly to about the quarter of the cone. “See, I told you, nothing will happen. This is the best way to eat cone ice cream”.

I considered for a second and was just about to switch, when I suddenly saw something dropping out of her bottom side of the cone. She had chewed up to half of the cone and the ice cream had started to melt!!! I was rapidly licking away mine, biting the cone while watching her struggle to keep her technique going. Her ice cream starting dropping from the top half as well, and over flowed on to the sides. Her brave efforts to save the yummy scoop dint work and in the next couple of minutes it was all over her dress with a larger generous portion plopped on the muddy road.

I was starting to feel much better, after all my conventional method gave me the joy of eating an ice cream. But then she threw a coup and took me by complete surprise. She started to cry, actually, make that “wail”. Soon a group of concerned adults surrounded her. “Poor kid, her ice cream melted, let’s buy her another one”.

What??!!! Here I was, a good girl eating ice cream the proper way and she was the one getting all the attention. She got to choose a bigger and better Cassatta. After all the adults had to give her the best deal to make her stop crying!!

I consoled myself by saying that at least I hadn’t spoilt my dress and that I dint suffer from any ignorance – there wasn’t any bottom up approach of eating cone ice cream.

The case of a false ticket

The unassuming gullible Mama (uncle) was traveling with his four year old nephew – their destination was a few hours away, and Nikhil was already getting restless. He was just into kindergarten and wanted to have some fun….what could possibly be a fun thing do on a train?

Just as his imagination started to run, a middle aged man in a black coat holding a bunch of papers appeared – it was time for the routine ticket checking. Just as Satish, the uncle supposedly “in-charge”, reached for the ticket in his pocket, Nikhil held Satish’s hand firmly. The kid pulled out a shaggy piece of paper from his pocket instead and handed it over to the Ticket Inspector. “Here’s our ticket.”

The Baffled Ticket Inspector said, “No no, this cant be the ticket. Please show me the real ticket”.

Nikhil, “No no, this is the ticket”

Ticket Inspector, losing his patience by now, “This is not a real ticket, I cannot accept this”

“No, this is the real ticket. Please take”. A volley of such no-no’s followed interrupted by some scuffling with Satish Mama and his requests for being allowed to fish out the real one from his pocket. But would this bored kid listen? Nikhil persisted with his argument, though finally within a couple of minutes the “real” Indian Railways ticket emerged.

Needless to say the Ticket Inspector moved on as quickly as possible rather relieved but still flustered.

Nikhil was smiling though. “I was just having some fun Mama” he said with a naughty glint in his eyes.

Strictly Business

Conventional Logic says that people mature as they grow older – our emotional quotient graph supposedly moves upward with each passing day’s adventures giving us a bit of “gyaan”. But there are times when I wonder if this is an “upward” trend of the EQ graph or of the CQ graph (Complexity quotient graph).

Each passing day seems to make us more complex especially in day to day relationships – we become more prone to tact and diplomacy, more measured in our communication. Whereas as a child I remember having a very straightforward life, with direct relationships and simple communication – I did very well without the tools of diplomacy, arguments, tact, silence and elaborate logic. My social tools consisted of just plain truth and common sense – simple and beautiful.

A couple of incidents that took place when my brother was around five or six years old, show how straightforward social interactions can be with children.

We were new at this regular Delhi school, with regular teachers. My brother had never been an easy child for many teachers simply because he dint understand the language of authority. Complaints, cribs and regular notices were immediate defenses of teachers who lacked the competency to communicate with my brother. But this one particular time, one of the teachers decided that perhaps a visit to the Principal’s office would do the trick. “Maybe he’ll listen then”, she must have thought.

Unfortunately for her, the scene in the Principal’s office went something like this:

Principal: Raghavan, what have you been up to? Do you know why you have been brought here?

Raghavan: (puzzled) I don’t know. I have no business in the your office. I’m going back to my classes.

And before the two adults in the room could blink, he was gone – he’d scooted away to his classroom.

Needless to say I was called and questioned on behalf on my brother and a visit from my mother followed the subsequent morning. We all agreed that there was something fundamentally wrong with the way the teachers were dealing with my brother. After all being concerned with one’s own business is no crime!!

On another occasion, all kids of Class 2 were being punished for creating a ruckus between classes. My brother refused to take the punishment, he simply said, “I wasn’t making any noise, I wont take the punishment”.

On each of these occasions he was only stating simple truth, and he dint need to resort to any tact or silence.

What do you think? Do we grow more complicated in our social communication as we grow older? Do we perhaps pass over simple truth and common sense for complex social norms?

My Dad and I

I am glad to say that my life’s always spiced up with the many relationships that I have with people ranging from the amusing, eccentric and romantic to the plain business types.

In particular I share a rather interesting relationship with my Appa (dad). No we don’t fit into the typical “father’s favourite is the daughter” or “father+daughter= best friends” category, neither is he the archetypal “strict orthodox father” who expects implicit obedience.

My appa is very unique, which is what makes the smallest moments with him special. With a speedy swagger and tuft of hair reminiscent of Rajnikanth, he’s somewhere between your mad scientist and Tamil hero of the 80s. His hobby is to “learn new stuff and experiment” – it could be anything from a programming language to a new unheard of dish (possibly his own inventions). His fetish for experimentation is so high particularly in the kitchen that it remains to this day the single biggest source of conflict between my amma (mom) and appa. Each morning witnesses a routine mini Mahabharata scene – only this time the war is over the kitchen.

I never realized why my amma found his kitchen exploits so bothersome till recently when I was supposedly in charge of the kitchen while she was travelling. But one has to commend him for his unconventional methods of cooking – his dishes turn out quite yummy at times.

He loves the pure sciences, though he’s spent most of his professional life in banking and finance. Yet this doesn’t stop him from using his scientific temper to explain the tiniest of things – like this one time when he associated his back pain with some famous scientific law. It’s lovely having him explain all the interesting stuff around us which we hardly know about, and adds in some hard to come by humour to our lives.

Though what his knowledge also means is that plumbers, electricians and men who do odd jobs are not to be summoned by any one of us under any circumstances. He believes in doing the fixing himself, the trouble is that by the time the fixing happens – things are too “unfixed” to be fixed. Invariably he has strange teaching methods too – the smallest of math doubts has to be cleared beginning with a history of math and the like. He is too elaborate and at times he takes us a little too deep into a subject – so deep that usually I’d forget the doubt I had in the first place.

My appa has always been very liberal with his children, he has always let us debate with him. I think almost everyday sees us argue over something or the other – these random arguments have gifted me critical thinking and the ability to analyze. He is one of the few and rare adults who are non hierarchical with small children especially toddlers. Its a joy to see him interact and play with children, he has the amazing ability to connect at their wavelength.

Our arguments however haven’t always been friendly, non competitive ones. In my younger days especially, an argument not ending with my final note meant defeat. And when I was six years old it meant, I was just being “scolded” for no reason. So to punish my appa, at that age I would switch off the lights while he was engrossed in reading the newspaper.

As you can see, he is not a typical parent – even when it came to getting his kids the “material stuff”. He’s never indulged in posh, “in vogue” gifts”, he’s bought us stuff that bring in little joys. I love my appa for the smaller things in life he’s given us. Like this one time when I was close to two years old, he bought me a roadside plastic toy that kept jumping up and down. Apparently I was absolutely delighted, my amma says she had never seen me laugh so gleefully. That little piece of plastic that my appa demonstrated to me was much more wonderful than any of the costly stuffed toys that I have ever had. I have seen many fathers who think twice before buying their kids something that’s aesthetically not pleasing, but my appa with his intuitive understanding of little kids knew that I’d love it.

Very recently he started learning a programming language (as a hobby) – his ability to grasp new things has never diminished with age, neither has his speed in doing things. Although as his daughter I have never been able to match his speed or intelligence, he keeps me inspired to this day.

I love my appa and the relationship I share with him. It just pours in a lot more zest and spice into my life.

A Suitable Match

I am sure each one of us at some point or the other has been a part of or a witness to the rather cliched conversations called “how to find the right guy?” (or even more cliched “is being single better than being married?”).

I’d like to put one thing on record before I continue to ramble – I’m happily married to a South Indian geek who loves to write code all day long.

So, getting back to our story – each time I would got caught in this endless warp of “how to figure the right guy?”, I would fall back on the pearls of wisdom uttered by my cousin when he was six years old and engraved into the family wisdom heirloom for posterity. More importantly it would provide much needed comic relief from the overloaded dialogues on “higher tangents to be considered” that these conversations had.

Sunil was a feisty young boy , sharp and quick witted with an adorable two year old sister, Subha. There was nothing unusual about the day – usual simmering Delhi summer. So perhaps it is best and most just to attribute the sudden revelation of this young boy to hidden maturity and knowledge in children that we choose to ignore as adults.

On this hot summery day, during one of those lovely imaginary games that children play, Subha (loaded with all the enthusiasm to display her newly acquired language skills) asked Sunil, “Anna, will you marry me? Then I can stay with you forever”.

Sunil, “No no Kuttas, you can’t marry your own brother. You should not marry any relatives”

Subha, “But then who will I marry?” (Sigh, who would have thought two year olds could have such complex worries )

Sunil, “You know you need to find someone who you think you like”

Subha, “So then I can marry my classmate who I like?”

Sunil, “No, No…You need to consider before you marry someone – his family, what does he do, is he a nice guy and does he have good habits. You should only marry someone who is fairly known to the family. Or we should get to know the guy well.”

And thus the guidelines for the women of Ranganthan family to refer to while finding that elusive “suitable match” were set by Thiru (tamil for Mr) Sunil Sampath on a hot day in Delhi whose date I forget.

1. Never marry family. Extend it to include people who even remotely resemble family.

2. Marry someone who you think you like.

3. Get to know the guy well before marriage – what does he do in life? what about his family? is he a nice person?

4. Check if the guy has good habits – for those uninitiated into the culture of tamil matrimony, when an ad reads “boy with clean habits”, it means drinking and smoking are a big no.

5. Family needs to get to know the guy and his family well.

Simple but from experience I know to be effective.

Scolding Children!!!

There is a whole treasure trove of memories associated with my brother who is six years younger than me. His quick wit, fierce independence and revolt to adult hierarchy have combined to give me some of the most memorable and loved moments of life.

I was not necessarily a naughty kid, but exceptionally clumsy. On one of those random clumsy moments when I was around 12 years old, I broke my mom’s finest Borosil piece while taking it out of the microwave. Predictably the usual scene of my mom howling down at me started playing – why did “you remove” when “you were NOT even supposed to touch”? She was mighty distressed at losing this piece, that too quite so abruptly. As with typical “mommy tirades”, this one went on and on to include detailed narrations of my numerous super clumsy moments. By the time she was on the third such story of my supreme clumsiness, my cheeks had started to burn, my eyes were flushed red and hot tears were streaming down.

Just when the scene seemed to evolve into a typical parent child confrontation of monstrous proportions, we suddenly heard a booming voice “Scolding Children??!!”. My three and three quarters foot six year old brother was glaring at my mother, with fisted hands at his hips. “How dare you scold children? Scolding children is bad. Don’t scold Akka”. It took us a minute to realize what had happened.

The tension had been broken – all the anger and tears transformed into peals of laughter. No one could argue with the wisdom of a six year old – scolding children was indeed “bad” (and unpleasant). The fight for the rights of children had no resistance, my brother had won this battle hands down.

And he claimed his prize with equal style!!! My mom had to apologize and promise my brother that she’ll never scold children again (she’s almost lived that promise though there have been minor instances).

The Task

What could be the most difficult thing to do when you are 5 years old? Trying to get your younger brother to wear his shoes?

A novice yourself, the task gets a wee bit more difficult when you are handed over the responsibility for those who are completely new to the trade. You need to prove your capabilities, live up to the expectations of your mother and be responsible for your kid brother. Definitely a lot to shoulder when you are just 5!

And so the operation ‘Shoe Wearing’ begins. The straps of the shoes are successfully opened. The right foot is slid in after some initial effort. And now comes the time to close the straps. A little difficult given the circumstances of age and size! So help is required, but from whom? At this point even emotional support from the one whom you are responsible for will do. So the little bro is asked to chip in with some help. The effort now just a sheer physical effort, completely based on trial and error because logic fails where ignorance begins. That’s the time for real innovation, “finding your own logic”! And yes the trick worked. The two together did get the straps shut at the cost of dirty pairs of hands. The first flap is shut and the second one follows with more ease.

First stage of the operation is over, the younger one all too keen to get the left one done as well, as soon as possible. But the leader has a few different plans. First success definitely calls for a victory celebration. So the leader goes all out on a victory march. With his shirt open and wet, hands dirty the building compound serves as a perfect road for his victory march.

And the little bro, left stranded, in the middle of this shoe-wearing operation, left with his only defenses of crying and running behind his rescuer (read the victorious).

In the end- the defenses work. After 5 minutes there is once again a victory march, this time the little winner walks his victory march through the compound with both his shoes on!

Life at 5 and 3 is definitely existential!

Music is everywhere; it’s for the creator to find its source!

For all those people who have had the privilege to travel by local trains in Mumbai, they would have also been witness to the crowds and chaos on the local train stations that dot the city of Mumbai through its lengths and breadth.

One of the many rituals and entities that form a part of the local train station culture in Mumbai are the Boot polish stalls. Scattered through the platforms, these boot polish men and boys provide the quick smart look for all those on their way to important meetings, first job interviews, perhaps a lunch date and anything that gets someone to want to have smart, clean and shiny pair of shoes!

The job is done most efficiently, both in terms of the time as well as the result produced. Care is taken to make sure the polish does not spill over to the clothes, care is also taken to make sure that every corner of the shoe shines when the job is done, so that the 5 Rupees earned is for a job well done! The timing is so impeccable that it ensures that the customer doesn’t miss his next train!

The typical set up for the boot polish guy is a square box, with a drawer, which contains all the important material, the different shoe shine colors, brushes and the shine cloth. The Top of the box has a three-sided foot rest. The rest where the customer’s feet find nudge themsleves comfortably when the master is at work! The typical spot, which this artist occupies so that he is not in the middle of the crowds and yet at the same time can be found easily by any pair of feet wanting a polish, is against the pillars that are spread throughout the platform.

Between any two jobs he is left alone with his machinery and time to kill. Typically if you have been around one of these stalls when they are not tired and are eliciting customers, the ritual is they hit the brush against the stand, and making a repeatedly monotonous sound…thak…..thak…..thak….thak…. till the next customer arrives. The customer at that point in time is not only a boon to the stall guy, as he brings him the next income for the day but is also a boon to the by standers as he spares the already noisy and crowded station from the additional noise of the waiting boot polish guy.

But then one day, I bump into a boot polish stall that not only polishes the boot, but also creates music in his spare time to elicit customers. As part of my daily ritual I was standing next to his stall waiting to board my next local train, when suddenly I saw the box and the stand in front of the guy being turned into a musical instrument of enormous potential.

Perhaps uneveness of the box, varied thickness of each side of the box, the stand open position with the closed position of the box, and perhaps a zillion other such permutations and combinations of space and mass , resulted in a different sound for each hit of the brush on a different part of that ensemble.

Soon after a few experimental trials of hitting the brush on different parts, as though tuning the instrument to check for the right sound, a rhythm followed. It was a simple beat with varied sounds, which converted itself into a nice piece of music. I enjoyed the show till my train arrived and I had to leave the show mid way. But this show seems to repeat at regular intervals between his shoe shining jobs.

In his own way, this guy who sits on platform No. 1 at Grant Road station has made his shoe shining box into a unique musical instrument providing soothing sound to all those waiting, rather than simply adding noise to the environment like most of his other colleagues! Cheers to the Musician and his Instrument!

The Quaint Treasures of Life

Hello World! The Quaint Treasures of Life aka QTOL has arrived (finally)!!

This story begins on a rather sleepy day in a random boring class lecture. We – introducing Lakshmi and Neha – were sitting on the last bench , having a conversation by scribbling in our notebooks and we thought that given the fact that we dint have too many ideas on what we wanted out of life (read career), why not write about things that made us happy! Thus an idea was born. Those fifty minutes of class time were actually used to scrible down an introduction to the magazine as well as the name – The Quaint Treasures of Life (QTOL). And the name found an approval in a way very few things find that rare ‘yes’ in unanimity!

That was a couple of years ago, when we were still in our last year of becoming social workers in our master’s programme at a place called TISS. Since then, the idea continued to tickle us but somehow the notebook we wrote in got lost in our practicalities of getting ourselves some form of employment. Employment, that plaid old story called job, lead us to different cities and turned the QTOL into a good fantasy to indulge in whenever frustration got the better of us.

But like all lovely things in life the idea, as you can see, never disappeared. Today our lives possess a dose of “stability” that’s enough to keep the eyebrows from rising and our madness remains undiminished. In more practical terms this means that there is no way that we want to delay this any further!

So that’s how finally QTOL’s here! BUT what in the world is it???

There are small moments, and there are big events…in the end when anyone looks back at their day or their life, the moments that bring a smile on our faces are those small, random, inconspicuous moments and people within it that make life so interesting!

When most people write, they often wonder whether they’re writing something worthwhile, whether the writings truly have any meat for people to read about and publish. But it’s often these thoughts and stories that are the most beautiful.

QTOL is all about the smaller stories of the bigger picture. It’s a space where we want to write, write to express the small and hidden beauty and treasures of life – where we try to capture on a piece of electronic paper thoughts and moments that make life so worth living. We will write to reflect on the small creative geniuses that inhabit our daily mundane worlds – moments and people very few of us wait to think about. And yet they are the very that reflect the magnanimity of life!

QTOL wishes to share with all its readers the treasures and beauty of life as reflected through the quaint moments that we seem to bump into everyday!

Hope that bumping into us has been a pleasant time for you and leads you on to appreciate the quaint treasures of life as well!

Enjoy the ride! And hope you join us in the journey! 

P.S: And yeah, who are we? As we said we are two mad random friends who met during our master’s programme in social work. One of us, Lakshmi is now an entrepreneur in the techie world and inhabits the land of idlis dosas, Chennai and the other one Neha is still very much in figuring out the social work scenario wanders and hops around on our very own Bombay roads!