Category Archives: THE STUFF OF MEMORIES

now there’s a nice word !

Some days ago,  I played a few rounds of the game “Hangman” with them.

Noor constructed a word that I’ll remember for a very long time.

After I’d guessed the 2 letters that made up the last 4 of the 9 letter word, the first five seemed kind of obvious. I mean, the 5 letters to come before the last 4 -which were “Mama”- would have to be “sweet”, no? Or so my eager heart wanted it to be ! But I thought I should leave the surprising and delighting of me to her, so went around the alphabet making the wrong choices so as not to “get” it in time. And I was, finally, surprised and delighted with the word anyway, for it wasn’t “sweetmama” after all but “suitemama”.

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One poet’s answer to an existential dilemma

Dev’s e-mail a couple of days ago revived memories of the strong impression Nissim Ezekiel’s poems made on me in school and prompted me to find out more about him on the internet. And I found, in an obituary of him, two lines from one of his poems that I felt spoke to me. Or rather, to the ambivalence I feel as someone who chooses so far to live outside her native environment yet wonders about the rightness of it.

“……..Ezekiel once described India as too large for anyone to be at home in all of it. However, after tenures as visiting professor at Leeds University (1964) and Chicago (1967), plus lecture tours and conferences, he always gravitated back to his native city. Though a natural outsider, he still felt Indian, albeit “incurably critical and sceptical”. As he wrote in Background, Casually: “Others choose to give themselves/ In some remote and backward place./ My backward place is where I am.”

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Remembering a poet

Thanks to Dev for forwarding this collection of poems by Nissim Ezekiel, a poet whose “Night of the Scorpion”,  a part of our poetry curriculum in class 10, was my first introduction to free verse.

A very detailed and interesting study of “Night of the Scorpion” can be found here

WHISPERS  by Nissim Ezekiel

1.

When the day is over,

let it go.
Don’t try and stay awake
to get some more work done.
Flow into the night.2.
Say No to Positive Thinking
When the evidence is Negative.
That, too, is holy ground.
Walk on it quietly;
don’t moralise, don’t explain it
as the Will of God.

3.
If you can’t sleep,
remain awake peacefully.
In the darkness, be darkness.

4.
Some food is perfect,

needs no sauce,
no comparisons.
Eat, be grateful,
and turn away from it.5.
In Central Park, New York,

a friend said:
Let’s get out of here,
I’ve heard it’s not safe.
So we got out.
A beautiful place, but not safe;
a human place after all.6.
How much I have lived!
Whatever I could take, I took –

and it was good.
Now I need
to make it good for others.7.
In Rotterdam
or some other city

I made friends
(What else could I do?)
with many I met.
They showed me around,
paid for our drinks,
we talked about our lives and things.
Then, of course, the letters,
and, then, of course, the silences.Only in heaven or hell

are people always together.8.
From barrenness and boredom
to a revelation

is only one small leap.
If only you prepare for it,
it happens.9.
What I say to my soul

is not important.
What my soul says to me
lights up the universe.10.
A good waiter

takes the orders patiently,
and served what was ordered.
So should the poet
in his invisible cafe.11.
Know

that you are half-blind,
and cannot clearly see
the simplified act of will.
Then, as in a dream, you see yourself
transformed.
Enact that dream.12.
Surprise

at the first sprouting
of a white flag
among the pubic hair,
collapses into shame
and humiliation. Blood
protests, erect in rage.
The phallic god
knows neither youth nor age.13.
Develop subtlety,
then give it up.
You are not

what you develop
or give up.
You are only the process
of growing up.14.
Whatever happens

every day,
The Sun shines on you,
Shine back!
Shine back!
Even if only
with a little pocket mirror.15.
Harsh. Unfair.
Your enemy
is telling you the truth.
Do not turn for comfort

to your faceless friends.
Resist. Defend yourself.
But let your armour
be sackcloth and ashes.16.
Work twice as hard

as the hardest worker you know,
You may achieve
half as much.
The lowest rung of grace
may still be out of sight.
Remain where you are
with grace.17.
Son has  a new toy.
Father has a new idea.
Both are at play.
Son with toy.
Father with idea

Watched by mother
Who has neither toy nor idea.18.
Imagine you are blind:
go on, imagine it

for a day or even an hour.
You may learn to use your eyes.19.
Every man is a man of Sorrows,

with the gifts of God.20.
I have faith in magic:
formulae, incantations, devices,

mystic exercises
and simple hard work.21.
Who is this

swimming in the Ocean of Human Misery?
It’s me.22.
I believe in Love –
and morning walks.

—————————————————————————————————-
Source: The Brown Critique – A Literary Quarterly ; October 1999 (Calcutta)
Special Issue (Nostalgia)

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Blueberry Muffins – A holiday memory

Yesterday, Indira asked if we could bake blueberry muffins today.

Never having noticed before that she is fond of this variety of muffins, I was curious as to the reason she wanted to make them.

She told me that she loves the muffins they serve for breakfast  on the flight from Nice to Zurich – we almost always  fly on Swiss, when we travel back each year to India – and that it is always a blueberry muffin.

So we picked up fresh blueberries in Carrefour yesterday and made these cupcakes today in the morning for breakfast.

Blueberry Muffins

125-150 g of fresh blueberries

1 and 3/4 cups of flour (all-purpose or whole wheat or semi-wholewheat)

1/2 a cup of sugar

1/4 cup of softened butter

1 tbsp of baking powder

3/4 cup of milk

1 tsp of vanilla

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon of salt

Wash and dry the blueberries.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, the baking powder and the salt.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Then add the egg and whisk everything together.

Add the milk and the vanilla and mix thoroughly.

Now pour in the flour mixture, stir it in well, then add the blueberries and mix them in lightly.

Put a tablespoon or so of the batter in to each of the cups of a muffin tray and bake at 200 degrees C for 25-40 minutes till the muffins are nicely browned.

While using  fresh blueberries as a baking ingredient does feel like a pity to me – the original recipe does say that frozen berries will do as well but the ones we buy here are too sour for my liking and I therefore tend to avoid them –  I have to say that these cupcakes are quite nice too, with the delicious taste of the berries spread through as the fruit softens on baking.

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A little thrill…a piece of my writing in print!

“Chicken Soup for the Indian Mother’s Soul” – this series is published by Westland Books in India – is out, with this essay (a revised, edited version) about Ma in it.

Good feeling, that 🙂

Showed the book  to Indira last night, and she actually read through the piece !

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A Rocking Kermesse 2010

Today, it was the annual kermesse – a word derived from the Dutch language– or fete in Indira and Noor’s school.

This typically involves a dance performance by every class, followed by food and games stands.

Noor’s class – the moyenne section – were adorable as they did a German polka.

Indira’s class put on an impressive act as they danced to “I’ve got a Feeling” by the Black Eyed Peas.

As I watched their well-practiced hip-hop moves, I found myself thinking that this was a far cry from the more sedate stuff we used to do in school all those years ago (cut to a memory of my classmates and me in Grade 5 or 6 or 7, holding candles on stage, dressed in white and singing “God’s love, is so beautiful…” or some such under Sister Manisha’s direction).

This afternoon was so much more fun !

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Helping Hands

Indira and Noor both love to help in the kitchen and I confess I enjoy having willing hands take on all the little chores.

On Saturday we made a carrot cake together. I took some for the baby shower we had for Ayesha at Shefali’s home on Sunday and packed the rest for gouter for the dads and children who obligingly spent the afternoon together at the park in Sophia playing tennis, while the women partied at home.

The highlight of that baking session was that Indira  peeled the carrots. She learned the technique just then but did a remarkably good job anyway.

So this morning as I peeled carrots to make salad for the boulangerie, I found myself missing that help !

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