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”.


Leave a comment


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.”

Leave a comment


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


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.

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

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.

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

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)

Leave a comment


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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Breakfast Ideas, Cakes and Muffins, THE STUFF OF MEMORIES

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 !

Leave a comment


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 !

Leave a comment

Filed under LE FUTTED BALLON-life with the girls, THE STUFF OF MEMORIES

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 !

Leave a comment

Filed under LE FUTTED BALLON-life with the girls, THE STUFF OF MEMORIES

Mother’s Day 2010

Yet another Mother’s Day that they’ve made very special with their lovely cards and gifts.

Then, at lunch in a nice restaurant in the old town of Antibes, Indira startled and delighted me with her knowledge of the word rhetorical.

She asked, “What does rhetorical mean?” and then proceeded to answer the question herself. She asked if it was like a situation where the teacher might say “So who’s talking?!” when in fact the teacher knew who the culprit was.

So I wondered if the teacher had said just that, one day and then told the class that her question was rhetorical.

Then it was Noor’s turn to surprise me next, as she contributed her bit to the discussion of playground tensions in the primary section. I remember that I was quite impressed to hear her speak a couple of big words with ease that I would not have imagined she’d know how to use…it evades me now what she said exactly; I’ll ask Indira in the morning if she remembers the conversation.

I have to say I get a kick out of hearing them use their growing vocabulary. It’s amusing, it’s sweet and it’s pleasing too, that they learn and remember these big words.

Leave a comment

Filed under LE FUTTED BALLON-life with the girls, THE STUFF OF MEMORIES

A Very Special Christmas

Meelie was here 🙂

As was her husband Anu and though they were here for less than 48 hours, the Christmas eve and day we spent with them has been one of the  highlights of this year for me.

The torrential (“elephants and hippopotamuses”, as the girls kept saying) rain of the previous five days stopped magically on 25th morning so that we had a beautiful sunny day. We spent it in St. Paul de Vence where we actually managed to eat lunch outside, on the terrace of a nice little restaurant , thanks to the brilliant sunshine.

I couldn’t have asked for a nicer way to end the year…

Thank you Santa, for an absolutely lovely time.  Also for the excellent Christmas pudding (my first time !), which we continue to feast on each night after dinner, from your stop in London 🙂

Leave a comment


A Delightful Happenstance

It’s not everyday one gets to hear from an author so when that happened this evening, I could hardly believe it at first.

I am refering here to the visit to this blog of Kaumudi Marathe, whose book on Maharashtrian cuisine is the source of more than one recipe here.

When she left a comment a while ago, it felt kind of surreal.

Or maybe this is what the internet and blogging are all about.

Last week, I felt so pleased when Mohan b.  told me that he’d actually cooked chicken curry from one of my recipes here, and now

it has helped connect me with someone whose book I have had in my kitchen for years !

Leave a comment


Two Days in the Mountains

pics-on-camera 658

It was a very brief two days, but a lovely experience all the same. To sleep for even a night with the river flowing outside the window…is bliss.

What the girls enjoyed most was the long (1.7 km!) exhilarating luge ride down the monorail on the mountain in La Colmiane. The cable car ride that took us up to the top was a hair-raising experience, for me, though. Every time it stopped along the way – which it did several times and these were the open sort of seats , not the covered/glass cabin style of cable cars I have been in before – I wondered why we were doing something so foolhardy with the children…

They also gamely came along for a two hour walk on the alpine trail ahead of La Madone de Fenestre on Sunday morning.

We didn’t actually make it to the lake that the trail goes to, this time, but I ‘d love to go back one day next summer to do that hike again.It’s just the most beautiful place.

The square dancing we saw in St. Martin Vesubie, while a live band of musicians played traditional music, was wonderful too; a very gay time was being had by all. The way all those locals and tourists came together spontaneously to dance seemed a a live example of French joie de vivre.

The “parcours acrobatique” ( a freaky activity that involves crossing among trees in the forest on all sorts of rope bridges) which Indira and I did in Colmiane was very good fun as well, though a little scary to begin with !

The other thing I loved in St. Martin Vesubie (one of only two villages in France to have this) was the gargouille – a very narrow canal (less than a foot across)  with a mountain stream running through it – that runs down the main street of the village. Indeed, our chambre d’hote was right next to it so each time we stepped out to walk up to the restaurants/cafes/shops, Noor had lots of fun skipping around it and playing with the water which was icy cold.

But the thing that will stay with me is the immense silence on the mountain, on the trail as well as where we sat outside the cafe on our return to the place where the trail starts despite the other hikers around us. To experience that, even for just a few hours, is the most amazing feeling.

pics-on-camera 666

pics-on-camera 670

Leave a comment


Le Futted Ballon

There is a balloon story now about each of the girls and they will always make me laugh.

A few days ago while the girls ate their gouter, Noor was describing to me how her teacher tried to inflate a balloon, and how a little boy in her class came and poked it at so hard that, she said,  ” Mama and then the balloon burped !!”

Indira and I looked at each other and grinned, because we both understood that she got that word mixed up with burst. Noor thought, I suppose, that we’d found the story very amusing so hoping to make us laugh some more she said again with a dramatic fling of her hands, “and the balloon burped!! ”

The story about this balloon reminded me about another one that burst some years ago, this time at Indira’s hands.

She was only four then, and more prone than she is now to mix up her English, Hindi and French.

When her balloon burst at Pizza Hut one day, she ran to me saying anxiously, “Maman, le ballon is futted!!”

That will always be one of my fondest memories of Indira’s childhood 🙂

Leave a comment

Filed under LE FUTTED BALLON-life with the girls, THE STUFF OF MEMORIES