Friday 30 June 2023


Sharing some stories I have been telling my three grandchildren 


Image courtesy: Canva 
Ammu had a great way of bringing her stories to life. She would associate her subjects with a colour or with a dish she was cooking or some chore she was performing at that hour.

Riti had grown up listening to tales of her mother’s girlhood. Some or the other uncle, aunt or their children kept drifting in and out of Riti’s home. After they left, her Ammu would recount some interesting event or anecdote related to those or other relatives.

Thus once, while kneading dough, she told Riti about an aunt who hated being given this task. Riti was fascinated by the way her mother could roll out a wonderful ball of dough using powder-looking flour and water. So she could not imagine why the aunt had not enjoyed doing it.

“That was because she did not like anything to stick to her fingers. But then, that was exactly why Grandfather insisted that she prepare the dough daily for the entire family,” Ammu replied.

“But you had a huge family, Ammu!” Riti cried. She began counting on her fingers: “Your grandfather, grandmother, my grandfather, his brothers … five of them, and two aunts. Ten in all!”

“Of course ours was a huge family, and you haven’t counted my mother and five of us brothers and sisters,” Ammu smiled teasingly.

“Oooh, your poor aunt! But then your uncles were also married, so there were other aunts as well?” Riti asked.

“No, not till then. This aunt was last but one of the brood. You forget that we used to be put to work in the kitchen even before we were ten years of age,” Ammu reminded her.

Riti was curious. “I don’t understand, Ammu. You had a large house with marble staircases and all, with many servants. Then why did you girls have to cook?”

“My grandfather said hard days do not ring an alarm before they arrive. And servants may not always be around to wait on you. You should know how to run the kitchen because that is the most critical role in a household. Our schooling was not as important in those days, though we did attend senior school.”

“Ammu, why did your mother or grandmother not knead the dough?”

“Like I said, Grandfather wanted to prepare his daughter for her life ahead,” Ammu told her patiently.

“Besides, my father was the eldest child and lost his mother quite early, like I did. Grandmother, who brought me up, was actually his stepmother and just a few years older than him.

“I too had a stepmother. She was much younger than my father and he pampered her a lot to keep her happy. She had little time for us after she had children of her own. So Grandmother took us under her wing. That meant she had plenty more to do. ... I was very attached to her,” Ammu added, a little sadly.

“Is she dead?” Riti asked innocently.

“My grandmother? Oh no, she lives with my youngest uncle,” Ammu replied.

“Do you meet her often?” Riti seemed full of questions.

Something had upset Ammu. “Sometimes, when we visit my uncle,” she said vaguely. Riti was sent off on a trivial errand and the rest of the story was forgotten.

Some years later, when Riti was 14 years old, she accompanied her mother to a wedding in a dusty old town. It was a chilly day and the girl was feeling rather bored. The ceremonies were over before noon, and Ammu asked her if she would like to meet Grandmother.

My grandmother,” she said in response to Riti’s questioning look.

“She lives here? You never said a word about it when we left home,” Riti pointed out accusingly.

“It was to be a surprise. Grandmother lives in a colony close by, and is not well, so I would not have missed this chance to look her up,” said Ammu.

Against the drone of the lumbering bus that took them to Grandmother, Riti hurled a volley of questions at Ammu.

“Why does your uncle live in this faraway place and not in the city, the way your other uncles do? Why does Grandpa not look after his stepmother? All your uncles are much richer than him, no, so why doesn’t she live with any of them? Do they all send money for their mother?”

Ammu had no straight answer to any of these. But she did tell her daughter in a roundabout way that Grandmother preferred to be with her last-born, probably feeling closest that way to her late husband.

Riti did not fully understand this explanation, but she could make out from her mother’s reluctant words that the rich uncles were only too glad to have an ailing mother off their hands.

Ammu could not tell Riti that Grandpa, who was a fearsome father to her when she was small, had helplessly watched when his much younger wife frittered away all his wealth on her own siblings.

Ammu’s uncle’s place turned out to be a rundown house. It was one in a row of shaggy flats strung across one side of a square, built around a large open space.

The square had just one entrance, and Ammu’s grandmother – a mere bundle of bones, actually – was heaped on a rickety cot near it.

Grandmother seemed to have been plucked from her bed and dropped there, seemingly to stay warm in the weak sun, but the strong wind was chilly and unsparing. Yet her withered face was all smiles when she recognized Ammu’s voice.

She struggled with the blanket covering her, as if to get up, but Ammu’s aunt suddenly swooped down on them.

She must have spotted the duo when they entered the square. She hustled them indoors, ignoring her mother-in-law completely. They were served tea and biscuits, treated to a long list of the woes that had befallen the family, and then escorted out.

All Ammu managed to get out of her aunt was that Grandmother had spilt hot tea over herself some days back and the burns had not healed fully yet, so she had to be kept unclothed with just a blanket around her.

Ammu refused to move after she reached Grandmother on her way out. Her aunt fluttered around helplessly. Ammu spoke a few loving words to the old woman but out of sheer politeness to her aunt, she did not mention the injury.

It was with great effort that Grandmother mumbled a few endearments into Ammu’s ear, her eyes nearly shut but with love shining through. No complaint about her current state or suffering passed her lips.

Riti was quiet on the return journey. A distressed Ammu kept glancing at the girl, but she could only guess what was going through her mind.

“What sort of love exists in this world, Ammu?” Riti spoke up when they were seated in the train taking them back home.

“Uh, what love are you talking about, dear?” asked Ammu in turn, apprehensive about what was coming.

“So people stop loving their parents when they grow old and frail?

“What is the use of being wealthy and keeping servants if you won’t attend to the needs of your own mother?

“Why do parents live only with their sons? Your grandmother could live with us otherwise, no? 

“Does no one visit her here? Do they know of her condition? Imagine, she doesn’t seem to have any flesh left!”

“Where was this going to end?” Ammu thought.

She was bracing herself for more when Riti said, too wisely for her young years: “Well, obviously there is another sort of love too. Your grandmother still loves you, she still loves all her children, I am sure, and she loves her youngest son most because he is the poorest of them all. Perhaps he needs her most, emotionally, I mean.”

“I can’t say your aunt loves her, but at least she hasn’t turned her out,” she added cheekily.

Ammu knew then that her daughter had grown up during the short trip to a dusty old town.



Sharing some stories I have been telling my three grandchildren


Image courtesy: Canva 

Krishna looked at his grandmother with his beautiful big eyes.

“When can I see the new baby, please?” he asked.

His Aunt had brought him a little sister, Mom had told him.

“When Evening comes,” Naani said with a smile.

“Oh! Where is Evening now? When will it come?” Krishna wanted to know.

Naani pointed to the clock.

“You know how to read the time on the clock, right?” she asked.

Krishna gave a big nod, making his curly black hair bounce.

“When the small hand touches 5, Evening will come,” his grandmother replied.

He was satisfied, but only for a few minutes.

He glanced again at Naani.

So she asked him if he would like to know why Evening comes so late.

Krishna quickly sat beside her, eager to know.

Naani told him it was all because of the Sun. It is the reason why Evening arrives so late. 

The Sun likes to linger on, and does not let Evening into their big blue playground, the sky.

Of course, being winter, the Sun is too lazy to get up early in the morning.

Krishna giggled.

“Yes, it is just like you,” Naani tickled him, and he gave a little peal of laughter.

Naani continued: “Evening also wants a big playground. It keeps telling the Sun to go so that it can play for a long time.

“But when the Sun does go away, it gets cold quickly and Evening runs home. As soon as Evening leaves the sky, Night comes running.”

“And Night is so black that we need lights to see?” asked the wise Krishna, all of six years old.

“Indeed, Night is the strongest child which plays in the sky. It does not get tired easily, so it keeps playing for a long time,” she explained.

“Then after a long rest, Morning gets up from its sleep,” Naani added.

Krishna stretched out his arms and legs lazily. “Like this?”

“Just so,” Naani replied.

“Now Morning tells Night to go and rest, and let it play with the nice, warm Sun.

“Do you know the Sun is very lazy in the winter? It does not want to get up so early. So Morning blows white, woolly clouds on it to wake it up.

“Remember when you went to school and it was very cold, Krishna? You said you were walking in the clouds because they had covered the roads and the sky!” Naani said.

“Yes, so Morning blows the clouds like this, in big huffs and puffs? Like the Big Bad Wolf?” Krishna puffed out his chubby cheeks.

“Yes! How did you know about huff and puff?” she pretended to be surprised.

“I saw it in the video of the Three Little Pigs story,” Krishna said proudly. “But when does the Sun come out then, Naani?”

“Well, Morning has to huff and puff and also tickle the Sun,” Naani continued, covering Krishna’s eyes with her hands.

“The Sun opens one eye, so there is some light,” she said, removing her hand from his left eye. “Then it opens its other eye, and there is more sunlight,” she added as she uncovered his right eye.

“When it becomes very bright, Morning’s eyes start hurting, and she says good-bye to the Sun.

“Afternoon is waiting, and rushes into their blue playground. Then the Sun and Afternoon spend a long time together.

“They are best friends,” Naani concluded.

“So now the Sun is playing with its best friend?” Krishna asked.

“Yes, it is, child,” she answered.

Krishna decided he would not disturb the two friends.

He would take a small nap instead.

He hoped Evening would be playing in the sky by the time he woke up.

Then he would go to the hospital to see the new baby, he thought in excitement.

Holding his grandmother’s hand, he was soon fast asleep.


Sharing some stories I have been telling my three grandchildren


Image courtesy: Canva

The rain had gone away, and the children wanted to play.

The Sun peeped out from the clouds, and said, Hello!"

"It's time for hide and seek, rainbow!"

But the rainbow had only violet, indigo, red and yellow.

Missing some colours, it looked so sad.

The children in the garden saw it, and felt bad.

They said, “Rainbow, you have only four colours. Where are the other three?”

The rainbow said, “It stole them, the dragon from the tree.”

“Where is the dragon?” The children wanted to know.

“I’m sorry, I don’t know,” said the upset rainbow.

But the Sun said, “I know where.

"I can see everything and everywhere.

“From the sky,  all day I spread sunlight.

“When I go home to rest, I take along my light. 

"That is when you know it's night.”

The Sun told the children where the dragon was hiding.

So was it sitting, or was it riding?

Behind the flower pots? Or on the big cloudy mat?

In the big room where the king sat, or under his hat?

Under the bed? Or in the shed?

No, it was hiding under Grandpa’s big white chair!

The children ran inside, and made a circle there. 

“Come out,” they called to the dragon.

It got scared on hearing the children shout.

So, slowly the dragon came out.

It was green and orange and blue.

Why was it green and orange and blue?

It had stolen the colours from the rainbow in the sky.

Stealing is not good ... it makes others cry.

The children said, “Return the colours.” 

The dragon said, “No, the colours are so fine."

“I won’t return them, no,” it said. "See how they shine!”

“You must!” said the brave children.

They said, “Do it, or we’ll tell the dragon queen!”

The dragon begged: “No, don’t! Here, rainbow, take back green.”

The children said, “Give the other colours too.”

It agreed. “Okay, here, take blue.”

The children said, “But you still have orange with you.”

So the dragon gave back orange too.

“Children”, smiled the rainbow. “I really thank you.”

Promising to be good, the dragon flew away.

It made the children happy, and they went back to play.


Sharing some stories I have been telling my three grandchildren


Image courtesy: Freepik
A peacock was eating some seeds that had fallen on the ground.

It was so bored, and a little sad too.

Suddenly it heard a friendly twitter.

“Tweet, tweet! Hello!”

The peacock looked up and saw a bright yellow bird sitting on the top of a tree.

“Hello,” said the peacock.

“Come up here, dear friend,” said the yellow bird.

The peacock said, “I am sorry, I can’t fly up tall trees.”

“Oh, you can. Just try,” the yellow bird said.

The peacock tried to fly up to the top, but landed back on the grass instead.

The yellow bird flew around the tree in a circle. Then it sat on a lower branch.

“See, it is such fun,” it told the peacock. “Come up.”

The peacock lowered its long glittery neck sadly.

“Sorry, I can’t. I have such long feathers. They are very heavy,” it said.

“Yes, I see you have long feathers. What do you with them?” asked the bird.

“I spread them out like a fan and dance when it rains,” the peacock told the yellow bird.

“How nice! Please show me,” the bird said.

The peacock shook its colourful feathers and spread them out slowly.

Just then it began raining.

The peacock was not sad anymore. It started dancing.

The bird flapped its bright yellow wings. “Wow, this is so beautiful!”

The monkey and squirrel and so many little birds also gathered to watch the peacock dance.

They all praised it and joined in too, but they could not dance as well as the peacock.

“Peacock, you can’t fly too high but your dance is truly the best,” everyone said.

The peacock was so happy, and its feathers too shone so brightly.

“I thank you all,” it said, bowing its long neck and turning round and round.

The peacock looked up at the clouds and silently thanked them too.

Then it joined the dance party again.

We all have something to be grateful for, after all.


Sharing some stories I have been telling my three grandchildren


Image courtesy: Canva
The little red fox was hungry.

So it decided to catch a fish.

It picked up its fishing rod and put pieces of bread in a basket.

At the river it took out its fishing rod.

It fixed some bread on the hook and dipped it in the water.

It was drooling.

“Aha, I'll catch a big fish! It will be yum-yum.”

Oh! The rod became heavy.

The fox jumped up. “I caught a fish!”

It pulled and pulled.

Up came the hook and what had it caught?

Oh no! A torn shoe with weeds!

It threw the torn shoe away.

“Let me try once more.”

It fixed some bread on the hook, and waited and waited.

“I caught a fish!”

It pulled and pulled.

Up came the hook and what had it caught?

A tin with wriggly worms! Eeew!

The little red fox threw the dirty tin away.

The little red fox started fishing again.

It fixed some more bread, and waited and waited.

Suddenly, there was a tug! The line was jumping here and there.

It was so excited, the little red fox.

It had caught a fish at last!

The fox took the fish off the hook, and the line off the rod.

It put them all in its big blue basket.

Then the little red fox went home singing:

This fish looks very yummy. 

Now I’ll fill my tummy. 

Oh, so um-umm-ummm-ummmy!


Sharing some stories I have been telling my three grandchildren


Image courtesy: Canva

The rabbits Long-Ears, Hunny and Bunny were brothers.

Long-Ears was the eldest, with long ears which had given him his name.

Hunny was strong, but not as tall as Long-Ears.

Bunny was the youngest and smallest of them all.

One day, they set out to visit their granny.

They had to take the bus to Granny’s house.

Bunny thought the orange bus was very big and high.

He said, “Sorry-sorry, I am too small to get in by myself.”

Long-Ears hopped into the bus first, and held out his hand.

Bunny boarded the bus with his brother’s help.

“Thank you,” said Bunny.

Then Hunny hopped in.

The bus stopped near the big hill under which Granny had built her home.

Bunny said, “Sorry-sorry, I am too small to get down by myself.”

Long-Ears got off first, and held out his front legs for Bunny.

“Thank you,” said Bunny again.

Hunny hopped off the bus next.

Long-Ears was very excited to see Granny’s house after so long.

He began climbing up the slope very quickly.

Hunny thought it would be good to race, and began running too.

Little Bunny was left behind.

“Boo-hoo, boo-hoo,” he cried. “Sorry-sorry, I cannot run so fast.”

Long-Ears and Hunny heard their little brother cry.

They stopped and looked back.

They ran back to where Bunny stood.

“Sorry-sorry,” said Long-Ears.

“Sorry-sorry,” said Hunny.

They held Bunny between them and took him up the slope.

Bunny laughed when his brothers swung him up and down.

“Thank you,” Bunny said to them.

At Granny’s house, they got big, juicy carrots to nibble on.

“Thank you, Granny,” said Long-Ears.

“Thank you, Granny,” said Hunny.

“Thank you, Granny,” said little Bunny too.

She told them funny stories and they all laughed.

Granny gave them a jar of carrot jelly to take home.

“Give it to your mother,” said Granny.

“Be careful,” she added.

“I will, Granny,” said Long-Ears.

“I will,” said Hunny.

“I will too, Granny,” said Bunny.

Granny laughed and patted his head.

Then the three brothers ran down the slope.

Soon the orange bus came by.

Little Bunny looked at the big bus.

“Sorry-sorry, I am too small to get in by myself,” he said.

Long-Ears picked him up by his front legs, and swung him into the bus. 

Bunny liked it very much.

He hopped into the window seat and smiled all the way back home.

He would tell his parents how his day out with his brothers had been great fun.

Tuesday 31 May 2022

I binge on – Kdramas

More than a year has passed since I stumbled upon What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim? It hooked me to Netflix in a way I would not have believed possible. I have been a hardcore romcom fan since my teens, and over the last 12 months, the South Korean TV shows that I have scoured Netflix for have not disappointed at all. I keep looking for any old Kdramas I might have missed, all the while looking out for fresh fare too. I feel sad every time I see a serial with the notification, “Last date to watch …”. That made me rush through the 2012 Immortal Classic once more!

Secretary Kim will remain for me a serial apart from all else, but my heart also flutters every time I revisit Doctors, Inheritors, One Spring Night, Oh My Venus, When My Love Blooms, Secret Garden, Pasta and Romance is a Bonus Book. And these are in random order. Others that I occasionally watch again are Crash Landing on You, Legend of the Blue Sea and Boys over Flowers. The last mentioned is more popular among Kdrama fans than Inheritors, but my preference is certainly the latter.

For me, the hardships endured by the brave heroine in the 2009 serial Boys are at times too over the top, and the mom too heartless by half; I don’t mind Kim Tan’s father in Inheritors as much. I also can’t bear to watch the cruel mothers in Something in the Rain and Legend of the Blue Sea, and the hatred and evil some characters display in CLOY and Doctor Stranger.

Kdramas treat heartbreak and heartache with great sensitivity, but some are so poignant that it’s almost impossible for me to go back to them, such as Marriage Contract, Black Knight, My Mister, I Hear Your Voice, and the recent Thirty-Nine. And, of course, the 52-episode My Golden Life.

I was still new to the Kdrama phenomenon then and so binge-watched Golden Life into the early hours of successive mornings, riveted as the sad lives of the heroine and her father unravelled. Their inner conflicts made me overlook the emotions of the male lead, whose heart is torn between familial and romantic love. I couldn’t fully understand what had happened, so I went back to the scenes where their feelings undergo change and the sacrifice he makes to win her over.

That made me look for the undertones in Kdramas I had not noticed before. I was till then simply enjoying them as the modern equivalent of Georgette Heyer novels. Now I began to look for nuances, for subtle messages of unconditional caring and sharing; of facing and fighting one’s fears; of relentless and ruthless exploitation of the poor or less privileged by the uber rich; of the determination in love to overcome the impossible; of change of heart that comes about because of the pure love of another; of empathy and sympathy; of the futility of hatred; thoroughly researched themes such as recipes, hospitals, political intrigues, weather reporting and much more that I found so impressive.

A few plots are simple, but most are multi-layered. The romantic lives of the lead pair are intertwined beautifully with situations of others around them. Nagging mothers, doting grandparents, spoilt kids, prodigals returning home, star-crossed lovers, office intrigues, murderous business rivals … all stuff that is universal to television and cinema, but Kdramas deal with them in such novel and impeccable ways and settings that I haven’t yet got over them, and I don’t think I will for a long time.