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Monday, 28 December 2020

Happy Smells

Smells. I find them to be one of the most powerful senses that can trigger distant memories like nothing else. The association of smells are pretty random at times and seem unrelated but they have somehow managed to register a lingering imprint on my mind. Writing this has been cathartic for me. Reliving fond old times through the trail of smells and aromas. 

It also reminds me, I seem to have some peculiar fascination for the olfactory sense. You've got to read this to believe me. 👇 


The blast of mint, carbolic soap and urine - strangely redolent of cherished holiday train travel. There is obviously not much one loves about this combination of odours but this was exactly how a second-class compartment smelled! After a two-day train journey, you could throw in a sooty, metallic twang to the lot.

The fragrance of damp earth stirs a number of lovely images for me. Besides the obvious - of glorious rains hitting the parched earth, the smell reminds me of this scene viewed through sleep-drenched childhood eyes at the brink of dawn. Our maid in the village for over three generations, Lecchmi (who sadly passed away just recently) splashing the front threshold of our village home and then proceeding to deftly weave intricate kolam that fascinated me to no end.

The scent of burning wood and smoke makes me salivate...strange? You see, my mind always associates this smell with the heady aroma of bakshanams that ensued once paati got the fire burning steadily in the outdoor stove that used firewood and cattle dung. The massive quantities of sweets and savouries churned out from this smoke-spewing stove is unimaginable!

The heady bouquet of jasmine and rose flowers - specifically the gundu malli and paneer roja give me a thrill as I remember the grand melee of three-day weddings and various functions from yore. 

The divine fragrance of camphor, parijat flowers and sandalwood ushers in memories of thatha then and now appa performing the daily poojai. A fragrance that makes me involuntarily bow my head in reverence and devotion.

The amalgamation of sesame oil and firecrackers - "The Diwali smell" will always bring to mind the unforgettable thrill of waking before dawn, having an oil bath, hurriedly wearing new clothes and rushing out to be the first to burst crackers on Diwali mornings. 

The elusive fragrance of saffron always reminds me of my amma's sweets! You see amma has this weakness for this ingredient. She diligently advocates adding a few strands of the coveted saffron to every sweet treat to elevate it to the next level.

The delicate whiff of baby powder or even dettol brings on a wistful smile, reminding me of cuddly babies wrapped in freshly washed nappies. Makes me wonder, were my babies really that small? How time flies!

The acrid smell of snuffed out candles leads me onto the sweet aroma of baking which then tantalizingly brings to mind happy smiles, loads of food and fun from the children's parties I held.

The overwhelming hit of strong filter kaapi brewing anywhere is such one heady aroma that sings of home, home, home! From mom's milky coffee for youngsters only, surreptitiously downing unlimited tumblers of the piping hot yet entirely too sweet caterer's coffee at functions, to my better-half's strong brew every morning, kaapi is that distinctive beverage that spells home sweet home for me!

Moving on years ahead, 

The cloying smell of sanitizers, the sharp hit of bleach that assail the senses, will remind me eternally of the battle with the unknown enemy.

Oh, those dear old happy smells, they just don't make 'em like that anymore!


On another note, this post gives me another reason to smile...I can smell everything perfectly well - I am corona-free with my sniffing-tasting skills intact!

Are you obsessed with smells, the way I am? Do share your favourite olfactory memory.


paati -  grandmother

bakshanams - sweets and savouries

malli - a variety of jasmine

paneer roja - damask rose

thatha - grandfather

appa - father

poojai - daily prayer and worship

kaapi - South-Indian filter coffee

Copyright © 2020 KALA RAVI

Wednesday, 18 November 2020

A Diwali Lament


A Diwali Lament

I waited in vain for little hands to pounce and pry,
to open the carton and feast their eyes on me. 

To see their eyes light up in wonder and amazement,
as I burst into a dazzling display of light and color. 

I, who proclaimed jubilantly, 
the victory of good over evil, year upon year,

I, the symbolic harbinger of prosperity and abundance,
Lie accused, forgotten and discarded.

Pointing fingers of environmental degradation,
Laugh away, those big daddies of everyday pollution.

I am just another age-old custom,
Waiting to join Holi and others,
onto the burning pyre of dying Hindu festivals.

Copyright © 2020 KALA RAVI

#CrackerBan #RIPDiwali #RelaxNRave

Tuesday, 11 August 2020

The Good Scare

"Yahan se pachas pachas kos door gaon mein, jab bachha raat ko rota hai, toh maa kehti hai, bete so ja, so ja nahi toh Gabbar Singh a jayega."

Iconic lines, aren't they? Mothers from times immemorial have used, booboo, bogeyman, buddha baba, rakshas, pucchandi and many other characters to get the little ones to listen to them when all other wiles fail. 
While modern parenting psychologists would reprovingly wag a finger against scare tactics of any kind, sometimes that may be the only recourse open to the parent to ensure the child listens to what she is told, especially if it is to prevent her from any potential harm.

My kids grew up listening to a healthy dose of fairytales, epics, folk tales, fables and a few made-up tales. 
You see we had this ritual of story-telling during all meals. It just made the whole affair so much faster! Besides meal-time, we had bedtime stories too. The main difference was, meal-time stories had to be more imaginative and delivered with exceptional raconteuring skills.
So depending on the menu for the day, the stories got more or less embellished. For instance, deep-fried potatoes or pasta didn't require too much effort while cabbage, sprouts, beans etc. required more work.
Bedtime stories in comparison were usually comforting, stress-free, even boring and monotonous...well, sleep-inducing ones, which usually the father seemed to be a pro at!

So my repertoire of stories had to be constantly upgraded as the audience demand for newer, wackier tales grew.

Occasionally, I sneaked in some tales that were a bit scary with the intent of inspiring some good old-fashioned fear to deter the kids from trying anything foolhardy.
The things we parents do in the name of protecting and keeping them safe from harm!🙄
Hey, don't go raising those brows...not until you hear me out!

Well, in the search for new stories to aid the meal-times, there began a series I liked to call: 
True Life Stories (with Morals).
They were supposedly real-life experiences that had taken place in my life or somebody else's. In fact, many of these stories have been passed down through generations.
Of course, it could be that these"real" experiences were majorly dramatized for better story-telling experiences.
In my defence, I'd like to point out that these stories were a hit with my little audience and fussy meal-times were non-existent!

Are you curious as to what these stories were like?
Let me share a few while pointing out that I've just shared the briefest outline of these stories. They were liberally seasoned, garnished and stretched to last the duration of a meal.

1) The boy who never cleaned his shoe
There was this boy who never, ever cleaned his shoes before wearing them, however much his mother reminded him.
One day a scorpion got into the shoe.
The boy slipped on his shoes without tapping it out clean. The scorpion stung him and his foot swelled up and hurt terribly. His parents rushed him to the doctor and after lots of injections and bitter medicines he became alright.
Moral: You must always clean your shoes before wearing them.

You bet this tale ensured the kids knocked the stuffing out of shoes before wearing them!

2) The careless mother
One day this mother is in a hurry to leave for work. She forgets to cover the pan of boiled milk. A lizard scurrying on the ceiling falls into the hot milk and dies. Later, the mother serves the milk to both her children without realizing what has fallen in. The children fall violently sick and have to be rushed to the hospital.
Moral: Never leave eatables uncovered.

I for one can guarantee that once you've heard this story, you'll never ever leave the kitchen without ensuring everything is covered.

3) The boy who got lost
A family goes on an outing. Little boy wanders when the parents are looking elsewhere. He gets lost in the big city and cries a lot. A friendly old man takes him to the police station. After many hours, the parents after searching all over finally reach the police station and find their little boy.
Moral: You must never wander alone in a new place.

This story ensured that my kids never strayed too far on outings or got lost ever!

4) The girl with the pencil
This little girl loved pencils. She kept sharpening her pencils and would watch the sharp points with pride. Her mother told her to stop playing with the sharp pencil especially with her little baby brother around. One day as the girl was writing in her book, little baby sneaked over and took a sharp pencil lying next to his sister. When his sister suddenly turned and screamed at him, the baby got scared and poked himself with the pencil. Thankfully he missed poking his eye but the sharp-pointed pencil gave him a big nick on his chubby cheek. 
Moral: Always be careful with sharp objects.

Nothing better to save the kids from sharp-pointed injuries!

So you get the idea? Scary tales that leave a mark on the psyche but in a good way...I think!

I was wondering what kind of cautionary tales must be doing the rounds nowadays.
I refuse to believe that such tales are out of fashion!
I'd say, the new Gabbar in town being the Corona Virus, parents would be narrating tales like this...

One day a girl went to the market without her mask. A man in the market sneezed. Another lady coughed. The girl came home and in a week's time, she tested positive for COVID.

A man went to work wearing his mask. But he did not bother to clean his hands every time he touched the lift doors, buttons and other surfaces. A week later, he was sick. on! You know what? With the number of COVIDIOTS doing the rounds, it would make sense to drill these stories more to such adults than the little ones!

The current COVID situation is throwing up all kinds of small and big horror stories around us. 
Do you think we should use them to sensitize our kids to the seriousness of proper care and precaution? 

As I sign off, let me share this bit of disconcerting trivia...
Some of the most popular English rhymes we croon lovingly to our children are actually pretty creepy! 
You could check out what I am talking about here: 

Cheers, till later!

Copyright © 2020 KALA RAVI

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Buns, Pickles, Double Crochet & Me

Whatever happened to Relax-N-Rave? A question not posted anywhere, just a little niggle in my own head.
The ongoing depressing ordeal of a series of lockdowns that are not fun even when unlocked have taken the zeal out of life. I'd given up hopes of writing anything, leave alone it being sensible. Finally, THIS happened. 👇

Warning: This post has references that only true Potterheads will get.



Yours truly started on this Lockdown journey like anyone else you know...just like the Nobel laureates, nerdy doctors, epidemiologists, brilliant heads of state and nations and the homeless person on the street - barely prepared, ill-equipped, poorly-informed with the vague idea that it was just some new fad that would fizzle out in a week or two. 
In the beginning, I was drunk on Felix Felicis, confident I could take on any kind of challenge. No maid, bring it on I say. I honed my non-existent domestic chores skills to a dazzling shine. I loved the time I had in a maid-free home. New webinars on learning everything I could dream of and more beckoned. A life of possibilities!  
I waxed eloquently about the dire situation even as I baked incessantly - from daily bread, fruit buns, pizza bases, cakes, to exotic croissants. Sweets, savouries, new recipes, old favourites all jostled for time in my already over-packed daily itinerary. I ventured into unchartered territories of pickle and jam-making in the sweltering kitchen even as I mentally lamented the futility of such endeavours, besides of course helping with girth and seat widening. Dame Washalot, Dishalot, Bakealot, Snackalot, Cleanalot...I was virtually unstoppable. 


As the Lockdown progressed well into the second month, the Dementors came in, sucking the joy out of everything. I gawked at the images every second person shared on social media of their new-found lockdown prowesses. I had joined the mad race too, knowing fully well how out of depth, races of any kind were for me. Now, only the Duracell bunnies of Lockdown continue on that path. Me? I am just an ol' Eveready, it's a wonder I'd lasted even this long! The crew I'd carefully groomed and fine-tuned to my exacting specifications of sweeping, mopping and scouring charred vessels, in the initial phase of lockdown had grown weary of the tasks. Worse still, even the sight of an empty sink or a well-risen loaf of bread couldn't banish the sinking feeling. Nothing mattered. Gluttony and binge-watching web series seemed the only things worth living for. I cursed the lockdown that had shackled my knights in shining armour - the Online Delivery Agents. Unable to shop physically or virtually was a crippling experience for this shopaholic. Like a billion other folks, I was bitterly complaining about the torture of running the maidless home, which by this time aided by the miserable weather was, I'll swear actually a factory, a sweatshop - where the sweat never stopped flowing and the sink never got empty. 


I desperately needed the Patronus Charm. The Lockdown eased to Unlock mode. Yay! Emails, SMSes from various sites beckoned me to check them out. Jubilantly gazing at my mobile, I chanted, "Add to Cart" while envisioning my happiest memories - walking in the mall with a laden trolley.
And lo home, nay, the security cabin of my housing society became like No 4, Privet Drive that gets flooded with owl mails from Hogwarts, only here the security cabin was flooded with a blush-worthy load of parcels from all possible online portals that were delivery-capable. Parcels from Big Basket, Flipkart, Myntra and Amazon, tumbled over each other while the security guard gave up calling home on the intercom announcing this flurry of new deliveries.
Of course, I conscientiously sprayed them all with the disinfectant spray as they landed home and quietly observed them resting in piled quarantine, with a self-satisfied smile. And thus I banished the rotten Dementors. 


As the lockdown continued relentlessly, I went deeper on the Dora path. I entered the netherworld of crocheting. I spent hours devouring online videos on crocheting, marvelling the twists and twirls of yarn that I had been squeamish about in my infantile youthThe first parcels from online shopping that I ripped open were the wool yarns. I did tell you, I was on the path unexplored. I took these soft bundles of fluff and vanished into another dimension. I surfaced occasionally when I remembered, I was responsible, and the only one capable of satiating the other inmates' hunger pangs. Mopping, laundry, dish-washing waited in vain for their new-found pal, but I'd found my kindred spirit in crocheting. And crochet, I did! I went at it with unbridled passion and sadly little expertise.  The crochet needle and wool yarn became my Horcruxes. I wouldn't let them out of sight. 
After a fortnight I emerged, a changed person, feeling much like a hermit who comes out of a dark cave after aeons of meditation, of course without much enlightenment but lots of entanglement. The wool yarn for some reason came in some kind of twisted bale that got tangled into knots that could have exasperated Houdini. 
However, I have something tangible to show for from my days of self-ostracization. 
Ahem, a 3'x3' woollen blanket in double crochet! I wonder what I am going do with it. I lovingly drape it on the sweaty torso of my teen and he angrily swats it away.


While we don't know how or what exactly triggered this horrible pandemic, there is little doubt where this horror came from. Adding more fuel to the flame are scary rumours of an impending war, initiated know who!
Till date, no one is sure when or if we will ever be rid of this awful viral pandemic. However, it is a good thing that the misery is a global one hence a possible resolution or mass exodus seems inevitable, yeah "Do or Die" with loads of company isn't all that bleak a proposition, is it? After all, "To the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure," right? 😢☹️

The other day I walked to the market just because I was allowed to. Geared in a mask, goggles and hair net, clutching a sanitizer bottle, I was back home in ten minutes, drenched in sweat, totally panicked and paranoid! I could imagine how a domesticated cow would feel if it was released into the wild Savannah. But, I guess this ol' cow will develop a thick hide and morph into a wild bison eventually. 
Till then, let me indulge the businesses of Big Basket et al while I am still not brave enough to let in Swiggy et al.
Now, let me hustle, I have a bucket load of washing to do, you know...the veggies and fruits I just bought right after I boil the used masks. That reminds me, I gotta browse that jaw-dropping array of fancy face masks. I wonder if I can get away with the leopard print ones or maybe I should stick to the neon stripes?

Don't let the Muggles get you down, will ya? And if they do, remember to turn on the light.


You could also read my post on Lockdown Realizations.

Copyright © 2020 KALA RAVI

Tuesday, 5 May 2020

Lockdown Realizations

We've been in lockdown for quite a while now, to save ourselves and others.
The lockdown will eventually be lifted and we may look back at this time as the best or the worst time of our lives. The time that we took to reset our body, mind and soul or time we wasted on unproductive actions and thoughts. Time we took to reconnect old ties, forge new ones or time we bled on relentless con-calls and news marathons. Time we took to bring out smiles or time spent crying over endless chores. It all depends on how you look at it. 

Some lockdown realizations that come to mind, 

That you are a better maid than your maid.
That the kitchen sink and laundry bag are bottomless pits connected to everlasting bounties of unwashed vessels and clothes.
That the satisfaction of ticking off a chore from your list is rather short-lived.
That you can now fully empathize with your maid when she wants to take two-day weekly offs.
That some chores like dusting and reorganizing cupboards are best left unattended.
That you have aced the art of selective blindness, deafness and postponement.
That the day with chores is longer than the night of rest.

That all things you shopped for earlier, were non-essentials.
That your wardrobe needs an upheaval post-lockdown to more free-flowing dresses on the lines of the nightie.
That the message, "Slots Open now" on the online grocery shopping app can make you go berserk with joy.
That you can regale audiences with narratives from your visit to the kirana dukaan.

That you can never have enough stock of snacks, in-between eats.
That the time you spend cooking a treat is roughly ten times the time it takes to polish it off.
That the more cooking videos you watch, the lesser you cook.
That the onset of con-calls is synchronized to the whistle of the pressure cooker or the roar of the mixie.
That seeing packets of oregano and chilli flakes will bring out tears of nostalgia.

That the better-half is awesome at certain chores and all that's needed to get him to do them, is to keep telling him that.
That hearing, "Dishes are done", can be a real turn-on.
That hearing, "What's for dinner?", can open up your third eye.
That a WFH1 husband is a punishment for a SAHwife.
That you will never again crib about the better-half not spending enough time at home.
That it is a good thing you never had lengthy conversations with the super-busy better-half in all these years. 

That you can create a permanent dent on the couch binge-watching web series.
That no amount of domestic chores are going to balance out the LB3.
That those oil paints and canvases will see the light of day when they are taken to the trash.
That the Zoom Yoga sessions always collide with your nap time or putting up your legs time.
That the thing you need to do most is less interesting than the most flippant activity you ever undertook. 
That your greys will give you no respite, lockdown or otherwise.
That video chats remind you to look at the mirror more often.

That the offspring makes for an ideal lab-rat to test out your hitherto hidden skills as a baker, beautician, barber, labour supervisor, jail warden etc.
That teens at home all day are easy to handle if you've experience dealing with grizzly bears.

That it is trendy to endlessly crib about lockdown blues while endlessly posting lockdown DIY clicks.
That WA university has a larger following than Wikipedia.
That you've have watched more news and tweeted more than you ever thought possible.
That the light at the end of this dark tunnel may actually be a fiery furnace.
That the government doesn't always fail people, sometimes people fail themselves.
That the "masks" people wear are no longer only virtual.

And strangest of all,
That your life hasn't really altered that much from what it was BC4

1 WFH - Work From Home

2 SAH - Stay at Home 
3 LB - lockdown bulges
4 BC - Before Corona
kirana dukaan - grocery store

So dear friends, how are you holding up? Do share your lockdown realizations. 
And Stay Safe :)

Copyright © 2020 KALA RAVI

Friday, 24 April 2020

Do I know you?

Remembering names is a knack. Remembering faces, an art. Remembering both and relating them to each other is super-human...according to me!

I think this is what happens inside the head when you are introduced to a new person,

a) The name and face do not enter the system OR on entry, they are sent directly to the Recycle Bin. 😖
Beep, Beep, Beep !!SYSTEM ERROR!! Tough luck! Hopefully, you are famous or powerful enough to get away with this!
b) The newly entered name or the face - you press only "Save". 
Result - you remember the name only or the face only. 
Facial recognition only Saved: 
Hello, how nice to see you! Long time since we last met. How is Mrs...?? 🙊
Name only Saved: 
Hello Mr Xi Jinping! Not right what you are doing, you know? 
I am Thanos, not Xi!🙈
c) The name and face - both are saved using "Save As" into the correct Folder > Remember. 🙋
$$$ Ding, Ding, Ding $$$ Hallelujah, when this happens!
d) Despite following c) what can you do if Folder > Remember goes into Recycle Bin of its own accord? 😒 😭
Result - You hide in company in fear of offending people you know or don't know!

Before you cast quick aspersions about my upper storey, allow me to share dilemmas I have encountered that make it so.

Breaking stereotypes
While I have never been a great fan of news channels especially not in today's times with ballistic anchors, but as a kid I watched news...yes, we kids from the 70's - 8o's did that. It was mostly read by this poker-faced lady Hindi newsreader. 
I often wondered about the lady on-screen. Her facial expressions remained frozen irrespective of the magnitude of the breaking news she delivered. Her level voice never deviated from its standard, sonorous, stupor-inducing drone either with exultation, or quivered with emotion or screamed in frustration.
Made me wonder, when this lady was at home, would her face don expressions of joy, sorrow or horror when she wasn't within the confines of the newsroom? I tried imagining her being moved to tears watching Ek Duje ke Liye (one of the most tragic movies those days) - no nothing, tried imagining her response if she happened to slip on a banana peel - still nothing. Hmm, strange I thought!

Come to think of it, back during those Wonder Years, I did wonder a lot - mostly about when or if I would ever be over with them!
Working on hopelessly unsolvable physics problems, my train of thoughts wandered from the poker-faced newsreader to the bane of my existence - my physics teacher. 
This grim-faced, acid-tongued, perpetually angry teacher, taught a subject realms beyond my comprehension. If I was ever called upon to vanquish a Boggart with the Riddikulus Charm, I would fail. The Boggart would take on the formidable shape of my physics teacher and try as hard as I might, I could never imagine her appearance or expression transforming into anything mildly docile, leave alone funny! (Non-PotterHeads, sorry if you can't get this!) 

Fast forward to a few years later where I am attending a sangeet function. There is a large circle of attendees cheering a central figure - a middle-aged lady grooving gracefully to a Bollywood number. I join the cheerers, admiring the lady's perceptive and rhythmic dance style. As the track changes, the circle breaks and people move on to focus on their own gyrations. The dancing diva smiles at me and approaches me with, "Arre you? What are you doing these days?" She asked me something else I am sure but, "Don't you have a physics test tomorrow? What is Newton's second law of motion", was what I heard. Brr! 
Let me tell you, it's not a nice feeling when boogie-monsters camouflage as teddy-bears or when your nightmares transform to dancing divas! 👹🙆

Occupational hazards
My neighbourhood grocery, the one I've been frequenting for the last ten years or more has an adjacent, tiny blink-and-you-miss repair shop. A handyman operating it, repairs all kinds of pressure cookers, mixer-grinders, you know the usual kitchen gadgets. I always see the man in his booth, poring over gaskets, whistles, blades and whatnots. 
A few days ago on my routine grocery visit, I spotted a new salesman there. He smiled at me and called out, "Madamji, palak zaroor leke jana, bohot taaza he." (Do take the spinach, it's very fresh.) That's enterprising for a new guy, I think to myself. He helps me pick my veggies with suggestions and tips thrown in. As I am about to leave the grocery I look over to the adjacent repair shop. It's closed. Darn, I needed to get my giant pressure cooker fixed. 
Spotting my bulky package, the over-zealous newbie salesman comes over, "Madamji, cooker humko dedo, kal sham ko le jaana." (Give me the cooker, take it back tomorrow evening).
A man whose sight always reminded me of malfunctioning cookers and mixies that needed to be attended to, is now a grocery vendor? Apparently, grocery salespersons make better money than repairmen! 😝

Personality change
My balcony shade was springing the mandatory monsoon leak. Time to call in my regular contractor Ram - a diminutive, bespectacled man in antiquated safari suit who tried his best to never cross his threshold of one-two word responses. I was stunned when he mumbled something about not having enough workforce. When I insisted that I wanted the work done asap, he said he would try to send his brother to do the work.
The next morning repairs started with a new person at the helm of affairs. He wore dark blue overalls, a trendy haircut, goggles on his head and he looked very similar to my contractor. Ahh, so he sent his brother, after all. He must be his twin. Fancy that! Wouldn't be surprised if he was called Shyam! The man seemed to know his way about with the welding gun and the work was done in a jiffy. He stood stiffly waiting for payment. As I handed him the money, I decided to test my observational skills, "Ram ko thanks bol dena, kaam itna jaldi ho gaya. Aap unko bhai ho an?" (Convey my thanks to Ram, the work got done so fast). The man looked zapped as he replied, "Madam, main Ram hi hoon!" (I am only Ram!)
Now tell me, who in the real world goes for an overnight makeover look? Filmstars maybe, not good ol' Rams! Bizzare! 😳

C'est la vie. Sigh! Life goes on with a smile, albeit not a big one - A general one you can pass of as a friendly "Have a good day" smile or an acknowledging "Happy to see you" one, depending on the perception of the person who sees it! Hopefully, the person in front of you isn't riding the same boat that you are! Cheers! 😊

Copyright © 2020 KALA RAVI

Wednesday, 11 March 2020

Musings of a sleep-deprived mind

Eyes still shut, my fingers reach out idly, seeking to wrap around the familiar shape of my hair scrunchie (a hair tie). They are still seeking after a few seconds rifling through the pile of stuff - my other bed partners if you will, and I grow restless. Eyes pop open in discontent. Darn! The scrunchie is not in its designated place - underneath or near about my pillow. Not a good way to start the morning, I need my favourite scrunchie to be just where it is supposed to be to keep my unruly mane and therein, the head in place.

One can argue that this valuable accessory can be safely placed in a number of other trustworthy places, a bedside table definitely would be a great choice, but whaddya know, there's no place handier than the place under my pillow.
I did try to move things to the more sensible bedside table with drawers, but it was no good! The drawers get crammed in no time with all sorts of pseudo-important junk. Then it's a harrowing proposition trying to find anything you want in it. I've even tried drawer organizers. The ratio of the time it takes to sort items into different compartments to the time it takes to mess them up is about 100:1, yeah totally not worth it!

I would say that just like my capacious handbag, the mini holdall or the tote as it's popularly called, you know...the one I lug around whenever I am out, this place roundabout my pillow has everything I would be likely to need while getting my Z's or most often when I am not getting 'em. 
You see, I am a particularly light sleeper with the promising makings of a chronic insomniac.

So getting back to this coveted place - let's give it a name, shall we? Gee, I do so love naming things! From prospective baby names, blog post titles, if-I-ever-manage-to-write-a-book-and-it-gets-published book names, also pseudonyms - if I choose to write anonymously, an a.k.a - if I decide to go rogue and relocate to get the drift? Also, this naming game makes for an extremely entertaining way of passing time when you are done counting sheep. 

Digressing aren't we, so this place under/around the pillow what will I call it? Pillownagar, Pillowsthan...Pillowria, yeah I like this one! 
Pillowria is a small but important province on my bed, yes, like it's the capital city of Bed-is-sthan. 

Pillowria is where I keep all the things I need in the blink of an eye. Besides the aforementioned all-important hair scrunchie, I have a potpourri of bottles and tubes like Vicks vaporub, Zandu balm, Moov, Volini, you know, the usuals to tackle the stuffy nose, the stubborn headache, the aching limbs. Then there are new additions like the lavender oil (purchased solely because it sounds exotic) bottle along with a muslin hanky, my kindle, of course, to keep me late night company, my phone - before you raise your brows, let me assure you it is on airplane mode, it's just to jab in those brilliant writing ideas that pop up at unearthly hours (this one included) and also to check the time so that I can plague everyone the next day with breaking news such as: How many times I woke up last night and till what time I was awake.

You might think that with all this paraphernalia underneath, the pillow would get a tad uncomfortable. While I am not as sensitive as the princess of the 'Princess and the pea' fame, I definitely can't sleep with such a large stash under my pillow! It is stored under an adjacent pillow. Not for nothing did I insist on a king-sized bed. My substantial better-half, I and,' The Pillow Stash Co.' are 1/3rd partners of this bed.

The mention of the better-half reminds me I need to recharge the airpods lying in Pillowria, what with the snore lore emanating from the Mr. becoming more resonant with each passing day. The airpods are meant to mute out the adjacent noise besides listening to soothing sleep sounds, yoga nidra and sleep meditation I've downloaded on my phone. I find them very useful, they help kill the first couple of hours of the night. 

Insomnia while a new affliction for me, is not unheard of in my family. I come from a long line of veteran insomniacs, practically all of my maternal side - mom, aunts and grandmother are/were one. So I've grown up listening to these mighty ladies of my life battle through sleepless nights and live to tell the tale the next day. 

It was rather exciting for me as a kid to hear them having heated debates over who slept the least. Here's a snatch of reminiscence I was having just the other night...

During summer vacations when we visited the native village, it was invariably plagued with the most absolute power-cuts. It was very rare to have the fans running all through the night. Typically the sadistic operator working the power station switched off the electric supply around 12 am and graciously switched it on by 6 am. So yeah, that pretty much kept everyone miserable in the heat. The women slept in the rezhi - large central hall while the menfolk usually took the vasa thinnai - outermost room, the one that had open shutter-free windows facing the road. 

Kids could choose to sleep in either of the spaces but we invariably chose to sleep with our mothers. The really juicy gossip sessions garnered maximum heat (literally and figuratively) and spice when the women were done with the day's chores, and we certainly did not want to miss those! The women kept the gab rolling, absently fanning themselves and us with kai-visiris while we kids pretended to be asleep, surreptitiously lapping up all the yada-yada! In between conversation breaks, they whole-heartedly cursed the wretched electricity dept. When the sessions went on long enough, pati brought out her bakshanam dabbas for the impromptu late-night snack session. Generally, post snacks, there would be a lull and people probably caught a few winks then or maybe that was when I conked off!

The next morning scene during the first kaapi would be,

Aunt 1: (Yawn) These blasted mosquitoes, they didn't let me sleep a wink last night!
Aunt 2: Mosquitoes, pah! I would have slept if it weren't for your loud snores!
Aunt 3, 4: (Giggling) That is true, you do snore too loudly!
Aunt 1: (Indignantly) Of course, I do not! It must be someone from the vasa thinnai! A bear would think twice before venturing in, with their snores!
Pati: (joining in from the chamayal ull) God knows how all of you can sleep so deeply! After you all went to sleep, the drinking water supply started, and not one of you heard the water sound. I was up until 4 am filling up all the buckets and that bottomless trough!
Aunt 5: No amma, the water came in at only 5 am, I saw the time as I was returning from the loo. I was the one who woke you up, don't you remember?
Pati: (Crankily) Oh that was you? Why did you wake me, you might as well have filled up the buckets yourself!
Aunt 5: (Chuckles) As if you'd let me! How else would you win bragging rights to having slept the least last night?!
(Everyone laughing)
Pati: (Hiding her grin) Porum, porum! Now take the kaapi to the vasa thinnai. Aren't the men awake yet? How they can sleep like this in the heat, beats me!

And so this dear lot of insomniacs went on about their day, a bit dazed and cranky but with a whole lot of gusto nevertheless!

Coming back to the present, contemplating the merits of camomile tea, melatonin supplements to cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia is honestly a pretty unappealing way of spending your free time!

What is worse than a sleepless night of tossing and turning? 
The morning after, of course! 
With a demeanour akin a grizzly awoken from mid-hibernation or the jolly Mr Hyde, yours is definitely not the company one might seek out to discuss the merits of a refreshing night's sleep!

What is worse than not sleeping?
Watching the person next to you sleep, blissfully unaware of your travails!

“I don't know why it should be, I am sure; but the sight of another man asleep in bed when I am up, maddens me.”
Jerome K Jerome (Three Men in a Boat)

Adding salt to the wounds,

“The best cure for insomnia is to get a lot of sleep.”
― W.C. Fields

Insomnia is good to joke about when you have company but it is a frightful proposition to encounter alone, day after day or is it night after night?! 
Well, let's plug in those airpods, shall we? "Take five deep breaths, inhale, exhale...."
Where's this going to end, where's this going to end, you wonder...

“One of the Georges - I forget which - once said that a certain number of hours' sleep each night - I cannot recall at the moment how many - made a man something which for the time being has slipped my memory.”
― P.G. Wodehouse, Mike and Psmith



pati - grandmother
rezhi - central hall
vasa thinnai - outermost room
kai-visiri - hand fan
bakshanam dabba - homemade treat box
kaapi - filter coffee
chamayal ull: kitchen
porum - enough

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4) Idli Seria Vanduda?

5) Mamievolution

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7) Yours Generously

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9) Musings of a sleep-deprived mind

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