Airport Chronicles

The airport is a wonderful place. Thronging with people who are making their way to their next destination- some of them are with hope, some with despair, and some (like me) exude passive indifference.

Sans the pat-down, till the moment I got comfy in the waiting chairs, the journey wasn’t all the bad-, my jovial cab driver, the immigration officer who wished me Eid Mubarak, and the cheery McDonalds burger (yes, you can eat in the airport during Ramadan as you are Musafirs) were all good.

While people remained glued to their phone screens, I surveyed the area to find my next characters in action.

There was this family that caught my attention. The husband, who looked just like me, paunch and all, his wife, clad in an abaya, and his 3 kids. Well, the couple were very forgettable, but the 3 kids weren’t. A mischievous bunch they were, the boys were jumping up and down as expected from their age. And then the most unexpected, the youngest girl, the teeny attention seeker she was, started licking the glass partitions between the chairs. One was just ew. She went on going around the place and licked/kissed each partition. Well, this isn’t surprising, considering she looked hardly 2. What was surprising was that her parents saw this and didn’t bat an eyelid. Another way of parenting, I guess.

A wheelchair came rolling by, and my attention waned from the partition-licking girl. She looked calm and composed. Accompanying her was her mother and two other men, one too young to be her father and one too old to be her son. The older male was ever so lovingly talking in sign language to the other guy who was deaf. The older guy looked like the guy from Mad Men. The lady in the wheelchair started talking to the men in sign language. Two of the four were definitely deaf. What caught my eye was their love and compassion for their family. It was just a few minutes, and neither do I know sign language nor did I know what was transpiring; all I could feel was the warmth of love that was there in that family.

As they proceeded to move to their respective gate, I got up and went for lunch as none of the others seemed to pique interest in me.

The burger wasn’t all bad, the fries were crisp, hot, and perfectly seasoned, and coke was at its possible best- watered down with all its majesty. Too bad, Musk hasn’t bought Coca-Cola yet.

The waiting area was getting crowded. I found a corner seat with not many people in the vicinity. The chairs opposite me were empty, and I had a nice partition next to me to fend me away from unsolicited neighbors (hopefully, the partition licker hadn’t licked it). And then they sat in front of me. A middle-aged Arab couple. The lady had a cup of coffee in her hand while the husband was on the phone talking. They sat opposite me. I was stealing glances at them. He wasn’t looking at her. But it was auto reflex that he took the coffee cup into his hands even without looking as she proceeded to check on her makeup. As he handed over the cup back, she asked him to take a sip of the coffee. He said something back to her, took a sip, and she took the coffee back, all looking at him with nothing but love in her eyes. As I was boarding the flight, I saw them a little up ahead of me in the queue, with their two sons who were well into their twenties. And that, my friends, is a testimonial that true love never ages. It just matures like fine wine.

People are intriguing. Lift your eyes 2 inches above your screen; more interesting stories await without scrolling.

All for a plate of food!!

The kid screamed with glee and they opened the door to the restaurant. He tore through the aisle and occupied the table at the farthest corner. His mother, a lady who looked like she had seen better days, slowly walked and sat beside him. Her face had a grandiose aura and she sat there, teeming with a look of perplexity.

Her husband came and sat opposite them, partially blocking my view of the kid but the mother was still in my line of vision. I continued watching Netflix on my phone, sipping my cup of chai while my complex order was getting prepared in the kitchen.

As the waiter came to take their order, the kid screamed out his order- a masala dosa with an accompaniment of a single vada. His excitement was so much that his shrill voice ricocheted over my full volume AirPods- the whole restaurant and possibly the next street also heard it. And suddenly that table became more interesting than Netflix.

His food came, my food came. He started eating, I started eating. His father’s food came, he started eating. But her food didn’t come and neither did she start eating. She was shifting her focus between her husband’s plate and her phone. Her throat was jostling as she made frantic attempts to curb her mouth watering. The husband didn’t seem to notice. He was one with his plate of food.

After a second, the son seemed to sense his mother’s anguish. His little hand broke a piece of his dosa and fed his mom. I was sure her eyes moistened as she slowly enjoyed that piece of food ever so lovingly given by her son.

At that moment, I finished my food and got up to wash up. My mind was full with thoughts. Why didn’t the mom order anything? Did she eat already? Did she have food at home? The pessimist in me was in play as I started thinking a possible worst case scenario- were they on a tight budget that the mom faked her appetite so that the two men in her life could eat a nice dinner outside. I was deep in thought even as I stepped out of the restaurant thinking of her sacrifice.

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I realized something. I forgot my Airpods case amidst all this hullabaloo.

Walking back, I was startled to my table was already occupied by someone else and my case was nowhere in sight. The waiter tapped my shoulder and handed it over to me. I thanked him and couldn’t help but notice the glistening crunchy oothappam on his hand. The aroma was enticing and color of the crust made me drool. The mask acted as a savior in this case. He passed by me and set the oothappam in front of the mother……

This prejudiced mind was laid to rest, all for a plate of food, in a crowded restaurant and a dish with a longer prep time.

127 Seconds!

The far roads lay straight for miles, empty in all its glory. The sun was slowly fading from the horizon.

All around you, it was just the road and your car- accelerating and decelerating at its twists and turns. The solo ride and the wind gushing onto the face- the feel was exhilarating despite the humid, sticky, hot weather where mercury often hissed the halfway boiling point.

Paying no attention to what my Google Maps had to say, the car was moving in tandem with the roads as if she had a mind of her own. As the roads grew narrower, the sand and debris on them grew thicker. A 120kmph speed on a sandy road jilted the steering and got the cautious adrenaline junkie off guard.

It was time to pay heed to the road. Were the fates trying to say something?

Well, they were!

While drifting into the next turn, the car came to a sudden halt. As far as the eye could see, the roads were covered with sand. Trusting her 180 horses, she inched headlong onto the battlefield.

And stuck!

She and I were one on the tarmac. Then with a thwack on the head, I came to my senses.

The tires were submerged in the sand. So much for trying crazy antics with a sedan.

I was in the middle of nowhere. My head, as crazy as it is, went to disaster mode. Will I have to live there? No one or nothing in hand, would I have had to live in my car, till maybe a week later, some patrol car finds me hallucinated and deprived of nutrition, or even worse, dead and decayed on the driver’s seat.

What seemed like a lifetime was just hardly 10 seconds on the clock! Too much for me and my mind’s drama. I looked around my seat- I had a water bottle, a protein bar that had fallen in the car from the previous day’s grocery bag. And to top it, my phone had all its bars.

Now, all it was left was to call the cops to help me get towed or try maneuvering on my own. I could get more stuck. Well, you know me.

Strapped back to the seat and floored the accelerator, the tachometer gained might, yet we didn’t move an inch. Put the car in reverse and floored the gas again; nothing but the engine revved up to the reds.

So much for a front-wheel-drive car!

Necessity is the mother of invention. A split second later, I rotated the steering wheel to an angle and revved up. Turned to the other side and floored the pedal again. Tried it a couple more times, and voila, the tires were dislodged from the sand.

Reversed the car and went back up the road. No one. Eerily calm and pleasantly quiet. And well, she and me became one, and we roared onto the road.

P(iquant)othichoru

Have you ordered a thali home?

Little plastic cups filled with delectable dishes enough to fill your tummy and increase its circumference momentarily. Or better, a plastic tray with each of the cubby holes filled with choicest of the dishes.

But have you had the pothichoru?

An ambrosial experience (if I may)!

Pothi means a pack. Choru translates to rice- but when combined, it forms the archaic Malayalee lunch pack- an essential culinary delight every Mallu boasts.

A nostalgic moment, more than anything- pothichoru used to be the lifeblood for lunches in schools, colleges and offices, back in the day. From home, with love, a bundle of joy is sent with you. You push over the drudgery of the day, thinking hopefully about lunchtime, where you could experience your mother’s fine cooking skills.

A mound of rice is placed on a banana leaf, wilted just right to release its natural aroma. On it, coarsely ground dry coconut chutney and a scented lemon pickle is kept. On one side of the rice, thoran- an eloquent preparation of cabbage and carrot in coconut oil is served. The other side has a semi-liquid preparation- maybe an avial (the mix of any and every vegetable again in copious amounts of coconut puree) or kaalan (the princely dish made with raw banana and yam in coconuty yogurty blend). Adorning the crest of the rice is a piece of fried fish and a small omelette/sunny side up (only for the pescatarians)

A Kerala pappadam is also kept on top; after all, what Kerala lunch is complete without a pappadam. This menagerie is tightly wrapped and kept aside to age for a few hours or so.

The aroma from the banana leaf has spread across the pothi; all the smells and tastes have made inroads into the rice.

At lunchtime, you open it, and a captivating smell is in the air.

The soggy pappad, the fish and the egg are moved to the side, and then you proceed to dig your fingers into the rice to weave a harmony of taste and smell- I salivate as I write this sentence. The hands move in a circular motion, forming bite-sized balls of the rice mix, and with each bite, you experience a mini foodgasm- hearty and without a worry in the world, you devour the whole thing.

The nostalgia behind the pothichoru aside, the food fills your heart, body and soul.

Detached!

She stretched her arms and legs. It felt so effortless today. The air she breathed was pure and light- like it caressed her lungs in a way like never before. Her heart wasn’t beating slower or faster than it should be. As her foot touched the floor, she felt a connection between her and Mother Earth.

She got up from the bed, stretched again and walked towards the window. A pale ray of the sunlight was falling on her face. The early morning sun had never been more welcoming.

She looked out of the window; kids were playing on a ground not far away. Middle-aged walkers were brisk walking, trying to burn the excess calories of the previous day.

Her glance moved to the main road.

Early morning office-goers were piling into buses at the nearest bus stop. The morning was in all its glory.

She was feeling alive more so than ever. Her stance was strong, and she was ready to face the day headlong.

Something felt amiss. A cup of coffee, was it? She turned around, blissful as she could be and then suddenly she met reality- her ears and eyes adjusted to the cacophony of human and machine sounds.

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A bunch of doctors and nurses were huddled around a hospital bed- trying to defibrillate a patient. The patient on the bed was shaking whilst a high voltage electric current passed through the body. She inched towards them to see what was happening. And at that moment, she heard a shocked voice and a machine noise. It was all over!

Her eyes went pale as she caught a glimpse of the patient’s face and the flatlined heart monitor as the nurses covered her face with a white shroud!!

COVID Blues

Hazy vision, stifled breathing, heart racing at 120 bps, constricted blood flow in my hands, overall choked up feeling- my day couldn’t have been better.

Reading the title + the first line might have brought in a thought that I had that ‘virus’.

Thank God, no!

At least, not yet!

Praying never!

That is how I felt gearing up, while I went for my COVID PCR test. Hazy vision owing to the face shield, stifled breathing as I wore 2 masks (a 3 ply surgical under the icing on the cake- a N95), heart racing at 120 bps (well, that was just stress). 2 gloves had given my hand a rubbery feeling and the overall choked up feeling was by wearing a PPE overall (the shop specially brought from the distributor just for me, alas- was tad 2 sizes small)

The lab was just a short while away from my place. As I got in the car, the overall gave way, ripping in desperation. Now it was just 2 pieces of cloth dangling over my body. Throwing it out and getting back in the car, now it was just the face shield, masks and gloves for my safety.

At the lab, I was totally overdressed for this party sans the astronaut style PPE clad nurses.

Most of them were just wearing a mask. Some had gloves. Some were just wearing cloth masks. At a place with a higher probability of getting infected, better to be safe than sorry.

The testing was quite fast. From filling out the form to getting the nose swab, I was in and out in less than 30 mins. To say, it took me more time to find the lab than being in the lab.

And testing negative, boy, that was a sigh of relief. A relief, that I stayed safe during the safe season.

The season ahead is worth the watch!! Hope to stay safe and requesting all to be vigilant. A momentary lapse can end you up in the daily government tally. Stay safe!!

**runs to sanitize hands** 😉

The Art of Making Tea!

Tea- a beverage fabled as a drink mistakenly discovered by the Chinese and made ever-so fanciful by the British over its vast empire including India.

Earliest historical reference on Tea in India dates back to 12th century AD while the British started producing it commercially and with China, India constitutes over 60% of the global tea cultivation.

Being an indispensable part of the daily routine, making tea varies from person to person, household to household. Hundreds of varieties make its preparation an art, and if ‘yours sincerely’ were to make it, it would be a dis’art’ster.

Either tired because of no sleep or tired of sleeping too much, be it with 3 hours sleep or 12 hours sleep, waking up groggy has always been my forte.

Post ablutions, the moment I step out of my room, a cup of steaming hot ‘chai’ would be sitting on the dining table, its aroma wafting through the air.
Intricately spiced with cardamom, cloves and ginger, its sweetness just right, this cup of joy had always been my mood raiser and deciding factor for how the day was going to be.

Then one day, I got up to an empty home. My family had left me ‘Home Alone’ for some shopping.
Expecting that the usual cup of tea would still be there, I walked to the dining table, teeming in anticipation.

The dejected look on my groggy face was seemingly becoming evident as the table had no cup of tea..

COVID time cooking experimentation had made me transform from a novice cook who knew just one dish to a fairly decent cook who could whip up something at ease. Biriyani, pasta, curries for roti, you name it, I could try to. Disaster stricken kitchen, pots and pans lying berserk post-cook is on you.

Just one hiccup!

I wasn’t very sure about how to make tea.

My earlier experiences of making tea and coffee were limited to my Nespresso machine or emptying a premix sachet or my office regular black coffee with no sugar.

So I did try.

Put the water to boil, added the tea leaves, a clove, cardamom pod and waited for the smell to waft through the air.

It did.

A pungent, putrid smell did waft through the air. Was it the cloves or the cardamom? Or was it the tea leaves? A quick smell test ensured all were smelling the way it was supposed.

Then it hit me, a slap on my face.

I added three tablespoons of tea instead of the 1-1.5 teaspoons, which was the norm. Watering down the brew was the only option.

To make me a cup of tea, I transferred the foul-smelling liquid into a bigger pot and added water enough to make tea for all the houses on my floor.

I left it simmering and went to attend a call.

My parents were calling to check if their gargantuan little boy was up.

Tea was simmering, and I went on talking.

It would be an exaggeration if I told you that my tea leaves were devoid of colour and the tea was pitch black. Well!

It had simmered for too long.

The smell had gone, or was it just olfactory adaptation?

I added milk powder to the glass and was pouring hitherto to another to get my froth on.

Alas, it was too strong. I kept on adding milk powder, enough to feed a child from age 1 to age 3 in the cup of tea, and it ended up becoming a thick mash.

I could freeze it to make a pudding.

A cup of tea, a feeling of joy, a sip of bliss had turned to become a slurry of mayhem.

Tomorrow, I intend to make coffee. I can hear the rejoicing Columbian coffee growers.

TLDR: I screwed up making tea! Exaggeration- quite a bit.  

An Unspoken Word


It was just a white curtain that separated them inside a large room in a hospital bustling with patients, doctors, nurses and bystanders. Busy as always- people were filing in and out- of course, they were as this was the pre-COVID era.

Two beds on either side- an older man was sitting on a chair at the far end of the room. He was snoozing lazily on the chair, waking up troubled every time he heard some mild sound. He had dark circles under his eyes- he hadn’t slept in days. His chair was between the window and a bed where an old lady lay.

She lay motionless next to the windowsill on a bed far too large for her. The rays of the morning sun had its way on her face. She was as radiant as the rising sun. Her wrinkled face was glorious, calm and elegance intertwined even as she lay still. Tufts of wavy silver hair was falling on to her face. Her body rose and fell with mild undulations- the only sign that showed that she was still alive. The dangling remote control for the bed was moving in sync to her breath. Monitors and screens were stable with squiggly lines moving hitherto. A central line was placed on her neck, her life support for medication and fluids to keep her alive.

She was a mother, a wife and a daughter. She had everything- a high profile job till she retired, drove a Mercedes till she couldn’t drive anymore, a large house, staff to wait on her head to foot, everything she needed and wanted. And something she did not need, definitely didn’t wish to have- cancer- oesophagal carcinoma.

It was almost cured, she was better. The lost hair was slowly growing. She was talking. And well.

And then, she collapsed during a function. People were filing in day in and out while she was at the hospital. Soon the number started dwindling. Then it was just her and her husband. The painkillers were always keeping her sedated. He was there, every day, every night, by her side- just going home to get fresh sets of clothes.

On the other side of the room, he was getting restless on his bed. The IV cannula on his hand was being filled with one medicine after the other by a nurse. His little eyes were fixated directly upfront. A piercing look from him bore deep into the nurse’s heart as he winced in pain. The doctor told him he is getting better. His ‘neck thing’ was off since yesterday, and he was counting his days for his ‘hand thing’ to be removed. His little fingers counted days. Days were becoming months, and months were almost becoming a year. He had lost count now.

He was a boy, full of fun and frolic, climbing trees and throwing stones at trees and boys who jumped on the trees. He was a studious chap, scoring well in his class. He and the boys were enjoying life till he fell on the ground that fateful day. The nurse in the school gave him a glass of glucose, thinking it was the heat. It wasn’t. He lost his interests, and he was suddenly weak. His friends thought he was lazy. He no longer climbed trees, and he no longer was studious. He was no longer himself.

He got admitted to the children’s ward in the hospital. He used to cry every night in pain- cancer was a tough disease to beat. He hadn’t heard of cancer. He had just progressed from addition to subtraction in school. He used to cry silently every day in anguish. People used to come over to see their children with presents and toys. No one came for him- just one of his teachers came- the day he got admitted- to dump his belongings there. He couldn’t fathom the intricacy of such a disease but could comprehend that fact- that an orphan had no one.


The nurse was newly assigned to the paediatric oncology department. Every day, as she comes in to give the children their medicine, everyone cried or resisted. He was lying there getting injected into the cannula. That bravery made her notice him- a young man in the guise of a six-year-old. She couldn’t help but notice that no one came to visit him. She saw his side table empty- just one book- a battered old Enid Blyton. Other kids had games, toys etc. brought in while he lay gloomy. Despite the pain, they used to laugh, play and move around the room. He just lay there- eyes transfixed straight ahead- the eyes spelt pain.

She found out he had no one. Connecting the dots then didn’t require a rocket scientist- he was sad because he had no one. She felt his medicine reception would be better if he were to be moved to some other place- away from children with doting parents and a plethora of presents. So he arrived in his new room.  

The old lady was staring out of the window as he arrived. She wasn’t expecting a roommate, nor did she want to- the double room was hers to stay- a wishful request from the doctor made her oblige.

His eyes met hers. It was a silent connection. Unspoken words meant more.

Every day, they ate together. Her central line fed in glucose, while he ate his meal. She was always up to see that he was fed.

He was up and about when she woke up. He would push the blanket on to her bed if it had fallen. He would keep her company, always by her side without uttering a word.

Days became months.

Every week a small package appeared on his side table. A toy, maybe a book, some chocolates, sometimes even a new set of pajamas- he was happy. Soon became keen to know his benefactor.

She was improving. He was improving. Her central line was out. They started having lunch together. She would weakly sip on her porridge while he would devour his rotis.

As she started getting better, dinner too was together. Her husband too would join them, while getting amused by his antics.

Not a word was uttered.

The white curtain was drawn at night while they slept.

His presents kept coming.

Slowly, he would perch up on her bed, cross-legged at her feet while they would look at each other in silence as they had their meals. As she started having solid food, home cooked meals started coming. He would eat with her- she would sometimes feed her.

He would slowly get down from his bed, hoist his plates and carry her plates too.

They started having all meals together.

She started walking slowly- he would try supporting her while she and her husband would pace around the room but the 6-year-old’s body was too small for her to hold.  

Not a word was uttered.

The white curtain was drawn at night while they slept.

His presents kept coming.

He was smiling. The nurse saw progress in him.

He was happy.

He saw a mother.

Doctor had come up to her one day trying to make utter her first word- ‘Ayush’ came as a gushed whisper and then as a firm call.

She was expecting him to come running to her. She got up from her bed, past the doctor and her husband and moved the white curtain – the bed was empty.

She stood in shock.

The present in her hand burned her fingers as the nurse wheeled in another patient.


A Tale Yonder

She lay there, unperturbed.

A gentle whisper near my ears.

She dodged my outstretched hands.

A mockery in her eyes.

As I lay on my head, for some shut eye.

Again she went, a whisper and a taunt.

Made me wide awake and agile.

She was fast and frisky.

I was so not to be.

She just wanted to see me try.

I just wanted to get this over

Then did I whip out my tool.

Brandishing like a sword I went after her, oh my dear

Crack went the whip

Crackled and mangled she lay.

In the electric net of doom, her remains astray

Thus concludes the tale yonder

Of how I killed a Fly that interrupted my slumber

Lights Out!

<<

She was crying nonstop from the moment they entered the door. It was a mix of inconsolable sobbing and high pitched wailing.

There was an intermittent pause which made him think his six month old baby had stopped crying but she was taking a breathing gap.

He lifted her from her crib and coddled her.

She was fast asleep while they were at the church.

What was bothering her? She didn’t bother to take the bottle. So she wasn’t hungry. He did a thorough search of her body for insect bites. Nope, nothing.

This was the fourth time he was entering her nursery.

He bounced her up and down, to and fro.

It took him a while, but she was finally asleep.

He left her in the nursery and came out.

She slept peacefully at night. He too slept after tossing and turning much. He hadn’t seen her cry like this.

He also hadn’t seen that the motion sensing light in the room was on before he entered the room.

She was there with the baby. Unseen, unknown.

His wife laid to rest earlier that day was there to see her little one. Unable to be seen by him, unable to touch her baby.

>>

My brother brought some motion sensing night lights. I spooked the bejesus out of him and voila!!