Categories
Short story

Last Letter Written (fiction)

It wasn’t until late December that I found the envelope. It was addressed to no one. It bore the seal of ‘Vrindavan Home for the Aged’. That is how I realised it (perhaps) belonged to my father.

Before you stand on high moral ground and fire me for having sent away my old (and ailing!) Dad to the Home, do try to understand, and if possible, even believe that I truly did not want to send him there. At sixty, he was fit as a fiddle. We used to fight over the TV every evening, and would both finally lose to my son, who decided that Ben Ten was the right programme for us. So we, the boys of the house, would sprawl on the sofas and watched the inane aliens fight gory wars.

I digress. Like I said, the envelope, slightly yellowed and crushed, was addressed to no one in particular. It just bore my address. I assume my Dad had written it for me! Which made me curious, as he was not the sort of person who would write letters! If my memory serves me right, he was particularly not fond of reading or writing. So this was special. I didn’t quite want to open it. The last two months had been rather painful. First, the agony of losing him. Second, the fact that I had left him to die alone. I can never get over it. Ever. And third (perhaps, the most important reason) – I was afraid… of what the letter might contain!!

It was my birthday. In no mood to celebrate, I decided I would open the letter after all…

My dearest,

You know how much I hate to write!

Bang on! This was definitely from Dad!! My lips curved into a smile.

I want to let you know something… its been on my mind ever since you left me.

I stiffened. It was not like I left him! It was HE who decided to leave us. Vidya and I pleaded. So did little Prithvi. But he had made up his mind.

Home away from Home

I like this place they call ‘Home’. Its spacious, airy, the nurses take care of me. I have no complaints.

I visited him almost every Saturday. I would take his favourite food. Sometimes, Vidya and Prithvi came along, at other times, they didn’t. Dad would always recognize Prithvi, no matter what! The moment he saw his chubby little grandson, his wizened face would break into a smile. I felt relived that he liked the Home.

But you know… I want to write this before I can forget everything.. before my traitor of memory fails me. Sometimes I cannot even remember your face. At other times, I feel like you are standing right next to me. I know you are there. Its just, I don’t remember who exactly you are ..  or at times, who I myself am!! I have to confess that part is a little scary.

Lost (image courtesy healingwithnutrition dot com)

So that was why he wrote the letter!! When he was first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, it had come as a brutal shock to all of us.

On most days, he was very normal. The same old Dad who steadily picked his nose as he sat in his oversized armchair, watching children play cricket on the street! On other days, he would turn into a complete stranger. He would just stare at the ceiling. At times, he would simply grab the nearest object and smash it into the wall. He would walk down the street, to buy a packet of chicory, and wouldn’t return home until dark, when one of us would go in search of him, only to find him sitting on a broken bench, looking dazed and confused.

Finally it was he who suggested being moved to the Home. We wanted him around. He, however, was adamant. He left a day after Prithvi’s fifth birthday. We had a great party. He joined in the fun. I almost called the Home to cancel the move. But the next morning, he woke very early, bathed, and packed a little holdall with a couple of shirts and bare necessities. He did not give us any opportunity to try and persuade him against going. Before he left that morning, he blessed us with wishes for a ‘long and happy married life’, and said, very simply, and as a matter-of-fact, ‘Tell Prithvi I love him the most!’

When Prithvi returned from school that afternoon, he searched for Dad in every room of the house! And when he didn’t find him there, he cried himself to sleep.

There’s one little person I always seem to remember. A lovely cherubic little boy. Let me try to recall.. Preetham.. or was it Prithvi? Yes, I think it is Prithvi. My darling little angel. He visits me often. I can’t often remember his name, but I know that he is part of my soul.

I fought hard to blink back the tears. Dad wouldn’t be kind to anybody who cried at the drop of a hat!!

So, my dearest, I had better finish this letter quickly, as I might just not remember about it in some time.

Very often, nurses wipe tears rolling off my cheeks. Sometimes, they say ‘tut..tut..’ and walk away, cursing (in a rather filmy style!) my ‘supposedly wicked’ son who they think has left me here.

Little do they know, that these, in fact, are tears of joy.

Joy at a life well lived. This is the happiness of a husband, who found a good and loving wife. The pride of a father, who raised a strong and caring son. And also, the yearning of a grandfather. Whose only (albeit greedy) wish was that he had a few more years to spend with his grandson, frolicking in the park, or sneaking away from the watchful and loving eyes of his Mummy, to lick an ice-cream cone. But then, I’m just being ungrateful.

I could have lived with our children. But you know, much as I hate to boast, I think our son adores me! So does Prithvi. I want them to remember me as their Hero. Not as a senile patient who couldn’t recognize them! No. That wouldn’t work for me.

So, this is my big secret. I want you to know, my dearest, that every time I remember us, and cry, it is only to say that I have lived a very happy life.

I think I will see you soon.

Dad’s last letter. It had not been written for me. Or for Prithvi. But for Mum. I was stunned, at how Dad never let us see how much he missed her. I hoped they were together again.

To me, the letter had a cathartic effect. I don’t know if I can ever stop feeling guilty, but this day, I felt a little better. He knew what he was doing. And he did it not just for me, but also for himself.

I guess he was right afterall. When I think of Dad, I only recall a tall, strong man, who would throw Prithvi up into mid-air and catch him as he fell squealing with delight. I remember him as a level-headed counsellor, who simply declared that every workplace had its share of politics, and it was upto me to handle it or steer clear! Vidya remembers him as a loving father, who would make her a cup of ‘straang filter kaapi’ when she returned home from work every evening.

And Prithvi.. well, he does not remember much of him. When we happen to mention Dad, he perks up, curious to know more about his childhood friend. We cite him examples of how Dad used to pretend to be his Horse and ‘giddy up’ as Prithvi ordered him to! Prithvi chuckles shyly when we mention such incidents.

Often, he walks into Dad’s old room (that has now been converted into a Study) as if looking for something.

Sometimes, I follow him, and find him gazing at a picture of Dad’s. At other times, I find him dozing in the big arm-chair.

Well, whatever it is he is doing (or not doing!), I get the feeling this room is his favourite haunt. He seems happy here.

As for the letter, I placed it back in its envelope, labelled it as ‘First Letter Written’ and tucked it far, far away inside my wardrobe. I could perhaps give it to Prithvi when he is grown up enough to be deceived by ‘Success’ manifesting itself in the form of money or fame?! Will it make any sense to him, I wonder…

Or perhaps, I will simply start writing a letter of my own…. hoping that I too, can be a Hero to my son, as Dad is to me.

—————

To read my other pieces of fiction, please click here. Thank you!

Categories
55-er Short story

The lookalike (55-er)

This 55 word fiction was written for N-Zine.

‘Mother’. ‘Hatred’. Two words that evoked similar emotions.

She hated looking like Mummy. She hated being told that!

At sixteen, ‘I wish I wasn’t YOUR daughter!’, she screamed.

‘You aren’t’, Mummy replied quietly.

Daddy showed her the adoption papers. ‘We hoped YOU wouldn’t feel out of place’

She stared at her albino Mummy and cried.

Categories
Food and recipe Health n Fitness

Friday Feast 2 – Utterly simple

I was wondering if my Friday Feast posts were turning boring, when Deeps said she was actually looking forward to it!!! So I plunged into writing this post, on a Tuesday, and scheduling it to be published on Friday (Whoa @ my commitment to blogging, no?).

This Friday, I have not one, but Two Feasts for you!

1- ONE-POT STIR-FRY MEAL

As always, a quick n easy one-pot meal idea :  Stir-fry noodles/rice

Utterly simple – Roughly chop up loads of veggies – Spring onions, onions, baby corn, carrot, capsicum (all colours), cabbage, mange tout, beans – toss them into a pan with a tablespoon of oil. Stir-fry them on high heat, for about 2-3 minutes, until they get slightly brown, but not fully cooked. Do remember to keep the veggies crunchy.

Now add in some salt to taste. I don’t usually add Ajinomoto as I cannot serve that to my little brat. If you like, you could add in a tablespoon of soy sauce and vinegar. Or a ready-made packet of Knorr hakka noodles masala (which tastes quite good!).

Finally, throw in the cooked rice or noodles (as you like), toss briskly, without mashing either the rice or the veggies. Basically, you are doing a stir-fry and not cooking food.

Knorr goodies for foodies

For the more enthusiastic folks around, a side-dish (cauliflower manchurian or paneer manchurian and the likes!) could be made as well. I usually just stock up on the Knorr Manchurian or Knorr Schezwan packets, and use them sparingly on my feeling-lazy-days!

They are extremely simply and taste divine. Just follow the instructions on the pack and its really easy to make the side-dish. Otherwise, ofcourse, you can do it from scratch, and there are loads of recipies on the internet, that I don’t want to bore you with now!!

Personally, I am very happy with this one-pot meal. Its simple, easy to make, tasty and well, let’s face it -what could be healthier than vegetables?

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2- THOMAS DOSAI!!!!

The second Feast for today, is specially meant for your Kiddies and Kiddos: A yummy dosai in the shape of a Thomas train (with wheels!), decorated with cooked potato and spinach 🙂

My mum used to make dosais in the shape of Ducks and Houses when we were young!

The important thing to remember while making dosai in different shapes, is the temperature of your tava. Heat your dosai tava slightly, not too hot (otherwise the batter will become clumpy), and not too cool either (as then, the batter will not cook!!).

When the tava is warm, ladle the batter onto it. First draw a circle, and then a little rectangle adjoining it. Lastly, spoon a tiny bit on the top to make a funnel! Don’t forget the wheels!!! Cook little circles of batter, and just arrange them under the train before you serve.

You can top this with any veggies to make a face. The possibilities are quite endless, really! I am quite sure your child will wolf this down in no time 🙂

Do try and let me know!

And – Happy Weekend, folks!!!

Categories
Wordless Wed

WW – 4

Apologies for bombarding you with my beautiful leaves… but kya kare, they are just so gorgeous….

And this beautiful afternoon…. (Btw, the bridge in the far end – the one that goes up like a little arch – was the one in the James Bond boat chase … I’ve forgotten the name of the movie now 😦 but will try to rattle the failing memory…)

Categories
Thought and Reason

Lara ka Yoga!

(Ok, I don’t know if it is Lara KA Yoga, or Lara KI Yoga!)

First, it was Shilpa flaunting her huge.. er.. smile on everything, starting from Poppadums to Yoga Dvds. And now its our dear Lara Dutta.

Indian actress Lara Dutta at the 2009 DVK Foun...
Image via Wikipedia

I saw this link on FB, from Flipkart, that announced a new product – ‘H.E.A.L. With Lara Dutta – “Yoga: Recovery & Rejuvenation’.

Excellent venture. For the producers and Lara!

But what of the thousands of people (and here, I’m just being optimistic about the number not being in Lakhs!!) who will actually buy the DVD?

Thousands of people will believe they can actually learn yoga, and achieve ‘inner peace’ by copying Lara!

Thousands will imagine they too, will turn ultra-slim and glamorous, only by practising Yoga from a DVD!

And thousands more will be happy to flaunt that they too, belong to the elite group of people who do Yoga for well-being.

Honestly, people, do we really believe it is safe to learn yoga from a DVD?

Here is something very basic about Yoga. Yoga is not just about postures, it is about breating too. And the technique you adopt has to be absolutely correct.

Image courtesy - Google, link to original image

The wrong technique could lead to injuries of any sort. It could even render the entire exercise useless!!

Image courtesy: comfortinstylemag dot com
  • If we really do want to achieve inner calm, let’s spend some time in silence!!
  • If we desire happiness and a sense of purpose in life, let us spend time with the less fortunate – we will not only help them, but will also automatically realise how much we ‘have’ as compared to what we hanker after!!
  • If we want to look thin and glamorous, then let’s eat sensibly and work-out every day, rather than buy a ‘Heal with Lara’ Dvd!

Well, the only ray of light in this sort of a money-making venture is that the common man/woman may not find the sight of a Baba Ramdev visually appealing (!!!), but might just be tempted to have a taster of ‘Yoga’ just because a filmstar endorses it!

Having said that, it seems ridiculous for people to try and learn Yoga from a DVD.

It is like reading a book or watching a DVD on ‘How to Swim’ and jumping straight into the ocean!!!

What do you think, ladies and gentlemen? Do share!

Categories
Food and recipe

Friday Feast – Fussy eaters!

This one is for mommies and daddies of children who happen to be fussy eaters 🙂 A lunch-box idea that is really and truly easy peasy for the parent, and even easier for your child!

(Apologies for the poor picture quality).

 

No kid can refuse this colourful and balanced meal

 

1- Roughly chop veggies like baby corn, carrot, beans, capsicum (green, red, orange and yellow – really just any colour available), cabbage and a little onion if you please. Stir-fry these for about 5 mins in a teaspoon of oil, add a pinch of salt. Add some cooked white rice (basmati makes a great combination).

2- Complement the rice with a few cherry tomatoes and fruits like apple, grapes or peeled orange.

Voila! Your child has a lovely balanced meal!! And the chances are pretty good, that he/she will gobble this up without making a fuss. Mine did 🙂

Happy weekend, girls and boys 🙂 and uncles and aunties 🙂

Categories
Thurs Challenge - picture

Thursday Challenge – TC 4

(Apologies to my FB friends, this is going to be a repeat!!)

I should have waited until today, to post the autumn pictures! For that is exactly what this week’s Thursday Challenge is all about!!!

 

A fascinating path of leaves across the river!!

 

 

My all-time favourite - Glorious autumn!!!
Categories
Wordless Wed

Adios Autumn, Welcome Winter – WW 4

This picture was taken last evening. And what a contrast to the glorious orange/gold carpet that we saw just seven days ago!!

 

Adios Autumn! Welcome, Winter!

 

 


Not nearly as pretty as last week!

 

Categories
Incidents

On making a difference

Year 2010 just began. And its nearly over too! Where do the days and years disappear? Days filled with insignificant, mundane chores! Days centred around our pretty selves!!

Perhaps, it is time to take some effort to ‘make a difference’ to those who really need help!

The Ojas Trust does precisely that. The Ojas is a Registered Educational and Charitable Trust.

Please do read their website to learn about all the fantastic work they are doing to help people who aren’t as fortunate.

A quick summary of their projects:

1. To mark its grand opening, The Ojas has adopted “Irular Colony”, near Ponneri, 75 kms from Chennai. The colony has about 1000 residents in 120 tiled and thatched huts. They don’t have access to drinking water and electricity. The Ojas is negotiating with the government to ensure that by end of project, the Colony has these two basic needs. Also, for Diwali 2010 – The Ojas is distributing new clothes to all the inmates along with Rice & Grains. The colony still needs lot of work …and we need you to help us with this! Please contact for more information – projects@theojastrust.org

2. The 12th Blood Donation Camp is scheduled to be held on Nov 14th, 2010 between 9.00 am and 12.30 pm at Aditya Ashwin Apts, Dr.Ranga Road, Mylapore, Chennai – 600 004. Additionally, we will be serving food to all the donors and volunteers on this day.
3. In order to spread awareness, The Ojas is also inviting people to come forward to “Donate Eyes”. Forms are available with representatives. The duly filled forms can be returned to us, which will be in turn deposited at “C U Shah Eye Bank, Sankara Nethralaya”.  Interested people may please contact Priya at 98840 36200 or email her- priya@theojastrust.org

4. Another new endevour of The Ojas to increase environmental responsibility is planting 86 fruit bearing coconut trees in Magaral Village, Tamil Nadu.

5. Representatives of The Ojas have personally visited and surveyed 18 homes (including baby-care units, orphanages, old-age homes, etc.,) in and around Chennai. The sum total of the needs have been clearly listed below.

• 2 ton AC for a Baby Care Unit

• 20 Steel Single Cots for a Old-Age Home

• Fans & Tubelights (50 numbers)

• Huggies (Different Sizes)

• Grinders/Mixie/Washing Machine

• Bedsheets & Pillow Covers

• Mike with Amplifier & speakers

• Large sized Aluminium vessels for cooking purposes

• Pressure Cooker (20 ltr size)

• Steel plates and tumblers (Over 500)

• Wax for candle making (Over 200 kgs)

• Tea Powder (Over 100 kgs)

6. The Trust will also be distributing 250 “AkshayaPatra” Bags that contain Rice, grains, pulses, oil, toilet & sanitational needs etc that cost Rs.2000 per bag. Each of these 250 bags will be given to Irular Colony and inmates of Leprosy Village.
7. Rice, pulses and grains in bulk quantities purchased for these homes. The requirement for each home varies from 100 kgs of rice to 50 kgs of dhal, oil, sugar, etc…

I just received this email:

Our first Grama Seva (Village Project) happened on October 24th 2010 in the Irular Village near Ponneri, Chennai. The inhabitants of more than 800 people were each given new clothes and sweet & savories. Additionally, every family (120 families) were given 25 kilos of rice and the Akshayapatra Bags. The Ojas Trust also gave large amounts of used clothes and other usable household things (such as mixie, vessels, umbrellas, etc..etc…) to the villagers. Chairs, large sized cloth mats (to be used on the floor) were given to the school.

About 35 volunteers representing The Ojas reached the village at about 10.00 hrs. The crowd was waiting in anticipation for their goodies. The organised crowd who were given tokens came forward to receive their gifts. Our volunteers went along personally to place the bags of rice in their respective homes. The village roads were in bad shape owing to rain the previous evening. The place immediately needs proper sanitation and that would soon be the area of focus of The Trust.



We sang devotional songs at the end of the distribution, made photographs along with the villagers and bid them farewell promising to come back again with more concrete plans. The school needs PRIORITY attention. The flooring is almost absent and children are often bit by insects as they sit inside the school. The leaking roof adds to the agony.

Those of us who are interested in promising these people better sanitation and a better environment to study – please write to us at –projects@theojastrust.org

Here is a picture update of the project! Thanks to all of you who made this project a reality! We look forward to your continued support!

If any of you would like to volunteer your services (or money too), please email priya@theojastrust.org


If any of you would like to volunteer your services (or money too), please email priya@theojastrust.org

Priya happens to be my ‘schoolmate’, and I can completely vouch for her genuineness!!

Categories
Food and recipe

If you liked cheese parathas, you will love…

…..Egg parathas!

For eggetarians, this is a delicious one-dish meal. And for harassed Mommies and Daddies of fussy eaters, this is an outright boon!!!

Ok folks, I can proudly say I have come a long way from the days of trying to master the art of making chapatis.

All you need:

(a) Chapati dough (b) Beat together: 1 egg, a pinch of salt (add pepper, if you like), some chopped coriander

Step 1– Roll dough into circle, spread few drops of oil, fold into half, spread another drop of oil, fold again to make it a triangle. Roll out into a bigger triangle, taking care to not smash the layers into each other 😉

Step 2– Pop this onto the Tava (griddle/pan), cook for a few seconds on one side, turn over the chapati and cook for a few more seconds on the other side. Don’t let it turn brown, just cook it very very little, so that the layers are ready to peel away from each other.

Step 3– Take the semi-cooked chapati off the Tava, and gently peel the layers, without tearing them apart! Use a spoon (not a knife, please)

Step 4– Now place the chapati back onto the tava, and spoon half the egg mixture into the triangle. The cheeky mixture will try to leak (outside the chapati), but ‘you’ can be smarter and do a little acrobatics with the Tava. Tilt it a little, to help the mixture run back inside the chapati. Yeah yeah, you can also cheat a little, and scrape any mixture off the tava and spoon it right back into the chapati!

Step 5– Give this a couple of minutes to cook well on both sides, and ensure the egg is also fully cooked inside! The chapati turns into a yummy filling paratha.

Step 6- Actually, there’s no step 6. All you have to do, is E.A.T 🙂 You could dip this in ketchup or a salsa dip to make it tastier. The only real drawback is, you have got to eat this hot, not cold.

EDITED TO ADD:-

I guess the shape and technique seem a little daunting. It really is quite easy, once you practise making the parathas a couple of times. For those who don’t wish to try, there is a really easy way.

Roll the dough into a regular chapati, make it really thin though.

Cook the chapati slightly on one side, then turn to the other. Turn back the slightly cooked side now, and spoon in the egg mixture. Now fold the chapati from both sides, and also slightly seal the top and bottom so that the egg remains inside.

Easy peasy egg roll

Leave this to cook on medium heat for a couple of minutes until the egg is fully cooked. You could turn this over and let it cook for a minute longer.

Enjoy!!!