Saturday, July 31

It's Only Love 

Of all the things that are overrated in life, the one that strikes me every so often and irrevocably so is love. Of course, if you’re madly in love with someone and truly believe you can’t live without them or that your world will come apart if they turn their back on you, you might say I’m completely out of whack for saying so. Or you may think I’m alluding to idolatry, or lust, or any of the repercussions of love. But no, I’m not, and I could take off on a whole new tangent with my inferences on those.

Then again, I may have agreed with you if I was still a teen. I know the topic has been done to death already, but like most dreamy, romantic teens, I too imagined a love life that would color my world a glossy hint of rose, and pored over love song lyrics to the minutest semasiological degree until there was nothing left to decipher in them if one kicked and tossed them over and about. I had even picked some ideal life partners in a roll over the span of a few teenage years -- among them was an uncle (whose divorce with my aunt years later completely astounded me), a cousin’s husband, a Hollywood actor, a singer, and a news reader. And even before I had the acumen to pick out the virtues and have related reveries, I used to admire the on-now, off-now bond my grandparents shared.

My grandpa kept a diary all his adult life, recorded daily goings on unfailingly, without wincing over even the most mundane or menial of occurences, including my grandma’s ceremonial, weekly oil baths. The insiders’ joke, if you will, was that my grandma spent a little over 3 hours on these baths. My grandpa had returned from grocery shopping one summer afternoon, to find that the door was double-locked, and the sound of water running in the bathroom was booming through the walls of the house. Anticipating the worst in terms of appetence-inducing waiting hours, he traversed several kilometers to my parents’ home, requesting my mom to serve him a good lunch and some buttermilk to wash it down with. I may have missed observing them when they were younger, and living on their own; and that perhaps was a good thing. As they grew older, the unrest that plagues middle-aged couples had come to settle a bit, according to my mom. And even though they bickered over the most preposterous issues everyday when they were well into their sixties/ seventies and staying with us, the essence of their togetherness was very unique. They wouldn’t eat without sharing with each other, and spent their evenings on a park bench, holding hands and grinning and bearing the other's exegesis on topics ranging from the price of milk to the roguish demeanor of the youth. These evening walks were possibly as ceremonious as the oil baths. My grandma would spend an hour getting dressed -- her one-a-day signature Kanjeevaram with color and motif co-ordinated jewelry, her silken white tresses braided and complected with jasmines on a string, and the edge of her ‘pallu’ held lithely in her quivering right hand. And then they’d fight over her being over-dressed for an evening walk, and she’d question if he was capable of walloping thieves with his Japanese walking stick.

But years hence, I began to comprehend the mystery behind her pent-up rage against him, feeling a sense of pity and exasperation at the same time. She had borne 14 of his children, year after successive year, and had had virtually no time to recuperate or get a hold of her reality. She was uneducated, had no thirst for acquiring any form of knowledge, incapable of fending for herself, and that externalized into an in inexplicable inertia when it came to caring for him or her own children. There was no real depth to the love between them, and it was more of an inevasible onus toward a liaison to hold together until the last breath. And of course, familiarity had bred some mutual regard and contempt to trudge along with an on-now, off-now spirit.

Well, needless to say, as much as I like to deny it, I have since grown up for what it’s worth. Even though I have no distinct measure to prove it by action. I grew up, fell in love, and married the man who ruled my dreams and desires. I am happily married and there is more than enough love and respect between us to sustain us for a lifetime. But love doesn’t manifest in the form of golden confetti over a sparkling rainbow or isn’t something we proclaim to each other everyday, holding the butterflies in our stomachs. Love is an underlying theme that steers the focus on to the bigger picture. And I think that love is overrated because it is not the only binding factor for companionship. I think love is a path to self-discovery for partners, and if not for the quixotic trip I went on at the outset that made me teeter just a little before I warmed my feet up for the gravelly path ahead, I’d have been an all-submissive lover, losing myself and my balance in the process. I think love should make one realize they’re alone, and not that they’re together with someone. That then is love in its purest form, mellow and moderate and exuding a sense of tranquility as opposed to a chaotic tampering with the energies of each partner. Love is not all fairy-tale fluff and kiss and yell from the rooftops. Love should translate into other forms of emotions and then it is love in its entirety. And perhaps, just perhaps, when I grow up a little more, I’ll have something else to add..

Stretching the Sketchyaddle Spaces 

There are some words that cannot be defined in a single breath or phrase. Like heartbeats, they contain a life, a world within them. Chancing upon them, for instance, is something that cannot be subsumed within the wings of the etymology of serendipity. A word that I’m thinking of right now, which construes a range of overlapping sensations by itself, is sketchyaddle. It’s the perfect word to describe what’s on my mind tonight: the lopsided, fragmentary nature of conversations one has with people these days. It’s almost as if there is a coterie of chosen ones ordained by a twisted force above or below, to keep busy at all hours of day and night; and a clique that runs nearly parallel to this one, of ones who are busy at all hours of day and night, obsessing about their own lives and its joys and sorrows.

Paul Simon hit the nail on the head with his innuendo about dangling conversations and superficial smiles. It’s true, we’re stuck in a sea of dangling conversations and superficial smiles. Colons and commas and ellipses flap and float around in everyday relationships, online or offline, leaving so much unsaid and unfinished. Superficial smiles embellish even the grimmest of word exchanges, rendering them virtually meaningless, or get replaced by sighs and soughs. And it often takes hours, sometimes weeks, of planning to fix up such a conversation with someone. The business of being busy or preoccupied is quite the rage, and the dreaded red dot is permanently affixed with certain names. Sometimes, even the green dots are indifferent to nudges. Hypomnesia is the order of the day, and the most convenient excuse. The folks who belong to either group forget about unfinished conversations and the half-baked words used within the span of those with alarming regularity. But sadly, they forget that Facebook, like a hawk, is watching and clocking their every move, unless they’re adroit enough to erase the timeline of activities on their pages. They are so busy befriending friends of friends of fourth cousins twice removed from maternal or paternal sides that they forget they had a conversation going, or a commitment to one, with a first order friend. They are so heavily focused on themselves that all they can say to a conversation opener is “Hi, doing good, thanks.” Where does one go from there? There’s no colon, comma or ellipses hovering around there. It’s a cul-de-sac. There’s no cue even in that fancy, delusional smiley at the end to take it forward. Of course one might assume in all fairness that they might be busy, or preoccupied, but that still doesn’t explain the cavalier air, because they don’t come back at a later hour or day to check on you. Infact, they never do, unless you go to them and revive the path to the cul-de-sac all over again.

But the red dots and green dots don’t stop with the online interactions. People are seldom ‘green’ offline too. On rare occasions, conversations do take on from where they’d been left, months hence. Rudimentary etiquette crawls its way through to these encounters, prompting the quintessential conversation carry-over question, “So, you were saying..?” But even that dissipates with the onslaught of awkward pauses or like the bubbles over coffees. Sometimes, a newly arranged rendezvous can light up a new spark, and fill out the trail of vacuum from before. A new window opens up, a new chapter gets written, and suddenly there is no need to refer to old connotations. But it’s ephemeral, like a measured sweep of fresh air before cinders of dust start to swarm in and defile it.

In my quest for all things sketchyaddle, I came upon Norton Juster’s quote:

"And when I'm writing, I write a lot anyway. I might write pages and pages of conversation between characters that don't necessarily end up in the book, or in the story I'm working on, because they're simply my way of getting to know the characters."

So, even in a storytellers’ fate, unfinished conversations must fall. There are few things as it is that assuage grander thirsts, when one is traversing the one-way streets abound. A fulfilling conversation, like a cup of coffee that sustains its 80 degree warmth until the last drop, is as recherche as good things can get. Maybe if we enjoyed the ride without worrying about blocks and jams, we’d be freer. Freer for the better, to learn to let all things sketchyaddle just be, like the opaque silk of a dimlit twilight sky that harbors no stars or silvery moonlight, but is irreplaceable and incorrigible all the same. Freer to look for satiation within, and harness the power of the self-sufficing, overworked mind.

Thursday, July 29

The Nuances of Nostalgia 

Nostalgia, as they say, isn’t what it used to be. With all the manner of Facebook groups centered around Proustian themes culled out from the 90's pages, there’s nowhere to turn for those who spent their early childhood years in the 70s. Of course there are groups that discuss Doordarshan shows and such, but it makes one wonder if it’s merely going to transmogrify into a cult that will be hence reminisced as the Facebook Group of Doordarshan Nostalgists, even as Facebook wanes and makes way for a new networking site, which will possibly be called Videobook..and the charm of what the group aimed to achieve to begin with will be lost in the chase.

It’s hard to let a sepia-toned memory go by placidly, especially at a time when one is faced with innumerable vicissitudes of novelties that come unannounced and leave without warning. A friend recently initiated a nostalgic mission of sorts, a series of mails where we log some of our fondest or most bizarre school memories. It’s been nothing short of amazing to discover how amnesia has struck each of us at different points. Each one’s version of an episode is just a little different from the other’s, and each one knows more about the workings of the other’s teenage mind. I have also discovered that there are varying degrees of selfdom involved in all this recounting of things past. There are certain instances where selective amnesia comes into play, where one only remembers the incidents one was involved in. At other instances, one demonstrates an acute-edged sensitivity in that the sentiments and thoughts of the other are finely accentuated. The mystery that still shrouds this analysis of sorts is the fact that one will never know how grown up one feels about one’s teenage years. As teens, we probably assumed a sense of maturity, and while some of the decisions we took in that spirit retain their gravity years hence, some do leave a callow taste in the mouth. One suspects we will never feel grown-up enough, and the emotions that fill out the expanse of the thinking mind today will space themselves out soon enough, leaving vacuous trails for newer sensations to take over. Every year, every decade has its zeitgeist, and it’s rather astounding how phenomena acquire newfangled forms and mitigate the idiosyncrasies of the older ones, as if mockingly.

In music and art, the nostalgic wheel perpetually turns over. There is always a yearning for the olden classics, the desire to revisit jagged-edged frames from the black-and-white era. We can’t stop talking about old melodies, trends, books and pictures. They don’t make them like they used to, we lament. On closer inspection, I find that it’s more to do with the congealing of our own definitions of feel-good stuff over time, than the lack of desire to explore newness. We grow old, never failing to hold on to the childish streak, needless to say, while adjusting our postulations and beliefs as we go along just a little, leaving no scope for malleability whatsoever. And bits of reminiscences of how we liked things, as opposed to how things were, flow embedded in a stream of consciousness spout of thought, every now and then.

At the same time, the wheel that perpetually turns over allows for an alliteration of sorts, making nostalgia fashionable at calibrated intervals. Strains of old melodies begin to reverberate underneath the thrum of newage beats, and in the manner of Millhauser-esque projections, farthingale gowns would possibly make a comeback in variegated forms, even as women, in all their pencil-heeled glory, deflect the onslaught of pettiskirt exigencies gracefully. Updos are reinvented every so often, while the silken splendor of long, open-ended tresses reigns seasonally. Old classics are retold, remade, and with each attempt it seems as if a new vista for learning has been opened, a new perspective acquired, new eccentricities lit up. And at the bottom of every resurgence, the yen for holding on to something that belonged strums constantly, manifesting in the manner of nostalgic storytelling trips.

I remember a chain email that was doing the rounds many moons ago, that talked about ageing and social, musical, and artistic timelines. It said, “You know you’re growing really old when you’re surrounded by ‘youngsters’ who believe that Uptown Girl came from Westlife.” That is as scary as scary can get, but I think I’ll go play Joel, among Dylan and maybe even Flatt & Scruggs from grandpa’s 'playlist,' in loops so my five-year-old won’t grow up oblivious to what gilds nostalgia in her mommy’s world. For all I know, she may care more for the candyfloss rainbows of today, but gold may just become the new sterling silver, as cycles go.

Tuesday, July 27

Lederhosen and the Path of Self-discovery 

Lederhosen. The word brings a smile to my face, despite the fact that it also makes me twitch in discomfort. Well, the thought of these German hiking pants with shoulder straps sitting snug on a man’s body as he takes brisk steps down a walkway can make anyone flinch just a little. Especially if you’re a woman who appreciates a well-toned male body whose gait is just a wee more kingly than manly. But I digress. I haven’t really sat down and imagined a man with a well-toned body walking briskly in his Lederhosen. I was referring to the discomfort that stems from reading Haruki Murakami’s short story by that name, which is rich with so many emotional layers, so many metaphors for our lives that it has got me thinking. It is the story of a Japanese couple separating over a pair of German hiking pants.

The woman travels to Germany to spend time with her sister, promising, as requested, to bring her husband a pair of lederhosen back as a gift. She finds herself in an unusual lederhosen shop that sells only to men who wish to buy a pair or two for themselves. Her challenge then is to bring back a man who is approximately of the same build as her husband, so he can try the pants on and see how they fit. Uncannily as it were, she does end up finding a man who looked exactly like her husband (save his skin tone), from the receding hairline, to the shape of his legs. Observing this man as he tried the lederhosen on, all frisky and cocky like a little boy with a new toy, she realized so many things that she’d been unsure of, about her own self as a person, and it all began to gradually coagulate into something solid, something crystal. And it dawned upon her that she, infact, simply hated her husband. And she decided to divorce him.

It brings us, ofcourse, as readers, as readers who anatomize every turn of sentence, every underlying sensation and try to comprehend in all that the grimmest of semblances with the workings of our own minds and lives, to a state of trance. The dots that connect daze us and make us wonder where the beginning was and how it snaked its way to the end point as it were. This particular part of the story got me thinking about how, when in a seemingly extraneous instance, new light is shed on an aspect of our lives and the veil of mist gets lifted..a new strain of emotion dips itself into the still waters, and makes us fathom the depth of things. It could be an exchange of words with someone, on a day long past that seems to make sense of a sudden, in the most unlikely of situations one finds oneself in. Or the things that one believed accounted for one’s virtues, seem to evanesce with time, and one has evolved and risen above all that, for the better. This need to soul-search, discover oneself, bash oneself over one’s flaws, seek and restore the righteous spirit, reinvent oneself..becomes a routine mission when one is stuck in a complex web of emotions and relationships. Not that the realization comes when one sets foot in the web, of course. And then, the idea of a couple separating over a pair of lederhosen doesn’t seem so bizarre anymore.

What I also took away from this is that we do have the predilection to find cues in objects for grander things, like reality check barometers. And I don’t just mean the objects we surround ourselves with, where keys to many memories are locked in. An object we’re never seen before could become a synergist for change. And that change, against the odds of resolve and fragility of heart, will come to make more sense with the passage of time.

There are few writers who can make us ruminate and reflect long after the strike of their words has abated. What Murakami can do with his writing to his readers’ minds is best left unsaid, like the interpretations of the endings of his stories. It should suffice to say that in the process of reading writers like him and looking within, one learns to tune out the sounds of the imp of the perverse and the angel of righteousness at the required times and yet attain a balance on the tightrope walk that makes perfect sense to one, while it may seem like the most eccentric of things to the rest of the world.

Saturday, May 8

A Brief History of Boredom 

Two, maybe three, curves of crinkled skin around the eyes. Eyes like steel, eyes that stop you in your peering tracks, evincing little to no emotion. From where you sit, you can't tell whether there is anything hidden in those crow's feet to be deciphered. Do they make up for what the eyes don't reveal? You don't know. You look outside, for a change in scene. Color fills your eyes, and with color an array of sensations comes gliding through. There is more meaning in the concrete on the road, in the ripples on the lake than there is in the eyes of a human. You snicker momentarily, and allow these sensations to fill you, sweep you away like a cool breeze swishing past countryside fields. On the television, freckle-faced monks expound on Buddhist doctrines and the Dalai Lama speaks loftily of individualism and separate peace.

"Be your own land, seek no other refuge."

You hear the words, but your ears, like touch-me-nots against the brush of hasty fingers on an early summer day, close in on the words just before they can be processed. What good is such wisdom if there is nothing sensible left to be desired in your life? Relax, you tell yourself. You are possibly stretching it a bit too much. It's not that bad yet. You have more to be thankful for than most others. You ought to count your blessings. And the only way to make peace with things that you cannot change is to stop seeking fulfillment. To put a cap on the nearly beast-like hankering after satiation. To learn to feign contentment. To fill the bottom of the blimp with dust so the inflation becomes inescapably constricted. To rein in the urge to seek recourse.


You find your therapy in cooking. Stirring a ladle in a pot of coddling broth refreshes your mind. The satiation we talked about earlier -- for you, it comes from cooking. There is no need to adjust the levels of the dust. Like lungs that feel cleansed after taking fresh morning air in, your senses come awash when you cook. The aroma of spices, the color of rich-textured condiments, the feel of crushed mint, or curry leaves in your palm, the sight of ingredients leeching into one another, taking on amorphous forms and cleaving into the nuclei of each other to present perfectly well-balanced outcomes..excites you. You lose awareness of your surroundings. You are the pot, you are the fire. You burn, you sear, you hold it all together. You are salt, you are water, you are spice. You don't like to sample the food. That would make you weak. You are strong. You don't succumb to temptation. You do instead to perfection.


Silence can be tricky. Sometimes you pine for it and at other times it can get asphyxiating. Silence fills the room again. You skim the space for shapes that can talk. Objects that you see everyday appear different. There are finger prints on the glass there, dust sits placidly on a surface here. There are no scratches or clefts in these objects that would allow a peek into the past. Oddments stand still as reminders of the past, but those stories have been revisited so often that your mind is suitably numb to their significance. They are now a part of the past that adorn a present family room. You seek disarray in the orderliness, to see if something will give, but nothing does. Everything has been fitted into a stretch of space and set up to function like clockwork. Things come, things wither away, but there is no real manifestation of anything new.

It strikes you now that perhaps there is nothing in those crow's feet for you to read into. There is nothing left to discuss, nothing to say. Everything has been accounted for, really. Love struggles to find its interstice through the frayed texture of the marriage, and manages to get a peek here, a wink there. Even in the unraveled entirety of this unit called family, there is a symmetry that keeps you going, it was built in and it abides. If one slows down, the other paces up. There is the wife, there is the husband. There is the friend, there is the companion. There is a human, and there is a human. There are toothbrushes, and there are combs.


What do you do when a problem is its own solution? You seek parallelisms in movies like "The Burmese Harp" and in books like "Le dernier été de la raison." When you think you have your finger on something, things change momentarily in your life. A blink of time when those steel-like eyes deliquesce and reveal something - a grimace, perhaps, or an ephemeral sign of happiness? Maybe a new dimension would append itself to the allegedly unraveled entirety of the family unit, making words like 'caring' and 'feeling' sound less vain. You endure. You hold it out for just a bit longer. Until another movie or another book comes along.


Writing completes you. When you write, you forget about the ladle and the pot of coddling broth. You forget about space and time and blimps with dust at the bottom. You become one with the milieu. You glissade across the furniture in a room or the blades of grass in a garden, culling words that float freely, and plant them on paper. You can write about the plangent strains of select Raags and the dissonance of common arguments. About the complexities of relationships and the candor of "being your own land." About manuals for living and elegies for the dead soldiers that Mizushima honored by offering modest burials and prayers. About hope, as in Yekker's brief, eager moments when he saw eyes peering into his bookshop and about the despondence of the seemingly punitive world.

You choose instead to write insipid, claustrophobic accounts of slices from your life, and call them puissant names.


Saturday, January 9

The zilch, nada, zip that needs to be rearranged after the decimal 

So the new year began on a chilly note and persistent shivers. The worst season for illnesses of all forms, including the inertia that plagues the mind. Creativity is an underlying mosaic that swirls like paint stirred by a blade of dried grass on a slab of brain cells. The ideas are constantly evolving, and through the sneezing and sniffling, some words appear and morph into mercury-tickled monsters. Three books wait to be finished, and some phrases stick out, urging one to follow through. But white days bleed into gray evenings and just like the barren trees, there is a sense of stunted growth, a feeling of something amiss, a great loss that needs to be mourned. Winter is a wretched time of the year, and I completely submit to it like most others. But there are little highs, and one ought to feel thankful and blessed.

The mind harks back to Julie & Julia, the in-flight entertainment on Qantas on the way home from the other continent while the little got her beauty sleep. There is nary a difference in the way Julie felt about her life and the way mine is. I suppose I am meant to derive inspiration from what she made of it and steer the wheel with more elan and skill than I am with these white knuckles. I think there was some semblance of an idea there, something that implored to be pursued, but I seem to have lost the fire that stoked it up to begin with.

This leads to the presumption that one is not surrounded by folks who push one to one's farthest limits, egging one on as one falls and bruises oneself. Well, since there is more truth in that than a sense of assumption, it must be a fact. Everyone is always busy, always uninspired and seldom available. Everyone wants to feel otherwise, but who is going to take the lead? Everyone wants to be approached and encouraged and supported, but er..isn't there a slight technical problem there, given how everyone shuts off and becomes unavailable? And everyone complains about that! Everyone is tired of being bored, being ignored, not being talked to, spending too much time waiting for something to happen, wasting precious hours Facebooking, being unable to make a difference in the world, being preoccupied a lot, being overcommitted, underused, unused, useless, or slaving for someone or some company that isn't their true love. So, who is going to change all or any of that? Random friendships are hard to sustain, but true friends are harder to hold on to. So one supposes the strength then should stem from within, or some such place unbeknownst to anyone.

So, while I go look for the fire within, I hope the few who care to stop by and read about my mundane, lackadaisical, inactive life will feel the pinch and get upto something themselves. Er..I so ought to get a life, and Rocket Singh could possibly help me rearrange that hollow called zero.

Monday, December 28

A Rule, a Rigmarole and a Heartbeat 

I have never been one for following a preset schtick or schedule, although my little girl has taught me the art of trying to dabble in it so as to simplify life. But like I said somewhere, I have spent about half my life trying to tone with convention and the other half defying it and at this point in my life, I go back and forth between the two. And in keeping with that, I have decided to put down a list of resolutions for the New Year. Nothing big, really, and if one is not careful, it could end up as yet another piece of post-it on the refrigerator, blinking brightly at one at the outset and losing its glow with the passage of time.

One of the things on this *list* is to slacken up a bit and not let the little things work the heat on the nerves. Especially the little things about the little one. So, a new vista opens to motherhood and I'm all set to fall right in and maybe even do a tap dance.

While we're on the topic of slackening up, we did the unthinkable yesterday. We went to the movies to watch the 3 Idiots in action, with the little one in tow. I put all my apprehensions to rest about that one, and it worked, like magic. Although it wasn't easy to explain to her why some forbidden words were being used by grown-ups, but we're getting there. So, after five years of non-movie-goer status, the hubby and I went for it, and he has even suggested we do it again. As one grows older, with life slipping away like sand through the fingers, one realizes that one has built walls and turned rock-like. The little pleasures of life come to mean little and one is always looking for the bigger picture, which, sadly, is often blurry and elusive. So one goes after it with increasing degrees of passion to only end up getting more frustrated. The slackening up mantra is critical for anyone, according to moi, who is going after the mirage of the big picture and losing focus on the little things. And something as silly and trivial as turning the guilt faucet off and letting the little thrills of enjoying a movie on the big screen as a parent spill over instead, can work wonders for the confused mind.

Even with cotton plugs in her ears and being blindfolded intermittently, my little one was patient and tantrum-free through the entire 2+ hour span, and my heart swells in pride over that. It's a little thing, perhaps insignificant in the pool of things that matter, but it still keeps the pool swirling and that makes mommy and daddy happier.

And as often happens with such things, the mind harks back to the days when my parents took us to the movies, and bought us the salted peanuts in paper cones to nibble on, before popcorn became the popular choice for movie-time snacking. Of course when the movies were for adults-only, I would be baby-sat by sis and bro, but those instances are few and far between in the memory. I think of all the things my mom gave up because of me, and how it never occurred to me as unrealistic then. How inconsiderate I often was about those things and how much I am able to fathom now, although to little avail. All just mottled time sheets in my mother's life as a homemaker, to which she has little access herself, thanks to the receding memory power. And putting thoughts down for now is only a way for me to be able to relive them later on, when the little bird has grown wings and taken flight to another nest, to live another life. It's in the knowledge of that truth - that my life and my thoughts will only be as significant to her as my mother's were to me - that the spasms of motherhood tick and beat. And yet those too will remain crucial in my own mind, my own memory, and learning to let go will be a lesson learnt only in the long run.

So, another day rolls and before the year closes in, the everyday song has to be sung and the little pieces put together in the hope that the puzzle will be solved a little more before inching towards that big thing called success.

And so..for he's a jolly good fellow and she, a jolly good lass..

Wednesday, December 23

Letter from the Down Under 

When we set out on our sojourn to the Southern hemisphere last month, a blend of emotions was stirring inside of me. I was apprehensive about the littlest of things, like moms traveling alone with toddlers are wont to be. The 13-hour stretch of our flight to Auckland from Los Angeles, to begin with, was the toughest to tackle. I was well equipped with in-flight entertainment activities, that wasn’t my point of concern as much as was the possible onset of ear ache in my little one, and the repercussions of her being held in a sedentary state for that long. Although she is a seasoned traveler by now - she has been accruing frequent flyer miles since she was a seven-month old baby, every consecutive year leading up to her present frightful-fours stage - one never knows what to expect from a four-year-old on a long journey. And it’s not easy on the mom either, being suspended in thin air - atleast until the point that one reaches Maori land anyway, where, should one take a peek out the window, the wholesomeness of the tufts of white fluff will blow one’s mind. And yet, the restive mind refuses to acknowledge and take in the splendor of the scene, merely waiting, with twitchy feet, for a glimpse of the land below.

It’s amazing what revisiting a place can do to one’s mind. The place, it would seem, has grown with one, having taken on new forms and dimensions. The mind tenderly absorbs this newness and as new wisdom spills over, new memories scaffold themselves onto the old ones, making the growing up seem uncomplicated, although if one closely read into the embossing, it would occur to one what a simple thing such as the sight of a big cloud could come to mean to one over the years. This time around, I had grown enough to come to appreciate the elegance of the “Ao”, in the land of the long white cloud, the big “Aoteorea.”

The Maoris have many other fascinating stories associated with their wonderful land, which in itself embodies the true spirit of anything that is isolated - the “motu,” green in all its glory, and ringed in by an infinite bubble of turquoise. Although our first stop was the heart of Auckland city, which is as vibrant and vivacious as New York or Chicago during the holidays, minus the slick and slur of snowfall and frigid tempertatures, needless to say. The bubble of turquoise heaves and folds at the harbor on one side, and quaint little street side shops entice visitors with their wares, of light-glazed Paua shells, jades in Koru motifs, symbolizing new beginnings akin to an unfurled silver fern leaflet in the Spring, and bones in Hei Tiki carvings, for fertility, loyalty and good luck. The Sky Tower holding out to the long white clouds above in the middle of the bustle of Queen Street beckons from a distance. Mrs. Higgins Bakery, considered the makers of Kiwi land’s best cookies, Giapo, the gelato people..all going about their business briskly and efficiently as ever, like magnets, hemming passersby in, who with their flared nostrils take in the essence of cinnamon and fruit. And if you’re a big girl, in tow with a little girl, you can’t escape the lure of the Plain Jane boutiques like Shanton’s, or Valley Girl. My little, of course, wanted to try on a random hat and a beanie and sunglasses and color-splashed scarves for her beach time - merrily oblivious to the fact that “beach time” is rather elusive where she lives, and even if it does come, it will take several months of waiting in the hopeless, wretched cold. And there’s hardly an eyelid that doesn’t bat at the sight of the jolly ol’ fat man sporting his classic white-fuzz, standing tall and “humungous,” to steal from my chirpy little tracker, bang in the middle of the city, atop Whitcoull’s. We stood in awe of his brand new avatar, elbowing our way through the hordes of modish city workers, clicking away from various angles and distances, trying to capture an entire sensation in a few frames to bring home for daddy. Her smiles had reached her eyes at this point, and I stood there wondering if every expression of uninhibited emotion from a little heart could be trapped in a frozen moment as opposed to a digital contraption, so it could be thawed and experienced wholly, like fingers flicking through cinders of warmth from wood burning bitter-blue in a fireplace on a later, chilly day. Just then, her chatter about writing Santa a letter and sticking it in the folds of his concrete attire shook me up straight. We spent the rest of our city time ogling at wayside eateries with their summer awnings fluttering in the drifting Westerly, trendy art galleries and their window displays, smiling warily at city slickers who in turn were staring at the silly mommy-child duo posing for pictures at every nook and corner, visiting the penguins at Kelly Tarlton’s, and shopping till we dropped.

Riding back home on the 258, the succulent aftertaste of kiwi-chocolate gelato driving me insane, I was keyed up about a different kind of frenzy that was to unfold - my baby niece’s big fat cross-cultural wedding. The revelry and merry making lingered on for days, from lassis to cocktails, and payasams to kheers. We sported some coy smiles as we put our best Bhangra foot forward dressed in our six-yarded Kanjeevaram gloss, and admired the flushed, burnt-adobe edge that the snaking, coiling mehndi designs lent to our hands for days after. And once the exhilaration of all this had wafted past, we were ready to hit the beaches and roll in the meadows, quite literally.

We went to the famous Honey Center on Highway One, where the curious little cracker learned how to tell the Queen Bee from her drones, and where we sampled some delicious fruit-honey preserves.

At Wenderholm Park, we lazed around in the pohutukawa glade picnic area, walked along the beach, admired the Couldrey House and its lush gardens, and stole some picturesque frames from the Whangaparaoa Peninsula lookout on the drive back into the city, but not before stopping at Red Beach for some sun and sand, and dining at Arun’s with our Kiwi hosts who had smoke coming out of their ears as they relished every bite of Tandoori fare. And of course we pulled over when a lush green meadow rolled, and animatedly clicked away as the world famous New Zealand sheep foraged about languidly.

In the days to come, we discovered the multicolored, motley butterfly families at Butterfly Creek, fed milk in bottles to baby lambs on buttermilk farm, flinched as we came up close with alligators, rode on the Red Admiral Express, observed Alpacas and miniature Welsh ponies in action, and jumped with our hair up in the air on Curly’s trampoline..all while dabbing on dots of SPF 50+ and smoothing it on our faces, hands and legs, as the dazzling Southern Sun warmed our shoulders.

We also discovered the magic of Hot Water Beach in scenic, pristine Coromandel, filled our crocs with shells from the shore, sampled authentic Feijoa & ginger liqueur, pigged on spinach-corn-feta quiches, and took in the classic countryside scenery with the notable traveler’s passion of a lifetime to come.

We drove around the city several times after, around Mission Bay and its marvelous bungalows overlooking the sea, across Harbour Bridge to the North Shore, to charming ‘burbs like Lynfield and TeAtatu, and shopped at our favorite malls that had taken on new annexes and stores over the years, on Thursday evenings. We dug our teeth into luscious golden Kiwi fruits by the dozens, the velveteen floss of Movenpick by the buckets, gave in to the temptation of fudgy-wudgies many times over, and of course, as no tourist experience is replete without it, were suitable hungry for the large fries at Mc D’s every now and then, in typical Yankee style. And now we are back to the blizzards of the mighty Midwest, but Sheryl Crow’s soak up the sun number still pulsates mellifluously ‘neath our taut, tanned skin..