देसी देसी

अपनों के लिए हुए हम परदेसी,
दिल तो मगर है देसी देसी !

भारत से निकले हम तो, किस्मत अपनी आजमाने को
पेशा या पढ़ाई, नापे मंज़िल की गहराई
छोड़ चले बचपन की गलियाँ, परदेस का आसमान छू लिया
पैसा कमाना है, घर बनाना है,
बचपन का वो सपना सच कर दिखाना है

लंडन हो या अमरीका, कड़ी मेहनत, यही है तरीका,
नहीं यहाँ कोई भेदभाव, लगन और ध्येय की हो चाव,
जो यह तपस्या करने हुआ राज़ी, समझो उसने मार ली बाजी,
नही चलती यहा कोई ड्रामेबाज़ी, नही किसिकी हांजी-हांजी.

अपनों के लिए हुए हम परदेसी, दिल तो मगर है देसी देसी

जब त्योहार हैं आते, हम social media खूब सजाते,
रंग-बिरंगी साड़ियां, कुर्ते, धोती पहनकर, परदेस में देश की रौनक बनाते,
हंसते, मुस्कुराते, पुराने रीति-रिवाज मनाते,
हम अपना ही दिल बहलाते.

आए जो कभी गम का साया, या जो गहरा अंधेरा छाया,
तुरंत होते एकजूट, भुलाके सारी फूट,
नही कोई शिकवा दिल के अंदर, अपना देश जो है दूर सात-समंदर.

और इसलिए,
हिंदू, मुस्लिम, सिख, ईसाई, ना कोई रुसवा, ना कोई लड़ाई, कोई मिले पड़ोसी, तो परदेसी भी बन जाए देसी,
फिर “कटोरी भर नमक, थोडासा अजवाइन, मिलेगा क्या बहन?”
आना-जाना होता रोज़ाना, ना कोई गीला-शिकवा, नाही कोई ताना.

छुट्टियों में बच्चे इकट्ठे खेलें, हम संवारें यादों के मेले,
कोई चाची बने, कोई मौसी, क्योंकि परदेस में भी हम तो हैं देसी,
‘It takes a village to raise a child’
हम बनाते अपनी अलग सी देसी guide!

जाने-अनजाने हम कब बनते दोस्तों से परिवार,
फिर सजती महफिले हर शनिवार-इतवार.

दफ्तर जाते हम पहनकर सूट-बूट,
घर लौटते ही, we go back to our देसी loot!
जब मिलने जाए देसी दोस्तों के घर,
चल पड़ते हम सलवार-कुर्ता पहनकर.

झाड़ते हम अँग्रेज़ी ठेट

, पर बच्चे “माँ” पुकारे तो हमे लगती भेंट
हाय-हेल्लो का है यहा रिवाज, दिल में हैं फिर भी देसी लिहाज़
हम-उम्र से गले भी लगते, बुजुर्गों के सामने सिर आप ही झुकते
दहलीज के बाहर निकाले जूतों से होती है देसी घर की पहचान,
मानते हम यह अपनी संस्कृति की शान
चम्मच-काटे से काम चलालें, पेट भरना हो तो अन्न को हात लगालें.
स्टील की थालियां और कटोरी, देसी होते हैं बहुत चटोरी,
चाट पार्टी, पराठा, बिर्यानी की होती है बौछार,
भूक ना हो तो चाय ही पी लो यार!

Shweta Kulkarni Gode

Desi room

When our bid on the house was accepted, we instantly knew that the formal dining room had to go. I had always wanted a room with very Indian look as an ode to my Indian heritage. Complete with the devara (prayer spot), diwan (Indian-style low daybed), and moda (Indian-style low seating).

While we were waiting for the closing day, I decided to make the diwan, since there would likely be so much more work to tackle after the move. First step was to find out the dimensions of the smallest mattress available. Turned out twin size mattress was the one that fit my needs. Measurements downloaded, I set off to the lumber store to purchase stud wood and posts. The staff at the lumber shop was kind enough to cut the posts to the dimensions I asked – four pieces of one foot each. My circular saw is awesome, but asking it to cut a four by four is a stretch.

Once home, I measured twice and cut the studs to match the length and width of the standard twin sized mattress. Using smaller strips as rails, I mounted the one by fours on the rails, providing a sturdy platform for the mattress. Once done, I sanded down the bed, and then oh-so-sweetly handed over the stain job to my kind husband, who did a fantastic job of it. It pained my heart to leave the bed overnight in our unsecured back patio in the rental apartment, but there really was no choice. The odors of the stain, and the off-gassing are just too much to bear, not a risk I was willing to take with the health of my family or myself. My dog did not surface from my room throughout the four days it took for the complete staining and varnishing process, making exceptions for her walks.

Day four, we carried the diwan in with much excitement. The next three days were a matter of obstacle course, for the diwan occupied a substantial amount of space in the living room, made already smaller by the things we had begun packing and readying for the upcoming move. Needless to say, moving day came as a huge relief, and the diwan looks grand in what I call, our desi room.

Swedish living room decor

As a person of Indian origin, living in the Deep South in the U.S. of A, visitors to our house are surprised to see the huge art piece over the mantel with fjords and coniferous trees and horses. That is my cue to narrate my history, about how my first home after marriage was in Sweden, and how I am still enchanted by all things Scandinavian, from archepalegos, to apple orchards, to fashion to food.

The tall cathedral ceiling was one of the biggest reasons I fell in love with this house and pushed to buy it. The same ceiling, however, causes some serious reverb, and more often than not, I have been confused that people are shouting, when in fact, they are merely chatting! Acoustic panels solved the problem, but come on! It is my living room, I need something more than purely functional… I need something aesthetic. That is where the idea of this decor piece was born.

A quick use of the bandsaw served me my dala horses and fjords and coniferous trees, and a hunt through sonny boy’s art supplies fetched me the paints and brushes. A can of spray paint and some panels and lumber got the look I desired.

Screwing and gluing the pieces to the panel took some time, for I had to make sure that the glue had cured and the screws could withstand the heat once the mantel was in use. The acoustic panels mounted on the back of the panel, and the decor pieces glued and screwed to the front, made it far heavier than expected. Carrying the panel in from the garage was the easy part, hoisting it to the mantel took combined strength of both, my husband and yours truly.

The outer frame colored in copper is lightweight, and was easy to center and mount using a measuring tape and some wall mount. The panel, once hoisted, needed some intense calculation on my part to center, and some quick thinking to fix the anchors into what was unexpectedly a dry wall.

After much climbing up and down the ladders and lot of elbow grease, the panel was perfectly centered, mounted, and is now the talk of almost every visit. It takes me down the memory, enjoy my nostalgia, and I am now, for once, eagerly awaiting winter so I can enjoy my view of Sweden with the fireplace going and a sip of warm glögg.

Ring box

“How I wish someone gets married!” was a line often heard in my house for the past two years. Therefore, when a wedding invitation did finally arrive, it was received with much excitement and love. My cousin is getting married! I was thrilled for her, more so because even though it has been a while since we met, she has always been quite close to my heart.

An answered prayer, wedding of a dear cousin, this definitely calls for a special gift. The darling girl had specified that she’d much rather have us donate the gift money to a charitable and noted hospital, which I will; but there was no way I was not sending her a gift. And the gift itself had to be special, it had to mean something, to me as well as to her.

Off I went to the local Wood Craft store here in Birmingham, hoping for inspiration. Who am I kidding? A dear friend who also happens to be an expert woodworker works there. I sought her advice, told her some of the ideas I had in mind. She, along with her colleague, showed some of the most beautiful wood I had ever seen. The store manager walked in just as she and I were hashing out some more ideas, and gossiping loving about members of the guild. He got interested in the constructive conversation, and soon, my friend was encouraging me to share my ideas with him.

Bang! Like a gavel hitting the table, he slammed the price of the slab of wood I’d originally fallen in love with but cancelled because of the steep hit to my wallet. That was it, too dumbstruck to talk, I meekly accepted the very generous gift of discount, and paid the rest of the amount. Once home, it took me a good three hours to muster up the courage to draw my plans with chalk on that beautiful blue mahoe.

The husband gave me a brilliant suggestion – intertwined hearts. I loved it. Once the design was finalised, I took some measurements, and soon enough, the blue mahoe had chalk marks on it as it got loaded again into the trunk of trusty Rogue, ready to be taken to the guild for cutting.

At the guild, it was another matter of an hour, where all members present stopped doing whatever magic they were creating to go gaga and run their hands over the gorgeous blue mahoe. I admit I was mean in bragging the price cut, and I hope that Andy isn’t angry with me for diverting a huge number of wood workers to his shop in hopes of getting beautiful wood at beautiful prices.

I did two trial runs of the design on scrap wood, and only when I was convinced that I could get it exactly as I wanted, did I dare to run the wood through the jointer and planer. A few deep breaths later, my hands were rock steady when I used the scroll saw on the wood.

Three hours later, the glue was dry, the pivots were in, the ring holder was drilled in, and the box was ready to be taken home for sanding. “Smooth as a baby’s butt,” is the term any wood worker knows, and often dreads, because it means hours and hours of sanding in just the right direction, at just the right spots. Two days later, the ring box was indeed ‘smooth as a baby’s butt’ even when I did the ‘blind test,’ in which the eyes remain closed, and the hands are clean and dry as you run first the index and middle finger, and then only the index finger, all over the wooden piece. The test helps you find any missed spots, bumps, ridges that need to be sanded.

After much deliberation, research, discussion with wood workers I know and trust, I decided to finish the piece with lacquer without using any sealant first. It was a risk, but a calculated one, for I knew several people who promised me that lacquer, when dry, would seal effectively. The people at wood craft were thrilled to see pictures of the box, and I felt like a fool for not thinking to carry the box itself with me. Fortunately, they are all too kind, and no one voice my feelings.

Back home, armed with the can of spray lacquer, with my respirator snapped on and my hands covered with leather gloves, I tested it on three pieces of scrap wood, to ensure that I wouldn’t damaged the box. After the standard eight hours of curing, I sanded, then resprayed. Repeating the process over the next several days, I was convinced that my decision about lacquer was indeed the right one.

It was well over a week after I had crafted the box did I finish the lacquer process, allowing it due time between sprays and sanding to make sure it did not leave any bubbles of off-gassing. Each time I used the lacquer, the respirator and gloves went on, and the garage door stayed open. Lacquer stinks, and the fumes are harmful!!

I sent a picture of the finished box to my cousin, who seemed quite touched by the effort I’d put into it. I wish I had better words to tell her that it is a labor of love. Mailing the box was a funny story, for it was too tiny to warrant a box, and too big to fit into an envelop. We finally found a bubble wrap envelop that was perfect for the task.

To those that are still with me, reading the story, here are some pictures of the box. The lids are made of the marvellous blue mahoe, which grows only in Jamaica, and the box base is made of Ambrosia Maple, a steady, sturdy, gorgeous wood, the pivots are made of birch. The blue mahoe made perfect sense to me because of its rare dual shade, as rare and special as my cousin and her fiance, and to me, it symbolises the harmony amidst individuality. I cut the lids in that shape to signify that the two hearts are whole only when together, and each has a piece missing when apart. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55-AyxjBU0I

Roadtrip to the Music City: Nashville

Road trip to Nashville, TN

Hoover, AL; 06/21/2021; 8:45 am

After a quick stop at the pet boarding to drop off Cutey for pet boarding, we took a pit stop at Oil Express to change oil and check tires of our Nissan Rogue to ensure a smooth drive on our holiday. Once the mechanic at the center gave us an all clear, we set off with a cheerful, “Ganapati Bappa! Morya!” as is our personal ritual.

Jack Daniel distillery, Lynchburg, TN, 06/21/2021; 2:00 pm

Jack Daniels Distillery

Our bellies full thanks to a lunch break at a quaint and beautiful Mexican eatery, we stopped at the Jack Daniels Distillery in Lynchburg. The signs all along the road led us to a parking lot across the street from the distillery. The shuttle ferried us to the very door of the beautiful place, and the chatty shuttle driver made sure we heard everything there was to hear about Lynchburg, and would you believe it, all great things!!

Once inside, the hubby and I decided to divide and conquer, since the tasting tour required all on board to be twenty one and above. Our now-not-too-little one is still in his pre-teens. Being the sacrificial, nice wife, I encouraged the hubby to go on the tasting tour, while sonny boy and I paid for the dry country tour. Our tour guide was a local hill-billy (her words, not mine) who is the third generation to work in the Jack Daniels distillery. She regaled us with her dry wit and her take on some of the stories that surround the charming but mysterious Jack, whose real name is Jason. The walking tour took us near the old warehouses and sylos, a total of ninety two in all, that house several thousand barrels of the ‘Nectar of Gods’ as the JD whiskey was publicly referred to by Frank Sinatra on stage!

She told us all about the process, from filtering the mash, drop by precious drop, through ten feet of charcoal, to the ratio needed of the grains, to the quality control process of the grain. “The process is pure chemistry”, exclaimed a certain pre-teen boy, who was excited to be able to relate what he was seeing with something he had learnt at school. His words gave me a moment of pride, easing away my worry about taking a young lad with me to a whiskey distillery. This was followed by another exclamation, came another realisation, from another corner in the group, “oh yes, we can chalk today as a science day!” Yay! My heart leapt for joy upon noticing that there was another young boy in our group. Less than a heartbeat later, the two boys were walking together, discussing the possible outcomes of changing the proportions of the grains and water and other components. Much as I love the kid, I did heave a sigh of relief, and from the corner of my eye, noticed the other boy’s mother mirror my expressions. With the boys having found company in each other, us mothers were now free to enjoy our tour! Yippee!

The tour spent extra time at the freshwater cave, because the cool cave gave us all respite from the heat and humidity. The water gushing over the man-made dam sounded almost magical, and I would like to think it is so, because the tour guide informed us that they haven’t been able to ascertain the source! Not to mention, that water contains absolutely no iron, and is therefore perfect for the whiskey making process! Indeed a divine ingredient for the Nectar of the Gods!

A short, but steep flight of stairs led us to the vent, which is a giant wooden bowl in which the mash is allowed to ferment into alcohol. The heat was intense, but all complaints stopped as soon as the guide shuffled the lid of one of the vents, sending fumes (read aroma) of the fermenting whiskey wafting into our nostrils. Heady and intoxicating, are inadequate adjectives to define the experience. 

The tour led us right through a warehouse and the tasting center, and some members noticed that some barrels had leaks. The guide informed us that the leaked whiskey is collected and offered in the tasting tour! Onwards we went to the assembly line in the bottling plant, which made for an interesting sight, even though we weren’t allowed inside due to pandemic restrictions. 

The tour ended on a wet note (literally, not figuratively) for it started raining the moment we stepped back into the visitor center. Feeling adventurous, we purchased a couple of bottles of whiskey, one of them being sixty five percent alcohol! It does not get any purer or richer than that, trust me; I should know after the whiffing experience at the top of the vent! We even purchased a glass and had it personalized with the names of all three of us, to remember the beautiful day we’d had.

The rain stopped after some time, and we drove to the town square, where the Jack Daniels hardware market gave us three shot glasses, one per ticket! I love the marketing strategy! The hubby loves grilling, and therefore purchased a bag of Jack Daniels coal. Yes! You guessed it right! The very coal that is used to purify the whiskey at the very end of the process, we are now proud owners of a bag of that coal! Can you imagine the aroma it’ll lend to the meat he grills on it? My mouth waters just thinking about it!

A few mandatory pictures later, off we set towards Nashville. 

Nashville, TN; 06/21/2021 7:00 pm

The hotel we’d booked into was right across the street from a paid public parking in the heart of downtown Nashville. So we parked, paid, and then checked into our hotel (kudos to my penchant for light packing). Less than ten minutes after we’d checked in, hunger pangs had us shooting out of the hotel to Amerigo, an Italian restaurant a block away. I pampered myself by ordering a dish that was price on request (something I realised after I’d placed the order). The salmon and veggies grilled on a plank of cedar looked great when it arrived. One bite, and I was in food heaven! Coupled with a Long Island cocktail, I was in all kinds of heaven!

Hayes Street Hotel, Nashville, TN; 06/22/2021; 9:00 am

The hotel breakfast was decent, packed boiled eggs, packed bagels, packed muffins, and coffee. What made it lovely was the fresh air lobby with its peppy orange chairs, and bright white swings. I took all the time to relax and sip my coffee, a luxury even in my world!

Parthenon, Nashville, TN 06/22/2021: 11:00 am

Ancient civilisations have wonderful legends and stories. Greek mythology is one that I find as enchanting as Indian mythology. The hubby drove us to Parthenon, a full scale replica of the original Parthenon in Athens, Greece, which serves as a monument to the pinnacle of classical architecture. The tall columns outside the building made me stop and take note. The inside is a beautiful museum, full of artefacts and information about the ancient civilization. When we reached the second level though, I forgot to breathe! The forty two feet tall statue of Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom and strategy is majestic, to say the least. The fine detailing by the hands that created this statue is nothing short of a miracle in itself, right from the design of her crown/helmet, to the carvings on the soles of her footwear, everything is just splendid. On the right hand of the statue, stands a six feet statue of Nike, the Goddess of victory. She is just as beautiful and majestic, her regal hands holding the beautifully carved golden wreath. The shield in the hands of Athena deserves an altogether separate chapter of its own, so intricate and fine is the detailing. I especially like the phythos (half human half animal protectors) for they reminded me of the vanarsena from Ramayan of the Indian mythology. 

The Parthenon sits bang in the center of the Centennial Park, and we enjoyed a stroll there in the lazy summer afternoon. The light breeze made the heat bearable, and the afternoon ended with a few minutes of looking out at the lake in the park. The ducks in the lake provided ample entertainment with their antics. We were blessed to see a mother duck and father duck hovering near their egg. Yes! A real duck egg that was about ready to hatch! That was an experience none of us will forget in a hurry!

Lunch at Hattie B’s, a less than memorable experience

Lunch was less than okay at Hattie B’s, a burger joint. The place was crowded, there was an odor of drainage somewhere, and it made me uncomfortable. I was impressed to see the hubby and sonny boy enjoying their meal when it finally arrived, while I struggled to mouth even a spoonful of the canned beans (which were cold) and the bread (which wasn’t toasted). Once they were done eating, we left the place, but with my ruined appetite, I was hangry and irritable. The walk to the hotel was a short, heated one, and I shooed them both off to the room while I perched myself on the swing. A few minutes later, once my anger had subsided, I called them both back down, and we went to a nearby mall.

The mall was huge and indoors, perfect for a hot afternoon. I window shopped until I dropped, and was delighted to find some of the things I had been meaning to buy at the Ulta outlet there. Psst, a little secret, my heart had already lifted when I had seen the amazon delivery notification for the things I had ordered the previous day as part of the prime day deals! We had a cup of coffee each at the cafe in the mall, and I was dismayed to see that they were out of sandwiches. I ordered a bagel, which only served to annoy me further for it was just empty calories which I knew weren’t even going to fill me up. 

Broadway Street

From there, we went to broadway street, and enjoyed strolling along the river. The bridge above made for a perfect walk as well as served up several good spots to take pictures. The walk on the music street itself was enjoyable for us, but sonny boy found it too crowded and noisy for his comfort (I know he’ll enjoy the scene in a few years). The live bands at Honky Tonk, The Lucky Bastard Salon, and a couple other places were quite talented and interesting. We made our way up to a food court, where the meal was okayish, but the band was great! The music made up for my horrible (absent) meal all day. 

On our way back, we stopped at Whole Foods for a packet of trail mix, which finally helped to fill me up. The day would have ended on a sour note with my hanger, had it not been for those nuts, and the hubby finding us a great trail to check out the next day!

Sun and Fork, Nashville, TN, 06/23/2021 10:00 am

Guilty about his partial role in the meal fiasco of the previous day, the hubby decided to treat us all to a good breakfast. Instead of eating at the hotel, we packed up and checked out. His original plan to go to Another Broken Egg had to be cancelled because I called them up and they informed me about the forty-five minute wait. So we used the GPS on our phones and found this beautiful breakfast place on our way instead. Sun and Fork had some interesting options on their menu, and I had a tough time choosing! Breakfast was hearty and healthy and delicious, and the hubby’s guilt and wallet were now clean. 

Bellies full and hearts content, we set off for the trail the hubby had looked up the previous night.

Radnor Lake State Park, Nashville, TN, 06/23/2021 11:15 am

Nestled within the bustling city of Nashville is this gem of nature. Less than two minutes after we’d been on the trail, we encountered deer, yes, deer, grazing peacefully just a few feet from us. Every so often, they would look at us, then go back to grazing, as if they somehow knew we posed them no harm. They did not even run away when we took out our phones to click their pictures and videos! A few yards later, we were fortunate to see some fawn! About five or six little deer, with their tails swinging, grazing on the plants, looking at us, then jumping about as if to give us a few good pictures, then going back to grazing. A sight to behold! About a mile and a half into the trail, and we came across one of the most serene lakes. A crane sitting idly on a log in the water, one leg up in his typical style seemed to agree with us. There were so many people walking there, and yet, no one spoke, as if, by some unspoken consent, everyone wanted to maintain the peace and tranquility of the park! Several vines zigzagged across trees, and I began to wax eloquent (read drone on) about having a soft spot for such places because I grew up devouring Enid Blyton books. Any Enid Blyton reader will know what I mean. Moors, prairies, islands, lakes, caves were the landscape of several of her books. Therefore, even though I physically grew up in a city in India, mentally, I was always in such places.

Back in the car, I took the wheel, and off we set for home. We were hoping to drive nonstop, but the car, and the humans in it, needed our respective fuel, and we eventually pulled to a stop a few miles inside the state border. This reminds me to say, however necessary the mental and physical recharge, and however wonderful a trip, my heart always does a little merry dance when we cross the state line that says we are now entering ‘Sweet Home Alabama’, a place that was just a name on a map five years ago, but which has now become my home.

Now that I am home, my chores beckon, and I must tend to them. Until next time!

Coffee table

A coffee table is the centerpiece of the living room, of every social conversation conducted in the home. It is what gives the home a finished look.

I have always had a coffee table, no matter where I live – be it India, Sweden, Japan. In fact, it has always been one of the first things we purchase! Except, we somehow never got around to buying one when we moved to the US a few years ago. Which is why, when we finally purchased our own house, I decided we needed a coffee table. The hubby wanted something chic and unique, and we were willing to wait until we found just what we wanted. Meanwhile, my declutter bug was in full mode, and I sold off sonny boy’s bunk bed which he’s outgrown.

One friday morning, as I sat in the living room, thinking about sonny boy’s old bunk bed we’d recently sold, a revelation dawned. A quick search for dimensions, and I bounded up the stairs to hubby’s home office and showed him a picture.

One friday morning, as I sat in the living room, thinking about sonny boy’s old bunk bed we’d recently sold, a revelation dawned. A quick search for dimensions, and I bounded up the stairs to hubby’s home office and showed him a picture. “I can make something better than this!” I exclaimed with confidence when his eyes lit up seeing the image on my phone screen. His reply, “make sure you don’t forget to eat!” I love the man for his confidence in me. Less than ten minutes later, I was dressed in the oldest clothes I could find, and loading my suv with the extra slats of the old bunk bed and the leftover posts from the bed we’d built for us, I set off for the woodworkers guild.

After some jointing and planing (not much because we wanted a rustic look), I used the mitersaw to cut it all to the measures I wanted. The bandsaw is perfect to cut at free angles. Done. It was late afternoon when I headed back home, heady with excitement. I would have started assembling it all right away, but the hubby forced me to grab a bite to eat first, because of course, as he had predicted, I’d forgotten to eat lunch.

Back to wood working. Unloading everything into the garage, I began working on drilling pocket holes into the slats. It is the one task I dislike because of the long set up and take down times of the jigs. An hour later, all the slats had enough pockets, and I got busy gluing them before inserting the pocket screws. All this because I am devoted to strength of projects. I like my furniture pieces to be stronger than they appear. Once all the slats were glued and screwed, I set about gluing the four pieces of the posts. The angular cut gave them the unique look we desired. This, I did not bother to screw because they would be individually screwed to the base and top. Next came assembling the three separate units together – the base, the posts (legs) and the top.

I wanted to test it before assembling, so we carried it into the living room, stacking the three pieces exactly the way they would sit. Woah! It looked better than we had expected! bubbling with excitement, I ran out to get the drill and screws, and assembled it then and there! That turned out to be a mistake, because I still needed to take it back out to the garage to finish staining, and now, it had become heavy! It took two of us to carry it back to the garage.

After dinner, the coffee table became a family project as we set about carefully staining it. The night went by too slow as we waited for the stain to settle so we could coat it with polyurethane. The next two days cralwed by as we applied coats and waited ten hours between light sanding and next coat. Once the third coat was done, the twenty-four hours wait for off gassing was one of the longest!

The living room suddenly came alive on Monday evening when we were able to bring in the coffee table, a piece that now stands proudly in the center of the room, my pride, my joy. The ecowarrior and the economical woman in me take special pride in saying that the table is made from wood leftover from earlier projects, and repurposed wood, reusing what we already had, buying nothing new.

Bed time story

“I want to build a bed.” My first sentence uttered over my first cup of my favorite strong black coffee brewed by my favorite man.

“I want to build a bed.” My first sentence uttered over my first cup of my favorite strong black coffee brewed by my favorite man. His usual stoic non-response was a good, no, a great sign. At least he did not oppose, I shrugged mentally. Next, I visited Dr. Google and asked about the dimensions. Sleeping in bed is my expertise, but building one? Haa! I did not even know how big my mattress is. Dr. Google tells me that my mattress is 75 inches by 80 inches.

Is 75 inches the length or the width? I wonder. My previous success with the wooden bench has emboldened me. I don’t need to refer to Dr. Google for information anymore, I decide. Armed with the measuring tape, I head to the bedroom. Feeling very wise, I pat myself on the back for my caution, for I am now also measuring the underlying box spring. Oops! I now know why we seemed to have more room than usual on the bed, and yet, the husband’s feet always dangled outside the perimeter! All this time, the box spring has been sitting right, but I had set up my mattress width wise. Hurriedly, I fix the issue, taking care not to make any sound for the man is working from home and I don’t want him to know I goofed up on the one thing I had proudly boasted about setting up myself.

Later that evening, the husband approachs me. “You said something about building our bed.” I do a mental dance and nod with serene maturity. “We’ve been traveling and living all over the world over the last decade, renting, living in company provided accomodation. Don’t you think it is time to have our very own proper bed?” As is his style, he is quiet for a long moment. Suddenly, the quiet man disappears as a grin grows wide on his face, and I fall head over heels in love with him, again. “Let’s!” rising to his feet, he fetches the measuring tape, and off we go into the bedroom to measure and talk and discuss and argue.

“This room is meant to have a Japanese theme! The bed has to be low, closer to the ground!” he repeats for the millionth time. It is a physical effort to not roll my eyes. “My zaadu (broom) needs to be able to sweep underneath. I refuse to sleep with dirt and dust under my bed!” I know I look and sound scary when I take on this tone. Wink The trick works. He gives in, a little. “Two inches” I shake my head, “the ground clearance has to be ten inches. The broom must sweep freely.”

Rising to his full height of six feet two inches, the man rests his hands on his hips and looks at me like I’ve lost my head. “You do realise we’ll need a ladder to climb into bed it we keep ten inches of clearance plus the insanely thick mattress?” So he thinks he is being funny, eh? I’ll show him, I decide. I lug the hug ladder into the room, making a big show of the weight lifting. He doesn’t even a lift a finger to help, having seen me easily and comfortably haul more than twice this weight.

“Here,” I point to the rung at the exact height the mattress will be at, and proceed to oh-so-easily sit on it. “If I can settle comfortably,” I lift a freshly plucked eyebrow, “how come a giant like you claims he cannot?” I make a point of examing my long nails (handcreams have become my go-to because of the drying effect of sanitizers. While the effects of the cream on my skin is still unconfirmed, my fingernails defnitely thank me.) I’ve touched his ego. I know I have. He rests a foot on the lowest rung of the ladder, “three inches.” We continue to bargain for inches of ground clearance exactly the way one would bargain for prices. Finally, in a classic maneuver of naa teri naa meri, beech mein sauda pakka karte hain (neither yours nor mine, let’s settle the deal at a middle point), we both agree to ground clearance of five inches.

Now you see why this bed gave us immense food for conversation. All this while, we have only covered the ground clearance. The design, let’s just say the ‘conversation’ about design will need a separate post of its own!

Back to measuring. I set about shopping – online, of course. My Indian heritage means I must begin my search with what we consider the royal of woods – Teak! Way way way out of my budget. Not ready to give up, I look for the prices of cherry wood as an ode to our Japan sejour. Uh-uh Tough luck. It is still out of the limits of my pocket. So I explore mahogany, maple, oak, and even poplar! Finally, my current budget is happy when I choose good old versatile, easily available, handy, sturdy, reliable, local, Pine. ( I need to write/dedicate an antire post to pine).

This wood is available in several dimensions, and it is a separate study in mathematics and economics to calculate exactly how many pieces of what dimension would be required, for I wantto minimise scrap. My shopping cart looks good and the number on the bottom right makes my heart aflutter with joy. Once my pocket is lighter, I set out to go to the shop to fetch the wood. They help me pile it into my car. Done. Next, I head to the woodworking guild, where measuring, cutting, planing, sanding, are all easy to do with the tools they have. The supervisor enthusiastically joins me in my tasks once I tell her what the project is. Her help halves my task time.

It is almost sunset by the time I reach home, and the husband has wrapped up his work for the day. We unload the already gorgeous, but now even more beautiful looking pieces of wood. Delegating the task of drilling pocket holes, I start working on building the platform. Both these tasks are easy, but time consuming, for they need precision and right angles. Our rumbling tummies force us to stop.

Day two, the platform is ready. I have glued and screwed it. The legs (posts) and the headboard and footboard are no mean feat, and will require the efforts of us both, and the few clamps that we possess. We finish screwing one side board to the posts. But we must stop, for it is dinner time once again. I haven’t cooked. Patidev offers to pick up the ladle this time, leaving me free to finish staining the boards.

Day three, another side board gets mounted to the posts. The first round of varnishing is done. Dinner time.

Day, I need to start referring to them as evening. Evening four, nothing much gets done as the weather is miserable and cold. All I do is sand and apply a second coat of varnish.

Evening five, it is still cold, but not bone-jarringly so. The headboard needs to be mounted, but we first need to cut it, for I had left a few extra inches on for caution. Out comes the saw. We measure thrice, cut once, and proceed to kreg it. Alas! Something is wrong. The size is right, but it won’t fit between the two posts! Idea! I check the foot posts. The board fits like a dream. This variation happens because wood is a living being and has a mind of its own. Will pen a post “Ways of the Wood” on this shortly. We kreg it and fix it. Dinner.

Day six, I have a few moments to spare during the day. I sand and apply the third and final coat of varnish to what is now starting to look a lot like the bed I had envisaged. In the evening , we carry the platform into our room, and then the c-shaped footboard + sideboard set up. Everything fits very well to together. Whew! I hold the headboard against the two posts and ask the husband to hurry up with the measurements for it is a very heavy piece of wood indeed. He marks it, and heads back to the garage to cut. In the meantime, I finish marking the second piece for the headboard.

While the second piece is being cut, I drill pocket holes into the first one. He holds the holey board flush at ninety degrees while I screw it to the post. We repeat this with the second board. All of a sudden, we exclaim, for the bed looks like a bed! We attach the platform to the bed with rails and ta-dah! Sonny boy promptly proceeds to test the strength of our work by jumping, yes, literally jumping and bouncing on it. Nothing. Not even a creak! “I wish I were still a baby,” sonny boy muses. “Why?”I wonder. “So I could use your bed as my trampoline!” he grins cheekily and jumps off before I can remind him that he will always be my baby.

It took us a little over a week, but we did it. I smile to myself, we made our bed.

AT: The AquaTerrestrial

The sci-fi shows, UFO news, and alien invasions all hid what matters the most…Humans are the alien species on Earth! This (science) fictional story takes you through what happens when we humans finally come face to face with the original earthlings!

Spotted: Mermaid-like beings at several beaches across the world!

The headline was as confusing as it was intriguing, and Seth leaned forward, engrossed in the news piece. He had barely read the first paragraph when his phone rang, the caller id revealing that it was a conference call from his friends, Amir and Aria. He answered the phone with, “did you read the news?” Aria interrupted, “the news is sitting before me.” Seth was puzzled, “what do you mean?” With a quick, “come over to my place,” the line went dead.

Alarmed by Aria’s cryptic words, Seth hurried out of the house and ran up the street to where she lived. Amir joined him just then. By force of habit, the two rounded the house and entered through the backyard. Aria was seated on the cosy chair in the sunroom, her back to them. Across her sat an impossibly beautiful woman. Her hair was the color of honey, her eyes, a beautiful shade of brown, and her skin was like porcelain, clear and smooth. She looked up and met his gaze, and Seth found himself rooted to the spot. Beside him, Amir seemed just as immobile.

“It’s okay,” Aria told her, “you know who they are.” The woman nodded, “I do, but I sense hostility from them.” Aria shook her head, “they are just curious and worried. I did not tell them what to expect, and they have never seen you. They will not harm you.” The woman seemed to stare at them for a long beat before Seth was able to move his limbs again. In an instant, the two were standing on either side of Aria.

“Guys,” Aria addressed her friends, “meet Tlali.” The woman stood up, and Seth was shocked to see that she had no feet! In place of feet, there were fins, similar to a fish. He blinked, realising what that meant, Tlali was a mermaid!

Amir seemed to be at a loss for words as he stood staring at her, mouth agape. Tlali smiled, revealing a set of perfect, pearly white teeth, which even seemed to shine! “Hello,” her voice was like a lilting melody, and Seth suspected she sang beautifully. “Hello,” the men smiled back at her. “Before I proceed,” she looked at them warily, “I need your promise that you will not betray my trust.”

Realisation dawned, and Seth’s smile grew wider. “You wouldn’t be here if you doubted our trustworthiness, would you? She looked at him steadily, as if studying him, then nodded. “How long have you been watching us?” he asked. She shrugged, “we have a team of surveillance specialists who observe those being tested. You four passed with flying colors, and hence this visit.”

Finally regaining his voice, Amir exclaimed, “you know there is one more person in the group?” Tlali smiled, “I know Devin, yes.” Seth’s lips curved up, “I am sure you also know the library.” Her smile was radiant, “and the cave too.” Exchanging a glance, Seth and Amir approached the table and occupied the remaining two chairs. “I take it you haven’t called Devin?” Amir asked. Aria shook her head, “he’s anyway returning home tomorrow. Why bother him on the last day of his trip?”

“So,” Amir addressed Tlali, “I take it you will explain your presence and purpose?” She nodded, “I will. I will also explain your presence and purpose.” Seth frowned, this was very puzzling indeed. Before he could voice his question, Tlali transformed into a human, or what looked like a human. Her lower torso changed to look like that of a human, and her shiny fins appeared as a beautiful skirt. “This is so much more liberating!” she eased back, sighed contentedly.

“One,” Amir began counting on his fingers as he spoke, “you are amphibian; two, you clearly possess above average intelligence, closer to that of the human race; three, you have some magical powers.” Tlali held up one hand to stop him. “One, I am multibian, that is, I can survive in water, on land, and in air; two, my species possesses intelligence far superior to that of the human race, and three, what you call as magical powers is really just child’s play for our race.”

“Oookaayyy,” Seth whooshed, “so you admit you are not human?” She shuddered, “I wouldn’t dare to be one. Poor humans.” He was impressed, “so who, or what are you?” Her eyes twinkled with mischief, “take a guess? Three chances.” Always up for a good challenge, he replied, “mermaid? Some mystical creature, like a fairy or something? No, wait, ALIEN!” Her smile widened, “warm on third. You might think of me as an alien, for now.”

Ever polite, Amir raised his hand to ask a question. “How long have you lived on earth?” She shrugged, “me, personally, about three hundred human years.” Seth tried not to let his shock show. Tlali looked about the same age as them, and yet here she was, three hundred years old. Amir continued with his questions, “Why have we never seen or met anyone like you, or from your species, before now?” She drank a sip of water from her glass, “are you sure you haven’t met anyone from my species before?”

Seth almost choked on his juice as realisation hit like a sucker-punch. “Devin!” his exclamation stunned Aria and Amir, but Tlali seemed to almost glow with joy. “Devin is one of you!” Seth finally managed to string the words together. Since childhood, Devin’s supremacy in swimming competitions had been Seth’s bone of jealousy. Moreover, Devin’s basketball jumps were always higher and longer than most, earning him the title of the best player in almost every tournament.

After taking a few moments to absorb this information, Aria asked, “but how is that possible? Devin’s parents are human.” Tlali shook her head, “Devin’s father is half-human, half us, and his mother is full us.” Amir’s jaw hit the floor. “But how did we never realise it?” Tlali shrugged, “because, like I said, our race is far superior to yours.” “So you all hid in plain sight, until now,” Seth acknowledged, “then why reveal yourselves now, all of a sudden? What’s your plan? Are you planning an invasion?”

Tlali burst out laughing, “invasion? us? No, my dear, we are a peace-loving species. In fact, we are so peace loving that we eat neither animals, nor plants.” Aria’s eyes widened, “then what’s your fuel?” A sci-fi fan, Amir leaned forward excitedly, “I know, aliens get their power from the sun. I watched it on Supergirl.” Tlali rolled her eyes, “your sci-fi movies are far too regressive. Sun powers the entire solar system, not just us. But our fuel is emotions. We feed on emotions. The happier we are, the fuller we feel. Sadness drains us, and then we must hibernate until the emotion passes.”

Seth shook his head in an attempt to clear it, “so why show yourselves to us now?” Tlali’s gaze was direct, “because humans need help.” He scoffed, “is this your twisted logic wherein your people suddenly start revealing their superpowers and lead humans into an unknown war?” Tlali looked troubled, “did you learn nothing from your dreams about the cave and library?”

The three friends stared at her, stunned, “you can even read our dreams?” Tlali shook her head, “not read, see. We can see your dreams and modify them.” Listening to her talk about dreams as if they were videos to be shot and edited, Seth wondered if he was dreaming just now. He yelped loudly as something sharp pricked him. Tlali’s sheepish grin told him she was responsible for this. “Did you just pinch me in my thoughts?” he asked, rubbing his forearm where a faint red mark was already starting to subside. She nodded, “I just wanted to demonstrate that your thoughts were on the right path, but I am afraid I got a little over enthusiastic.”

Resigned to his fate, Seth asked, “Okay, so now that we have established that I am thinking correctly, how about you tell us why you think we need your help, and… HOW do you propose to help us?” She made a face, “an image is worth a thousand words. So how about I show you instead of telling you?” He looked at his friends, who were both nodding. “I told you they’d agree,” Aria beamed with confidence. Tlali smiled, “so you did.”

“Where do you live?” Aria asked. “We can live anywhere within the atmosphere of the earth, but most of us prefer the sea bed.” Seth shook his head, “you are telling me there is an entire unexplored civilisation living under the sea?” She shrugged, “humans are yet to explore the ocean in its entirety. You are all so fascinated with what’s outside, with your fancy space missions and satellites, that you have forgotten to harness the power this very planet holds. Your submarines, under sea optic cables, these gadgets are still nascent and superficial. The raw beauty and power of our planet lies nearer to its core.”

Amir had a thought, “you still haven’t told us which planet you come from, or the name of your species.” Tlali paused for a beat, then in an even, emotionless voice, replied, “we are aqaniums, and we come from planet earth.” Seth’s jaw fell open, “but… I thought you are aliens.” She shook her head, “we have existed on earth since the time this planet came into existence. Which is why we can survive on all three of its forms – water, land and air.”

Her last line shook them all, “We are the original earthlings, and it is you, human race, that is the aliens on earth!

Part 2

Shaken, Seth looked over at Aria, who looked just as stunned. Dazed, Amir asked, “so where do you live?” She smiled, “in the bosom of earth, near the core, under the sea bed.” Amir’s eyes grew wide as saucers, “that sounds exciting. It must be so different down there, isn’t it?” His excitement was endearing, and she grinned, “actually, it isn’t too different. I can take you there if you wish.” Now, they all exchanged a glance, “you’d take us to your home?” She nodded, “yes. Don’t worry, you’ll be completely safe there, I promise.” Having been taught to be cynical and disregard verbal promises, Aria began to shake her head, but Seth stopped her with a hand on her shoulder. “Alright,” he said, “Amir and I will go with you. Aria can stay back if she so wishes.”

It was soon settled, and Tlali said, “come on then, let’s get going.” Amir frowned, “don’t we need any supplies? Oxygen tanks, clothes, etc.?” She shook her head, “you’ll be fine, trust me.” She led them to the nearby lake. Together, the three waded into the water until it was at waist level. Seth noticed something shimmering underneath and realised she had transformed back into her mermaid form. Aria stood at the shore, waving them off. Seth and Amir stood on either side of Tlali and held her hand. Without warning, she pulled them both under the surface, and Seth wondered if the oxygen in his lungs would last him the trip to the core. To his surprise, he’d barely even blinked before they were on dry land, and the air was fresh and crisp. Amir inhaled noisily, and grinned, “this is so liberating!!”

Now that their concern about breathing was resolved, Seth looked down at himself, and was surprised to see he was nice and dry, much like Amir. Tlali grinned, “we have a special air curtain that helps you dry faster.” Neither man heard her, their senses captivated by the scenery around them. Everywhere they looked, there were trees with leaves of varying colors, fragrant flowers, fruits, and butterflies. “Aria would have loved this!” Seth murmured. “Don’t worry,” Tlali told him, “we can always bring her down here for a trip once you go back and tell her about this place.” She led them through the beautiful forest, and soon, they were standing amidst what could only be civilisation.

“These people look so much like humans!” Seth did not realise he had spoken aloud until Amir pinched him. Beside them, Tlali shouted loudly, startling them both. Several ‘people’ stopped whatever they were doing and turned to look at them. “Hello everyone,” she announced, “these are Devin’s friends, Amir and Seth.” The people came forward, their expressions pleasant, and welcomed the two humans in their midst.

As the day wore on, Seth and Amir were treated to beautiful sights and sounds. “The core looks and feels exactly like the surface we live on!” Amir exclaimed. “Yes,” Cheny, who had introduced himself as a scientist, replied. He continued, “we even get sunlight.” Seth looked up, “but… how?” Cheny smiled, “because it filters down through the sea, and reflects from the core.” The explanation made sense to Amir, for he nodded in excitement. “Then you must get rainfall too!” Cheny nodded, “we do. The high tides, coupled with shifting seasons, makes sure we have about three months of rain. It is sufficient to help the trees and crops.”

Seth pointed to the structures in the distance, “are those houses?” Cheny’s gaze followed the direction of Seth’s finger, “indeed they are. Dwellings and offices. Our satellite navigation is housed in one such structure.” Seth frowned, “but I don’t see any wires or cables.” Cheny made a face, “because we run on natural sources. The sun, wind, temperature, and water, all are excellent and free sources of power. Even our routing happens through nature – the trees.” Guessing Seth’s confusion, Amir explained, “by routing, he means network and internet.” Seth’s jaw hit the floor, “you have internet down here?” Cheny raised a quizzical eyebrow, “how else would our people living amongst yours communicate with us?” It made sense.

Wasting no time, Seth fished out his phone and unlocked the screen. Sure enough, he not only had network coverage, but also hundred percent internet data! A pop up on his phone showed there were several free wifi connections available. “Go for it,” Cheny encouraged, “you’ll see magic.” Seth selected one of the wifi connections, and sure enough, the internet speed on his phone multiplied! “That’s lightning fast!” he was shocked. Cheny winked, “because, my friend, it is fashioned on the projection of lightning.” A tiny pain in his brow told Seth his eyebrows had disappeared into his hairline. “What about seasons?” Amir asked, “I take it they are parallel to those on the surface?” Cheny explained, “not really. We do not get any snowfall, but we do have glaciers, thanks to mountains and cold waters. Those glaciers sometimes melt, thanks to the current.”

They walked as they talked, and came across a settlement. The houses were not dissimilar to the Neolithic times, with carved stones and tanned hides. “Look closer,” Cheny advised, clearly reading Seth’s thoughts. Closer inspection left both, Seth and Amir gasping for air. “Trees?” Amir asked, finally finding his voice. Cheny nodded, “living ones. A quick botany lesson, we’ve treated the bark to make sure the tree doesn’t develop stems upto a certain height. This lets us use these trees as pillars and beams, with the first three layers of foliage providing adequate shelter.” Amir, who had a severe case of ophidiophobia, more commonly known as the fear of snakes, asked about their presence in the houses, given the thick foliage above. Cheny shook his head, “treating the bark of the tree renders the leaves and stems inedible for crawlers.” Jumping several feet high in the air, Cheny ripped off a couple of leaves. He handed a leaf each to both the men. “This has a waxy feel to it,” Seth observed. “This is a special cutin, or wax, that repels all creatures,” Cheny told them. “Even birds prefer to stay away from such trees, thus preventing the possibility of bird nests and laying eggs.”

While the humans were still marvelling at the ingenuity of the aqaniums, a faint whoosh alerted them to an oncoming object. “Don’t worry,” Cheny was calm even as Amir and Seth tried to duck, “it is just someone on their way to work. The disc will divert them out of your path.” Seth was puzzled, “disc?”s Cheny nodded, “these discs are something you strap to your wrist and key in the destination. They fly you there in a jiffy, so that you need not waste any time.” Intrigued, Amir asked, “how do they work?” Cheny smiled, “being closer to the core of the earth gives us what, in human terms, is called as superpowers.” Changing the topic, he said, “in the meantime, why don’t you take a seat inside the dwelling and give us a chance to display the aqanium hospitality?”

The interior of the house looked quite similar to human houses, except, the walls were made of trees, and the ceilings made of leaves. It was cosy, fresh, airy, and surprisingly well-lit. “We try to make as much use of what is naturally available, without disrupting the core.” Impressed by this explanation, Seth and Amir dug into the aromatic and delicious food that was brought before them. With full bellies and content hearts, both men thanked the hosts and left the dwelling, accompanied by Cheny.

“We learnt that the earth’s core is made of iron and is hotter than a furnace and has immense pressure. Why do we not feel it just now?” Amir asked the question that had been eating at him. Cheny gave an appreciative nod, “that is because none of your studies have actually touched the innermost core.” Seth let out a low whistle, “so the innermost core is hidden under the core, unseen, undiscovered by humans?” Cheny nodded, “indeed. Also, it is very similar to the earth’s surface.” “What about airplanes?” Amir asked. Cheny shrugged, “we don’t need them. Our discs are fast and capable of transporting us from one place to another at the speed of light.”

All of a sudden, Cheny zoned out for a couple of minutes before saying, “alright, I’ll let them know.” He turned to face them, “that was your friend, Devin. It is time for you to go home, your families will get worried.” Seth frowned, “so soon? It has only been a couple of hours.” Cheny shook his head, “because the core moves at a different pace than the rest of the earth, time moves slower on this level of our planet. Our two hours down here are closer to six hours up there.” With this, Cheny flicked his wrist, and Seth and Amir were surprised to see that they were back at the spot they had first arrived at. Tlali waved at them, “let’s go.” Hands clasped together, Seth and Amir bid adieu to Cheny, with the promise, “we’ll pass this knowledge to our peers.” A blink of an eye later, they were back in Aria’s backyard. “I know you still have a lot of unanswered questions,” Tlali told them, “and I promise we will answer them all in due course of time. Why you were selected, what was the cave all about, the other earth, everything. But for now, rest assured that you humans are welcome on our earth, and we’d love to coexist with you.” With that, there was a faint whoosh as Tlali dove back into the lake just as the sun set on the horizon.

Related sci-fi stories:
Other Earth
The Cave in the Woods

Village Vibes

Cutey, my dog, gave us a big fright when she bolted after two deer that were passing behind our home. While she has pulled similar stunts before, (and knowing her, will most likely continue to do so) those have been limited to chasing squirrels and cats. Once the squirrels climb up a tree, Cutey tries her super best to follow them, but after falling on her head, literally, she usually accepts defeat. Cats are a different matter, for Cutey is easily fooled by their size and fluff, and more often than not, gets a resounding slap from these oh-so-cute felines she loves to chase. In either case, she returns home in a few minutes, tail tucked between her legs, a few scratches to prove her story.

This time was different from usual, because she’s never seen deer before. It was a sight to behold to watch Cutey chasing after tehm, her muscles bunched, looking so much like the hound that runs in her DNA. Social media proved a huge help, for my post about my lost dog went viral almost instantly, with people living in the neighborhood sharing it further in hopes that whoever finally saw Cutey, would know she belongs to us. The entire day went by, I kept driving in my neighborhood, near the woods, calling to her, in hope that she’d hear and come running. Tough luck. I even parked my car near a clearing and entered the forest, (on hindsight, I realise it was idiotic of me, consdering my bug spray wasn’t going to deter snakes that live in there, but you do what you have to do for your family), searching unsuccessfully for her.

When I returned home after my second search run, sonny boy told me three of our friends had dropped by to lend moral support and to offer their help to look. The shelter we adopted Cutey from over three years ago, reached out to us, offering their help. The lady who had then helped us with the adoption procedure, shared my post with her friends who work in the field of animals. I was shocked when I called her, and she told me she was in our neighborhood. Her workplace is over twenty miles from here, and she lives another thirty miles away! But she drove over right after work, just to help look for Cutey.

A friend who is terrified of dogs, walked around our community with a piece of bread in hand, calling to Cutey, in hopes that the smell would entice her to come bounding over. A little boy, who is about the same height as Cutey, offered to help us in his own, sweet adorable way. He would alternate between imitating dog sounds and cat sounds, occassionally calling to her by name, in hopes that she would hear him.

Another friend told us about a local neighborhood network, while yet another friend posted on our behalf on the network when I admitted I was unable to log in due to some technical problem.

By now, Cutey had been missing for over seven hours, and I was tired. Someone said they’d seen her in the afternoon in a lane that is about four miles from us. It was a bleak chance, but hubby dearest drove there to look for her. No luck. By the time evening rolled around, the stress was starting to get to us all. A family we love (and I have feeling they love us back), came over with some snacks and tea, saying we need to eat to keep up our strenght to look for Cutey. Together, divyying up, we resumed our search for Cutey. My phone was ringing non stop, with calls and messages from friends – ours and Cuteys, asking if she’d been found yet. I could hear the sorrow in their voice when I replied in the negative.

Happy or sad, time stops for no one, and the Sun began his downward journey beyond the horizon. I usually love twilight, and make it a point to be outdoors to watch the beautiful hues of the sky, but of course, this time, I did not even notice when the sun went down and the street lights came on; my eyes were glued to the woods all around us, my ears strained for any sounds of rustling in there.

A friend was walking his newly adopted a gorgeous little pup, and it was easy to see his hesitation in walking up to us. It was obvious that we were still looking for our silly girl. It was getting late, the watchface showed nine in the night, and we returned home with a heavy heart. Until this point, sonny boy had been quite composed, but the thought of spending the night without Cutey devastated him, and he finally broke down. Seeing my fatigue, hubby volunteered to make dinner. None of us was hungry, but like we all know, it is important to eat to keep up one’s strenght. He fixed us an omlet sandwich each, and I was eating it, when an instinct told me to take a look at my phone. At that instant, hubby’s phone rang in the bedroom where he had plugged it for charging, and he went into the bedroom to answer it. Meanwhile, I was scrolling through my messenger.

“Cutey has been found!” we both shouted at the same time. There was a message on my messenger app. “I believe this is your baby. She followed me home from my walk. Please call me on this number xxx-xxx-xxxx.” The call on my hubby’s phone was from our our friend who’d posted for us in the neighborhood network, someone had read his post and reached to him, letting him know the same message.

Sonny boy left his dinner and jumped all over the place, hap hap happy that his dog-sister had been found. Hubby, who had taken just one bite of his own omelet sandwich, grabbed my car keys and ran out of the house as soon as I told him where she could be fetched from. Twelve hours after she disappeared, Cutey was back home with us, safe and sound, save a little scratch near her nose and a limp of extreme exhaustion.

Though the twelve hours of Cutey’s absence were harrowing, and extremely stressful, we are blessed and grateful, that we did not have to go through them alone. Our entire village was with us – physically, morally, and also virtually!

It takes great fortune to find a village, a group of friends and neighbors, a community who will go out of the way to help each other, as will we for them. The overwheling outpouring of messages and support from people all over the world, showed me that we also belong to an amazing virtual community. This… correction… THIS is our village, and I love the vibe of our village. Heartfelt gratitude and love to the universe for this lovely village we belong to.

Dogasana – the yoga pose by Cutey

Wear Your Baby

Wearing your baby gives you the freedom to move around with your hands free, while still keeping your child safe and cosy, snuggled in your warmth.

On a quick run to the pharmacy, I ran into Kayla, my friend. Except, it took me an entire minute to recognize her. Gone was the glowing, glamorous looking stylish Kayla I’ve grown to admire over the past couple years. In her place was a pale, harrowed-looking, super tired woman. “How are you?” I asked her, with meaning. She gave me a ghost of a smile, “I’ve been better.”

For a moment, I wondered if I was being too judgy by observing her lack of sophisticated posh. The current pandemic has given us all so much to worry about, that make up and appearances are not even on our minds. We finished our shopping at the same time and headed out of the pharmacy. Tim, her husband, was waiting in the car for her, the engine idling. He looked just as exhausted as she did. That’s when it struck me, they were new parents! To top it off, they were both first-time parents. Which meant sleepless nights, tears, diapers, feeding, the works.

Kayla nodded in reply to my question about her fatigue being due to the baby. “She is fine for the most part of the day, but just doesn’t want to be away from me. The moment I step into the kitchen, or even outside for some air, she starts bawling, and then either I, or Tim, have to drop everything and lift her.” I nodded in complete sympathy, for, like most parents, I’ve been through that phase too. Except, in Kayla’s case, the situation seemed to be worsening.

Pciture Credits: Wikipedia

“Have you tried baby wearing?” I asked her. She shook her head, “I just lift her in my arms.” I smiled, for once, feeling like a wise person, “you should absolutely try it! It is awesome.” I will never know if it was my excited tone, or the apparent promise of relief that got her attention, but she kept the merchandise in the car and stood staring at me with rapt attention.

“What exactly is it?” she asked, “and how is it done?” Before I could get in a word edgewise, Tim had stepped out of the car, and he too was staring at me with curiosity. “Where can I get it?” man of few words, he came straight to the point. “I used the sling carrier from Amazon,” I replied. He nodded, “I might be able to go for a jog with the baby.” Aghast, I shook my head, “then you would do better to use to the Pivot Modular all-in-one travel system. It has a stroller, carrier, the works.”

Just then, the baby started to fidget, and Kayla automatically reached in and unbuckling her, began to bounce her on her hip. “She must be tired,” Kayla sighed, “I wish I knew a good way to soothe her.”

Luck was on my side, and I suddenly heard a familiar voice some distance away. “Tanvi!” I called out to my friend, “care to join us for a second, please?” Handing her cute little daughter to her husband, Tanvi sauntered towards us. “Kayla, Tim, Tanvi,” I introduced them, appearing calm, but doing a mental bhangra (heavy cardio Indian dance form) on the inside. “Kayla, the parenting expert is right here. She’ll be able to tell you more about it.” Seeing Tanvi’s smile and wink, I knew she’d understood my game. Now that I had the expert on my team, I could just sit back and let her work her magic.

Super cool me, I excused myself with a nod and went over to play with Kayla and Tim’s gorgeous doll who was happily gurgling in the infant seat of the car. Bits and pieces of the conversation between my friends reached my ears, and I heard words like bottles, cribs, naps, teething and so on. I felt a sense of pride when I heard Tanvi share some easy parenting tips to help soothe the baby, as well as how Kayla could sneak a few minutes of me-time. So much wisdom was occuring right beside me!

By the time the conversation got over, Kayla was looking her usual relaxed, composed self, and Tim was actually smiling. Tanvi nodded at me and walked back to her own princess and hubby. After that, I logged in to my account and started following her on instragram, completely amazed by the new age parenting tips she has given on her profile. From soothing, to teething, to diapers, to letting the child explore, to spending time with oneself, there is a treasure of information on her instagram.

New parents, toddler parents, or even those thinking about babies can benefit a lot from reading her posts. You can follow Tanvi on instagram at https://www.instagram.com/newmomsaga/. Please do like my facebook page https://www.facebook.com/shortstoriesbyshweta/ and subscribe to my blog.

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