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I felt a craving for something sweet during the afternoon. Sooner or later some good recipe for a simple sweet would appear in full colour. I did recollect that on one of my trips to India, my husbandís sister had packed a big stainless steel box of sweets for her brother. I carried the box safely to Nigeria for Chandra, though it added almost two kilos to my luggage.
I went to my old recipe books and found one similar to that sweet. After about two hours and a whole sink of dishes, I succeeded. Calling Krishna to taste it!
Except for Chandra, we go around Bahrain without carrying our CPR (central population registry) cards. I havenít really used my passport here. In Nigeria, we always carried a copy of our Indian passport.
Whenever we had a foreign guest in India, I was the one to take them around. The first instruction I would give them before we started out, was to leave their passport in the house. And to carry just one or two credit cards and enough cash for that dayís shopping only. Foreigners in India attract attention and I didnít want us to be targets for pickpockets.
I hear some metallic sound and look down. I see some labourers waiting at the Gosi entrance with paint buckets. A huge trolley with some foldable ladder structure in it is being moved. The Gosi is getting painted! It actually looks fine now.
Its huge straight walls with hardly any foothold or window ledges looked strange and forbidding to me, when I first came here. There are a few plane glass covered see through areas which I wouldnít call windows, because they are never to be opened. The walls of the Gosi stretch as far as the eye can see.
I called my younger cousin in Abu Dhabi. He has been staying alone and working in some Gulf country for over twenty years. Their family home is in a small village in Kerala.
This tiny village with the foreign sounding town of Nemmara in Kerala has been the home of some of my ancestors. The beautiful temples on either end of the village, one with its pond in the backyard always excites me. The village well stands in the middle of the dusty road. The Children playing in the mud road and every vehicle attracting attention is part of it.
Krishna has been in the house most of the time since his exams started. He is back at school and it feels lonely in the house.
The first few months after quitting a full time job are liberating. You enjoy the early hours of the morning, without the tension of getting things in order before leaving for work. The one thing I missed the most was enjoying the mild sun of the early morning and evening. In the morning, I was busy getting to work and in the evening I was busy completing my work, to get home by 8pm.
I want to start on yoga again. I had sort of stopped it due to being constantly disturbed, when in India. Now I think here is an opportunity to restart the process.
The yoga master was a frail old retiree of the electricity department. He could move his limbs into any asana position easily. He was in his early seventies and used to come to our house from the suburbs of Coimbatore, very early in the morning. The first fortnight was devoted to pranayama and the next to asanas. After the exercises before 6am, it was a rush to work.
It was one of the smaller branchesí of the bank, I worked at those days. There was a single banking hall with the managerís cabin at one end. Since there was no air conditioning, the bankís big front door was always kept open.
The dust would swirl in when one of the big town buses passed by the door which opened out on a busy main road. The operations of the bank were not computerised which meant there was a lot of old crumbling stationery around. The ladies decided to tackle the problem of frequent coughs and colds with yoga.
Bought a pink colour yoga mat and started yesterday morning with the Surya Namaskaram exercises. I could do it fine, though the stomach area seemed uncomfortable during the process. The extra inches gained last year adds to the discomfort and this is one of the reasons for the exercises.
When I go to India in summer, I must get back to my friendsí at the bank and refresh my memory about Pranayama. The breathing exercises, when done in the morning gives a great start to the day. Though I have the charts, I have forgotten the postures for this exercise.
We have been buying more cleaning products here and they are quite expensive. Yesterday after yet another shopping trip, I discovered we had bought some pink detergent and a big bottle of yellow lemon and vinegar dishwashing liquid. We already have a plastic can of rose scented hand wash soap and some blue glass cleaner. We had papaya shaped and papaya coloured soap and a bright magenta henna shampoo.
We are getting obsessed with colors and fragrances in this drab desert landscape! My friend Padma says desert people prefer colours while people in tropical places stay with cream and white.
Spectacle frames are expensive and we were looking for something not in the designer range for Krishna. That is how we happened to be in Ashrafs, the electronic shop. We had decided on a frame in the opposite shop and having done that, decided to cross the road into the majestic pillared entrance of Ashrafs.
Two hours later we had a digital camera and a rechargeable torch to add to our collection of not so essential items. But here it is catching, the desire to have the latest in electronics as it is everywhere to see and get excited about.
The teacher collects money for the books and hands them to the student. But the collection of school fees is in cash at school or in monthly collection at the bank.
Some holidays are also working days for the cash counter at school. Only they never seem to match with local holidays. So when we rush to school on a supposedly working day for the cash counter, it is securely locked. Finally we decided to make the first payment at the bank giving us one monthís time to make it to the cash counter at school.
The stress of School!
Every walk on Exhibition Avenue is interesting. We were coming back with our heavy plastic bags of vegetables. The cool breeze near the water fountain soothed us and the heavy noises of vehicles were more bearable. Out of the horizon came this rather trendy sports convertible car in a bright red colour. But the more surprising and rather contrasting to the modernity of the vehicle were the two Arab men in it. With their white Thoub and their checked red and white Keffiyeh,the slim young and serious men looked so out of place in that vehicle. Advertising by contrast!
It was cloudy in the evening and early in the night, I could hear a fierce pattering on the air conditioner. Got up to investigate and it was raining and the howling of the wind was eerie at that hour. Today morning, it is one of the days when the worries are weighing multiple kilos in your head.
Looking out of the window, I see no trace of the rain at all. It has simply soaked into the parched sands. Tiny flying insects have appeared and are flitting across my view. They are strongly pursued by the sparrows for breakfast.
We tried to make Vishu day authentic with the fruits and grains in trays before the gods. A tiny purple rimmed mirror was the centrepiece with a gold chain held to it by a rubber band. The sacred ash was there in a tiny cup also the red Kumkum. A cup of water was there to wipe the eyes, before seeing the bounty of nature and a wad of money as the first sight to add prosperity to the New Year. A fat little white pumpkin in its ash green skin and a bunch of bananas flanked the centre spread.
Having worked for over a decade at a bank in India, I follow up stories about tricksters to avoid falling victim. Yesterday in the newspapers here, there was a story about a trio out to rob people coming out of banks with cash.
The strangest thing about this trio was the nationality of its three operators one Asian, one African and one Arab. Talk of international co-operation among criminals!
They were supposed to be operating in the Bab Al Bahrain area. They stick nails into the tyre of vehicles targeted. One offers help another distracts the third steals. Simplicity itself!
The idea of relaxation differs from person to person. The television is for most people the ideal way out after the stress of the day and it is less expensive too. For me it is cooking and gardening. Cooking is a soothing and relaxing experience for me as it takes my whole being into a creative realm, the whole time. With gardening, it is a connection with nature the plants, flowers and fruits, the sun and the wind and the freedom the open space represents. I have never been cooped up in a movie theatre, for the past five years.
In the dry heat and whipping winds the sand gets everywhere. Dusting and cleaning take a good chunk out of the working day. I like to let in the sunshine and the breeze, so keeping the windows closed is not an option I would choose. A few hours after the cleaning, the fine dust is back again and I slip and slide as I walk through the living room, in my rubber slippers. The skin gets parched quickly and a few bottles of water are a must everyday. Not using the air conditioners now, to heighten its effectiveness in summer.
A report about corporal punishment in a school caught my attention. In Asaba, it was ordinary for the teachers in Krishnaís school to smack a child. I was horrified, when I discovered this, on the first day of school.
The children were herded into the classrooms and the parents were asked to move on. There was crying and wailing from some of the unhappy new entrants. A more desperate boy, jumped right of the bars of the window of the ground floor classroom. At which point the principal, a nun caught him and proceeded to smack his bottom ten times.
Latecomers were given five whacks with a small cane on the palm in the central assembly area. I did speak to the new principal who came in soon after the whacker smacker one, left. She said it was difficult to change the mindset of the teachers. The pile of canes near the teachersí register in the principalís office also disappeared.
The children themselves in that small town were full of enthusiasm and laughter. Gathering around me, when I came to leave Krishna they would chatter away. Did I eat eggs and rice, was one important question for me to answer.
I see the whole day before me in the morning with a lot of potential. By 10am, the thought of cleaning the house makes me feel bored and tired. To pep up the day with a quick yoga session, then to revive the spirits with half a bottle of water and carry on no matter what.
Once the task is started then on I go, the mind in thinking mode. There is a good personal station playing in my mind, except when I am focused on talking to someone or doing another intensive task which focuses all of my energy.
The thought of going to India in summer is always on my mind. I am relieved to escape the scalding summer here. We will be in India during the monsoons. I like watching the rains from the comfort of the home not to be caught by surprise on the road.
Cochin or Kochi is a beautiful place and its airport is calm. But the four hour road journey to Coimbatore can turn chaotic in the rains. We could stop in Nemmara, if the going gets tough but the idea of visiting a relative, with a pile of luggage bothers me.
Losing a watch is tough on a twelve year old. It is made tougher by parents who insist that, there is a lesson to be learnt in not having a watch for the time being. It was on the school bus, when the kid next to him asked to see the watch. The watch was missing when he reached school and the kid claims to have given it back. Alertness my dear, we tell him. You did not have to remove it to show him and if you did, then you should have the alertness to ask back for it.
I must tell you about the return of the watch. Our twelve year old was asked to speak to the kid who borrowed the watch, to look at. It so happened that to return it, he dropped the watch into the maths book which was open and closed without noticing a foreign object in it. So the maths book was checked in the bus and the area of the school bag on which the maths book rested yielded the treasure, the lost watch. I had to set the story straight!
The responsibility issue is priority, but the pressure is off.
There have been people from Nemmara in Bahrain for a long time. Till yesterday, I didnít know any. Krishna met a new school boy at the bus stop with his father, who was from a neighbouring village. They dropped in to check on the lady with links to Nemmara and within half an hour we had found two families both of us knew. The world is a small circle we agreed. I told them the story of my lost passport and how it was quickly reunited with me, through the expanded initials of my father which had Nemmara in it.
The Formula1 races are being held in Bahrain this weekend. The international racing circuit at Sakhir is the venue for this event. Within the part of the town where we stay, there is no racing fever at all. I see no huge posters or big hoardings advertising the event, at least around here. Since tickets to the event are expensive, it keeps out the just curious.
Being used to the Indian version of events, this is surprising. Even a politician coming to town would be made well known to everyone big or small, by the posters, banners and street decorations.
The light high up in the passage made a loud popping noise followed by a yellow flash and one area of the house went dark. I sent Krishna out to call the security. When the security man came and went to the mains one circuit breaker was off. As he switched it on, there was another flash and pop from the next corridor light. He turned off the circuit breaker at once and promised to bring in the electrician. This upset me, as I had to work in a dark kitchen without the exhaust fan on a hot summer day.
I decided to utilise some spare time I had in the morning, to make and stock up on sago seed pappads. Though getting it out to dry in the direct sunlight wasnít possible, I could utilise the little sunshine and a lot of light through the big windows to dry it.
The huge copper bottom pots came on to the stove with a lot of water. The spices, chillies and salt added flavour and the soaked sago seeds, white and bead like were put in to cook. The bubbling hot mix was ladled on to thick plastic sheets to dry.
I remember the Garri pappad making days in Asaba. The carpenter made a light weight drying board which could be shifted easily to catch the sunlight around the compound. It had a cover board with fine wire netting to keep out insects.
The pigeons we raised were curious about the contents of the board and had to be shooed away. They had a fine pigeon house on stilts, but somehow didnít really make it their home. They would be there in the morning at feeding time, then would fly away and be back for a short evening lookout and leave.
Housework allows me to think. In my college days, the time spent on the town bus, when I commuted to and from college was thinking time. In a crowded bus this was not possible as all you thought of was hanging on to anything stable to stay alive. You couldnít dream! But on rare occasions when you had a seat, then you could afford to let you mind wander. The ideas for my articles which appeared in the annual college magazine originated from thoughts on the town bus. At home after the ride, I would write it in one session.
The morning revealed that the clothes given for ironing hadnít been collected. These included Krishnaís school shirts. Told Krishna that he had no choice except to adjust with a smaller one from the previous school or one retrieved from the laundry basket. One was a bit tight the other crumpled after its stint in the basket. We apologised, one parent for not checking and the other for not collecting.
Though annoyed, he decided that the comfortable one though crumpled was the better alternative. Pure cotton shirts are scarce and Iíll have to do with partly cotton ones as spares.
The Tip Jar