Music, his refuge

guitarHe is 70. Too old to be driving door to door for music lessons, if you ask me. At 70, if I am still around, I would be busy doing things that please me. Maybe he was doing just that too. For someone who has taught music all his life, what else could be more exciting but that?

He loves to talk. It is a different story that I found it difficult to follow what he said in the beginning. His English is highly accented, despite the fact that he worked in England for twenty years. That would have changed the way he spoke the language, wouldn’t you think? Hard to imagine how differently he spoke before his 20 year stint.

He is lonely. Every time I cancelled my class, he would offer to accommodate me on another day of the week. I suspected that he was lonely, that his children were all older, married and having their own families. Maybe his wife was an old grouch and he wanted respite from her.

He is a learner. He asked me if I was computer savvy, if I knew how to use the internet, if I could teach him how to use his new iPad. His son gifted him an iPad 2 from one of his trips from Australia. After class, we sit down with his new iPad for half an hour, opening and closing apps and learning how to use them.

He wants to make new friends. I saw that he had three friends on Facebook from the time he owned the iPad. His son, daughter in law and wife. He showed keen interest on learning how to make new friends on Facebook. I suggested that he connect with friends of his friends first and then build his network. He looked hurt and refused to consider that option. He wanted new friends. Unknown to his family.

On the second session that I spent with him teaching him to use his iPad , he showed me an app he could use to call people for free. To demonstrate how it works, we called his wife. Her number was stored on the app along with that of his son’s. He was taken aback I chose her to call first. He spoke briefly in his native tongue and closed the call. I smiled. I had done a good deed for the day.

On the third session of learning how to use his iPad, he wanted to fill out an online form for a service provider. The text from the service provider said that if he updated his personal information he would stand a chance to win an iPad2. Who was I to ridicule his enthusiasm for a second iPad? I played along. I helped him fill out the form. When we came to the part that asked his marital status he said divorced.

That explained everything.

…. his enthusiasm for new friends on Facebook.

…. why he looked shaken after I connected the call to his wife using the app.

…. why he was lonely

…. why he loved to talk

…. why he drove door to door teaching music at 70.


Nandyavattai nostalgia

I miss dad when I walk my pet in the botanic gardens especially when Maxx stops to sniff the pretty white nandyavattai flowers on the way.

There were two of them. I remember them even as tiny saplings before they grew into tall plants. It was daddy who dutifully watered them every evening. We had a long hose pipe with a rubber nozzle that connected to the water outlet at one end while the other end reached one of the paathis (the mud bridges that was built around the plant to help hold water) that dad had created with the help of a gardener.  Every evening, dad got back from work and ritualistically connected the hose pipe to the water outlet and held the other end in his hand and walked about from one plant to another, watering the plants in our little garden. He specially took pride while watering the two Nandyavattai plants, since he had watched them grow from saplings. After he was done, daddy never let the hose stay in the garden in one of the paathis like I had seen in some gardens. He would dutifully roll it up neatly into a smart circle and put it back into the bathroom where it hung from one of the showers. We have often upset dad by not rolling the hosepipe the way he did after we had watered the plants, in his absence.



The Nandhiyavattai flowers bloomed in all their glory every day. However, we barely got to see them when we woke up because daddy would have plucked every single one of them for the perumal pujai  (as offering to the God’s). The only time we saw them on the plant was when daddy was travelling or was sick. The neighbours would know just by the mere presence of the flowers on the tree past six in the morning, that daddy was either not in town or unwell. Even when we did finally pick them off the plant to offer it to the God’s we would still not have the patience to pick every single one of them.

I miss you dad. There is some reason or the other in every step I take in life that remind me of you. I hope that there are plenty of nandyavattai plants in full bloom where you are now.

Nameless friends from my morning walks

Friendship is for ever!

Fascinating friendships are made when you least expect it. Ever since our pet came home a year and a half back, it has been a privilege to walk him at least once a day after his meal times. When he was younger we took him for a stroll around the block, to answer nature’s calls. Now that he is older, we walk him more to exercise his muscles and keep him in shape.

I had relocated to Singapore newly when Maxx came home and I had not yet met or socialized with people who lived in the condominium. Maxx turned out to be the icebreaker. It is amazing how many people will smile at you and have a pleasant hello to say to you when they see you walking a dog; especially a roly-poly pup with big innocent eyes.  There was never a time that someone did not stop on their tracks to bend down and offer their hand to Maxx to sniff, lick and bite. They would coo and scratch behind his ears and ask questions. My heart would then swell with pride for having made the brilliant choice of an adorable dog for a pet. Soon, we knew all the other pet owners in the condo and stopped to say hello and exchange pleasantries, dog news and dog updates, while the dogs themselves happily sniffed each other and played tag.

I quickly found out that dog owners everywhere, not just the ones that lived in our condo, were friendly people. I could easily meet eye to eye with another pet owner walking her dog and acknowledge her with a nod or a bright smile. If she was across the road walking the other way, then we even waved to one another.

However, dog owners or pet walkers are not the only category of people that I have been able to befriend. People from all walks of life, no pun, have shown Maxx and me that there are good people in every culture, in every country, in every race.

There is this beer bellied man, with a smoke in his hand, in one of the bus stops that we pass, who nods and smiles at me as I walk past with Maxx tugging at the leash.

There is this lady of Indian origin, a security guard at the British Embassy, dressed smartly in her uniform, who never misses to wish me a cheerful good morning as Maxx stops to relieve himself, just outside the embassy, on the grass walk.

There is this old man with a Kangol flat cap and an office bag who sits at various spots on the long pavement, reading his newspaper or jotting something down in a note book, who shyly nods and acknowledges that he sees me. Wonder what is his story?

Then there is this other lady ‘skyo-rity’ (security) guard, a Singaporean born Punjaban, who works two jobs in the day, who passes by and almost always stops to talk, when Maxx rests in the grassy foot path after our brisk walk in the garden, before we resume our walk back home. She has family back in Punjab. After 23 years of living away, she came back to Singapore because she says, ‘once a Singaporean always a Singaporean’.

Maxx and I met another lady two days back and again today, and she is the newest friend that we have made. We found out that she was a lawyer, married to a Romanian professor of law,  and has two two young daughters and two old dogs at home.

Wonder who we will be on our friends list next?

New year eve – Then and now.

The earliest memories of making a big deal about New years eve is not very long ago for me. It was the year 1992 and I was already in my first job. And what a place to work on New Years eve – The Holiday Inn Bangalore. I was part of the Food and Beverages team in charge of Banquet sales. Banquets was where all the action on 31st evening was happening. We would be on our toes all day on the 31st and come back for evening duty during the party. And no body complained. The executive staff were allowed to bring their spouses along for a free dinner and entertainment on New Years eve. Even though my pay those days was equal to what an average house help in a small Indian town (not city) earns today, these were special privileges that made up for where the salary lacked. The spouses got eye candy to watch for free. Twice in my tenure with the Holiday Inn Bangalore, belly dancers were invited from some remote middle eastern country. These artists came to the tables where the guests sat and shook their booty and gave the guests their monies worth for the evening.

Women who ended up accompanying men who paid for such five star hotel parties dressed in the skimpiest of clothes, glamorous accessories and make up and boogied on the dance floor till the wee hours of the morning. You got a chance to show off to your spouse that ‘it was just another day at work’ for you when his eyeballs were threatening to pop out.

Then came a time when a few of our friends, couples with young children like us, decided to travel during the Christmas vacation. Again, twice we were at Goa for the New years eve with friends.

We would stay up till midnight and beyond playing cards, walking the beach, on the cruise liner or at the restaurant over wine and beer. Another time we did the Dandeli- Nagarhole loop and that was absolute fun too. The jeep safari into the woods in pitch darkness, being one of the highlights as I recall.Twice we hung out as a group at The Holiday Village Bangalore, when our kids were neither too young to tag along where we went nor old enough to be left home. This place had family entertainment and kids were entertained as well.

A few years later, when our jobs took us to different cities and it was an effort to build the same camaraderie and friendship of our younger days, we would still be out on New years eve but by ourselves. We would choose a fancy restaurant to drive to with live music or other entertainment and have a meal on the eve of New Year.

Of late, even that has lost its charm. We eat out plenty during the year and so the idea of driving to a restaurant just for food on New years eve, is not as appealing. Especially when you know you have only yourselves to sit with. When you have kids who are not yet teens but speak like them, it is worse. Eventually there will be a comment that the child makes which will not go down well with the parent and then it snowballs into a talking down for the kid. The entire mood of the evening is black and all of us sit on the edge of the seats getting pissed off with the delays in service.

Lately, we stay at home doing our own thing. Like last night, we called close family and friends on the phone and wished them. Then we caught a movie on HBO. Our daughter locked herself in her room and watched a movie of her choice.

She is waiting to turn 18 so that she can start partying on New year eves again.