I take the mobile to see the time. 23:55. I wonder why I am still wide awake. Is it because I am still in India time zone? Or is it because R is still in the excited holiday mood and is having a restless sleep? Or is it because S didn’t fall asleep till 22:45 and every time I was about to doze off, I was continued to be woken up? Or is it because I am finding myself completely relaxed from deep within since I wrapped up all the chores from sweeping, mopping, scrubbing, dishwashing, unpacking the luggage to getting the menu planned for the entire day tomorrow with the few vegetables available at home? Or is it because of the happiness I feel thinking back to the India trip, that feel-good feeling which comes being at my beloved home that is Madras and being only a few kilometres away from my own parents? Madras! Sigh!
This blog has been left to rust yet again by me. There definitely has not been a dearth of thoughts or happenings to be written about, but, barring a few sentences here and there, I have just not been able to sit and write lengthy posts. The words just refused to pour though and I just refused to prioritize my creative pursuits of any sort having been totally wrapped up in the parenting responsibilities and housekeeping chores.
On a visit to the Central Library at Bugis after several months, I stepped inside the all-too-familiar children’s section which houses this beautiful mock treehouse having recycled plastic bottles on ceiling doubling up as branches and leaves. The children’s section had underwent renovation and the treehouse with baby-friendly chairs and rocking stools all around it were inaugurated only in mid 2013. The collection of books was as attractive to me as it was to my daughter.
The year 2014 was when we spent at least an hour there every week as we let our then 2-year old daughter play all around the tree house, choose her own books and read those with her. I absolutely loved all those colourful baby books which were made all the more fun by having all those interesting features like flaps. Spot the pup, Usborne publishers’ book featuring that little, yellow duck hidden in all the pages, ABCD or counting books, numerous books on farms, Olivia the pig, Elmo teaching ABCD, animals, etc. and so on. Spot the pup series was the one S enjoyed so much that she called herself Spot and called her father and I by the name of Spot’s parents, Sam and Sally.
Yesterday, as I automatically turned towards our favourite board books section, the age group printed for that category brought with it with the cliched thought of how time flies! 0-3 years, said the board. Now, both my children have crossed that age group!
My thoughts didn’t stop with all the stages and baby milestones that my children have crossed or the reading milestones that S has crossed as she can now read all the children’s books and magazines on her own and even reads all his books for R too or the way R can mimic the phonic sounds of letters of small words now. In a year or so, he will also start reading simple books.
This library means more to us than just reminding us of our love for books and reading. This was a part of our weekly routine which only got completed with a visit to Krishnar temple, walking through Waterloo Street, which, to me, showcases perfectly all things typically Singapore, and shopping at Fairprice at the now demolished Rochor Centre.
As I went through a wave of feel-good memories, I found myself having a relaxing moment. And what better place to relax than a library which has this huge collection of books and comfortable seating to sit back and read and a small treehouse for babies and children to take their books to and ‘read’!
Coming back to the children’s section of the library itself, the rocking stools and chairs have been replaced with fewer chairs, the baby book collection not as much as it used to be. I couldn’t find even one Spot the puppy book. Have all been borrowed because of the double loan quota now?
But we still had a relaxing time as little R was busy exploring what was a not-so-familiar place to him. As for S, she was so happy to be back in the treehouse after a long time. Except that this time it was not a go-up-and-down-the-treehouse that she wanted to do or browse through Spot the pup or some board book, but it was some storybook that she grabbed and sat down to read as R walked all around the place playing with computer mouse or taking a random book or impatiently waiting to collect his Book Bug collectible cards from the machine. Time, indeed, flies!
Written a couple of weeks back….
Even as I am taking that train journey from Chennai Egmore to Mayiladuthurai Junction which always feels so comforting, my thoughts go on a whirlwind tour.
Sun shines brightly on the lush, green paddy fields and the winding canals. I see a white kokku/crane swoop down to a canal and see it reflected on the water. A sight as beautiful as this is a daily occurrence in this part of the world! Not content to call it just a crane/ kokku, I feel the urge to Google it to see if I can find the exact species of egret or stork or whatever it is. But I let it pass since it suddenly strikes me how simple life in itself was back then, during those carefree, childhood days which was filled with oodles of happy moments. It didn’t matter if it was a crane or an egret or whatever else it may be. All that mattered was going to the vayal / field with my maternal uncles and spotting those kokkus.
Looking outside from the comfort of the cooler confines of the air-conditioned compartment, I let that strong wave of nostalgia wash over me. Moments like those are just nostalgia and nothing more today. Time, they say, is the greatest healer. But all it actually does is help us get used to the idea of someone or something not being there….
The last month of last year seemed to pass by very quickly, as every December has been ever since I became a Carnatic music and December music season aficionado.
December is that month when I am always in my beloved Madras, celebrating the music season gaining an enriching musical experience at as many Sanjay’s kutcheris as possible while my children enjoy their school vacation not caring much about what I am doing or where I am going. Being in Madras only has me rooting even more for life that would have been. Alas such is life and all that…. This December also saw me visiting my dream destination, Hampi. The grandeur of the ruins did indeed leave me in awe.
There are some places that you keep dreaming of visiting some day in your life. Hampi – the erstwhile glorious Vijayanagara empire – has always been that dream destination for me. It all started with the song, ‘Theendai’ from the Tamizh movie, ‘En Swaasa kaatre’ way back in 2000 when I first saw it. It was the pre-Google days when not every info was available at the touch of a mobile. So it took me some time to find out where the song was shot. I wanted to see the temple ruins and that beautiful stepped tank!
In the years that followed, my interest in temples developed beyond visiting them for religious reasons or generally admiring the beauty. I started learning more about the architectural details and the history. Then came the lectures on temple architecture by historian, Dr. Chithra Madhavan. The passion with which she spoke about temples and their history and architecture and the series of lectures on Hampi and Vijayanagara architecture that I attended at Musiri Chamber and Tattvaloka increased my fascination for Hampi. Hampi was that place where the temple architecture that we see today in most of the temples of Tamil Nadu developed. I really very badly wanted to visit that beautiful place filled with marvels in stone from where it all started!
Then there were all those travel blogs, especially that of Arun of travel.paintedstork.com. His photographs of the place and other travelogues continued to make me wish that I could go there.
All these passion for Hampi and travelling suddenly had to take a backseat after I moved to Singapore and I got completely caught up in my crazed routine as a stay-at-home mom.
Post the visit to Cambodia in September this year, my interest in temple architecture was rekindled in full fervour. Now, all that was remaining was Hampi.
When you come to Madras/ India for just a few weeks during school holidays and have to accommodate several to-dos and consider several other factors, you get only a few days to plan for a trip within India. We had just three days to spare and immediately booked the train tickets lest any other programme comes up.
While our initial plan was to visit just Hampi for three days at a leisurely pace just like how we did at Angkor, Cambodia, in the end, our plan completely went in for a toss and we ended up doing Aihole – Pattadakkal – Mahakoota – Badami – Banashankari on day 1, complete relaxation and rejuvenation at Hotel Shivavilas Palace and Sri Kumaraswamy Temple and Chakrateerta at Sandur on day 2 and almost the entire Hampi (!) on day 3!
Barring a few places at Hampi, we did manage to see all that we saw as fully as possible, though not as thoroughly as we might have, had we had a few more extra hours.
Day 1 was also another dream-come-true for me as Badami, Aihole, Pattadakal and Mahakoota have always been second in my list of dream destinations to visit.
To say that I am so happy is an understatement to how I am feeling now after visiting Hampi! It is the fulfillment of little dreams like these that make some moments of your life very special!
For the last 18 years or so, Hampi in Karanataka, India, had been that dream destination of my life which I wanted to visit to explore the ruined remains of Vijayanagara empire.
This year we indulged in our first vacation in the last few years – a trip to Cambodia to visit Angkor Wat, the dream destination of my husband. Unlike Hampi or any other heritage site in India, I wasn’t completely aware of the magnificence of Angkor Wat and the other temples. All I knew was it was the largest temple complex and the photos of it looked stunning. In the weeks leading up to the trip and even weeks after it, we started reading on Khmer temples and its architecture and are still reading more and more books on it.
The trip to Angkor Wat/ Siem Reap/ Cambodia turned out to be a trip of a lifetime! We spent 4 full days in leisure taking in as many temples in the Angkor region as possible. With seeing sunrise at Angkor Wat to sequentially visiting temples in each route, we did a comprehensive coverage of the entire place leaving just a few temples. The trip turned out to be exactly how I had always wanted to explore Hampi.
Suddenly, my interest in temple architecture was rekindled in full fervour. Now, all that was remaining was Hampi.
I wake up to the sounds of raindrops falling. I wish the rain would stop soon. But till now it hasn’t. Yet another rainy morning which will mean taking umbrellas and watching our step carefully during the morning drop to school. Rains in Madras were/are a rarity and any heavy rainy day meant a school holiday. Rain in Singapore is almost an everyday occurrence and there is no way any routine activity will be stopped because of rain. Singapore, nowadays, is surprisingly pleasant too in the early mornings and during rains.
There was a time when I might have enjoyed this kind of a pleasant weather, but, nowadays, I don’t really seem to be enjoying it most of the time. Especially not when a full load of clothes are waiting to be washed in the washing machine! Rain translates to managing children with their umbrellas when outdoors, walking on wet floor which in some places turn out to be slippery, clothes hanging out to be dried ending up with musty smell and not feeling fully dry, children locked up indoors and missing their outdoor play time which automatically translates to extra screen time and so on.
There was a time when any rant of this sort eventually ended up with me tracing it all back to missing Madras. Today, while I still continue to root for my life back in Madras, I have come to terms with reality. You just can’t have it ALL in life, can you?
Fourth Saturday after today, I’ll land in Madras. Yes, it’s school vacation time and I can’t tell you how excitedly we are already doing the countdown!
Before that, Deepavali is the one thing that has all of us excited about. From the ‘fireworks’ (Do sparklers and other fire-less party poppers count as fireworks?) sessions with different sets of friends to the yummy sweets and snacks preparation to the family having holidays during Deepavali, it is going to be lots of fun. And lots of work too.
The house is at its clutter-max what with the kitchen sink overflowing with vessels to be washed, the ever-present colourful mess of toy cars and all sorts of vehicles strewn all around the house and the washing machine waiting with the full load of clothes to be washed!
I woke up in the morning thinking that I’ll not start Deepavali sweets/snacks preparation today, yet I suddenly felt that I shouldn’t let myself end up with too much to be done in the end. So I made lunch and dinner in the morning itself and started off the preparation for making Badam Katli.
That’s when R refused to go with his dad and S for the swimming class. While he cried and asked me to come with him, I knew S was rejoicing that he was doing a good job of it and I’ll definitely go with them. I am sure the husband too would have been happy to have some me-time at home.
Thus, the family succeeded and now, here I am, sitting by the swimming pool thinking of all that I could have completed at home had I had these two hours to myself. Then, it strikes me that I do have this one hour just for myself. But can I truly relax when I know that I have a long day ahead of me?
Did I tell you how I always find these swimming and water play sessions for the kids very tiring? I hate the wet and smelly changing rooms and toilets at these places and the wet and slippery floor around the pool too. From the moment we leave the pool it’s a lot of work till the children are given a nice, long bath and fed well. Not to forget the work later on when S’ long hair has to be dried and plaited.
Even as I write about all these routine chores which every Sita, Gita and Rita (how about a change from Tom, Dick and Harry since they, anyway, won’t be doing most of these chores?) do, I also realize how a major chunk or almost the entire day goes off in doing all these. Now, can someone tell me how does a SAHM find some quality me-time for herself?
We reached Siem Reap from Phnom Penh on our second evening in Cambodia. Siem Reap, as you will read everywhere, is the gateway to the temples of Angkor. Till then, we were yet to get a glimpse of any temple belonging to the times of Angkor Wat. So, the next morning, we started from Siem Reap to Phnom Kulen mountain with all eagerness and thus, began our exploration of the Khmer Architectural marvels.
There is an entry fee of $20 (USD) for going to Kulen Mountain / Phnom Kulen (Phnom means Mountain in Khmer) and this is different from the Angkor temple ticket/pass. Phnom Kulen is accessible by a single road which is used for ascent till 12 noon and descent after that.
Situated at a distance of 48 km from Siem Reap, Phnom Kulen has a beautiful waterfalls, 1000 lingas river, Preah Ang Thom featuring a huge, reclining Buddha and some ancient Khmer temples which are inaccessible by car. So, we didn’t visit those temples.