Category Archives: Nostalgia

Helen Miss and Music

When I was 4 years old and in Kinder Garten, I had a Helen Miss who used to be our Music Teacher. She played that lovely piano in the music room where there were tiny chairs lined up against the wall. We kids would fight for the spot right next to the piano. Sitting there, you can watch Helen Miss play, feel the piano’s reverberation, sing along – it was the best spot in that whole damn room. She was Goan. And among the many many songs she taught, I remember “Gimme Oil In My Lamp Keep It Burning Burning Burning” the most. Until today.
Today, in the shower, I caught myself humming a song of  which I only knew the first line. Helen Miss and her smile and the piano keys and her songs. I was 4 again. Talk about blast from the past.
What song was it, you ask?
“O Give me a home, where the buffalo roam”…. tra-la-la-tra-la-la :)

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Cowboys, Soccer Players, and Blue Birds

Vacation months were simply fabulous. Sure we had our holiday homework and chores to do. But even then, there was so much time to while away.

The summer days were terribly hot and it was inhuman to let any child outside to play. So we were to sit indoors and device ways to keep ourselves engaged. At least until sunset. We woke up late. And we spent some time in front of the TV watching the Quran reading and the Kuwaiti Folk Dance programmes. What kept us waiting were the cartoons that were aired right after these two items. Tom and Jerry, some Japanese cartoons, Heidi, Little Princess, and Daddy Long-legs – all these were dubbed in Arabic. We didn’t really understand too much, but they were cartoons and we wouldn’t miss it for the world. The Kuwaiti TV channels began their western programmes much later in the day. Around 4pm. That is when sitcoms like Saved by the Bell, and Charles in Charge, were shown. This time, in English.

We were not allowed outdoors, but we still could play in the corridors of the building. Cricket was not a big thing back then. Not to the Indian kids born and brought up in Kuwait. Instead, we used to read Nancy Drews, Famous Fives, Secret Sevens, and Hardy Boys. And as a spin off, we formulated “secret clubs”. There was a janitor’s closet at end of the corridor and one day, we found the door was unlocked. Seven of us bundled inside the tiny room and decided this is where we will have secret meetings from now on. We had a name – the Blue Birds club. The name came from the school bus we used to take to school. The big yellow school buses made by the “Blue Bird company”.

We used to play cowboy-cowboy. Nothing sophisticated… We were cowboys and we used to imagine we have horses and that we are riding them everywhere we go. So instead of walking or running around like regular kids, we would “gallop” everywhere J It probably came up from the Westerns we used to see in Eastman color. We did not understand a word. But we loved watching them.

Sitting on the half-broken building wall, we fervently discussed about Captain Majid and his incredible soccer team. Captain Majid was this Japanese cartoon about a soccer team. We used to watch it – of course, in Arabic. When we were fired up sufficiently, we scampered off to the open space to play, while some of the “grown ups” made membership badges for the Blue Birds club. I don’t remember the names of most of my playmates from back then, except a girl named Meera. And that was probably because I did not like her all that much. These were the pre-Gulf War days, some 20 years ago. Today, when I see an old episode of Small Wonder or when I hear the theme song of the Mickey Mouse club (M-I-C-K-E-Y…remember??), all these come rushing back to my mind in disjoint snippets. I feel nostalgic and I try to Google and YouTube them out.

Sadly, that is all I can do now to become a Cowboy, a Japanese Soccer Player, and a Blue Bird all at once.



Filed under Nostalgia

Those Were the Days…

When we would wait by the window for Pa to come from work..
When Tom and Jerry played in the afternoons. And when it began, we would drag our parents too.
When bro came home from school, one day, in coloured clothes. They had to change his uniform because he had done the “unspeakable”.
When Delhi meant ripe mangoes, Appu ghar, Thomas-Bobu, Cooler, Limca book of Records, and Maine Pyar Kiya songs.
When Kerala was a painful place to leave behind.
When carrying gas-masks and sealed water bottles to school was an everyday thing.
When Sam Sir was GOD for you.
When playing ‘house-house’ was the sole purpose of going back home from school…


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Midnight Sojourn

Chucking plans for a pizza dinner and a movie, we went for a different weekend-ender.

Wafts of cooked mutton rushed into my nostrils as I looked around. We were standing in the middle of a bustling and bursting Karim’s. In the shadow of the Jama Masjid, we crossed skullcaps and dark burqas to get here. It was dinnertime and I was reminded that a woman wouldn’t normally venture out into this locality at this hour, unescorted. That was a well-meant admonition for me, lest the restlessness within me drags me back in here on yet another night, sans the company that I am currently enjoying.

After a sumptuous mughlai dinner, we walked out into the once royal, now unsafe and impoverished streets of a Delhi long gone. Remnants of majestic havelis, now housing countless shops, raking in an almost vulgar amount of cash. The infamous GB road with female silhouettes calling out to prospective customers, while they look the other way. Go-downs and granaries—the biggest in Asia—retail stores, and midnight business activities. We stumbled our way through the narrow, winding streets battling with the rickshaws. The famous paranthawali gali, which has now dwindled and shrunk to a meager number of shops. Six-generations-old shops that are not any younger than 1875.

Driving into the cosmopolitan Delhi, we found ourselves standing in a queue at Nirula’s. Delhi’s very own 1931-founded ice cream parlor. Slurping on a Manhattan Mania, I listened to business banter. Walking about in Connaught Place, competing for space with untimely hawkers, I watched the panwala folding betel leaves with the condiments. He ceremoniously ended his activity by pinning the leafy packet with a toothpick.
As we drove back home, we passed by the pizza joint that had just lost two of their regular customers, for a long time to come…


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Hair today…

I love poetry. But I can’t write a decent one.

Sam sir simply refused to believe that not all his students were capable of rhyming and using rhythm and making sense all at once. So, as a part of his assignment, I HAD to pen one. I was fifteen and back then, for me, the coolest way to write (or express myself) was (trying) to be funny.

Sat up all night trying to write down something. That’s when I heard Ma telling Pa about something that happened at work. So, I bit my lip and went down to work. I crippled that story into a poem. Here’s the poem Sam sir squeezed out of me…

Once upon a time, a nurse,
Found being new, a real curse.
She didn’t know Arabic one bit,
All she knew was ‘juloos’ is sit!
On the first day in her ward,
She found instructions on a card.
There came a man in funny pants,
Holding a suitcase in his hands.

There he was as big as a bear,
And a long white coat he did wear.
“Good Morning Doc, May I help thee?”
“I am new around here, you see…”

He answered with a huge big smile,
That was almost as long as one mile.
He stood there for a minute or so,
Lifeless, as a dead Dodo.

Does he speak English or Spanish?
Is he Swedish or maybe Danish?
Thinking thus, she just stood there,
Staring at the Great Big Bear.

He placed his suitcase on a stand,
And out came mirrors in his hand!
Razors, combs, and safety pins,
Wigs, scissors and powder tins!

What she saw, almost struck her,

The Bear, he was, ICU’s barber!!
[[10th Sept 1996]]
Ok, so I suck at writing poetry! Laugh all you want.


Filed under Nostalgia