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Being a Homebody/Inspired by La’s Orchestra

A book I love dearly is “La’s Orchestra Saves the World,” by Alexander McCall Smith. I had borrowed it from the library a while ago. I read it, loved it… and returned the book. There was something about the story that resonated so deeply with me… that I couldn’t stop circling back to it in my thoughts, again and again, in the months to come. So I bought the book and read it again. Loved it in a different way this time.

La's Orchestra Saves the World

La’s Orchestra Saves the World

The book tells the story of La (Lavender is her name), a young woman living in London with her charming husband. When her marriage collapses, La leaves London to go live in Suffolk, a small town in the English countryside. She arrives to a home that is in dire need of repair, love and attention. She gets to work, prettying up the home and making it inhabitable. She meets her neighbors and starts a new little life, quiet and hardworking. World War II is looming on the horizon. La feels lonely and isolated in her new environs. She has no one to share her thoughts with except the hens she tends to on a daily basis. La’s life changes when she meets Feliks, a Polish airman at the local army base. The story unfolds against the backdrop of war and its surreal possibilities, finally ending many years later on a happy, loving note filled with the voices and laughter of children, friends, and family.

At a point in the story, La wonders if she is a handmaiden. A person who is always watching, never acting… One who feels fervently but expresses little. As she busies herself in her little home — tending to hens, growing potatoes, hanging laundry, cooking, cleaning — she wonders about her insignificant contribution to the war efforts. She is not a nurse or an activist or a soldier (did females fight in the war? Probably not.). She perceives her life to be limited, circumscribed by the boundaries of her little village and the mundane existence of its inhabitants.

We live in a world that is ever telling us to do more, travel more, work more… be more. There is no end to being busy and achieving… stuff, whatever that means. I made myself believe that that was the right attitude. That was the way of growth, progress. I was always aware that this idea didn’t resonate with my inner self and I lived with that disagreement for many years, willing myself to be part of this march onward.

I think La’s story cemented an idea that had been germinating within me for a while.

I am a homebody. I like a little life. I am not exactly inclined to travel and discover the world. I derive nourishment from my home and the little rituals I engage in. I don’t regard house chores as dull or a drag. They provide a certain predictable rhythm to my life. I don’t have the drive to excel as a home-maker or a career woman. I am the happiest when I have books, tea, cooking on my agenda. All in all, a life that is equal parts cozy and nourishing, where I have time at hand, family a phone call away, old heartwarming films to watch, and Malayalam in my ears — yes, that suffices, thank you very much.

India, You take my Breath Away… Each Time

Endlessly Still and Dynamic

Endlessly Still and Dynamic

So many trips to the motherland and back… Yet the magic is intact. Maybe it is the glaring contrast between my land of residence and my land of birth. Or maybe it is the infinite shades of color that India hosts – parched dull brown, bursting-with-healthy-vibrance green and everything else in between. Maybe it is the staggering appetite of Indians for love, music, food, heroes and meaning.

In India, my emotions reside right beneath the skin, threatening to burst forth any time. My intellect and emotions are constantly at war with each other. My heart craves comfort, family and coziness. It cares scant for the right/wrong of things. My head desperately tries to stay afloat… on “top of things,” so to speak. “Does it matter? You are on vacation,” a voice inside chants repeatedly. Where do I find my balance?

In the moment? Yes, perhaps. It is easiest to be in the moment – a space of no judgment or bias. Here, in this moment, I can be whoever I want. Wisdom and balance, good sense and right action, intelligence and emotional richness – they all emerge in the right proportions, perfectly timed. In this moment, I need fear nothing. I only need to be. I only need to be available. Like a crystal that simply reflects light as clearly as it can.

So, I continue to polish this crystal, day after day, so that it need fight no emotional/intellectual battles any more. So that it is free to express all colors and shades of the rainbow without fear or labeling or being labeled. Because it is the path of least resistance… to simply be, breathing and present.


My Sweet Home

I love my home, I really do. But it wasn’t always this way.

When we moved in seven years ago, I was stumped. I had never lived in such a large house earlier and had no idea about decor, furnishings, interior design… all that stuff. So some parts of the house remained in darkness, metaphorically speaking. We simply didn’t know what to do with all those rooms. (Truth be told, ours is not a very large home, relative to the homes of our friends.) So we hung up cute Indian knick-knacks and tchotchkes all over, bought pictures framed from India, nailed little decorations up on the walls… but it felt like we (or I) were trying too hard. The house was not very happy, I’d imagine.

Anyway, long story short… we now have a lovely home. It is beautiful, radiant, shining and warm. We have faded couches, squashed cushions and pillows, walls that need a coat of paint (or two), yellowing blinds, a carpet that is in dire need of replacement. And the list goes on. But I love this place, so very much… with all its sunny corners, little piles of books on side tables, an overflowing bookshelf, brave house plants, brimming laundry baskets, cluttered bathroom, etc. I love our home because it is the space P and I inhabit with our bodies, minds, energies and intentions.


It is a place of sunshine, love, warmth and serenity. When I think of my home, the words that come to mind are comfortable, friendly, equal parts shabby and chic and classy, cozy, a delightful mess, a graceful sense of disorder. And that about describes me as well. Meaning my home is a true representation of my personality, a fair and unbiased one, an authentic extension of who I am.

It is me. And it is P as well.

A special mention of the kitchen, one of the oft-used rooms in the house, the site of many cooking experiments and preparations, major baking projects, minor accidents, spectacular spills and like… 🙂 Such a blessing to eat and feed home-cooked food… there is not one restaurant on the planet that can even aspire to delivering anything remotely close to that level of quality, taste, flavor, nourishment and satisfaction.

Culturing Food Impressions


Growing up in India so many years ago, we didn’t go out to eat much. Mostly, we ate at home.

My Mom is a wonderful cook. She doesn’t take herself (or cooking) so seriously and I mean that in a good, no, great, way. To put it better, she takes herself (and cooking and life) lightly, so she lands easy. Anyway, the point I am making is that Mom is an effortless cook. She throws together seemingly opposite ingredients, adds a dash or two of various spices, moves the ladle around, turns the heat off… and voila, you have a delicious dish ready.

As kids, we hardly ever got an opportunity to complain about food. Mom made the most heavenly petal-soft idlis, served with piping hot sambar and steaming hot coffee. Her rotis were light and delicious, the curries fresh and flavorful. She asked friends for recipes, experimented with old favorites, and came up with new concoctions with fearless abandon. And Daddy, G and I were the happy beneficiaries.

Today, I understand that her food was laced with love and caring, and that is what elevated her cooking to divine heights. Maybe she wasn’t an accomplished cook at all but there was no missing the sweet tenderness that pervaded the dishes. Now take the case of Dad who cooked for us when Mom visited my grandmother. He didn’t make anything fancy but everything he cooked was delicious. Simple flavors, lightly spiced, fresh and nourishing… Oh yum.

The result of those happy food years is that today I have an amazing set of taste buds. Rather, I learned fairly early to discriminate between bad food and the best kind. Meditation has only added to the sense of refinement.

It is like priming. When your senses are trained to consume the very best that is on offer, then what develops is discrimination. You learn to recognize what is good for you and what isn’t. You actively begin making changes about what you consume and what you avoid.

Once you have tasted nectar, how can you settle for carbonated water?