• Millie in her early twenties

    Going to church every Sunday is another ritual Little Johnny enjoys. Grandpa and grandma are not regular church-goers. So, the neighbors offer to take Little Johnny to church with them every Sunday. The music and singing of hymns and songs enthrall Little Johnny. The two churches at the end of the street sit across from ...
  • 1914 Picture of Baby Millie

    “No, sir! No! No hanky-panky! I would have none of it! Married each one of them!” Thus proclaims Mildred Ruth Ralls, nursing her martini, her voice soft, firm, and reminiscent. Mildred and I are sitting at the kitchen table in the Naperville home. She has received a letter from her sister Elaine in California. Not ...
  • Tree roots

    I can’t record audiobooks in this country because of my heavy accent.   When I audited for an organization I support, they said, “In America We employ American accents.”   I said, “I’m an American. My accent is American,” but they wouldn’t hear me.   I have such a lovely voice – Loud, Affirmative Expressive. ...
  • Shattered glass pieces

    In a faraway land called Afghanistan, I hear her break his wine goblet, shattering the bowl to tiny bits. Bouncing, ricocheting off surfaces, broken pieces scatter to places unseen. He bellows, blames, name calls her. She screams back. Her voice, strong and bold echoes through the walls. Every crawling ant stops. He uses his hands ...
  • silhouette of person flying a kite

    Although our home is small, the rooms are sizable and airy, with twelve-foot ceilings. Clerestory windows above doors increase natural light and air circulation. A long open south-facing verandah runs the entire width of the building. Sudhir and I spend most of our mornings and evenings here in the open. Another staircase leads to an ...
  • silhouette of person flying a kite

    “But, Mummy, the old man says this is the strongest maanjha (kite-flying twine).” Mummy smiles at seven-year-old Sudhir’s words and shakes her head. Then with a frown, she repeats, “No, it is not. This is kacha dhaga (raggedy weak thread) quite useless. You better go return it.” And hands the spool back to Sudhir, who ...
  • A buffalo being manually milked

    Some mornings I wake up to a parade of memories—whiffs and tastes of childhood emerge from a dream and linger on vividly and wistfully. Moments ago, not quite awake, I savor the rich, warm buffalo milk in the kitchen of my early years. Then, in a flash, I am back in Mummy’s kitchen of long ...

    She gave her birth, breathed life into her. Fed, caressed, soothed, punished. Comforted again. She got her to believe in all things unreal or what seemed real. But today, child’s grown enough to be self-reliant. She needs no womb, no feeds, nor caresses. Her own strength guides her, and she forms her own beliefs. Mother ...
  • Marbles and Gangajali

    Tulsi Bhua (aunt) is beside herself. She cannot find her Gangajali (a receptacle for holy water). Mummy is helping her search; it cannot just disappear. It is not a tiny thing that can fall through cracks. It is heavy, silvery, and shining, with a latched lid. And it holds the holy water from the river ...
  • Scene from the "Milni" Ceremony": Stand-in Brothers of Bride and Groom

    There is a strained quietness about the house. Mummy is terribly upset! Rita abandoned her Graduate Program at the University of Delhi after one semester and has returned to Bangalore. Too homesick! However, at Ravi’s encouragement, she has been applying to Canadian Universities. Her rationale is Ravi and Amita will be there, so I won’t ...