The curry-patta plant, and a flood load of memories

It was abundant and gorgeous, and we never had to buy curry-pata from the vegetable vendor. And it was generous in its bounty and so neither of our neighbours had to buy curry leaves too. It provided for everyone. Whenever we had a guest or a visitor, he or she never went home without a bunch of these precious leaves that are such an essential part of Indian cooking, and the Indian pantry. Whether you are making bateka-poha, sambhar, upma, or a variety of other shaaks or kadhis, the curry-pata leaf is indispensible and lends its distinct flavour to all of these dishes and more.

Have your drink, give me your empty bottles

I grew up surrounded by money plants in bottles that were in the second innings of their lives. Perhaps that is why when I see any 'good looking' alcohol bottles, my first instinct is - when would these be empty of their contents and be mine? Mine to put in dried roses or flowers that I save from withering bouquets, or to put in a feather or a paintbrush?

A period property, pleasure grounds and walled gardens at Glenveagh Castle

Gardens also put an indelible stamp on my heart from the books I read. First and foremost among them was The Secret Garden. Then there were the gardens from Daphne Du Maurier's novels. If you have read Rebecca, you will forever remember the gardens of Manderly, and especially the 'Happy Valley' where rhododendrons and azaleas are pleasantly fragrant even in the rain, in colors of “salmon, white, and gold.” Again in My Cousin Rachel by Maurier, you would witness two different types of gardens. The Italian one in Rachel's Villa Sangalletti in Florence, and the English one in Cornwall (Remember the 'sunken garden'?) I am still enamoured by both of these 'literary' gardens.

As summer slowly descends upon India, I think of times past…

When I visit my mother in India, I try all the remedies of my childhood. The flame of the forest flowers aren’t available as easily as they used to be, so I simply fill two buckets of water when it’s still early morning and keep them aside for my two showers of the day. I try different kinds of ittar. I revel in the mulberries, how beautiful their stains appear on my fingers, and how lush they feel on my lips. I eat all the mangoes I can. I grate the muskmelon to thin, long shreds and dust it with powdered sugar and let it chill in the refrigerator. I read the books of my youth, The Bridges of Madison County, The Bridge Across Forever, with the hope that they would lull me into romantic dreams filled sleep.

On some trips, the past and the present merge and run together

On the day we were leaving, I was looking out of the car wistfully. We were past the beach in a blur and now whizzing by the Baga road and suddenly I saw a bungalow. It did not stand alone and proud amongst a quiet locality as I remembered it from years ago. It was surrounded by shops and establishments, and ugly electrical wires were jutting out from the stores, and almost touching the bungalow’s boundary walls. And yet it seemed familiar. Like an old friend. A past life acquaintance suddenly making an appearance in this life. And then, I saw a restaurant. It was called Plantain Leaf.

The two S(h)eths in my life – a story for Valentine’s Day!

Vikram Seth took it and turned a page. I felt the colour rise to my cheeks. Because this copy of A Suitable Boy was bought in 2003 - a year when I was still incredibly dreamy-eyed and foolishly romantic. I had a habit of scribbling something down on every book I would buy. On this particular book I had scribbled, "... There goes a Pantaloons top and a new leather purse. But oh, the pleasures of buying a book..."

A birthday in past tense, present perfect

We lost him in his birthday month. On the 23rd of December. He died of an aortic aneurism, and as he lay on the hospital bed, awaiting his surgery, he called my mother and me to him and said, "Aruna, I had promised to outlive you. I am sorry that I may not be able to keep that promise. This surgery is difficult and complicated and I may not survive it. I apologise to you for all instances in our married life that I may have been angry or unreasonable with you."

Star of our kitchen – the humble pressure cooker

As an Indian, I have grown up with the familiar sound of a pressure cooker whistling each morning. Sometimes, you would hear a lot of whistles at the same time or in the same hour - it would be your neighbours doing their cooking and their cookers whistling in sync with yours. So the sound of the whistling is not alien or discomforting to me.