Memories of childhood - a photo story

Memories of childhood - a photo story

Memories of childhood - a photo story by Nirmala Mayur Patil.

Memories as soft as muslin, woven on the loom of slow days - wishing on stars, swinging under the trees, gazing out of windows, leaving flower gifts in unthinkable places, hiding between curtains, making art on pavements, celebrating sweet messes, tiptoeing, scribbling, having long conversations with secret friends, and believing in fairies.’

We wear stories

We wear stories

Little girl dressed in an adorable organic cotton natural dyed pink pinafore maxi dress smiling and twirling

Past year has been about dresses and skirts. With this intention, we bought the tie & dye, panelled pinafore maxi dress from Love The World Today for Noor’s 5th birthday. This soon became her favourite dress. I guess it made her feel fancy yet comfortable. This dress has been extensively used to dance and prance around in throughout the day.

Earlier this year, a friend loaned us The Clever Tailor by Srividhya Venkat to read over the summers. It is the story of a thrifty tailor who uses his creativity and imagination to make something for each member of his family. He repurposes the same piece of fabric to make something for his entire family thereby creating a beautiful kahaani (story) that would never wear out. 

For me, this was a beautiful story of upcycling, of creatively reusing an item, to keep it in use indefinitely. 

A few days back, I noticed that the bib part of the pinafore dress was getting tighter. My daughter pulled the straps tightly and one of the buttons came off. My immediate thought was to retire this dress, maybe put it in the donation pile. In today's day and age, it seems easier to just go out and pick up new things.

My mother, masi and granny would often talk about how they wore each other’s clothes, borrowed baby clothes for the next child in the family. However, somewhere during our parent’s aspirational generation, the practice of repurposing (upcycling), exchanging and passing on items to others (swap or preloved) faded. Our generation grew up always wanting more, shopping for therapy and throwing away regardless of the environmental costs and concerns.

I was no different. I decided to donate the dress. I washed it and put it out to dry and started browsing for new dresses. However, little miss sunshine wasn't ready to part ways with her dress. She picked it up from the clothesline and tied the loose straps into a knot at the back, and happily got busy playing in her halter dress. I noticed that she wore her shirt on top of the dress to keep warm. The earthy mama angel took over my thought process and I started browsing Pinterest on ideas to upcycle the pinafore maxi dress into a skirt.

Originally, I thought that I could DIY myself around this upcycling project. But, I don't know how to mend, never bothered to learn it. In fact, mending as a skill isn't taught anymore in homes and schools. Repurposing, Repairing and Refashioning are becoming a lost art. 

The greater challenge that I faced was that this dress came with invisible pockets, and like me, my daughter likes her dresses with pockets. Usable pockets to sneak in her pretend house keys, her handkerchief or few coins, crayons and chalks. I wasn't about to lose these pretty pockets while trying to refashion the dress myself. So, crippled by my own lack of sewing and mending skills, I went to my local tailor. I explained to him my intentions with urgent passion. He smiled and said, "Madamji, yeh toh hamare roz ka kaam hai. Aap tension mat lo!" (Madam, we do this repair work on a daily basis. You don’t stress, we will take care of it)… And voila, in 10 minutes a totally rad skirt was refashioned with pockets and all. I call it the Super Speedy Skirt! 

 My daughter was over the moon with this dress to skirt refashion. She twirled around in her skirt for a long time, pairing it with different colors. This basic transformation came with a personal parental realization that being happy with what we have is an important lesson that we as parents need to imbibe and transfer onto our children.

Half year later, the dress that became a skirt and the skirt that had been worn way too many times, got a rip. My daughter still wanted to keep wearing her skirt. You know how well-worn clothes are softer and comfortable. They feel nice and warm against the skin. The same was the case with this skirt. We retired the skirt from outdoor box and made a space for it in the home wear box. However, months later she had completely worn this skirt out. So, taking clues from the book ‘The Clever Tailor’, I decided to get the skirt repurposed into a doll dress and some handkerchiefs. 

The best part about upcycling is that you are always giving a new use or value adding to an old item. It is essentially giving something old a new meaning! That’s exciting for sure.

Also, there is an indescribable feeling of reverence towards the workmanship of the tailor who helps one in making something broken, whole again. This time too, our local tailor stitched the doll dress with same patience, as he would do for any human garment. This time, Noor sat at his shop observing while he sewed Velcro patches onto her doll dress.

I have seen the LTWT dress go through these transformations, thereby extending the lifecycle of the clothing. I would like to think that we too were weaving a beautiful kahaani (story) with each upcycling idea with this dress. I have seen firsthand the joy that it brought to my daughter. I am documenting this so that when she grows up she can read this and relive the story and also in the hopes that it inspires readers to start and share their upcycling ideas and initiatives with their favorite LTWT clothes.

Neha Chopra aka Jugni

[believes that people around the world have an innate desire to dream, share and express. She is an earthy mama storyteller and lifestyle blogger at  Jugniology and a Birth Photographer & Filmmaker at Storiously. She is a prenatal and babywearing dance teacher at GroovaRoo with Jugni , it is her passion to spread the joyful energy of rhythm and movement to babies and their families in India.]

Upcycling and repurposing a little girl's dress into her doll's dress


Joy over Glamour

Joy over Glamour

[Photo credit - Nirmala Patil]
Once again, it is that time of the year… for genda (marigold) torans to brightly gleam on doorways, kitchens to puff up with the scent of homemade mithai (sweets) and namkeen (savouries), for the sweet chaos of shopping new clothes and gifts, for thousands of earthen diyas (lamps) to light up these last autumnal nights, and to make merry with family and friends. But it is also that time of the year where age-old traditions get seamlessly inherited by young ones, and old memories merge into new.
All the Diwalis of my childhood come huddled to meet the Diwalis I now celebrate with my own child. The old images I have in my mind of my father dressed in his white kurta pyjama stirring milk to make kheer in a large brass utensil on our Diwali mornings slowly renews into a newer image in my daughter’s mind as she sits on the kitchen counter watching me stir the cardamom-scented milk. The soft weight of gendas as I held their garlands in my little arms while my father hung them over our shop shutter is now transferred into my daughter’s five-year-old palms as she picks them up one by one from the basket and offers them to me to string into a garland.
Each year, as I watch more and more of my Diwali memories reshaping to become my daughter’s, I’m made acutely aware of the change in the landscapes of both our childhoods. Where during my times, wearing new clothes and receiving gifts on Diwali were truly special as they were decidedly annual affairs, perhaps besides birthdays. Today, neither wearing new clothes nor receiving gifts are exclusive to Diwali, thus, diluting their specialness. Then there’s the tradition of homemade festive snacks that are mostly, for convenience’s sake, replaced by store-bought treats, thus, making the festivities less intimate. The simplicity and richness of my old Diwali seems to be updated by the glamorous and expensiveness Diwali of today. And this withering of what was once both gratifying and deeply meaningful into something one-dimensional and overstimulating, bothers me and urges me to reconsider how we’d like to celebrate Diwali with our daughter this year and for years to come. 
To begin with, maybe being a bit mindful of ‘what’ we’d like to fill-up our children’s festive memories with, can be a good gift to give them this Diwali. Choosing a signature family tradition like - partaking in the ritual of abhyanga snana first thing on festival mornings, or sitting with children stringing gendas to make garlands for doorways, or indulging their playful assistance in home-making simple festive snacks, or taking time to hand-roll cotton wicks to light earthen oil lamps; all of them can bring us together as family and stamp strong visual motifs in our little ones’ hearts. Instead of flooding them with excessive gifts, it maybe a valuable alternative to offer experiences through trips to natural environments, museums, libraries, national parks or ancient monuments. And in lieu of an evening spent bursting crackers, it maybe a more eco and friendly thought to invite our house-help and her children for an evening feast; not to teach our children how to treat her kindly but to show them how to treat her equally.
Maybe with these small, mindful ways we can choose joy over glamour this Diwali and help shape our children’s festive memories into a sweet thing of meaning and beauty.
Fading memories

Fading memories

[Photo credit - Nirmala Patil]
This year, on autumn’s first full moon, we’ll celebrate our daughter’s fifth birthday. Five years. How does one measure five years - of a child’s growing poetry, of a woman’s emotional motherhood, and their immeasurable days together? Outside as daylight silently fades leaving a darkening sky to wait for its moon, I hold my love up like a lantern and rummage through the drawers of my heart to gather five years worth of memories. Some of them are already yellowing at the edges, some other are loosing their colours; making the recollection of these fading memories somewhat bittersweet.
First, there’s a recent one. Of the whole of last summer capsuled in a single memory of one watermelon seed stuck on her bare stomach with juice - a black mole beside her laughing belly button.
Then there’s a memory deeply etched from her first year - of her soft sleeping form, with fingers curled, lips just barely parted, cheeks spilling over and sweat glistening on her forehead like morning dew on a carpet of grass. 
In the garden, I am sitting on a bench under a tree shade with my camera resting by my side and a book in my lap that I keep opening and closing; to glimpse at her from time to time. As I read, the shadow of the mid-morning light dancing between the leaves above faintly tattoo my open page. Then I look up, and find her squatting over the stone-cobbled garden path, a found-chalk in hand busily drawing. I remember instantly picking up my camera and capturing the scene. The resultant pictures are still somewhere inside a folder on the computer, but the finer and fading details of that morning remain inside me. 
It was a few mornings after my father passed away, I have a memory of the brightly mild December sun painted on her face as she played on our bed beside the eastward window. As if the colour of those mornings that came right after he left were gold, and the memory of her face - a golden reminder of those December mornings.  
The fading scar on her left chest, from falling over my sewing machine when she had just begun walking.
There are also memories that are like glass bangles bundled in a paper. All of them of the same colour but glinting a little differently as they catch light at slightly different angles. Memories of all the mornings we spent in the balcony of our present home during our first year here are like those glass bangles, only glinting differently in different seasons; during the first warm months - sitting on our chatai reading books, gazing at clouds passing overhead, or watching the hills-cape with happy greedy hearts; during our first monsoon here - with wonderful thunderstorms and a game of spotting waterfalls coming down the hill; during all those autumn mornings, where the only thing she seemed to live for was to soak up the autumn sun as much as she could, lying on the floor and squinting into the blue-gold sky. As I revisit these memories, I’m thankful for the seasons - bookmarks helping me find so many cherished moments. 
A mother’s hands have memories of their own. Mine carry in them memories of her growing weight. There’s one of her going up and down the slide in the garden. I do not remember what she was wearing, but I remember her sweat-kissed forehead as she came to sit by my side by the sandpit. I remember my hands instinctively wiping the sweat off her skin and my fingers combing through her damp hair inviting air between her wet strands. That memory of her moist long hair between my fingers still lingers there. 
As more memories come to meet me in my heart, I begin to wonder what my daughter’s memories may be made of? What she’ll remember from these five years with me? Will she remember how I used kisses in lieu of bandages. Will she remember all the times I stopped to stare at the moss with her or gather flowers and seeds by the wayside forgetting minutes and people pass by? Will she remember how I was never part of the jolly group of mothers who often stood by the society corners easily chatting and laughing away? Will she remember my unideal and many-hued love - sometimes lush green, almost to the point of happy tears; other times an absent-minded mauve, as if lost in another world and loving from afar; and some other times stark, tender and all-forgiving as midnight?
Will she remember… or perhaps as she grows and blossoms, year after year, all her memories of these five years will grow faint and fade away, making way for new palettes? I sit thinking of this for a few more minutes. It will be a loss, not knowing her memories, but strangely it doesn’t feel like a loss. Slowly I return myself back to my own yellowing memories and hold them a little more closer. Against the blankness of hers, my fading memories in all their mortal loveliness feel like such special gifts. Sometimes what we cannot know can be a beautiful measure for all things immeasurable. 
[Nirmala Patil]
Summer, a one word poetry

Summer, a one word poetry

Summer, a one word poetry
[Photo - Nirmala Patil]
Summer, like one word poetry, stirs so much in the heart. It comes, making its intense presence felt in its very coming. Nothing about this season spells subtlety. Mornings feel like the kindling of a fire, noons are fierce and parching, even the evenings and nights are unruly, furling earth’s dust in their wake. But they’re kinder than the day. And fleur-scented. I love summer’s abundance of flowers and the peals of laughter that fill the air as little children frolic outside all day and late into the night. It always brings back my own childhood summers. Of long school holidays spent wandering with friends and playing in aangans (tree-lined courtyards), hot afternoons relishing melons and mangoes, freshly plucked guavas and berries, and painting our tongues and fingertips purple with wild jamuns. Of going to summer fairs, visiting the zoo and having picnics in the park. Of eating ice creams and sweet dripping popsicles wearing summer flowers in our hair, taking up small jobs of making paper envelopes from used book pages for local shopkeepers to earn a little and save for the coming school year, and every night dining under starlit skies and ending our days with songs and stories.
I wish such summers for my daughter too; wild, carefree, brimming with friends and amidst the heart of nature. Nevertheless, I’m aware of its rarity in today’s world. Although children still flock outside more this time of the year, playing extensively and making the most of their end-of-the-school-year holidays, summer feels a little bland without its many-hued indulgence. Instead of whiling away most of their precious, untethered summer hours in front of the screen or wandering aisles in city malls playing electronic games and eating fast-foods in over-crowded food courts, I wish we could see more of our children playing hopscotch by the wayside or sitting under the shade of a tree making a sticky mess from a ripe mango. I wish we could reintroduce our young ones to traditional homemade refreshments, fragrant of summertime, like nimbu pani (Indian lemonade), chaas (spiced buttermilk), lassi (sweetened yogurt drink), shrikhand (strained yogurt desert), aam panna (raw mango sherbet), kulfi (frozen dairy desert) and falooda (sweet basil seeds and rose syrup drink); letting them help us cut fruits and stir as we make, in lieu of store bought aerated drinks and processed treats. And instead of frequenting cafes and restaurants, I wish we could gift our children habitual visits to the parks and gardens, have afternoon picnics on the grass and alfresco dinners under the canopy of stars. 
Summer… the season of blossoming branches, bees and butterflies, of flower-carpeted grounds, of long light-filled days to make merry with family and friends, of sweet-nectar fruits, of waking up to the song of the morning birds, and sometimes, if the sky’s in the mood, of summer storms anointed with rainbows to look forward to. Isn’t it a glorious picture to behold? A perfect antidote to the season’s unforgiving heat. The very thought of it comes to echo in me the notes of a koel (Indian cuckoo) singing from the deep shade of a neem tree and leaves me yearning to initiate my four-year old into the art of making summer memories. So this year and in the summers to come, there will be an abundance of seasonal fruits to stain her hands and heart, summers flowers to perfume her tresses, picnics with friends and dinners in the balcony drinking in the far-scented evening breeze. We will be splashing in the pool, gathering fallen flowers from bejeweled trees, going on evening rides to watch summer sunsets and savoring unthinkable amounts of nariyal pani (tender coconut water), and when night falls, we’ll garnish our brimming day with a sweet dose of storytelling.
What memories do summer awaken in you? And how do you hope to guide your children to live and celebrate its poetry to the fullest?
[Nirmala Patil]
New born mango leaves and You

New born mango leaves and You

[Photo - Nirmala Patil]

It’s the first day of phalguna, the last month in the Hindu lunar calendar. she comes running to me in the kitchen and taking me by my hand, she ushers me to the balcony and exclaims excitedly pointing her finger towards a lone mango tree faraway on the hill, ‘ma look, there are new leaves being born on that mango tree! It means it’s soon going to be spring, isn’t it?’ Such a small observation, but when my little girl of four makes it, I’m filled with joy and sweet pride. Because this is the kind of relationship with nature I’ve always hoped to cultivate in my daughter. The kind where she can learn to understand it’s language and realise that life is most beautiful when lived embracing nature. Especially in our present world that desperately needs us to care and retrace our unmindful ways.

And as we attempt to mend our damaging habits with simple sustainable practices, it is deeply essential that we raise our children with the same thoughtful awareness. And this, I believe, is only possible by encouraging and nurturing a genuine love for nature in the heart of our little ones. As an urban family living in the thick of high rises (as I think would be the case of many families dwelling in cities), bringing in nature inside our home and lifestyle has been the most organic way of sowing that seed of love into the core of my daughter’s being. 
Even if only limited to visiting a society garden, or simply wandering the tree-lined streets in the locality, here are a few gentle rituals we’ve included in our everyday that helps engage our little girl with nature. 

Outdoor play
Making regular trips to the playground and letting her play and frolic among the green and growing things is an intrinsic part of a her small world. The wind in her hair, the grass under her feet and mud between her fingernails are not only health boosting and a fun way of introducing good bacteria into my child’s system, but is also the most organic way of nurturing a growing friendship between her and the natural world. 

Seasonal walks
Going on slow seasonal walks is both educating and therapeutic to a child’s mind. We go in search of frogs and moss in the rains, and look for pale new shoots sprouting through the earth during springtime. As my little girl observes and takes note of all the changing details, her inherent curiosity is beautifully exercised too. Carrying a basket or a cloth bag on our walks to gather and bring home an abundance of nature treasure is always an additional delight. Older children can also be encouraged to bring along a camera or book to document/journal findings. 

Nature corner
Creating a small dedicated place either by a corner, windowsill or a table space can be a lovely way of letting our children display their gathered nature treasures and engage in creativity. An assortment of pebbles, seed pods, feathers and fallen leaves arranged by little hands makes for a happy, colourful art on our nature window. And it inspires hours of imaginative play indoors.

Tiny garden
For our little ones, having a tiny garden of their own to tend to is something quite special. Be it a small patch on the balcony, a dedicated container/tray growing a few easy to tend plants, or only a single pot, it a most intimate and tender way of teaching them to care. We recently gifted our daughter a succulent. And every time watching her excitedly watering and holding conversations with it, is a thing of joy. 

Nature gifts
Learning to create with natural things and giving it as gifts to others will perhaps be the fundamental of all the environmental friendly things our children will grow up to do all throughout their lives. Leaf and rock painting, weaving floral garlands and wreaths, making pressed flower cards for friends and family, however imperfect are all small acts of thoughtful creating and giving. Encouraging this, gives them the right roots early on.

Outside on the hill, as those new born leaves herald spring and a sweet anticipation for the coming mango season, inside our home, and I hope in every home, our little ones are  blossoming into nature lovers and learning to live an echo-rich life.

[Nirmala Patil]
A mother cuddling her baby

Here's a small wish for you....

A mother cuddling her baby

As bed time nears we have a negotiation ritual each day.

‘Mama can we please have one story today?'

And as I am a little strict about A sticking to her bed time each night, some days I have to decline. She is getting better at her negotiation skills though. Last night she said, “You know, right? I will not always ask you to read me a story and I will not always need a torch light, I will grow up some day”


With THAT dialogue and some drama not only did she manage one, but two stories from me!  

When I look back now, I realise I have actually learnt a lot from her in the last five years. Today being Children’s day, it just seems like the perfect opportunity to thank her for this gift of motherhood and a lot more. 

So here's a letter to you dearest A,

Thank you for all the little things you have made me relearn over the last few years! 

  • To wake up with a smile- Right from the way you wake up each morning with a big smile on your face and so much cheer, and no agenda really:), makes me realise we must slow down and enjoy each day as it comes. Smile and spread the cheer. Each day is a new day and we need to start afresh without carrying any baggage from the day that went by! 
  • To value the small things in life - The way you tell me your endless tales each night right before sleeping - makes me realise the little little things that are so important for you. You make me want to pay attention to all the small things and the little conversations I have around me. 
  • A lot of patience, A LOT! - Well, your endless conversations that happen at your sweet (read: very slow) pace have made me very patient too! 
  • The ability to laugh unfettered - Laughing at the silliest of things and being unfettered and not just be able to do this after downing 3 glasses of wine! :P. Laugh as though no one's watching you :) 
  • Being kind - The other day when I came back home, this little one left a note on the fridge for her nanny saying that she missed her and was glad she is back from her leave. She also said I love you didi. Made me realise how important it was to express how you feel towards other people. We rarely get the time to tell others how we feel these days! Leave aside just expressing how much you love them. I hope you never stop saying goodbye to me each morning with a small kiss and that sweet I love you mama! That truly makes my day.
  • To be happy, joyful and excited about every thing you do. Even a mundane task like cleaning up or laying the table is done with much enthusiasm. You make me see the joy in doing the most mundane tasks. 
  • Learning to express my feelings. How you feel about things around you, about things you felt bad, about things you enjoyed each day. About the laughter you shared with your friends or the joy you had in playing a prank! Being able to express what you are feeling and voice it out is something I have learnt from you!
  • To be inquisitive. The whys can be annoying at times, am sure all moms will agree. But it’s amazing how you will always ask me things you don’t know and not be ashamed of how silly the question might be! 
  • To go that extra mile for my friends. Childhood and friendships are precious. I think as we grow we become these humans who are so absorbed in their life between work, home and kid. Thanks to you, I would have reconnected with a couple of my older friends and may be made that effort to pick up the phone and make that pending conversation.
  • Letting go! This one I still need to master :). I think with the ease I ask you to let go of that Elsa doll at the toy shop or the little pony, I too should train my self to let go that one dress I really want :D

Well, the list will go on! But here’s a small wish for you on this special day, I hope your life turns out to be such, that each day you get to do something that makes your heart sing!