Stories From My Home – 8: Amma’s Tambura

We don’t always have to travel to seek stories; they are right there in our homes too. In “Stories From My Home“, I examine the many objects surrounding me at home and attempt to document and share the memories associated with them, one story at a time.


Amma was a trained Karnatik Classical vocalist and the tambura (or tanpura) was an integral part of her musical journey. The tambura that features in this story was her second — the first one broke when her younger siblings got a little too rough with it.

My maternal grandmother told me that Amma was heartbroken, and had cried for days. It was only when she got the news that a new tambura was on its way for her, all the way from Tiruchirapalli, that she cheered up. This was in 1952 and since then that tambura was her musical companion.

In 1980, Amma developed a problem with her vocal chords rendering her unable to sing, to perform, to speak even. Eventually, Amma regained her ability to speak, but could never sing like she used to again. Her music went silent and so did her tambura.

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The Year that was 2020

I think I can begin this post by stating that 2020 was not the year that everyone, and I mean everyone, planned, hoped or dreamed for. It was a year that started innocently and quietly enough for most, and then escalated quickly into something that no one was prepared for, and I mean no one. In the blink of an eye or rather overnight, the Lockdown changed everything. Suddenly 2020 was not just another year. For me or for anyone else.

The first few days of the Lockdown felt like an unexpected and welcome holiday. But that changed as the realities of the Lockdown set in as the days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months. I don’t even think I can articulate fully the claustrophobia, the despair or the daily challenges of forced isolation.

But what I can do is to highlight one or two events of each month of the year that was 2020 and share them with you here. Everyone had a year like no other and this is mine.

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10 years, 558 posts, 5,18,284 words…

Click on the GIF for the source

… later, I complete a decade of writing this blog. A DECADE ! There is a sense of disbelief mixed with pride as I type this out — the annual blog anniversary post where I record the blogging year that was, sum up the highlights, rant a bit, rave a bit, reflect a bit, with hopes and share plans for the year to come…

For those who came in late, let me summarise this blogging journey in brief. “My Favourite Things” began on this day 10 years ago when I hit the publish button on a post about Mumbai’s Bandra Fort. It was supposed to be a travel blog, at least that was the plan. But my blog had a mind of its own and soon I was blogging about movie and book reviews, social issues, and also writing on a lot of miscellaneous topics. Basically, it was a lot of that and this, which kind of worked as my blog URL for a long time was That And This In Mumbai.

I experimented with topics and genres to discover what worked for me — travel, books, art, museums, music — and what didn’t — food and restaurant reviews, product reviews, movie reviews, among others. The external blogging world also impacted my choices for the blog’s content: I flirted briefly with writing sponsored posts and collaborations, but found out that they made me very uncomfortable, and dropped them with great relief. In other words, my blogging journey was also about persevering in what I liked and letting go of what I didn’t like.

The 10 years of blogging have been challenging, particularly in the last few years. I have been publishing lesser number of posts with every passing year. I published only 10 posts in Year 10, but there was a big difference this time around.

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Sarcophagus of Mourning Women, Istanbul Atchaeolohical Museums, Imperial Loot of Ottoman Empire, Turkey

Museum Treasure: Sarcophagus of the mourning women

The visit to Istanbul’s Archaeological Museums was the highlight of my trip to there in October 2019. The Istanbul Archaeological Museums is made up of three units — the Istanbul Archaeological Musuem, the Ancient Orient Museum and Tiled Kiosk Museum — and together exhibit over a million artifacts. I could have easily spent a couple of days at the Istanbul Archaeological Museums, but time was a constraint and I could explore for just a couple of hours. I was in a daze for most of the visit as the exhibits were about civilisations and cultures I had only heard of and had read about; this was the first time I was getting to see their material remains.

One of the most impressive set of exhibits that I saw were some sarcophagi from the Royal Necropolis at Sidon (present day Lebanon, then part of the Ottoman Empire). These were excavated in the late 19th century and then transported to Istanbul. Though each sarcopagus was different and interesting in its own way, one of them stood out me for the emotions it evoked. Even seven months after my visit to the Istanbul Archaeological Museums, the one exhibit that has immediate recall is the Sarcophagus of the Mourning Women and the subject of this post.

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My “now” song: Like a Winter’s Dream

Do you ever have a song, an idea, a story line, or an image stuck in your head? And it just refuses to go away? For some time at least? I have this with music — it could be a song, an instrumental piece, a jingle, a background score, etc. That particular piece of music becomes my “now’” song, and the “nowness”  (pardon my English here) could remain with me for any length of time.


My current favorite piece of music — “Like a Winter’s Dream” sung by Kwak Jin Won — is quite different from what I usually listen to. It’s in Korean (a language I don’t know), and sung by a singer I had never heard of before. But that didn’t stop me from falling in love with the music for the emotions it evokes is something I can understand and identify with. Do listen to the song and the English translation of the beautiful lyrics before you proceed to read the rest of the post.

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Of words and the lives they lead…

There is a black door in my office that I usually use as a chalk board to keep track of schedules, upcoming projects, etc. at work. But in the last few weeks, it has turned into a board that lists words, terms and phrases I have come across while editing or reading documents as part of work, or have been contributed by colleagues. All these words, terms and phrases are new to me and while I understand some (or at least I think I do !), most have left me baffled. For example, “affordance”, “unlived experience”, “hedonistic sustainability”, “unstickiness of pedagogical structures”, among many others.

Every morning, when I arrive at work, I look at this ever-growing list. I puzzle over the words, brood over them, look them up in the dictionary to make sense of them. Sometimes, I discuss these words with colleagues in an attempt to understand them. Sometimes, I try using them in sentences to see if they work. And sometimes, I give up on them.

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