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.

Continue reading “Stories From My Home – 8: Amma’s Tambura”

Stories from my home – 6: Captain Sandal Face powder


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.


My maternal Paati (grandmother in Tamil) had only one request for relatives visiting Madurai — to bring back Captain Sandal Face Powder that was only available at the M.K. Azeez and Sons shop located in the West Tower Street outside the Meenakshi Temple​. Once or twice a year, a few small tins of the face powder would be handed over to my thrilled grandmother by obliging relatives returning from Madurai.

Paati would get to work immediately. A newspaper would be spread out and the little tins of Sandal face powder would be emptied on it. Some ‘normal’ face powder (Ponds, Lakme, or whatever was available) would be added and then mixed and filled in 4 silver powder boxes — one each for my mother, her two sisters and my Paati herself.

Paati and her three daughters used only this face powder and each had her own silver powder box​. When the powder box got empty, it would return to Paati for refilling. After Paati passed away in 1980, Amma took over the role of preparing the powder mix for her younger sisters and herself till they passed away, and then she would do it just for herself.
Continue reading “Stories from my home – 6: Captain Sandal Face powder”