My Dearest Komal, Anjli and Amar,
Of course the hobbies that make me happy might not necessarily bring you the same joy. Read on and see how we differ. We might not have the same hobbies but I do hope you have many. Your hobbies will give you lots of joy now and come in handy later on. According to the book ‘The 100 Year Life’ by Lynda Gratton, a significant percentage of your generation will live to be 100 years old!
It could be that many will have lost a great percentage of their mobility and might find themselves in a home, perched in front of a telly, for a large part of the day. Though I wouldn’t want you(or myself) to be in that scenario. Please continue reading this letter to learn more about my hobbies.
When I think of happy hobby moments, the first scenes that come to mind are the sewing lessons that I attended in Santa Cruz, Mumbai, many moons ago. We were about 10 girls being taught by a savvy Gujarati lady in her bedroom. This was her way of earning extra money for her household. No tables and chairs in sight, because we all sat cross-legged on the floor. The two manual sewing machines were in the front living room. I never remember using these for there was always a queue for them. I usually just wrote down instructions and cut my material at the ‘school’. All my sewing was done on Narmadaba’s swanking ‘foreign’ sewing machine. The knowledge this lady had was phenomenal. She could draw out a pattern of any garment within minutes. I still have the book in which she drew her patterns.
My Dad was very proud of all the sewing I did. He always used to joke that he would ensure that Atishmama’s wife would know how to sew! In the absence of my dad, it was I who jokingly posed the question, ‘Can you sew?’ to Preetimami on the very first day I met her. (Crazy નણંદ !)
My sewing journey started from the tender age of 10 when our household had a manual sewing machine placed on a low stool on the floor. I used to sit, again, cross-legged on the floor and used the right hand to turn the wheel which moved the stitching foot. My very talented Gangaba would cut the material and make us stitch everyone’s underwear, including our own.(ચૈણયા and petticoats). It was a dreadful chore in those days. Sewing clothes and sorting year-long supply of grains kept us occupied for a large part of the holidays. It was a lop sided existence in that only the girls were expected to sew!
I must have enjoyed the creativity for it was the first expensive item Naynamasi and I bought when we were living in the bedsitter in Streatham. A whopping £8 was spent. The year 1972. Over the years, I have upgraded the sewing machine at least three times! This last one could have served me a long time, but I was foolish enough to pack it in my suitcase during one of my journeys to Pune. Hence these days, it requires a sturdy spanner, a few blobs of BluTac and a regular supply of masking tape, for a blasphemous-free sewing session.
My love of hiking must have stemmed from reading the huge Reader’s Digest volume of ‘No Through Road’. My dad bought it as a part of an introductory package for a membership of a book club. Where is it now? It had detailed hiking trails set all over Great Britain.
Each trail-page could be unclipped from the binder, put in a protective plastic sheet and taken with you! Just like you and daddy, Achalamasi and Atishmama were made to accompany me for many of these hikes. They are keen hikers these days, and what about you?
After the U.K., what better place for hiking than Switzerland? Luckily many in my friend circle are also into hiking and we get to enjoy some breathtaking views in this breathtaking country. My pensioners hiking group is also very active….and even after 6 years, I am still the youngest in the group. Perhaps I joined them too early, but honestly they inspire me tremendously. The average age in the group is 70. We usually hike for a total of 3.5 hours, a distance of about 14 km and a climb of 400 m. As the journeys to and fro to the start point are by public transport, a day’s ‘Wanderung’ can last between 10-12 hours!
I have to thank my lovely Jordanian friend, Oraib who got me into Yoga. She had a local yoga teacher coming to her house once a week and I went along to fill up the numbers. Everything has its right time… I was new in Zurich, not working for the first time in my life, and looking for different ways to keep myself busy. Yoga has given me a lot of joy. Besides many other positives, yoga has brought a calmness and helped me bring mindfulness in my life. Spending a few years in Pune also gave me the opportunity to acquire the teacher’s certificate for Yoga. There were many hurdles in enrolling into an appropriate course. One institute said I was too old for their course! How ironic then, that a large part of my group of students are above the age of when I got my teacher’s certificate.
Why do I read?
Reading allows me to enter a different world, may it be a different family or a different country with a different culture and different thoughts or even a different time zone. I am always fascinated by the words that authors come up with to describe characters, scenes and everyday occurrences. My daily life is so full of practicality that reading shows me the depth of each scene. It helps me to be more mindful of all aspects of routine activities.
The wonderful added bonus to reading is the ‘me’ time I can achieve, and that too without any guilt. Unlike reading, watching television makes me feel like I am wasting my time in an unlawful activity, which is not necessarily true! Perhaps that is the reason I get annoyed when I see any of you slouched in front of the box for a long time!
This month, we have chosen the book ‘On Beauty’ by Zadie Smith for our book club read. (Komal, your recommendation). In parallel I am also reading ‘Howard’s End’ by E. M. Forester as Zadie has taken inspiration for ‘On Beauty’ from this classic tale. Similar story line but set in two different eras and different characters. Very absorbing indeed.
All this reading not only improves my knowledge of history but also my English. So the next step would be to read more German and Gujarati books.
This therefore makes me ask YOU, why do you read?And if you don’t, why not? For the last question don’t use ‘time’ as your excuse!
This blog is a testament of my love of cooking. Growing up in an extended family household, I never did any cooking and never thought cooking would be such a central part of my life as it is now. Baking was and is my passion, and it has lead me to creating many decorated celebration cakes. Now that you have all flown the nest, I never make birthday cakes. I find it exhilarating to know that Anjli you are cooking a lot more than before. If any of you are using any of the recipes on this blog, do please add a comment. I would love to know if there are any mistakes in the recipes and/or if you made any changes to create your own taste.
6. Board games including cards
Badminton and netball were our school games. Following Atishmama and Achalamasi’s energetic adventures AND living in Switzerland, we have all become keen skiers, though some better than others! Over the years more sedate board games and cards have become my pastime. I still sometimes go swimming, either in the local swimming pool or at the ‘strandbad’ (beach) in Stäfa specially on days when our friend Manolo makes his paella on the Zürich lake front. Yummmmm. One positive aspect of the global warming is that we get more opportunities to swim in Zürich lake these days.
Scrabble can most likely be termed our family game. These days Daddy and I turn to Bananagram for a much speedier game. Amar do you get to play chess with your friends? And how are your murder-mystery parties going Komal? Can you snatch any time to play any games Anjli? Or is it a whirlwind of parties and travels and…and….studies?
Card games were an enthusiastic pastime in Africa. I was privileged to be taught Bridge by my good friend Freny in Pune. Apparently Daddaji was a keen player and we have many books on this subject. One of these days I will take up Bridge again. There are many apps and also Bridge websites available that could get you playing 24/7. It is meant to keep your brain functioning sharply. Another quintessentially Swiss card game is Jassen.
I have only seriously played it once with the Hofstetter family. This game is played with an unusual deck of cards and has umpteen rules (just like in the country itself). Now that I am a Swiss citizen, it becomes my civil duty to learn to play Jass.
Life would be empty without music. That statement would resonate with all of you too. Though my music tastes and yours are miles apart (અડધા જમીનનો ફેર છે ) I am an avid Indian music follower and you on the other hand love your western music. Listening to music is really a secondary activity….always happening in the background.
Playing a musical instrument is another world altogether. I did learn to play the harmonium when I was at school, and that is probably why I spent such a vast amount of my energy trying to get you three to learn to play the piano. All those lessons, and those practices, including the zillion exams! I can still feel the stress. The pristine piano has not been touched in many months now. Perhaps it is beckoning for me to learn! Another instrument that I tried to learn was the Sitar. On my first visit to Mumbai I signed up for private sitar lessons with a maestro in Santa Cruz. Little did I know that he was a seedy maestro! He might have been brilliant at playing the sitar, but he sure had creepy hands! I only went once. I never revealed the reason of ending my lessons to Kiranmasi, but now I wish I had. A lost opportunity of learning a cool musical instrument.
8. Other Crafts
Over the years I have dabbled into painting, knitting, patchwork quilting, crocheting, cross-stitching, batik work, etc., etc.
And not forgetting my childhood hobbies, our craft sessions in Jinja consisted of :
- cane trays made from fishing net chords
- tote bags using fishing net chords
- embroidering or painting sarees(all six yards of it!)
- Etching henna patterns on coloured wax candles.
- And many more
Jack of all trades, master of none!
Now you know why stories like ‘Pride and Prejudice’ are so dear to me. All that crafting and creativity the ‘demure’ females are subjected to!
There are many other hobbies that keep me busy, perhaps you can remind me of any that I haven’t mentioned here.
It is a long letter, so I do hope you read it to the end. I have also not uploaded any new recipes here, but please let me know of any dish in particular you would like to cook and I shall put up that recipe . I am waiting.
The weather is perfect for hiking, so I shall be off and will also go and visit a friend who is housebound due to a foot surgery.
Always wishing to be with you, I will, for the present be satisfied with listening to your voices over the phone.
Bye for now . With all my love, hugs and kisses,