"The children were excited and curious about the gum and injection bottle temple" father said.
The children from the extended family are no four-year old kids, but are high school students and older. But, I suppose to an eighty-four year old, there is not much of a difference!
The "temple" that father referred to is one of the products of mother's arts and crafts works. This "temple" is more than forty years old. Mother collected a bunch of the small bottles in which the local hospital and dispensaries got their liquid medicines for injections--this was well before the ampule days. With those, and a few gum and honey bottles, she artfully glued them to create a glass temple. Despite all their attempts to keep it clean, the temple shows the accumulation of dirt and grime over the years.
During all these years, I have noticed that it is always something that father loves showing off to people. He makes sure that visitors get to know how mother created that. In the cultural and traditional settings that father is used to, perhaps that is the closest that he would comfortably get to in order to express his tender feelings for his wife?
It is not that mother had an army of servants at home and she could then pursue her hobby. Far from that--there was one old maid who helped with minimal cleaning and washing the clothes. A maid who took her own sweet little time for even the smallest thing.
Cooking was laborious--even I can clearly remember those days before mother had the time-saving godsend that a grinder/mixer was (the Sumeet) or cooking gas. Food preparation itself--from purchasing the groceries to cooking to cleaning up--took up a chunk of her time. Of course, no refrigerator either. And, yet, mother found time for her art hobby.
There were mother's paintwork on the curtains that hung on the doorways. Not creative art, but painting over images that she traced out on the cloth. She took classes with a couple of our neighbors who were her age and learnt how to weave bags and baskets. In our early childhood years, mother tailored our underwear at home on her hand-cranked sewing machine. A machine that she retains even now, and uses once in a while.
A couple of years ago, I asked mother how she had the time and energy to do all those, and how she did all that without ever complaining. Without ever a holiday and working seven days a week.
Father was also creative, in his own ways. Of course, I never got to watching him at work unlike my mother's work which was always right in front of me. But, father's activities at home revealed plenty about his creative side, despite the engineer that he was. For the annual "golu" during Navaratri, it was father who got excited about putting together something new, something different. Once, he drew a map of India on a wobbly carrom board--from memory, without even consulting an atlas. And then a whole bunch of art related to that map.
Perhaps I lucked out with parents who worked long hours without grumbling, and did creative things joyfully, and yet cared not that the kids simply lazed around. It blows my mind even now that they simply went about doing things while we kids sat and complained about being bored!
My grandmother often commented that only we children growing up in a city and attending an "English" school complained about being bored. To her, when she was a kid, well, kids invented their own games and went about doing something and were not bored. And, there were enough chores to keep them occupied. "எப்ப பாத்தாலும் என்ன இது போர், போர்?" (What's the matter with this talk all the time about being bored?)
Maybe I can show that I am not lazy by calling dibs on that injection-bottle temple!