Sunday, June 14, 2015

When a tall wall comes between you and the rising sun.....

How does it feel when a tall wall comes between you and the rising sun? How does a child take it?

“This giant stole our sky?!”

When we set about hunting for a house, our seven-year old declared very matter-of-factly that all we should ensure is at least one balcony that offered a forest-view with the sky over it. Of late he was very much into Tarzan and Mowgli and had also gone for an overnight camp in the city outskirts near a mini-forest. For him it was cool to dwell just next to a jungle. The denser it is, the more the thrill. I was not alarmed. As far as his imagination stretched, an orchard over half an acre was a ‘real’ forest.
The bolt from the blue came when a tall wall rose up over the huge meadow adjacent to our mango orchard, the board on it announcing the inception of a shopping mall. Merciless bulldozers ran amok over the soft green grass, truckloads of cement and sand arrived incessantly and sophisticated cranes got into serious operation – all undermining the landscape in a short span of time. The butterflies lost their homes and fluttered around helplessly for a few days before disappearing completely. The cuckoos’ melodious songs got lost somewhere in the droning of the concrete-mixers as floor after floor got added sending the rising structure soaring up higher and higher. Our neighbours rejoiced over the imminent rise in their property value, oblivious to the dust and noise filling the air. Before long, a mammoth structure stood proudly, towering over us. Only a small patch of blue sky managed to peer down at us from behind the summit of the high-rise.

We had lost those special moments forever when the birds greeted the morning sun as they soared up in the blue sky that hung over the meadow.

But the saddest moment came when our son came down during the summer vacation. Running to the balcony with his binoculars, his face fell as he screamed “This giant stole our sky?!”

My book 'Rays and Rains' carries the entire story .....

Thursday, June 4, 2015

The kids or the job?.......Some takeaways for a Mom

The kids or the job? When the job profile makes sure that there is very little or no time for the kids quite often, what can be done? On the other hand, the job is not something to be ignored promptly and forgotten about! 

Oh! Motherhood and the thousands of matters that come to the fore with that!

Excerpt from my book 'Rays and Rains'.....

I had been missing her during my morning walks. Somehow she knew I did feel unhappy sometimes for having given up a lucrative job just when I was getting ready to make up for the two years I had been away from my career to be a stay-at-home mom to my infant son. Somehow she knew that along with the joys of mothering my two children now, I did feel the pull to go back to my old life sometimes. Somehow she knew occasionally I found myself on the horns of a dilemma. And she had told me “Years later it won’t matter which house you stayed in or which car you drove, but that you made a difference to a child’s life.” She didn’t see my having a soft corner for my kids as a weak point.

She didn’t see my changing my life for the sake of my kids as a drawback in me. “Yes, I do come down regularly for walks. Looks like our timings weren’t matching these days.”
The rest is in my book 'Rays and Rains'.....

Friday, May 15, 2015

To compare or not.......

Comparisons inspire our children, we usually believe as parents. Before we do it should we not also think about the potential of the child in the area where the comparison comes in?

“Look, it doesn’t matter even if all in your group pick up the tricks before you or they all emerge as experts. What I’m interested in is you picking up the basic skills from Sir before he wraps up this training session. Forget them all, just watch Sir’s movements and follow what he says. Because that is the purpose –you learn to swim and later enjoy swimming.” He looked straight into my eyes and stopped sulking.

Did those words carry a magic potion? Did they give him a comfort he badly needed at that time? Call it a miracle or what; he learned the tricks within a week, taking major strides every single day and making up for the last few days of disinterest. The father was visibly happy and the son came home routinely with an exciting story of the day’s achievement. When the month-long rigorous training was finally over, my son stood where most of the other learners were!

Months later, when autumn arrived, Dev was back in the pool with his friends, splashing around and making merry in the water, covering the length and width of the pool, arms moving fast and wide, doing breast strokes and butterfly strokes, gliding in and out of water adeptly, his pace and skilful, smart moves belying that this was the same boy who had almost given up on swimming!

What if we had kept comparing and pressurizing him to learn as fast as some others during those days of training?

Friday, May 1, 2015

Hate me now to love me later!

Have you ever felt gleeful about being a villain to your own child?
My dear Son,
I know you hate me some times and that exam season is the time when this feeling of intense dislike and revenge overwhelms you so much that I begin to falter, wondering if I am turning out to be another ‘Tiger Mom’. It is another story that ‘Tiger Mom’s aren’t really that bad as they are made out to be. But then, that is a highly debatable topic, more so since you are approaching the teen years.
…………………………………………..You want a break and so talk about the library book that would heal your severely battered brain, what with the onslaught of the trickiest problems you had to complete. I agree - conditionally. “OK, but not more than half an hour. All those terrible characters of your book seem to have greater control over you than you have on them or even yourself when you spend too much time with them! Ugh! They’ll wreak havoc on whatever you have learnt till now!”

Bolder after another hour of study after a break with your story book that gives you a feeling that you deserve a pat on your back, you ask for “TV time”.

I am about to give in when your sister screams out, “I’ll watch my channel now!” I am happy in a way since I want you to put in another hour, but I don’t show it and very diplomatically say, “OK, Vini has not had an opportunity to watch TV today yet and anyway you’ll get to watch it when she has her nap.

It’s just a matter of one more hour, darling.” You don’t know whom to hate more – mother or sister and scowl at us. Knowing you would be fuming and fretting in your room instead of focusing on your books with your ears strained to pick up what is going on the screen, I add quickly, feigning not to notice your scowl (the corners of my eyes keep working) “I think if you get done by four, you could be in the playground before others.” It seems to work and you go back satisfied with the deal. Instead of TV time now, you are getting the liberty to be down earlier than you expected.

My mind is furiously working on how to get you back early from the playground (since I want you to do a revision before your eyes get red-shot and you slip into a depression, thinking of how unfair life is!). “Let us have mango syrup together as soon as you are back from the field! Be back on time!” I yell as you finally earn your freedom and sprint your way down the steps with the afternoon sun throwing strange patterns behind the trees.

I know tomorrow it will dawn upon you that you have put in more hours than you had intended. You will see through my clever plans of today and hold me the culprit and extract extra “TV time”. I’ll yield in easily for this is your last exam of the season and tomorrow is another day.

As you will step into your teens, matters won’t be so easy for me. The ball won’t be in my court quite often and my screams and snarls and promise of your favourite dishes won’t work a fraction as well as now. Hatred for me will only pile up and not vanish with steady inflow of chocolates and delicious mango syrups in between study hours. You might even silently wish for early freedom from  this “monster” who happens to be your mother.........................

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Everybody has a summer holiday......

Summer Camp

I saw them again the next day, huffing and puffing their way to the main gate of our premises. As the boy boarded a waiting van and Neetu waved at him, I got curious and decided to wait for her to spot me. She was panting, but sported a proud smile as she came near, blurting out “Rahul has become super busy now. I guess you guys are rarely meeting.” She elaborated. Rahul’s mornings were blocked with badminton classes, while the afternoons were spent in a summer camp.

What was he doing in the summer camp? Learning a host of things. Getting exposed to a variety of arts, ranging from pottery being done by ‘real’ potters, candle-making to western dance and even gymnastics.
All this was targeted at the creative spirit flourishing, Neetu gushed. Wasn’t it a little too much for a seven-year old? “Don’t such packed mornings and evenings exhaust him?” I ask meekly, slightly embarrassed for sounding so primitive. She pooh-poohed my concern as we came near our elevator. I was about to say something in defence of my questions when I noticed her attention riveted on the notice board. A fresh notice announced the commencement of swimming classes in our swimming pool. Also, karate classes would be ‘on’ next week onwards.

Leaving Neetu near the notice board to decide on her son’s fate for the next two months, I went on my way slightly confused, not sure if the Rahuls of this generation are moving too fast to enjoy their childhood days or are quickly transforming into rough and tough guys as they learn the art of multi-tasking with the other creative arts…whether they are moving towards burning out soon or are learning to be master of all trades.

Sipping tea, ensconced in the luxury of a relaxed afternoon and the cool breeze of a cloudy day, I went back to my old summer vacation days which would be lost in climbing trees, hanging from branches, jumping over walls and earning myself the ‘tomboy’ label. Stealthy trips to Grandma’s kitchen stocked up with jars of sweet and salty home-made savouries. Romping around in the garden as we dug into the raw mangoes that lent their fragrance to the fresh air. My imagination running wild as the huge garden turned into a forest one day while another day, it was the universe with each plant being a celestial body in disguise.

I was on a dilemma. Which would I choose if I were gifted with a second childhood? Where did the summer holidays magic lie? Creative juices flowing abundantly in those summer haunts from my childhood days or in today’s summer camps organized within the confines of apartment complexes?
Dreams getting nourished in the lap of nature or structured activities carried out within the strict limits of time? Those golden days of summer freedom or today’s summer camps soaked with creativity within the boundaries of concrete jungle?
The rest of the story is in Rays and Rains.

The reviews are in 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Would the stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) and fulltime working mom (FWM) empathize with each other? When?

The debate never ends!
Money….Power…. Success….They attract millions of listeners. When Pepsico honcho FWM Ms. Nooyi , possessing the three, admits that she has NOT had all in life, and is unsure if her children would consider her a good mom, the world listens. Ironically, if millions of SAHMs said that FWMs cannot have it all, they would be almost immediately brushed off by Indian society and the media, both leaning towards ideas and thoughts of the western world.

What about moms who choose to be FWM or SAHM after a lot of hidden heartache and deliberation over years? My talks with both FWMs and SAHMs made me more empathetic.

Ambitious women dream to keep achieving, finding their identity and sense of security in the jobs they began their career with when motherhood was far away. Peep into their homes and you’ll find a child extremely hyperactive or with learning difficulties or autistic or very introverted or very aggressive.  Then there is many a mom whose child desperately craves for emotional security that is hard to come by today if time-rich understanding grandparent/s or any other genuinely loving trustworthy caregiver is not around. These mothers watch with pain how their little ones are not understood in school or by caregivers. Some of them kick great careers to steer their life in a new direction with the child only partly devouring the sudden vacuum in the mother’s world. They believe in taking care of the emotional well-being of the child and inculcate values in the child apart from taking charge of their nutrition and academics. They live through frustrating days when the glorious past flashes back to them or their consistent efforts towards the child’s progress do not seem to yield expected results. They carry on silently and boldly, notwithstanding the din made by critical relatives, neighbours and the powerful media celebrating the freedom of FWMs and quickly relegating the SAHMs to nowhere. Are the FWMs empathic towards them ever?

Many a mom is keen to be SAHM and cherish the hours spent in the company of her angels (particularly when the kids have flown off the nest), but is compelled to toil away at the workplace. She may be a single parent or the family income may not be enough for a decent lifestyle today. She might have been the harassed daughter-in-law or the disrespected /ignored wife. Her parents may be looking up to her for financial support. Do the SAHMs empathize with them?

FWM or SAHM? An unbiased mom with a matured mind knows best WHAT THE SITUATION DEMANDS and can explain it to the family with conviction while BEING READY FOR THE CONSEQUENCES. If the child cannot connect to the caregiver for long, the emotional stability missing in her life could cause her irreparable psychological harm (all bruises do not show). On the other hand, the child may be almost unruffled by mom’s long hours of absence at home. LET’S NOT FORGET THAT EACH CHILD IS DIFFERENT. The adaptability to a mother’s routine long absence would vary from child to child from time to time. Still, even though a woman is naturally endowed with the qualities that come in handy during child-rearing, the father too should get involved in raising kids, and significantly more in case of FWMs.

A mother playing her role lovingly and sincerely during the formative years of her child (she knows - success AND emotional health both count in life) cannot be easily substituted by anybody else, but we are either too ambitious to give it a thought or embarrassed to spell it out. A career will give me instantaneous, visible gifts like financial security, recognition and material comforts whereas not-so-happening years spent for a decent upbringing of the child would expectedly only lead to an emotionally secure adult, though there is no guarantee of sure significant material success coming his way. Nevertheless I do get reminded of what the famous American Wayne Allyn Root, who has questioned Obama’s policies, had told America confidently about how homeschooling of his children has kept them ahead of their peers studying in schools there, also praising his homemaker wife. Can you rule out Mrs. Root’s solid presence in the world of the wise couple’s children as a factor behind their good upbringing and progress?

However life is a marathon and not a sprint. A MOTHER ALONE HAS NO CONTROL ON HER CHILD’S FUTURE as she won’t be there all along. The environment the child grows up in, the opportunities he gets and the pace at which he adjusts to changing circumstances to survive and then thrive also majorly contribute to his progress and emotional health.

Bad parenting and lack of parenting has impacted or marred MANY LIVES THOUGH NOT ALL. However it could definitely be an interesting topic of research if ADULTS WHO HAD MISSED OUT ON A LOVING CAREGIVER’S CONSISTENT SOLID PRESENCE DURING CHILDHOOD were interviewed and their thoughts and feelings about it all were HONESTLY shared and OPENLY discussed. As we adults rave and rant about FWM vs SAHM, do we even care to peep into the mind of the child who is too young to comprehend his own feelings to be able to express them?


All said and done, my current SAHM status does not give me a right to dismiss off the FWMs as selfish moms. Similarly, if I decide to turn into a FWM again like I was, I have no right to look disdainfully at the SAHMs. Could not the SAHM and FWM empathize with each other?

The culture!

Many moms are silently thanking Ms. Nooyi for busting the myth that FWMs have it all. A FWM has ‘three jobs’ – a job at the workplace, supervision of household chores AND child-rearing. Even the highly organized FWM is only a human being with the same twenty four hours in a day as SAHMs have, and obviously cannot perform them decently well without slackening on the last job (FOR WHICH THERE IS NO REPORT CARD/VISIBLE RESULT/INCENTIVE IMMEDIATELY). At last SAHMs may begin to empathize with the FWMs for what they have missed out forever. FWMs would hopefully empathize with SAHMs who kicked jobs for being a strong presence in their children’s life. For moms on the brink of taking this life-changing decision I would quote Mr. Morrie from Mitch Albom’s bestseller ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’. “You have to be strong enough to say if the culture doesn’t work, don’t buy it. Create your own.” The culture is what the Indian media supports today by carrying articles on FWMs who have traded company of their kids for fat paychecks and glory or the culture is that of the traditional Indians supporting SAHMs. You either buy a culture or YOU CREATE YOUR OWN and PREPARE FOR THE CONSEQUENCES.

I hope more moms in India create their own culture. The pride and confidence from standing by this SIGNIFICANT decision made guiltlessly and unembarrassed (because one sees value in one’s well-thought-of decision as EVERY CHILD IS DIFFERENT and responds to a situation that may or may not suit the mom’s requirements) would bring self-esteem. REAL self-esteem needs to come from within and should NEVER depend on what anybody or media or anything else pushes hard for.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

I'm growing up with my son!

With the Board Exams going on in some parts of India, how do the moms feel? Here is one mom getting nervous over her son's future....

From my book Rays and Rains available on Flipkart and Amazon etc.....

A few days back, my son returned from school, his face flushed with excitement, his hand clutching a sheet of paper.

“What’s that in your hand?” I casually inquired as he headed straight for his room. It was very unusual of a boy who routinely loiters for an hour before going to freshen up.

“It has the lines ma’am wants me to deliver on the School Annual Day”, Dev said solemnly.

My son, all of seven years, who had earned a reputation as a sharp, but highly-distracted and happy-go-lucky boy, who seldom put in his best efforts, caught me by surprise when I overheard him practicing his lines again and again in the confines of his room. Was this the same Dev who had to be prodded for everything right from having his meals to catching his school bus?
The same week a parent-teacher meeting enlightened me that my son was only one of the few hand-picked by the teacher for delivering the opening lines for a program and that only the best one of the lot would be given a chance.

I didn’t have the heart to tell my son that his speech could be snatched away by his class-mate any time. “Who would be the lucky one?” I kept thinking.

Meanwhile his practice continued and his speech approached perfection. I had no choice but to get carried away with his dedication and determination for a flawless performance.

Surprisingly, I managed to find time to pray for him to be the luckiest one to bag the coveted role of the introducer of the program. Rarely having had the time to mull over such trivial things in the past, here I was secretly wishing that Dev’s oration impressed the teacher most. I forgot there are other mothers too who too are hoping, might be praying just like me. I forgot that my son is just in Grade Two and there might be hundreds of such opportunities coming his way.

And then it struck me. What if there is someone even better than him in his class? What if he loses the opportunity to deliver the lines on that special day?........

The rest is in here....