Gift of Time

Ten years. That’s a really long time. Or is it?

Ten years ago….

I was a young girl in love desperately trying to convince my parents to accept my choice. It was a long hard battle but finally both sides emerged victorious. My parents had the humility and generosity to say that they are not giving in but accepting and celebrating my choice. This gesture set the tone for all the new relationships that were being forged. My in-laws accepted me with such open arms that I continue to be thankful.

So, yes it is a marriage of two families in this country. But finally it comes down to the two of us. And I am truly blessed to have had the rollercoaster ride that the last ten years have been. As a young college student how did I know that this man was the one? And how did I get it so right? My first and only love.

Together we have set up home in five different places, each time starting anew with new hopes and dreams. Some homes brought us great joy and success, some not so much. But at each instance we stuck together and fought our battles together.

Over the years, with the arrivals of our two angels, so many things seemed to fill the space between us. So this year, as a toast to our tenth one together, we gave each other the gift of time. A day off from the routine. No baby bags, no work related calls on the go, no watch ticking away saying times up.

It’s so comforting that we could just spend the day with each other and have so much to say, so much we want to do together, so many comfortable silences. Shopping, a relaxed cup of coffee, more shopping, a leisurely lunch by the poolside of a classy restaurant, a movie with popcorn and coke, a tired drive back home to our welcoming angels.

I think we really needed this. To recharge ourselves for the next ten, then next twenty and so on and so forth.

We should really do this more often, he says. I silently nod and smile.

So no diamonds or gold or gadgets or exotic trips…. just a simple gift of time.

Here’s to 10 years and many many more, my love!

Masti Sister

When K was born in Mumbai, one of our first outings with her was SiddhiVinayak Temple. I discovered a small item on the noticeboard announcing a service for newborns – a detailed horoscope booklet with a write-up about what the future holds for the child. Being a sucker new mom, I ordered for one.

A lovely, red, hardbound book arrived a few weeks later. It held pages and pages of hand-written charts detailing the positions of every star in the sky, it seemed. I skipped all of it and landed on the only two pages with some words. It spoke of what her personality would be like and what her future holds - how she would mostly study abroad, how she would have a religious bend of mind, how her left eye would be prone to injury (!), how her first engagement might not work out but she will have a long, stable marriage finally, etc. My belief in astrology was not strong enough to actually think that this little page held answers to such grave questions. Yet, one sentence stayed with me and would run through my mind every so often – ‘She will take great care of her siblings’.

As a mom who went through a very precious pregnancy, this was music to my years. It was a sign from above, I told myself, that there will be more babies in my arms. Not that I wanted to recreate the Von Trapp family but as an only child, I was pretty sure we should have a couple of kiddos.

Over the past few days I find myself repeatedly recalling this innocuous little statement read over five years ago. K has been an exemplary big sister to naughty little V. And it’s not just about things like sharing toys or letting V scribble in her books or walk away with her chocolate (though for a little kid these might be big sacrifices). From the day V was born, K has shown a kind of deep caring for the little one.

When I would emerge from the bedroom after putting a sleeping V in her crib, K would gently check, “hope you kept the soft pillow on the side”, “did you cover her? mosquitos may bite.”

All her actions would show that she is always ensuring that her little sister is safe. And empathy is something that I find is so abundant in her. At two of her previous schools, they had inclusive classes and ‘special’ children were integrated into the regular curriculum. The class teachers would tell me that K makes an extra effort to help these kids with their daily work and activities. Maybe something as simple as helping the child open her water bottle before lunch or taking her to the washroom. But K does it each time. So much so that when we were moving cities, the teacher had to prepare the special child for K’s absence. She didn’t want it to come as a shock to her that K wasn’t in the class anymore.

So many times K has had to wait for my attention. I could hear myself saying ‘please wait while I finish this for V’ and hope that she doesn’t object. She rarely does. She’s willing to wait because the baby needs me first. Her maturity amazes me still.

Last night the two of them were lying on the carpet, cuddling with each other and trying to fall asleep. V was being the little monkey that she usually is.

I sneaked it in slyly, ‘So, is it fun to have a little sister?’

‘Oh yes! Especially when its such a masti sister like mine!’ :-)

God bless you K.

House of Tomorrow

Quote

As I walked out of the classroom with K’s term report in my hand, I stared across the huge expanse that is their playground, trying to spot two tiny figures and one larger figure. My eyes settled on K & V, excitedly running and dancing across the basketball court with their father in pursuit. My mind wandered to my favourite lines in ‘The Prophet’ by Kahlil Gibran. (Though to be able to choose a favourite verse in that power-packed book is impossible. Maybe I could say these are my favourite lines about children.)

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

I continued to stare into the openness and a smile crept up on my lips. One of those unconscious smiles reflecting a happy thought inside and not particularly directed towards anyone on the outside. I was holding an envelope made of recycled newspaper. There was artwork stuck on the cover – K’s version of her dad. Coloured in bright colours very typical of her. Bright blue. Bright red. Bright sunshine. Two figures waved out to me and all three started their walk back towards the main school building. Little V made several pit stops and detours.

The report card was not a card. It was 5 sheets of paper, each sheet painstakingly written by hand. I instinctively tried to match the handwriting with the teacher. Extremely neat and straight small cursive writing by the petite and young class teacher. She doubled up as the math teacher. The strokes were small and youthful and logical.Free-flowing long strokes running across the page. Her slightly older English teacher. This hand had written many essays where the thoughts flew faster than the words on paper. The bubbly and spirited language of the science teacher. She made science fun, I could see that.

Different strokes but they spoke the same words… wonderful student, very interactive, responsible, diligent, confident. And then adjectives that I have seen earlier but always elicit a bit of surprise… helpful, considerate, team-player. I hear it repeatedly – she’s such a pleasure to have in my class; she grasps so quickly and then walks over to friends and helps them understand, maturity beyond her age…

She is mine but she does not belong to me. She is a free spirit. I have placed no burden of expectation on her. That has given her wings to fly. That she chooses to soar is also what her soul desires to do, not what the body has been conditioned to do.

‘…but seek not to make them like you…’

Many times I see a very different side of her. And I tell myself that she is a child and away from the glare of the teacher’s eyes, she feels safe enough to be herself. A little less helpful. A little more of a team leader. A little less mature. A little more of a child. My child. In the House of Tomorrow.

The three figures walk up to me. ‘So, she’s a rockstar?’, the father confidently asks. K grins shyly, the warm glow of knowing your parents are happy and proud.

‘Always’, I say, ‘she’s a rockstar.’ Of her own accord.

The Prophet
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Yes Miss

The entire family has been grinning all day.

Little V sets off for day two of her new playschool, armed with her hand-me-down school bag with essential supplies – water bottle, snack box and a towel. As the newest and youngest student she is given a free run of the place so that she can get used to her surroundings and feel comfortable. The kids sit on little mats and go about their activities like bead stringing, matching shapes and colours. V is busy window-shopping, eyeing the activities on each mat, occasionally choosing to nonchalantly disturb another child immersed in his or her work. But even kids are kind to new entrants.

After sessions of rhymes, shlokas, snacks, play, it is finally time to call it a day and head home. The teacher, lovingly called Miss, takes out her attendance notebook.

‘Adit?’
‘Yes Miss’
‘Divya?’
‘Yes Miss’
‘Pooja?’
‘Yes Miss’

and lastly,

‘V?’
‘Yesh Mish’ :-)

The entire classroom was glowing with smiles at the simple innocent reply for 17 month old V.

So as she trots around the house, we take turns shouting ‘Yesh Mish’! She knows it about her and she knows its praise so she smiles coyly. Sometime its a hearty chuckle filled with pride.

We sure are proud! :-)

And the journey begins…

My little girl has been shown the golden path to enlightenment! Or in other words, she has started play-school today :-)

So while I did my homework on the various options around home, I finally went with the place that matched most of my requirements and also my gut feel. It’s close to home, the timings are convenient, the place is homely and the lady running it gives you a feeling of warmth and sincerity. She’s also not charging exorbitant fees like some of the chain schools do nowadays.

On Day 1, Momma and big sister accompanied little V to the school. The entire family has been excitedly telling V all weekend that she will be going to school. For V, till now, school means just the bus-stop to drop or pic-up K. So the look on her face is clearly asking what the fuss is all about. This morning she was a cool customer – bathed and dressed and accessorised! (Big sister lovingly handed-down her old favourite little doggie shaped bag for V to take her snack box!). I bet she was thinking that Christmas has come early this year. Why else are Momma and Didi willingly taking me out somewhere instead of scurrying off to office and school.

She’s the youngest in the class of 12 kids by a whole six months. Thankfully the owner/teacher is willing to have her so early. We just want to give her a couple of hours with kids and also as a very valuable side-benefit – give grandfolks some breathing time from babysitting.

Like a kid in a candy shop V explored the room full of educational toys at her whim and fancy. She was also keenly observing each of the other kids – watching their routines and sometimes emulating. It’s amazing how quickly they pick up what’s acceptable or expected behaviour from the group.

An hour into playtime her body clock reminded her that it was time for her daily 10am snooze. Just as she was trying to convince Momma to give her a bit of milk and rock her to sleep, she was distracted by the colourful slide and see-saws. That’s always more fun than sleep!

 

After another hour, the triumphant trio of Momma, K and V declared day one of school a huge success and started on the victory march back home.

It’s exciting… yet a tinge of sadness…they grow up way too fast and the world around them is changing even faster. There’s only one way to keep up and that’s by setting off on the journey of life and learning as soon as one can.

Precious!

I was a green file that grew up and became a blue file. My gynec’s office used colour-coded files to distinguish her patients. After a year of struggling with infertility and a green file (I wonder if she noticed the irony in this), I had finally achieved what every patient dreams of – a blue file. Like the two blue lines on the home pregnancy test. Onward march to Motherhood! But blue was not a simple march either. The blue file was a ‘precious pregnancy’. Ofcourse it’s precious, I first thought, this is MY baby! Then I learnt that it was a medical term (one which is conceived after a long time or there are previous miscarriages or abortions).

Slowly we told close friends and relatives. The congratulatory messages started pouring in as did loads and loads of advice. Advice by the truckloads on food, sleep, work, exercise… oh the list was endless. But the one theme I picked up was pretty simple – Listen to your Mom and Listen to your Body.

So I did just that. I became a happy little child once again. The initial morning sickness was pretty mild compared to horror stories I have heard but my body demanded one thing – Mom’s cooking. Anything she made I loved. :-) So a real win-win for both of us. My mom really knew how to take care of me – her little girl. Your days are numbered my husband would say. Soon her grandchild will be her world! I decided to enjoy it while it lasts!

And this liberated me. My entire pregnancy I was effortlessly able to maintain something I felt was very important - a positive mind frame. If my body said take a day off and rest, I would. If my body craved some ice-cream (which it did just around the time I knew my husband would be driving back home, crossing my favourite ice-cream shop!), then that’s what I ate. If Mom said eat sprouts, they are good protein then sprouts it was. If Mom said walk to the temple and back atleast thrice a week, then her little girl did just that.

With the combined wisdom of my Mom (which really is the combined wisdom of her mom and hence so many generations of wonderful women who made lovely babies) and my Body, it was quite a breeze. I enjoyed my nine months – listening to Shiva chants, eating healthy home food, chatting and laughing with my family, resting and storing sleep for crazy nights up ahead.

And then one rainy night in September, I went into labour and by seven in the morning little K was in my arms. She was so Precious!

** This blog post is an entry to the Women’s Web ‘Passport to a Healthy Pregnancy’ contest **

Impressionable Minds

Once upon a time, a ‘teacher’ was mostly a middle-aged lady with kids of her own and predictably toggled between grandmotherly and grumpy. Her chalk-stained fingers and crisp cotton sarees would have tormented and soothed several batches of young minds. She always took the effort to know more about the child, her parents, her siblings. She knew the impact she had on young impressionable minds.

Today a ‘teacher’ is mostly a young mother, understands that today’s kids are so much more aware of their world and let’s their individuality shine. She’s almost the big sister in kurtis and jeans. She seeks to be a friend, not so much dwelling on the long-term impact of the student-teacher relationship. Just one year at a time.

Why am I rambling about this? It seems I have a little girl who believes that her teacher is someone to be respected and revered so much that she cannot fail in her teacher’s eyes. And while for a bit this may seem like a good thing, I am discovering that it’s not so simple. And that for this relationship to work, both sides must believe that the bond is so strong yet tender. They must invest their time and energy into getting to know each other.

K loves school and her teachers. Life is wonderful academically. Every parent-teacher meeting I hear such lovely things about her that my heart glows. But there’s one little thing she’s not able to master – eating her school lunch on time. She’s always been a poor eater so she struggles to finish the servings in the thirty minutes. And in her eyes, she’s failing the teacher. She is being reprimanded by her idol. So she fakes aches and pains. This buys more time or buys more sympathy.

And how did this vicious circle start? One young teacher repeatedly scolded her in front of her friends. She didn’t see the pain in the little girl’s eyes? The disappointment in herself that she couldn’t finish the task set for her – finish your lunch faster? So she has set her on a constant search for excuses.

‘Momma, give me home lunch. just two idlis please.’

And Momma obliges. It’s better than a six-year-old sitting in fear at the lunch table, eating too fast and then bringing it all out. :-(

How I wish the teacher had understood this little girl. Coaxed her gently, encouraged her to eat better. Yelling was always an option but a last resort.

Now this little impressionable mind has only one view – I can’t meet the teacher’s expectation so she will yell. And then I will feel really bad.

Me too Kiddo.

Signed up! – Post A Week 2011

For a new blogger like me, this seems like the perfect wind beneath my wings, forcing me to soar.

I’ve decided I want to blog more. Rather than just thinking about doing it, I’m starting right now.  I will be posting on this blog once a week for all of 2011 (whatever’s left of it!).

I know it won’t be easy, but it might be fun, inspiring, awesome and wonderful. Therefore I’m promising to make use of The DailyPost, and the community of other bloggers with similiar goals, to help me along the way, including asking for help when I need it and encouraging others when I can.

If you already read my blog, I hope you’ll encourage me with comments and likes, and good will along the way.
How to sign up: PostADay / PostAWeek.

Dove says Hello

If you are an Indiblogger member, this one’s for you. It helps if you are also a lady with lovely tresses or have a significant other who is a lady with lovely tresses. Actually, she needs to have damaged tresses so that Dove can fix it! Sorry, I digress.

Long story short, received an email from Indiblogger about an offer for a Dove hamper. All I had to do was go to the site and key in my address and voila, in five days the hamper was at my doorstep. For Mumbai folks there’s a meet too I think.

The awesome hamper was also filled with hundreds of tiny pearl-size golden styrofoam balls. They are currently floating all around the house and V is busy chasing down each of them, yelling “Baaall!”

So go click: http://www.indiblogger.in/dove-says-hello.php

Thank you Dove!

Flying Visit

Secretly I am looking forward to my trip tomorrow, even though my day will start at 4am and drag on till midnight. It will be my first post-V trip, leaving her in the safe hands of her father and grandparents. And of course big sister K. Am sure she will be asleep by the time I reach back home so technically I would not have left her “alone” overnight. A nice slap in the face to Momma’s guilt. :-)

So I am looking forward to being alone in the airport, maybe window shopping and sipping an over-priced latte. Then escaping into my iPad during the flight, watching my favourite shows and podcasts. Then actually eating my airline meal without a baby on my lap and one at the side stealing my sugar packets. (yes, I actually enjoy airline food – that is how much I long for this solitude).

I will physically be in another town. You know where my mind and heart will be. Wonder if V woke up and asked for me. Wonder if they had their fun weekend bath together yet. Wonder if they are going out with Daddy to the park. Wonder what I should buy for them.

I haven’t even boarded the flight and I miss them already! :-)