Should I, Shouldn’t I?

Buckle up! No one has to tell you, remind you to buckle up these days. I remember how traffic cops would be ever vigilant to challan anyone who didn’t bother to use their seat belt. Challan is the Hindi word used for traffic fines. You don’t buckle up, you pay a fine! Those were the days when buckling up became a traffic rule because no one cared to use the seat belts and the government was telling people to to use them, they were very controversial.

pic by senivpetro – http://www.freepik.com

Today, it isn’t necessary to remind anyone except, of course, if you’re driving with a kid. One doesn’t even have to specifically ‘think’ about it. It comes as a force of habit. I also recall how people grumbled about it. Found hundreds of flaws with it. Felt it was a money-making racket with the government in cahoots with businesses. However, all arguments and counter arguments were put to rest ages ago.

Then came the compulsory use of helmets.

Do we have to remind anyone driving a scooter or motorbike to wear a helmet? Not these days we don’t. Yet, when it became mandatory to wear a helmet, it met with equal resistance as the safety belt. People refused to wear it citing their own theories on how useless it was and the rant once again that the government was just helping businesses. They might have had a point there, but there was a ‘safety’ point to it as well.

I had a few relate to me how so and so died despite having a helmet strapped firmly on the head. They justified their objection to wearing a helmet this way. But check the stats, I’d say. How many were saved because of the helmet. Check how many died with the helmet on because the helmet wasn’t strapped on properly or not strapped at all. I had seen a number of people doing this… keeping their helmets on their heads but not strapping them so they could take them off on a stretch where they knew there were no cops nor checks. They did this to avoid being fined.

The women (in my country) were very worried about their hairdos. Especially those who made ‘jhooda’ (buns). Many women who had long hair rolled their hair into buns that were not on the nape of their neck but pinned higher. There were mutterings and grumbling and someone in the government decided women could drive without a helmet! I can understand the problem women with long hair have. And I also understand how some communities have religious restrictions on cutting their hair. But that is not an insurmountable problem for women. There are other ways to do one’s hair to accommodate the helmet.

This certainly brought up the question about safety. How did the government justify this? It made no sense to me. Were they inferring that women had harder nuts to crack?! If she were to ride a two wheeler, she was in equal danger of injuring herself fatally too. And it puzzled me why women were so happy with this decision.

Down the years, one saw many women using the helmet while driving. But it was their choice to do so. It wasn’t imposed on them. I have no clue how it is these days in my home country. I wonder if women are still exempt from wearing a helmet. I guess the traffic rules and regulations differ from state to state, so the situation would be different from state to state.

I wonder what the response would be if helmets for kids riding bicycles were to be imposed in my native place? I wasn’t used to seeing this in our day and during my stay back home. And I found it great that kids here must use a helmet while cycling. It made sense to me.

Everyone has a right to their opinion. But at times, it is important to think things over in the right perspective.

Nobody tells you to buckle up anymore. It isn’t necessary. Everyone just does it.

Now we are faced with the vaccination protests. The arguments continue pro and con. But no one is thinking about how and why the disease is spreading all over the world. There may be cases of vaccinated people getting infected, but like in the helmet and seatbelt issues, see how many aren’t getting infected. How many are not spreading it. And more importantly, how many unvaccinated people are spreading it. One person can infect quite a few directly who then infect more.

Why do we protest so much about things that are good for us now? We argue and fight about our rights. But as I see it, I have the right to my opinion, but I have no right to harm anyone through my actions and decisions. Unvaccinated, and roaming around town, I can catch the virus and bring it back home. I might have an elderly person or kids back home. Neighbors and friends, relations I meet. I would be infecting unsuspecting individuals. Apart from keeping myself safer than I was before, by getting vaccinated, I’d be also protecting my kids… my family.

As Spock said, “To deny the facts would be illogical.”

PS: These are just my thoughts as I see things. I’m just trying to understand the situation. If you don’t agree, that’s ok. Please don’t post any rude comments.

Lockdown Home Schooling

It’s been some time since the lockdown, and homeschooling is on in our home as it is in homes across the globe. With a WFH schedule for the adults, schooling three kids with ages ranging from 10+ to 3+, it’s quite a challenge. Add to that some activities to keep them engaged, entertained, engrossed, and not 24×7 on the iPad or iPhone (10+ girl), or watching TV!

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5-yr-old M did a great job in this fill-in-the-blanks test! She did it in a jiffy too! Now, she’s keen to move on to the table of 3.

Then, of course, there’s the looming threat of a hangry’ outburst. They need food to chew on (perpetually) before they bite off each other’s heads! So I dash to the kitchen, my head in a swirl. Peanut butter sandwich…as I spread the butter I re-run a passage I was working on…editing… “that part needs a rewrite”… “What could be a better word for…” I switch channels and get back to the food one… ok, a ham and marmalade one too…and what did Z want? And these are only the in-betweens, there’s lunch beeping, “what’s for lunch?” in another corner of my head!

Keeping their hunger pangs down with this, that, or the other something light they can snack on between meals, without losing their appetite for a proper meal is a daily challenge. There are days when I’m just a breath away from climbing the walls. I let off steam by deep breathing and muttering mantras (I’m doing good. I’ve got it under control. I can do it. I’m patient…) under my breath so they can’t hear, and I do the best I can. 

We’re all trying to do the best we can! These little ones must find it even harder to adjust to being locked in, away from friends, and school with its activities and community. This thought helps me to rein in the frustration and sail on even keel even in choppy waters. But I have my human frailties and limitations too. So I need to accept and acknowledge my feelings of inadequacy that overcome me, at times, and the fatigue, both mental and physical.

I love having the kids around. I am closer to them and am a part of their life more than ever now. We share so much more… conversations, jokes, games, and camaraderie! And I do love doing their lessons with them and teaching them some new things too.

This brings me to the subject of this post… Math… the bane of my life 🙂

I’ve been getting 5 yr-old M to do single-digit addition sums and made a small step into single-digit subtraction. She’s learned her two tables and can max her revision tests: oral and written. Just the other day, I gave her a written test with blanks and she did very well: All correct answers!

As I watched her excited and loving her numbers; sums, tables, and tests, I thought of a 6-7-yr-old me and how I disliked arithmetic. And how tables tripped me up when I was quizzed in an oral test! As she rattled out her answers in her oral test, I compared it to the picture of me and my orals in the same two-three tables. It was funny and I found myself laughing. It was such a contrast in every way – the teachers (me Vs my mum), the students (me Vs M), and the love of the subject (me Vs M).

A foray into my journals threw up this short entry:

Two times Nine is…..umm…is…er…

I think I should add a few incidents with Mummy. Daddy’s been hogging all the space till now. Not that there’s much that transpired with her and me together…..I was always a Daddy’s girl…a tomboy. Anyway, Mummy was (as all mummies were in their homes) my teacher at home. Very bad really, for me, when it came to Arithmetic because she was short on patience and I was short on memory, especially when it came to multiplication Tables. By the end of an interminably long study hour, I’d manage to finally get through one Table and escape.

Oh yes! Escape it was. For my face, which would be burning with the tight slaps she’d land so precisely on my small cheeks, and the small palms that got whacked with a ruler, or my legs that got thwacked with a ladle or whatever was in her hands. Getting away was the greatest relief of the day.

Poor thing, she must have been relieved too! When I think back to the almost stupid way I’d stare at her, while I stumbled and hemmed and hawed my way through the same old Table day after day, my heart goes out to her…..any one would go crazy. So I had to find a method to remember my Multiplication Tables and avoid being slapped. And what a way I devised!!

I’d generally wait till she was in the kitchen instructing the cook and doing odds and ends. I would stand against the door jamb, in the pantry, and my elder brother would stand behind me hidden from her view. Then I’d very quickly and very loudly say the whole Table and hey, without a mistake! Jasper’s prompting got me a lot of praise and shorter study hours, till the day she decided to quiz me. My prompter failed me. Ah! It was back to the grind and a good slapathon and copious tears.

I couldn’t get why she got so impatient and exasperated. She, I guess, couldn’t understand why her bright daughter, good in all other subjects, cultural activities, sports, and discipline was so daft with numbers.

The slapping didn’t last long, though. I sobbed my heart out sitting on Daddy’s lap and convinced him that I was scared of her punishments and so I couldn’t remember anything. He must have spoken to her. She must have understood or found it a huge relief that she was off the hook if I didn’t fare well in the exam 🙂 Whatever, the punishment went back to a longer study hour or Time Out. Grounded. No playing outside with my friends or even my brother. I didn’t mind that because my brother and I found enough of recreation and fun things to do inside the house too.

My grandkids, four of them from 5-10-year-old, are good with numbers… brilliant, in fact! For some reason, that makes me happy!

PS: I still dislike Math! And I’m totally against slapping!

PPS: Just for the record:

1. Mummy was an awesome teacher in everything else. I’ve learned a lot from her. Her love of writing poems, rhymes instilled a love for words and writing. Her expertise in cooking. Her energy and spirit in tough times. Her resourcefulness. Her talent in singing (she sang alto), sewing, and embroidery. Her jovial nature and the laughter that always hovered behind her lips. Her helpful nature. There was so much I had to take away from her to build up my strengths. Her presence, in the house, meant a lot to me.

2. It was not considered as abuse, in India, in those days, to slap a kid and corporal punishment was allowed in schools too. And many kids, even girls, must have got a slap or two or three or more from their moms. Luckily, things have changed since our days.

 

Picnics in the car or in the trunk!

We get rare occasions to drive out with the kids and let them release a lot of pent up energy plus fill up on fresh air, and get some reprieve for ourselves before we burst a blood vessel! So last weekend, we had to pick up some essentials from Sussex that weren’t available in our city. The forthcoming drive coincided with a pleasant, sunny day, so we decided that the family could go along. It would be a long drive through beautiful scenery on either side of the highway. 

It sure was a relaxing drive over wide, uncrowded, and partly undulating roads. We could keep the windows partially open to let in the fresh, cool breeze and no one felt sick. Thankfully. There are two of us who have motion sickness. We were driving too fast for me to take pics along the highway. Neither could we stop en route for me to snap any memories. So I missed that bit. 

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We picked up what we needed and then decided to eat lunch. So we picked up food from the drive-thru at Tims and McDonalds; found ourselves a spot in the parking, and had a picnic in the car. There were these pretty picnic tables and benches right there but using them was out of the question. The three girls were super thrilled with this new spate of picnics in the car. 

And then, it was time to get back.

We settled down. Seat belts checked for the kids. All fine. Let’s go.

The car wouldn’t start. The battery was down. Shoot!

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It was early evening still. A search for help got us a guy who said he’d come down and boost the battery. The three young ones were the only ones thrilled about the stuck situation. They decided to play treasure Hunt (of all things) inside the car. Well, they managed to do a good job of hiding stuff and locating them. My woolen cap, pockets, handbag, nooks and crannies in the car… wherever they could hide an LOL, or a lil troll toy person, they hid it. If we were worried about how to keep them entertained, we needn’t have bothered.

Relief!

The man arrived in thirty minutes, and in less than five got the car going! We were back on the highway with three happy and spent girls. They were quiet (relief again!) and whatever small talk was made was little and low. They hummed and sang a bit with the radio, then the younger two dozed off.

Picnic in the trunk 

Before I started on this one, I wondered what to say – trunk, boot, or dickey. What I would be referring to happens to be called by different names in English in different countries. It would be a ‘trunk’ in North America; a ‘boot’ in England; and a ‘dickey’ in India. North America won the toss, so trunk it is.

The weekend before our Sussex drive, we had a fine evening at the nature trail park. This time, since it was planned, we had packed sandwiches and chips and picked up tea from Tims. Here, in the wide, open spaces, the girls could get out of the car and stretch their legs. They were not expecting a picnic so were very glad we had packed one.

It was cold with a chill breeze blowing. The sunshine was intermittent with large clouds obscuring the sun. Their father laid out some covers in the trunk and the three scrambled in with a lot of excitement. A picnic in the trunk was a new one for them. 

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I sipped my tea leaning against the car and watched the gulls sauntering about totally unafraid and unconcerned with the five unobtrusive humans. Or perhaps they didn’t hover above and around us because we weren’t feeding them! Then, one of them came gliding down, wings outstretched and landed a few feet away. It drew my attention as soon as it touched down.

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It landed on one wheel.. that translates to leg! Oh, dear! Whatever happened to its other leg, I wondered aloud. “They stand on one leg like cranes,” said my son nonchalantly. “No”, they don’t. Or do they? I haven’t seen any standing on one leg!” I was curious. 

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I sipped my tea and kept my eye on the one-legged gull. Just when I was sure it’s leg must have got tangled in something and broken off or worse it must have been bitten off by some predatory creature, it put down its other leg briefly, not quite putting it flat to hold the weight of its body. It swayed a bit. A minute or less and the leg went up again. It didn’t come down for the next fifteen minutes. My watch had provided me with an answer; it was injured. “I hope your leg gets well gull!”

We go out occasionally where we can get fresh air and maintain social distance too. But it’s not the same as before. We are forever alert and careful… no touching anything that’s around… no benches, railings, even tree trunks or leaves, and flowers. Not even the grass. Making sure to keep hands off our faces. Do we succeed all the time? No! Sometimes, by force of habit, unknowingly we touch the eyes, or cheek or… only to jump to alertness and wonder, if our hands had touched something it shouldn’t have before. There are these moments that lead to a small prayer.

It appears that we are slowly but surely getting into the groove of living with restrictions of a different kind. Of fears of a different kind. Of anxieties of a different kind. When will things go back to the normal we knew? Or is this going to be the new normal? To be honest, I am not going bonkers thinking about it. I have settled into a routine, more or less, and the WFH situation is not new for me. If there is one thing that I am concerned about and pray for, it is that we are well and safe. That is my prayer for the world too!

I hope, when this difficult time has passed, I can look back on these memories with joy and thank God for bringing us through it safe and sound.

When Normal Changes

My notes on Good Friday!

A lot has changed since Good Friday 2019 and today.

The kind of change we have never experienced before.

No church services, and it’s been that way for a long time.

No Holy Communion,

no church community gatherings for coffee after the service on Sundays!

A big part of our weekend routine and custom has been changed by a virus.

A virus that has descended on us out of the blue and struck us with fear, anxiety, and dread.

But, it has also opened our eyes to many things and set us thinking.

Introspecting on our past, our deeds, and greed as a human race;

our failings and our disregard for better sense and judgment. 

We turned away from God, and now we return to His mercy seat and beg for His grace and mercy.

My prayer for all – May God’s blessings be upon us and save us.

TTSP (this too shall pass).

May we come out of this wiser, humbler, kinder, more generous, and more considerate of others, and the earth.

Life is a gift. We cannot take it for granted.

The only similarity that day was… snow!

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The only similarity, of sorts, between Good Friday last year and this year:

We were heavily snowed under last year.  And this year, it snowed too, but unlike the previous year, it was a light snowfall. 

Thursday night, I was surprised to see it snowing when I peeked out the window.

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It didn’t appear heavy and I expected it to end before morning.

But it didn’t.

It was snowing in the morning too!

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The feeling of Spring; the grass beginning to turn green again, the weather warming up, has taken a step back.

It looked more like winter than Spring. 

I felt the cold, dark gloom of a Good Friday, ages ago.

The lockdown and social distancing irked more than it does daily and exacerbated the pall of gloom that had descended on me.

But hope springs, ever renewed.

Holy Saturday brought out the sun.

And then…

Easter dawned! Bright and beautiful.

Hallelujah!

The churches are empty, but so is the tomb!

I rest my hopes and prayers on Him,

who defeated death.

Did I lose My Identity?

Many years back, around 1987-88, I realized, I was better known as Viny’s mom, around the neighborhood we had moved to in Udaipur, Rajasthan. Later on, at the school where I taught and in which both my kids studied, I was addressed as “Joy Ma’am” in class but identified as Ranjit and Vineet’s mother. I found it amusing and people often commented on how I had lost my identity to my two little rascals!

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It was all in good humor and taken as such. But, in later years, it ceased to be a humorous comment. Losing one’s identity when one got married etc. etc. became an ego issue and people assertively professed – “I have my own identity.” “I am ME.” 

I didn’t quite get how a humorous quip like that became a serious issue. Even if someone had meant it seriously, it wouldn’t have bothered me a bit. 

Putting this into a simple, everyday situation, I believe each family and home rejoices in the worthy achievements of its children because they do contribute to them in many ways. Yes, I feel blessed, proud, grateful, and honored to be known as R & V’s mom. And I am further blessed to be known as this one’s grandmother or that one’s grandmother; that’s who I am to five lovely children.

So, years later, when someone said that I had now lost my identity to my grandkids, I wasn’t surprised. She went on to lament about how women had to lose their “identity” but men continued to be who they are. I didn’t bother to contradict her and let her be happy in her misery.

I don’t lose my identity if people recognize me as someone’s mother or grandmother or daughter just as a tree doesn’t lose its identity if it doesn’t bear fruit. Good fruit or bad, little fruit or an abundance… It owns its identity even though it may not be recognized by some.

I belong to the people I love, and they belong to me — they, and the love and loyalty I give them form my identity far more than any word or group ever could.~Veronica Roth

A changed surname didn’t rob me of my identity… of who I was. My inherent qualities, values remained. I didn’t become a stranger to myself. I was who I was before the name changed or the kids were born. The changes that came in added new roles and relationships; it taught me new things and helped me develop and grow in practical knowledge and in wisdom. Through it all, I was the same person; I didn’t lose ‘me’.

As a family, we connect to each other with love and bonding. How I conducted my relationship in this fold, in relation to the others, and my own values and beliefs formed my identity. This stretched to form my identity in my extended family; my husband’s family. But I didn’t lose my identity at all.

So, when I got married changing my surname didn’t present any issue at all. I didn’t feel isolated or cut off from my parents and roots, or different in my skin or have personality changes just because I had a new surname. 

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.”

The other, the reverse of losing one’s identity, was gaining an illogical one! At our time, people discredited parents whose kids turned out as rotten apples. One cannot generalize these things. Worthy parents have unworthy children and vice versa. Most of us know someone or the other who are outstanding human beings in every way, but whose kid turns out just the opposite. And the other way round too.

I do not accept that one’s identity or worthiness, for that matter, is established only by the quality of one’s offspring or the other way round. And as for identity, I am someone’s daughter, wife, mother, sister, daughter-in-law, and grandma. I am all those even as I am my unique self. Each role I play has a unique part of me.

My identity is embellished by such references and it endorses the fact that our tree has grown and branched out, reaching for The Light; the most important and magical thing a tree needs to nurture and enrich its roots and fruit. I am blessed abundantly and may you also be gladdened when you “lose” your identity to your children!

 

 

The Passing Years

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“As the Wheel of Time turns, places wear many names. Men wear many names, many faces. Different faces but always the same man. Yet no one knows the Great Pattern the Wheel weaves or even the Pattern of an Age. We can only watch, and study, and hope.”~Robert Jordan

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Christmas and New Year are the only two major events that spell #festivity to me, besides birthdays, of course. I await these two with great anticipation and joy. As the old year gives way to the new, I record my feelings and experiences of the past year and my #hopes and #aspirations for the new. They were almost the same; the same vein with a bit of variation or degrees of reactions or responses to life’s vagaries. The incoming new ‘decade’, however, brought in an absolutely unexpected, strange feeling.

The build-up to Christmas was like to any weekend – a holiday, yea! And it remained so through the run-up to New year and the start of a new decade. In fact, I went to bed at 10.30 p.m on New Year’s eve. That’s something I’d never do earlier. I’d be waiting excitedly to ring out the old and ring in the new. Then I’d wish everyone a wonderful year before falling into bed an hour or two later!

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“The lives of all people flow through time, and, regardless of how brutal one moment might be, how filled with grief or pain or fear, time flows through all lives equally.”~Orson Scott Card

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Not this time. I was drowsy and had to fight to keep my eyes open. So I flopped into bed. 

I was surprised by my lack of enthusiasm for Christmas too. I had to manufacture my happiness as an actor would slip into character or a called for emotion on stage. #Christmas is my most loved time of the year, and I was sad that I was numb to it inside of me. I went through the motions as required on cue.

I was numb to the celebrations, not in my spirit and worship. My prayer life remained steadfast and strong. My hope and trust in the Lord were firm. I was numb to social festivities. The shopping lacked the usual festive fever, something very not me. I am super elated when I shop on any day; it could be for anything and any time of the year.

I wondered if the changes in my situation were the reason. But I’ve had a major tragedy strike, faced major issues and changes in life, and still not lost the spirit of Christmas celebration. Why now? I found an old post from New Year Eve 2012 when I was uprooted from where I had lived since my birth. And I found the true ‘me’ still kicking and strong.

“Have I died?” I asked myself. 

No. not yet! I’m just tired. Very tired. I’m down but not dead.

#immovingon

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“She knew that this day, this feeling couldn’t last forever. Everything passed; that was partly why it was so beautiful. Things would get difficult again. But that was okay too.

The bravery was in moving forward, no matter what.”~Lauren Oliver

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Here’s a part of the post which gives a glimpse of a New Year past before life as I knew it was about to change.

“Unlike previous years, this year did not see me with regrets or longings for what could have been but wasn’t; where I could have gone but didn’t; what I should have done or could have done but gave up a step too soon. I surprised myself a bit, honestly, by the new perspective and the calmness I had as the year softly and silently slipped into my grateful, content, and not-so-perfect life. I was in a place of imperfection with peace, acceptance, happiness, and faith; and this made things good.

No one but God is perfect and in our journey towards that perfect love and light, we learn to appreciate more, to find peace in tumultuous times, to develop better attitudes toward ourselves, and the people we come in contact with. We begin to accept whatever comes our way… the good and the bad… with forbearance and hope.

It all sounds like a dreamer’s utopian musings, doesn’t it? I assure you, it isn’t. This is a seeker’s account of her experience. There is pain, there are disappointments; tears; loneliness; anger; frustration; regrets and all the lows that are a part of life. But once you begin to look through the eyes of steadfast faith, hope, and trust that “this too shall pass,” the cross is lighter. I believe that God is watching out for me and mine. And as we make progress toward our goals, slipping, sliding, falling, He walks along – lifting, carrying, prodding us. I cast my cares on Him and He takes the burden off. So, though my cross is heavy sometimes, the burden is light. My heart is lighter. My mind is less prone to worry, and I can be grateful and enjoy my life even when the chips are down. That’s how I walk into 2013!

The New year is a harbinger of new beginnings. Beginnings in new places; new faces; changed climate and weather patterns; with Christmas in Summer and a Winter birthday in the month of May! New language, different food, and flavors, with new inclusions in my diet. Making new friends. Building a new social circle at this stage, learning conversion of a new currency against a rupee (though I know it is not advisable to compare rates of another currency against the rupee, it’s depressing!), but old habits die hard, and that’s the truth in this respect at least!!

But I raise a toast to new beginnings, to life and its vagaries. Cheers!”

With this, I send out good wishes to all my blog members and hope you have a good year! #2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Ruled The Skies

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Daddy was a great kite flyer. His passion for kites was so strong that to tell him to fly a readymade kite was akin to blasphemy. So as soon as #kite-flying #season would come around, there would be rolls of ‘manjha’ string, a couple of ‘phirkis,’ supple bamboo sticks, which he’d cut finer to make the frame of the kite. There’d be sheets of glazed paper (or china paper as some would call it because Chinese lanterns were made out of it) lying around the house. He would ask Mummy to make a pot of ‘layee’ (an adhesive made by cooking refined flour). Daddy didn’t believe in using the prepared glue available in the markets!

There would also be pieces of glass, which he would very strictly forbid us from even looking at forget touching it! These had to be ground and powdered and then, the manjha would be coated with it, making it lethal, literally.

Now, the entire process of making kites for the season would begin. What made it so exciting was the involvement of imagination… no ordinary kites for us. 

“Aur phir, Chakotri,” he’d address me, smiling delightedly, “what kind of kite do you want?”

The question would go to my brother too.

But my brother was more thoughtful about the kind of flying object he desired. Obviously, he was taking in other “technical aspects.” I’d let my imagination fly. I think I must have made some very impossible demands, in fact, I’m sure I did, but none would be brushed aside with a flat, “NO.” Daddy would work around my original design, changing it a bit here a bit there, giving me reasons how it would be a better kite with a little this here and little that taken off there. So he’d keep me happy believing that the design was mine and also produce something that would take off. Something that was nothing like what I had asked for!

The manjha was the most difficult part. I can’t recall the exact process but I know the glass would be powdered very fine. A difficult task and the male domestic help would be requisitioned for this, much to Mummy’s annoyance, because the only male help was also her kitchen helping hand. To get back to the manjha, the string would be dipped in some sort of gooey stuff and drawn through the powdered glass. This needed space so it was done in the backyard which was very big.

But, I’m drawing out this narration too much. Let’s come to the day we became the rulers of the sky.

So it goes that one day, my brother and I decided that our ‘pecha’ wins were not very impressive. Our kite flying sorties weren’t notching up as many kills as we wanted. So I went to Daddy with our laments. He listened patiently. If I had his ears, initially, now I had his total commitment to helping us to win the ‘pecha’ war!

“Abhi dikhate hain unko patang kya cheez hai. Arre, I’ll make you such a kite that they’ll run with their tail between their legs.”

Thus was fashioned a kite that was taller than I was, so it would’ve been over four feet. A lot of thought went into the dynamics of this monster. It looked like one to me. Then the question of manjha was raised by my brother and Daddy agreed that we needed string much stronger but not too heavy either.

Now don’t ask me what he did to get the right manjha, I don’t remember anything about that. I wasn’t included in the procuring or making of the string that would fly our champion kite. All I can recall with absolute detail and delight, even to this day, is the pride I felt as the kite soared majestically into the sky.

The first day we took it for its maiden launch, Daddy had in true ‘Daddy’ nature made it a picnic. He got Mummy to pack the picnic basket. In those days, I doubt if there was any home without the #wicker #picnic #basket. Our destination, a twelve-minute walk from home, was a small hillock. My job was to lug the picnic basket which, given my diminutive size, was big for me. Not one to complain, I managed to keep it an inch above the ground.

And then, I waited with bated breath for the take-off.

Smooth! 

It climbed against the wind like a dream.

As it made its way upward and onward, Daddy brought it into combat with every kite in ‘pechable’ distance. Annihilation was swift and sure. Our granddaddy of all kites dominated the blue expanse as it held steady, a tiny speck in the sky.

By the third day, word had spread and the regulars who flew their kites in this spot vanished, kite et al, as soon as they saw us coming up the hill with our giant. After the initial egoistic boost, I felt a bit deflated as we watched our kite do a drunken swoon as it sailed unchallenged and uninterrupted. It wasn’t fun.

We had taken away the fun from the entire activity. What should have been pure enjoyment and fun and games had turned into a battle of supremacy. Of course, I couldn’t elucidate all this, but I did comment on it.

“They’ve all gone away,” I said quietly. They’re scared of us,” I added with undisguised disappointment.

“Yes, daud gaye sare. Your kite is the king.”

Daddy had failed to notice that I wasn’t quite pleased with this dubious entitlement.

“But it’s not so nice without any other kites. It was so much fun on the first day,” I insisted in an effort to make my point. No one sensed how I was feeling. They were too elated with the momentary thrill of being the rulers of that small patch of blue. 

I had learned a lesson.

Later on, the realization would imprint on my mind that there is a fine line between healthy and unhealthy competition, and we must remember never to cross this boundary. Ever since then,  I have gauged the level of competition to set my standards and then I’ve competed with myself alone. In the bargain, if I outdid the others, it would be a bonus for me! If I didn’t, I knew I had to work on the weak areas and up my efforts. It was always a win-win situation. I either added to my wins and grew or I added to my learning experience and grew! I kept moving forward.

 

A bit of information about the practice of Kite Flying in India.

1. People fly kites on Makar Sankranti. This festival is dedicated to the Sun God, Surya and is celebrated by Hindus.

It is also celebrated to welcome Spring. Among many traditions and practices involved in the celebrations, flying kites is one of them. It is not clear why kite flying has become an integral part of the festivities.

2.Political…The first time kites were used in a protest was during the ‘GO BACK SIMON’ protest against the Simon Commission in 1927. The words ‘Go Back Simon’ were written on the kites which were then flown in the sky by the protestors. This could have possibly led to the practice of flying kites on 15th August, Independence Day, every year.

Kites are flown at Red Fort in old Delhi. This is where Jawaharlal Nehru hoisted the Indian national flag of Independent India, in 1947, and the tradition continues even today to commemorate it.

Lately, this tradition of kite flying on Independence Day, in India, has begun at India Gate too. Perhaps the activity has more to do with enjoying the holiday and adding fun to being outdoors. Many kites flown on the 15th of August, these days, do evoke the feeling of patriotism as they carry the tricolor of the national flag.

Since kite flying takes place as serious challenges too, apart from fun and frolic, PETA has been active in asking people to use safer string for their kites. I do agree with the use of a safe cotton string instead of the manjha.

PETA’s request: PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) has put in a serious request for kite flyers to stop using manjha which has finely crushed glass over it. this is dangerous for birds when they get entangled in the bit of manjha that are scattered when a kite gets cut and falls out of range or reach of the retrievers. It could even injure people seriously, especially unwary especially children.

 

 

 Glossary:

Manjha…the twine used to fly the kite. In those days it was reinforced string.

Phirkia kind of spool on which the twine is wrapped. It has elongated handles on either side which rest between the thumbs and forefingers.

Aur phir ChakotriWhat now Chakotri (Chakotri was one of the nicknames he used for me)

Pechathe act of engaging and cutting free an opponent’s kite 

Abhi dikhate hain unko patang kya cheez hoti haiWe’ll show them right now what a kite really is.

Daud gaye sareThey’ve all run away.

Pechable…a combination of ‘pecha’ and ‘able’. Coined by me to mean within striking distance in kite combat!

 

Forty-five Minutes Make An Hour

Being a grandma is great, but at times, it gives you flashbacks just when you’re trying to explain how important Mathematics is to your young grandkids!

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“Some advice: Keep the flame of curiosity and wonderment alive, even when studying for boring exams. That is the well from where we scientists draw our nourishment and energy. And also, learn the math. Math is the language of nature, so we have to learn this language.” ~Michio Kaku

As a child, growing up in Cochin (now known as Kochi), I was introduced to numbers in Lower KG and got to know them better in Upper KG. It wasn’t so bad. I didn’t mind them but I liked the alphabet better. Then came Class 1 or Grade 1, as it is called these days. Now I was introduced to single-digit addition sums! Cool! I had ten fingers to count on and it was fun though it would get tricky when the total ran beyond the digits I had on my hands! That’s when it got my goat!

If I found that exasperating, Class 2 taught me something more… double digit addition and single-digit subtraction and Multiplication Tables! We were introduced to number 1 & number 2 tables. I thought it was a breeze when I was on the 1 table. With the number 2 table, I struggled a bit but got the hang of it. It was easy while writing, “Simple, add two to the previous answer”, said my bro. Just when I thought I was a whiz at it, they started the oral test at the end of the term; we were quizzed in the oral tests in the class!

I thought the teachers were cruel. My mother thought I was being stupid because she feared I’d lose marks and my rank with my low arithmetic scores in the final examination.

 

So, after HW (homework), I’d have to revise arithmetic. This meant, my brother would go out to play an hour before I did. Not fair! The best part is, after a day or two, he felt bad about it too.

Study time was usually an hour for both of us, my brother and me, except when I had to revise Arithmetic. Then it would extend to an hour more.

We were never supervised. You see, we were Christian children and so my mother expected us to be “obedient and good.” Well, I must mention that we were obedient and good kids. I must also reiterate, we were just kids too, minus the adjectives!

There were days when math was too tough to tackle and the games the kids were playing outside a lot more fun. So the devil on my shoulder would start whispering in my ear… and hey presto! the hour would have only forty-five minutes.

 

Now, I didn’t know how to read the time on the clock beyond the hours because minutes and seconds confused me, but my brother could tell the time. So, I’d use all my kid sister wiles, emotional blackmail et al, and get him to put the clock ahead. Of course, I’d want it bucking ahead by a bigger margin but he warned me that it would be obvious.

It was all I could do to keep a straight face when mummy would re-set the time on the clock and grumble about it running ahead and rant at the poor quality of things.

All this was fun until I grew up and lost precious percentage on marks due to poor grades in Mathematics. If only I had put myself to it more seriously at the start; if only folks had been more patient with my Math problems; if only I hadn’t put the clock ahead. So many ifs and buts. So much regret.

I was good with my Math scores in the primary classes, then on, it became difficult and the Math teachers were extra strict, short on patience, and quick with punishments; even corporal punishments were permitted!

Although, I was never punished, I was scared to death when anyone got it. This made it not only difficult for me to learn the subject but it also served to heighten my hatred for it. I scraped through my exams but my low scores brought down my overall grades and percentage. Needless to say what it did to my rank! Mummy had been right.

From being a contender for the first three ranks in class, I was sliding down to the 7th or 8th, and then to the 10th. It didn’t matter that we had over forty children in the class, I had lost my position. Mummy was not at all happy and told me so in as many words. This was a big blow to my self-esteem as ranks mattered a lot in our day. Mummy would berate me and I would rather show my report card to Daddy than her.

If I kept myself going, it was only because of Daddy. I couldn’t drop Math. 

It was a compulsory subject up to grade 9. I could drop it in the next grade. For that, I had to pass this subject, or repeat the same class… no promotion to grade 10. He said my rank didn’t matter. What would matter was if I didn’t try. If I gave up. I assured him I wasn’t going to. Giving up wasn’t an option for me. Mathematics was never my subject anyway and I wanted to get rid of it even more now. That fueled my #determination!

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I studied #Mathematics, right up to the pre-secondary level (Class 9) when I had to pass Mathematics, i.e. Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry, and Trigonometry in a Board Exam! Well, I flunked in two and had to appear for Math again if I wanted to go ahead. Thankfully I got through. But I disliked the subject even more.

Then, I had reached the secondary classes and could select my subjects… three electives plus two compulsory languages. Mathematics was not one of my elected subjects. What a relief!

Needless to say, I still need my fingers to count beyond a certain number! Ok, that’s an exaggeration. But I am awful at math and anything technical. And that’s not funny but it’s ok!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Chair and I

“Our ‘convenience culture’ translates into too-available entertainment options, fast food, sedentary transportation, and the like. The fact is, if you want to eat right and live a healthy lifestyle, you have to work at it.”~Bruce Broussard

I’m reminded of one of those rather cheesy riddles/questions we used to throw around for fun as teenagers. It went this way:

Q. What did one chair say to the other?

A. Yonder comes another bum!”

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Fast forward to the present. When one chair says to the other, “Yonder comes another bum,” you better take it literally! We are on our derrieres more often these days and for longer periods. Kudos to the health freaks that jog, run, walk, swim, and go gymming regularly, but though they are in greater numbers today than a decade ago, they are still a minority.

I was just “another bum” until seven years back. I was so #sedentary that I could grow roots, branches, moss and all, together. Yes, I grew, you know, I grew, and grew, like Alice but unlike her, I grew horizontally and found that it wasn’t only the mirror that was getting smaller; so were my clothes, and a few arm-chairs too.

I had reached this stage because of a deficiency that affected my bones and caused severe lumbar and cervical disc problems. The wrong diagnosis and the wrong treatment made it worse. My mother had suffered from it, and she was bedridden for a long time until she died. I expected to go down the same way.

Every time I decided to exercise or go out for a #walk, the pain in my bones sent me back to the chair. What I needed was a stronger will and the conviction that exercises (certain ones) would help me immensely. I had to believe that; bear the pain, and start with ‘baby steps’ literally. But skeptic me would not budge.

“What if you can’t do what you once did, like run and jump up and down? You can walk, which is also good for your mind and mental attitude. You can do simpler exercises, like getting up and down from a chair without using your hands. You can stay fairly flexible. The most important thing is to not become sedentary.”~Richard Simmons

The stronger the doubts became, the more beached I got… a beached whale! The doctor persisted tirelessly in goading me to lift myself out of defeat, depression, and that chair. Nothing worked. As fate would have it, a shift to Chile brought about the much-needed push. It took an #earthquake (literally!) to rock the chair I had permanently lodged myself in. Read about it here: 

 This was a really massive earthquake 

Measuring 8.8 on the Richter scale, it rocked and rolled not just the city but my life as well. We had to evacuate and we were on the 6th level; there were a lot of stairs to go down and out of the building. Then the walk to a safer place. I could barely walk. This spoke to me.

The doc had said that I could “walk” myself out of a bad situation if I tried. So if I could pull myself out of that chair, I should go for it… I should, at the least, try it both physically and mentally too!

Finally, reality had hit hard and I got up and walked out of that chair in my head. It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t a quick fix. It took a long time, a very long time and some more tremors and earthquakes before I started with 5-7 steps which would take more minutes than the steps I took. That was as much as my initial ‘walks’ were.

But this time around, I gritted my teeth; I bore the pain, pushed myself, and was encouraged by the extra step or steps I would take from day to day… one laborious step at a time. Finally, the day came when I was counting a thousand steps! It is hard to explain the elation. The “I did it!” jubilation.

“When you stimulate your body, your brains come alive in ways you can’t stimulate in a sedentary position.”~Twyla Tharp

Today, I’m addicted to my daily walks. I count my steps and clock my time; I’m counting my steps to a healthier me. I’ve realized the importance of doing my physio exercises, as the Ortho advised, and I’ve seen the huge benefits. Exercises and my walks in the fresh outdoors have added benefits of de-stressing the mind, stimulating the digestive system, and giving me a ‘feel good’ feeling within. And I’m the better for it.

The chair and I are still friends, however, I would like to spend less time in it, but alas! My work demands that I sit on a chair in front of a laptop for hours on weekdays. That being said, I’m less of a “bum” and it has stopped being my #crutch.

“Health is wealth” is an old adage. I didn’t realize the literal, hard truth behind it until I lost health and with it a lot of wealth. I see many young people at the Orthopedic’s with lumbar, cervical problems. Modern life has made us sedentary and that’s a mild way of putting it. In truth, comparatively speaking, it has made us want everything to be easy, quick and readily available. In the bargain, we’re becoming lazy and unhealthy. Everything is instant gratification… we want easy and fast.

“Barry L. Jacobs and colleagues from the neuroscience program at Princeton University showed that when mice ran every day on an exercise wheel, they developed more brain cells and they learned faster than sedentary controls. I believe in mice.”~Bernd Heinrich

If due to various reasons, running is not possible and highly unadvisable, as for me, the next best thing is walking! The main point is to do some form of exercise.

Fitness and Food

The other important thing is diet. This cannot be emphasized enough.

How does this combo tie-in with staying healthier? Well, both; what you eat and how you exercise are important in the larger picture. Just exercising without eating a healthy, balanced diet according to your needs, would not do much. And it applies vice versa too! I have benefitted more by following a restricted diet that is suited to my condition in tandem with recommended exercises.

However… the times they are a-changing.

There was a time when food meant fresh food cooked daily. Most people, I’ve met and spoken to, eat pre-cooked food bought at the super-stores, or canned stuff. They justify this by saying that they don’t have the time or that they don’t like to cook or anything that lets them off the cooking routine. The day has the same twenty-four hours for everyone, but time management is not the same for everyone… that’s got to be learned along with organization, which helps immensely.

“Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.”~Jim Rohn

I’m not just saying that because it’s the thing to say. I’ve done it, with two jobs going. As a single, working mom, with no one to whom I could delegate jobs, it was tough but possible. However, if I didn’t manage my time and didn’t #organize things at home, it would have become impossible. I could even do fast and easy meals without compromising on fresh, healthy, and delicious meals, three times a day, with the other domestic tasks done in time.

How?

With time management & Organization.

I kept things simple. I had a simple, manageable, to-do plan for everything (even menus!). I divided them into holidays and weekend to-dos and weekday ones. This made it manageable and sustainable for a long period. It meant I could manage my time better, and it brought in routine. Though my weekdays were hectic with no time to indulge in any activity that sounded like “hobby” or “leisure,” it left enough time at the weekends; to relax and enjoy meeting friends and family or just sitting and reading or watching my fav shows.

The other thing is – Food – daily diet – cooking it!

Home-cooked Meals

“Cooking and baking is both physical and mental therapy.” ~Mary Berry

Balanced diets, freshly cooked home food and exercise involve time and work. So, if ever you don’t get time to exercise, a day or two, your work in the kitchen will stand in fine. Better than no exercise at all! But don’t make it a habit… nothing can substitute a good walk. 

Everyone has 24 hours in their day. How you use those hours and how much you accomplish depends on how you plan your schedule, both, work (if you are a working woman) and your home chores. That means #discipline is important. You can draw up N-number of schedules and plans, but if you do not keep to it, it’s a sheer waste of time.

“Don’t we do enough work at our desks and don’t we deserve ‘easy and fast’, especially at home?”

Yes, you do work hard. Yes, you do deserve rest but would you want it even if it means compromises? I guess you’ll make the right choice here. 

If your answer to that is “no compromise on exercise and fresh-cooked home meals,” you’re a part of the moving-toward-a-healthier-life minority, Yay!

But if it is a “Yes”…Hmm… can’t blame the chair for its #sarcastic #humor! 

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Happily, Everafter is a Choice

“Tell your children some good family stories, and you’ll be remembered for generations. Be the story, and you will live forever.”~Joy Clarkson

I trawled through my memories for stories, incidents, and anecdotes I could add to my collection of ‘paans’ and ‘giloris’ (tidbits) for my ‘#khaandaan ka paandaan, (the family cache of differently flavored ‘paans’), and as I did, I wondered about my need to recount little snippets and snapshots of our family life. I believe it is very important to know, if not all, then, most of the people (nuts too!) of one’s family tree.

But what’s more important to know is how they lived, and what ingredients were stirred into their lives that produced characters and lives so varied and diverse that one wouldn’t even know they were related if the family tree didn’t join them. It also helps to know which ancestor to blame for all the quirks you have!

I enjoyed listening to the yarns about my parents and older siblings. I also learned a few things; some ‘what to do’ things and some ‘what not to do’, and a bit of ‘left to do’ stuff. So was this the reason why I was going down the tunnel to the past? I mulled a while, and the outcome was the quote which opens this chapter!

Once again, I go back to where my story starts, with my mother and father.

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The Royal Indian Navy and the WRINS

“A great #marriage is not when the ‘perfect couple’ come together. It is when an imperfect couple learns to enjoy their differences.”~Dave Meurer

Daddy decided to join the Navy as a sailor to fight the war – WWII. He was only seventeen when he made this momentous decision, but more on that later. The British were ruling India so the Naval Force in India was called the Royal Indian Navy. The women’s division was known as the Women’s Royal Indian Navy Services, and the recruits to this wing were referred to as WRINS.

Having earned his commission in the UK, Daddy returned to India. He was in the signals division, posted at Bombay, now known as Mumbai. He bossed over some WRINS who were stenographers and made up his department. My story revolves around only this group in his office because it is important to the development of this narrative.

Daddy was a youth from rural Punjab, with an excellent physique and handsome face. Tall and dark, he fitted the bill to be a Barbara Cartland hero… “tall, dark, and handsome.” Needless to say, he was much sought after by women, including those in his office. He was quite aware of the effect he had on them and enjoyed the attention they lavished on him. The drawer of his table would be filled with chocolates; just one of the bribes to ensure they didn’t get a rough day at work! Daddy was a strict disciplinarian and low on patience if things didn’t go accordingly.

No matter how many times I heard this story, I never failed to marvel at the stupidity of these WRINS. Why on earth were they giving Daddy chocolates! They should have been receiving them from him!

“Ab woh laakar rakhte the meri drawer mein, toh main kha leta tha. Unko bola thodi na tha ki mujhe chocolate achchi lagti hai” (“They’d bring them and put them in my drawer, and I’d eat them. I never told them that I liked chocolates.), he would laugh off my childish contempt. I guess these WRINS knew the ‘mellowing’ quality of chocolate!

“Of course, you used to ask them to get you chocolates. And when they wouldn’t, you’d get angry.” Mummy was quick to correct him. The jealousy apparently still lurked within.

Daddy would refute that with a silent nod of his head.

This was the cue for someone to ask if everyone, without exception, gave in to this extortion. And I promptly did!

“Oh no, everyone wouldn’t. There was this small Burmese who refused to comply,” he’d say, his eyes twinkling.

We’d all turn to look at Mummy who’d be blushing and smiling shyly; another cue for more questions, and I’d shoot them.

“Why didn’t you bring chocolates?”

“Did you get a rough day at work”

“Didn’t you like Daddy?”

How many girlfriends did he have?

“Were you jealous?”

Whenever these #conversations took place, I sought the same information in different ways;  but the answers were always the same as was the accompanying bashfulness. Despite the well-worn, oft-told anecdotes, the interest remained fresh on both sides of the table; just as Mum and Dad retained the #timeless #joy of their courtship even though they had been married for donkey’s years.

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I listened and marveled, at the love that had bound these two very different people, with renewed interest. For every wrinkle, every gray hair that got added, with the passing of time, made it more amazing that the story could still evoke the same feelings which #youthful #romance had embedded in their hearts forever.

“Love me when I least deserve it because that’s when I really need it.” `Swedish Proverb

I’m not even remotely suggesting their life was Utopian bliss for them. They had their squabbles and bitter fights. As I mentioned earlier, they were poles apart in all things. And that’s what makes it unbelievable. Daddy doted on Mummy even though she drove him mad at times… most times. And she remained forever jealous and possessive of him till she died.

Theirs might not be an ideal love story as love stories go, but it had all the ingredients of which legendary romances are made. Boss and steno; rich-poor divide; North-South chasm; urban-rural culture chasm; language barriers (with in-laws), whirlwind courtship, parental objection, elopement, alienation; they went through it all and survived the tests! Taken in the time that they did all this, it is commendable. I’m talking about a long time back. They married in July 1947, in a small, conservative town in Punjab!

“Love is a verb. Love – the feeling – is the fruit of love the verb or our loving actions. So love her. Sacrifice. Listen to her. Empathize. Appreciate. Affirm her.”~Stephen R. Covey

I still smile when I picture Daddy teasing Mum, obviously savoring those long-gone moments. He’d look lovingly at Mummy who’d be as shy as a new bride as she smiled and glanced at him with apparent adulation. Yes, they sure had something special between them.

 

Glossary: 

Paans and Giloris: Paan is betel leaf with supari (areca nut) and other things added to it. Chewing paan is an age-old practice deeply rooted in India. A Gilori is also a paan, but smaller in size.

Khaandan: Family. Earlier it meant the whole extended family… a joint family… grandparents, mom-dad, including boys of the family (brothers) and their families.

Paandaan: A container that had the betel leaves and all the other things that would go into a paan. These were usually ornate; they could even be in silver and decorated beautifully. Families that chewed paan (especially the women) habitually kept these paandaans. They were usually found in the homes of affluent families.