Chasing Happiness – Tiny Conversations

A puppy was playing with a ball on a grassy field. It would flick it with its nose and run after to retrieve it. An older dog sat by and lazily watched the pup at play. The little one, tired of playing with the ball looked around for something interesting. As it turned around this way and that, it caught sight of its tail and decided it would play tag with it. No matter what it did, it couldn’t catch its tail.

It went and flopped down beside the older dog.

“You couldn’t catch it, could you?!” said the older one laughing.

“Nah!”

“And yet you will keep trying! It’s what we all do, all the time,” said the wise old one.

“Why, yes! It’s so much fun. It’s happiness! So happiness is my tail. That’s my philosophy!” And then he jumped up as an idea struck him.

“I’ve become a philosopher.”

“And what have you learned from that, ‘wise’ little one?”

“That my tail is happiness and if I keep chasing it, I will catch it. And when I catch it, happiness will be mine!”

The old one chuckled.

“What?!” said the pup wrinkling its brow. It had expected praise.

“Well, I also would love to get a hold of happiness whenever I want. Every dog would love that. And I also believe there’s happiness in my tail. But, it’s strange that when I chase it, it runs away. The harder I try the faster it runs.”

“So what do you do then? Have you thought of a way to catch it?” asked the pup hopefully.

“Yes and No!”

“What does that mean?”

“That I don’t need to ‘catch’ it!”

“But”, said the pup, “I read this today”:

“The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.” – Benjamin Franklin

“Hmmm… and I read this,” answered the old dog:

“Everyone chases after happiness, not noticing that happiness is right at their heels.” -Bertolt Brecht

“I noticed that, when I go about my work, doing what I have to do… getting along with my business, it follows me! I carry my happiness with me! I don’t need to chase it!”

“You mean, you can be happy where you are?”

“Yes! I choose to be happy! If you believe happiness is in your tail, then why are you running after it and trying to grasp it? You carry your happiness with you.”

How Do I Tell Thee?

To me there are three things we should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend time in thought. And number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, think, and cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special...”

Jim Valvano

I often get tongue-tied and at a total loss for words. There have been occasions for which I have rehearsed lines I would like to say, and then, at the right time, when I have to say them, the cat gets my tongue. That speech which I had thought up, yet, I am at a loss for words. I just can’t articulate it when I am overwhelmed and I have to speak.

That’s speech which my mind has put together and not borrowed rhetoric that I should find it hard to recall. But, reticence, nervousness, anxiety, fright, or any such immense emotions play on the mind and tangle up speech. That’s what happens very often to me. Yet, communication doesn’t end there. When words become inadequate to express feelings tears do the job!

I am moved to tears by happiness and extreme joy. I am moved to tears by anything beautiful; an experience, a piece of exquisite music, emotional verses, a story or movie, happy memories, funny things… and also, copious tears express anger, frustration, helplessness, grief. Loneliness seldom moves me to tears, but the memory of good times in sad or lonely moments makes me teary yet happy. I’m moved by gratefulness for those precious moments.

When the mind fails, the heart speaks…through tears. Happy, joyous, funny, tickled, angry, helpless, ecstatic tears speak as eloquently and effectively as words.

These are those silent moments of release…of tears or unshed ones, which may or may not be understood.

“It’s so curious: one can resist tears and ‘behave’ very well in the hardest hours of grief. But then someone makes you a friendly sign behind a window, or one notices that a flower that was in bud only yesterday has suddenly blossomed, or a letter slips from a drawer… and everything collapses. ”
― Colette

It brings to mind our dining table talk. I would be the one chattering on the most. The talk was mainly light, and also about the silly/funny incidents that I heard about or that took place at school. I’d ask questions about something to involve the others, my hubby and the boys. But, mostly, it was I who was doing the talking.

I didn’t realize how much my news, anecdotes, jokes about my daily experiences meant to the family, especially my hubs.

On an odd day, I’d be too tired or preoccupied with an overload of school related stuff that I had to see to, and I’d be quieter… not absolutely quiet… just less talkative than other days. It was on one such day that I got to know how much my chatter at the table enlivened our meal time together.

I was chewing my food contemplatively; I must have spoken the few usual words – Have some more of this or that. Do want more rotis? Like to have some rice? How was school? How was work? Did you…this or that… I was engrossed in my schoolwork plans and totally unaware of how the sound of silence hung over the table gloomily as the three boys chomped on their food.

“Are you okay?” The question broke into my thoughts.

I looked at David with raised brows and question marks dancing in my eyes.

“I mean, you are so quiet today. Did something happen in school? Is everything alright? Are you feeling well?” The questions poured out one over the other. And he did look very concerned.

“Yes,” I answered giving him that quizzical ‘what’s wrong with you’ look. “Why do you ask?” I continued.

“You aren’t saying much. You are unusually quiet. Tell me, did something happen in school?”

“No, nothing unusual or horrible happened in school. It was a normal day. It’s just that the Annual Function is coming up and I’m totally in charge of the whole thing and I have some ideas to change the way they’ve been presenting the show for the past so many years. I also have a play I’m directing which is absolutely different from what they’ve been doing. What’s more I’ve decided to do a Hindi version of the play Snow White and the seven dwarfs. I’ve got to get it translated by the Hindi teacher, check if it’s done the way I want it, simple everyday Hindi which everyone can understand, and then select the cast etc. Props need to be made. Opening presentation which I want to change too…so many things!”

By the time I was done with this explanation, I noticed he was laughing his silent laugh, his eyes were dancing with joy, and he was enjoying his food.

“What?” I said knitting my brows though a smile played on my lips.

“Nothing. Keep going. What else do you have to do? Can I help? Just keep talking.”

“What do you mean? What’s tickling you so much? Have I missed something?”

“No. You haven’t “missed” anything, but I was missing something… the joy you bring to the table with your small talk and laughter. It’s not the same when you are quiet. The whole eating experience changes when it’s not garnished with conversations and laughter; your stories and humor.”

I beamed a radiant smile as the tear ducts opened. I blinked the tears back. I had no idea how much my chatter lent to the family meal and what it meant to them… especially HIM! I was drenched in the sunshine and warmth of family love and joy!

“So keep talking sweetheart. Keep regaling us with your stories and jokes, don’t keep quiet, please.”

I couldn’t say anything… the smile and the withheld tears said all that I wanted to say – I was overjoyed.

However, I wanted to say something more… I needed him to know that I need my silence very much. I needed him to understand these silent phases. I wanted to ask him to understand my silence too. Not just for issues at work or on the domestic scene. I needed to be quiet within myself. For myself. With thoughts that had nothing to do with the outside world. I needed to be quiet for my soul. I wanted him to understand this. I wanted to say –

But if you don’t understand my silences, how will you understand my words?

– but I couldn’t.

I let myself drown in the pleasurable warmth of a family sobremesa. Ours starts not at the end of the meal but at the start and carries on through the meal! I’ll break my silence here.

I will be silent another time. I’ll silence the cacophony in my mind. My silences are for me as much as it is for my home and family. I will be silent for myself.

Tiny Conversations-the Chinese Whisper!

I was bent over one of the many notebooks piled up for correcting. One of the banes of being a language teacher in an Indian school! Skewed teacher-student ratios, written classwork, written homework, and all the work had to be checked regularly. There were regular checks by the Principal to see if proper correction was done (with remarks and suggestions where necessary).

Parents in India, most of them, check their kids’ notebooks too to see if their work has been checked by the teacher. 

In the middle of one such day at that particular time, a colleague and neighbor knocked on the door. I opened it, and in she walked with a broad grin which was met with a forced one from me and a muffled groan. 

“I was so bored at home, thought I’d have a cup of tea with you and some gupshup!” She said beaming.

Gupshup is a colloquial word for chat. I didn’t say anything and, thankfully, I had got up to put the books away and my back was to her so she couldn’t see my less than hospitable expression. 

I hoped she’d see the notebooks and that I was in the middle of work and in no mood to entertain her and certainly no chatting which would just be her gossiping about everyone especially our colleagues. 

“Be warned: A person content to sit with you and criticize others will speak critically of you out of earshot.” – Richelle E. Goodrich

“Oh, you’re checking the books?! I finished mine.”

“Good for you! You have a ‘handyman’ to help with other things.”

“Handyman? I don’t have a man servant. I have a Bai (maid). You know that. What made you think I have a male servant?” 

“I wasn’t referring to domestic help. I was referring to your hubby, I laughed. He helps you around the house and even with the marketing. I don’t have that kind of help.”

I sensed rather than saw her tense. She clenched her teeth. Her eyes lost the convivial look it had just a moment ago. 

I realized she didn’t understand the joke in my comment. So I tried to explain it to her. Not that it helped!

“Come on. You know I wasn’t referring to your hubs as ‘domestic’ help. And you do know that having a husband at home does mean you don’t have to shoulder all the responsibilities or tasks. They do pitch in, in many ways, and lighten the burden… physical and mental.” 

“Of course I understand. What do you think? I’m not daft!” And she laughed loud shaking her head in disbelief. I wanted to believe her.

I would have believed her but nothing in her reaction conveyed that feeling. Neither her laugh nor the off-handed way she assured me. I had known her long enough (before we became colleagues) to read through the fake show. 

Anyway, I had much more important things to see to and such silly things couldn’t bother me much. As far as I knew, nothing I had said could be, even remotely, misconstrued as me labeling her husband as domestic help! 

“There are people who take rumors and embellish them in a way that can be devastating. And this pollution has to be eradicated by people in our business as best we can.” – Bob Woodward

However, the next day, the gossip mill was churning furiously with the latest breaking news! Yeah, you guessed it. 

Mrs. J had called Mrs. T’s husband a domestic help.

The general rumblings were, “Our husbands help us too. Does that mean they are servants?” And soon the Chinese Whisper grew to encompass all men who helped their wives at home. And from there it went further. They wanted to put me through the mill and grind real fine. 

“She’s a widow and is jealous! Is it our fault that she doesn’t have a husband?!”

Good heavens! If it wasn’t such a far-fetched notion that was so absurd and ridiculous, I might have been hurt. But I laughed my guts out at the stupidity of people who were ‘educated’ and working as educators themselves! 

Honestly, life brings you the hardest and best lessons and teaches you well in the times when life is a grind!

Suzy Kassem says it best in these lines:

“Never judge someone’s character based on the words of another. Instead, study the motives behind the words of the person casting the bad judgment. An honest woman can sell tangerines all day and remain a good person until she dies, but there will always be naysayers who will try to convince you otherwise. Perhaps this woman did not give them something for free, or at a discount. Perhaps too, that she refused to stand with them when they were wrong — or just stood up for something she felt was right. And also, it could be that some bitter women are envious of her, or that she rejected the advances of some very proud men. Always trust your heart.” – Suzy Kassem

Tiny Conversations – Gloating, Glowing & Loved!

The biggest change that came about when I became a grandparent was the way I’d allow relaxations on rules on more occasions than I did as a mother with my children. And I’d join in the huge fun they’d have because of it. I also noticed that while I loved my sons and still do to the moon and back, with the grandkids it’s difficult to explain how my love surpasses that! I was proud of my boys’ achievements back in the day and in the present too. But with these little ones, I’m ecstatic and over the moon and gloat (shamelessly!). It doesn’t matter if someone might not be so pleased to hear about what they did and how proud they make me. I crow! (shamelessly!)

So here’s a warning: This is a gloating, proud grandma posting!

I like to keep a Word Search booklet with me. It keeps me happily occupied when I’ve done all that I had to do or when I need to take a break from something or the other! For a few days Amaara, the older twin ( by a few minutes) had been watching me. The twins were 7 yrs old then.

Amu: “Dada, why aren’t you doing your word search? Are you tired of it?”

No! I’ve finished the whole book. I need to buy another one. And with all the restrictions and warnings, I don’t go to crowded places myself.

Amu: “Then why don’t you ask mama or papa to get it for you?”

No… I don’t want to bother anyone. Besides, I prefer to buy my things myself. I like to pick and choose what I want. Someone else will not know exactly what I want.

Amu: “Oh! Yes, they won’t know. And if they get something you don’t like, you won’t use it. It will go waste.”

Exactly my point! It will be a waste of money as well. That would be worse.

Amu: “Oh, Dada! she said with the most loving and adoring look.”

She left my room after a bit of chit chat. Later, that afternoon, Miraaya, the younger one, came excitedly into my room with a broad grin on her face.

Mia: “Dada, Dada! Guess what! Amu has a surprise for you!”

She sure had the biggest, sweetest, and most loving surprise for me. My little sweetheart had made a Word Search booklet for me.

Amu:“Dada, see what I made for you. You don’t have to go out. Now you can do your word cross puzzles!”

But I don’t do cross word, baby. I prefer the quicker and easier word search. It leaves me more time for other things.

Amu: Makes a funny, disappointed face. “I made a big mistake. I forgot the name of the activity and wrote Word Cross Puzzle instead.”

She gave me the stapled 3-page booklet with a cocktail of emotions. On her face and particularly in her eyes, I could see the great waves of love, kindness, caring, thoughtfulness, and they engulfed me. What a special bonding we have!

Here is the little booklet Amu made for me so lovingly.

The mix-up in the title she was sorry about.

And I was quite impressed, one day, when the younger twin, Miraaya, brought back this Math feedback she gave to her teacher in class.

I went through the three points she had mentioned and thought back some decades, to the time I was a 7+! I’d have never been able to write with such clarity about what I wanted more from my Math lessons. And in any case, I wasn’t doing what they are learning now in Math class! At seven we weren’t talking “strategies”! And even if I could express myself so well in writing, I wouldn’t have written a positive ‘feedback’ about Math. I never liked math! LOL

I am so glad she likes Math so much. And I’m so blessed to be able to experience these little day-to-day activities. Being a grand parent is such a beautiful part of life. I’m fortunate to be able to be a part of all my grandkids’ daily life. I learn so much when I talk to them; play games with them; when they share their thoughts with me or ask me numerous questions.

Well, if you’ve reached this far – Thank You! I appreciate it 🙂

Tiny Conversations… He gave me a recipe

Way back in 2013, I was living in South America, and I was often at the clinic with some ailment or the other. Nothing serious, just some prevalent osteo-related issues. A troublesome cervical disc and a lumbar disc were causing most of my mobility issues, not to speak about pain.

Pic: Karolina Grabowska on Pexels

The doctor listened to my problems carefully and then asked me a few questions about the treatment I had received and the instructions I was following. Among these health-problem related questions, he asked me a bit about my daily regimen and our culture too: food, exercise, medication, and also about religion, superstitions, beliefs, and so on.

Doc: “Señora, you eat very spicy food?

Actually, we don’t. And especially I don’t.

Doc: “But all Indians eat very spicy food, no?”

Broadly speaking, I suppose you could say that, but there are quite a few, like me, who don’t. In fact doc, there are a few Chilean foods I find too hot for my tongue!

Doc: He laughed. “Yes, we have some like that.”

Especially the dishes that have jalapenos! I added. We laughed.

Doc: “Are you Hindu? Do you speak Hindu?”

No doc, I’m not a Hindu. And the language is called Hindi not Hindu, I corrected him gently. And yes, I do speak Hindi and I know a bit of another Indian language – Punjabi.

Doc: You have many languages? How many?

We have as many languages as there are states or what you might call regions or provinces. So Hindi and English are commonly used if one doesn’t know the local language.

Doc: So if you have twenty or thirty states, you have same number of languages?

Yes. And there are dialects too. You understand what dialects mean? I don’t know the Spanish word for it.

Doc: Yes, yes. I know. That’s too many languages!

Doc: “You have too much poverty in your country, no?”

Yes, there are many who live below the poverty line. But we have a very large population too! So the numbers seem larger. Chile has its own too, but in numbers it seems low. You see your whole country has as many people who would fit into one of our metropolitan cities! I smiled.

He nodded in agreement.

Doc: “So you have many religions in India. Can I ask what is your religion? Muslim, Buddhist?”

You are right doc. We do have many religions in India. And we are Christians.

I thought that was the end of the conversation, but his curiosity about me; my cultural, socio-economic-religious background had been whetted.

Doc: “How did you become Christian? Are there many Christians in your country?”

There are quite a lot of Christians, but we are still a minority in comparison to the Hindu community. Well, as for how we became Christians is a very long story doc. Perhaps we’ll save that for another day, yes? I’m sure the patients sitting outside must be getting impatient.

Doc: “Yes! Yes! You are right.” He laughed heartily. “I have written what medicines you have to take. I have told you what exercises you have to do when the pain you are having now goes away. And your diet also,” he added.

Thank you doc. It’s been a very interesting consultation. I got up to go.

Doc: “Yes, señora. I like to know more about people of the world. And here is your recipe.

He handed me the prescription he had written while he was chatting with me.

I like the way they call a prescription a recipe over here. It sure has all the ingredients, and the right amounts of whatever is needed to make a healthier person. So with the recipe in hand I look forward to a strong and healthy me!

Tiny Conversations – Proving a point!

There was never a dull day when the three girls were little. This conversation took place when the youngest was two years old. I loved her confidence and the argument she presented to prove her case! I’m glad I had it recorded. So here’s one more tiny conversation from my journals.

Baby Z: “Look, Dadi, my socky!”

“That’s a glove, baby.”

Baby Z: “No! Look at me.”

She was on the floor pulling the glove on her foot. I was in ‘teacher’ mode and hastened to correct her.

“Gloves go on the hands sweetie. Socks go on the feet.”

Baby Z: “See! It’s not glove… I putting foot in it. It is sock Dadi!” She looked up at me to see if I got it.

I was about to extend the ‘class’ but decided against it. I didn’t argue with that. 😀 😛 I had just told her that socks go on feet! Her little two-year-old mind had countered that to prove her point! She knew quite well that gloves and hands go together and socks go on feet.

“Hello ‘Chicken Licken!'” I said, laughing.

She looked puzzled. Chicken Licken?! That wasn’t her name!

Well, meet our little chicken, and no the sky isn’t falling… just me rolling with laughter. She had won the argument and made her point clear.

Tiny Conversations – learning GK & Vocab

I was talking to 8 yr old Aly, some years back, and I told her that she was a big contrast to her younger self.

“In which way Dadi?” she asked, knitting her brows.

“Well, you were extremely talkative and a great conversationalist, even at the age of two! But now, you don’t engage in much conversation so often.”

“Yeah,” she said in a drawl. “Was I irritating?” she added with a broad grin.

“On the contrary, my dear, your conversations were highly interesting and you were cute.”

I rifled through an old journal and luckily, I found a conversation I had recorded. It was one of the ones I had with her when she was two going on three. She had been in the mood to conduct a General Knowledge class and threw in a bit of vocabulary as well. Here it is:

I learn something interesting every time I talk to Alyssa. A couple of days back, as we chatted over the net, she asked, “Dadi, do you know where the North Pole is?”

“No. Do you?” I was keen to learn what she knew about it.

“Yes. It’s at the top. At the tip of the planet.” And just so I didn’t get confused about the “top” and the “tip” of the planet, she circled her arms above her head and with her index finger tapped the top-tip (coined that word) of her head. “Santa lives here!” she said brightly.

“Ah! So that’s where it is! Hmm..”

“The South Pole is at the bottom,” she added for my benefit.

Then, to complete my Geography lesson, she informed me about the time difference between Canada and India. It was a good “8 1/2 hrs-9hrs” she said confidently. Then she realized I wasn’t in India.

“What’s the time now in Chile?”

I told her and she wasn’t impressed by the comparatively lesser time difference as compared to the difference between Canada and India! It made me laugh. The things that impress a three year old!

“Mummy bought some ‘biiig’ pears yesterday,” she said changing the subject. It was vocabulary time now.

“We get very big pears here too, you know.”

“No,” she countered. “This one is not just very big, it’s ginormous!” Once again, I was blown away by her vocabulary. I just looked at her with adoration and admiration.

“You heard me?” she asked because I was quiet. 😀

“I heard you sweetheart and I’m so proud of you.”

(I’m a puffed up, proud granny hen. And I’ll be crowing about her. No apologies!)

Tiny Conversations… “Come here. I’m going to Touch you!”

This happened some 6-7 years ago. I lived in Chile then. I had to consult a physician about a mole that was growing on my leg, and it was also indicating inward growth – a kind of plantlike feeling where I felt it had a root.

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko from Pexels

At the clinic:

Doc– Buenos Dias, señora!

“Buenos Dias, señor!”

Doc– Cual es el problema? (what is the problem?)

“No sé mucho español. ¿Puedo hablar en inglés? (I don’t know much Spanish. Can I speak in English?)

Doc– Si, Si. No problema. I know leetle, leetle Englich.

“That’s a relief. Thank you so much!”

So, I tell him what my concerns are about the mole on my thigh. He asks me some pertinent questions. Nods his head thoughtfully.

Doc– Ok, I will see it first.

Then he gets up and walks away from the his desk towards a curtained area in one corner of the room.

Doc– Come with me here, señora. You will remove your trouser and I am going to touch you here, in this place.

I almost burst out laughing. The immediate thought that ran through my head was…‘what if I were silly enough not to understand what he meant!’ I’d have gathered my handbag and vamoosed out of the room!

“Ok, señor,” I said instead and followed him into the curtained area.

Examination done. He agreed that there was a downward, rootlike growth. Diagnosis would depend on removing the mole surgically and sending it for biopsy. We walked out and sat at his desk. He had to decide on a date for the surgery. That done, I stood up and thanked him from the depths of my heart.

Doc– So señora, how you like my Englich?

“Awesome, señor doctor!” I said genuinely appreciative. “I am so happy to have found a doctor with whom I could communicate in English.”

Tiny Conversations – Jumping to conclusions

It was one of those gatherings – the ones where the local Indian origin diaspora collect to celebrate some Indian festival or someone’s b’day etc. So, it was one which I had to attend as the ‘family’ was invited. I had come up here to visit from Chile. It is taken for granted and understood by all and sundry that any visiting relation is also included in an invitation for the whole family. Not attending could be misconstrued to mean anything, definitely not in a good light, if the person was not laid down with an ailment or had a very good reason not to attend. This would be the second or third one I was attending so I was familiar with some faces and names that I could remember.

“Hello aunty!” said a young woman smiling brightly. (Indians call any known elderly person aunty or uncle, as the case may be, even though there’re no family ties.) I recognized her and thankfully remembered her name too. She was a motormouth and one that poked her nose into everyone’s business and gossiped too.

“Hello! How are you?”

“Good, good. Nice to see you again.”

“Nice to see you too. I guess one gets to meet more often at these gettogethers.”

“Didn’t you have these in Chile?”

“Well, not for the entire Indian community. We’d have one at Diwali and some other festivals too. But I’d go only if it was hosted by the employees of my son’s company for their families and some close friends. So, only the group of friends who visited each other, and the office crowd would attend, not the entire Indian crowd living there. Even then, I only attended a couple or so of these parties, not all.”

“Oh! Ok. Didn’t the parents of the others come?”

“No. There weren’t any parents around most of the time.”

“Then it must have been very boring. Ours here is nice. Everyone has company. So many seniors are here to keep you company.

“I think you got me wrong,” I laughed. “I didn’t skip these events because they were “boring” due the absence of “seniors” presence. In fact, I enjoyed them. I find it always more interesting to interact with the young ones. And my age group would be great if we had common interests. I don’t like domestic chatter when we should actually be having a ball!”

She looked at me a bit aghast. I could see the mills in her head churning – her eyes and expression couldn’t disguise it. She decided to change the topic.

“So, what do you do the whole day? You must be very, very busy looking after three grandkids the whole day. Especially baby-sitting the little ones! All our mothers are occupied doing that. They look after the kids and stay busy the whole day taking care of all their needs.”

“Oh no. I have quite a lot to occupy me. And that doesn’t include “looking after and taking care of all their needs.” I do things for them but it’s not a nanny kind of baby-sitting schedule that frees up time for the parents,” I laughed, “I let the parents do their share!”

“No? You don’t!” she exclaimed shocked.

“Well, I do engage with the kids as in play or if need be keep an eye on them when a parent is not around. I spend time with them singing, playing games, telling stories, and if it’s just us at home, I supervise meal time. I take the elder two for walks. I can’t give all my time to them on a daily basis. I need time for myself and the things I do.”

“Our mother’s love looking after the kids. They enjoy seeing to their every need. It gives us mothers a rest.” she said rather defensively.

“I’m sure they do. I do enjoy my time with mine, it’s just that I can’t be on call all the time. Most grandmoms, I guess, don’t mind looking after the grandkids 24×7, my own mom included! I applaud them.

“I have my own schedule and to-do list, you see,” I continued, “I just can’t fit in that kind of duty. In any case, I know I’d be awful in such a granny schedule. There are some things I’m loathe to do,” I explained my side of the situation. “Luckily, in Chile, we had a nanny 24×7 for the twins!”

“But, I can look after them, for short spells, and be a pretty interesting, funny granny who teaches as she plays,” I added.

She had a glassy stare and a fixed half smile.

“Oh, nice talking to you. Enjoy.” And she left in a hurry.

I did wonder about that. She seemed put off. Then I shifted my attention to doing what I like best when I’m in a room full of people – people-watching!

The next day, I got my answer to why the lady had hurried off all of a sudden. She had something very important to do… dispense information. I learned, from my son, that she had told all the ladies that I had called their mothers “NANNIES” because they looked after their grandkids- seeing to everything- feeding, eating, bathing, diaper changes, putting them to sleep, entertaining etc., etc.

“Did I?” I laughed. “That’s ridiculous! I never even remotely referred to anybody’s mother. I specifically pointed to myself. I just said I could not fit in the schedule of the nanny we had in Chile, in my daily agenda, because I had my own to-do list and if I did, I’d be an awful granny then, anyway. But I could be an awesome Granny, in short spells, which I am!”

I further explained to him, “There was no inference either because we were discussing ME and “baby-sitting. And I was addressing her assumption that I must be “very, very, busy looking after three grandkids the whole day.” In fact, I applauded their moms, including my own mother, in the group of grannies who liked to look after their grandkids’ “every” need.

Well, the lady sure had some inference, assumption issues or was it just a ‘sporting’ one of – JUMPING to conclusions?

Tiny Conversations – no colors for a widow

When I was widowed, we lived in a very conservative and restrictive society in a rather backward province at the time. So things were pretty bad for me with my sort of disregard for their stifling conventions that made no sense to me.

It was a society that took away the colors from a widow’s life, literally and figuratively too. Any kind of fun and enjoyment was banned for her. Dressing up was absolutely forbidden – no jewelry either. As if that weren’t enough, society had decreed that these unfortunate women could only wear certain colors – specifically, a dull, dark maroon and a dull greenish-blue. This identified them as widows. It horrified me that such rules were imposed on them. Imagine wearing clothes that put a tag on you WIDOW for everyone’s information! As if they hadn’t suffered enough. And for what purpose? It wasn’t their fault that fate had dealt them such a blow!

I recall a social acquaintance of mine, one who is a non-practicing, lawyer, telling me why the women of their society “willingly” accepted these social norms. She tried to explain it to me by quoting her widowed mother:

“My mother accepted it because she believed, ‘Once a husband dies, there is no color left in life. Life becomes totally colorless.‘ This is why it is okay for them to wear these colors and not wear jewelry nor participate in festivals and entertainment of any kind.”

“Oh, really?” I interrupted her with undisguised sarcasm. “What about the men, the widowers?”

“What about them,” she countered. “They are men. These things don’t apply to them They can carry on their lives.”

“Exactly my point – Why doesn’t it apply to them? Why does everyone start looking out for a wife for the widower, but push the widow into deeper misery? Why do they strip her of her dignity and self-respect? Why do they want to kill her spirit? Why make them like living corpses that way?”

“That’s how it’s been for years and that’s how it will remain. Who can stop it? At least it is better than Sati.”

“If the practice of Sati (burning the wife alive on the funeral pyre of the husband) can be stopped and declared a crime, this can be too. All it takes is the decision to fight against it. All it needs is one strong person to stand against it.”

“That’s what you think. We women don’t think so.”

“How many young widows have you asked about how they feel and what they think about this, with the assurance of confidentiality and secrecy?”

“I don’t need to ask anyone,” she was riled and het up. “This is our ‘rivaaz’. Our culture. And our society will follow it.”

“And are women in this ‘rivaaz’ consulted? Are they even represented when rules are made and imposed on them by ‘society’?

“It is a male dominated society. The women will never be consulted.”

“Not for long. Take my word. Change is coming. The winds are changing direction. But I’m keen to know, will you accept and support the change when it comes? You yourself have broken the boundaries of your social culture, you went against all that your society deemed wrong. Didn’t you? You are living your life on your terms. Will you be brow beaten if, god forbid, diktats such as these are imposed on you?”

She preferred to let silence speak for her. And the silence spoke louder than her words.