Messages to my dear friend, Monica, as we share our experiences of being a mother, the things we learn from our little girls, everyday and the lessons we learn from life itself.
A Blog-dialogue across continents, countries and oceans of time and space...
(We last met in 2000 A.D, in India.)

Monday, December 3, 2012

Lessons in Love from the Children of the World....

Yesterday, I was watching my children as I and my husband Raj went about our tasks like cooking, cleaning, laundry and sorting out the home (it was our day off)  The kids played, then fought and fell-out, I had to intervene when things got out of hand with one of them hitting out at the other, who then said she kicked her back in defence and got the first one to scream uncontrollably (see what I mean!?)...
 Later, after they were in bed and peace prevailed, I was reflecting on them and their nature, my parenting and MY nature...,  That is when it hit me... Shivangi is so much like a mirror; If I am rushed, she feels rushed. If I am calm and joyous, she is the epitome of calm joyousness herself...
As my husband gets her ready with me in to mornings for the last two-three weeks, I can 'see' potential flare-up moments and diffuse them before they spark up and ignite my volatile emotions. Everyday is a learning curve.  Shivangi is a great experience! She and her sister make me aware everyday- of my good fortune. Its like being the most-loved child of God- He chooses us to have these experiences in life and it is up to us to learn from them...
Mon, you know what, I always imagine YOU -doing those special things- the little things, with Raina. Our talks over the blog-world have made me a better person and a better parent than I ever was or could have hoped to be.
One thing I witnessed when I moved to Great Britain is the politeness, the courtesy and kindness we extend to all those we come in contact with. If you make a call, the person on the other side will smile and laugh with you, and make you feel at ease straight away. PLEASE, THANK YOU and you're WELCOME come naturally. Culturally, there are many variations, but amongst my own neighbours, friends and family. I have seen Love, concern and hope at all times.
When our kitchen caught fire in 2008, and none of us was at home, neighbours alerted the fire services and TWO fire Brigades came and rescued our home and pet BLAZE from harm. Tracy, our neighbour homed our goldfish, Mr Hassan brought us cups of tea as we watched, shocked; the remains of our kitchen strewn on the front driveway. Our family was out, and I had been at work when the fateful call came. My Charge Nurse instantly let me go home, and as I cycled down the roads, I was thanking the Lord that my husband and Kids had not been home at the time.
It never crossed my mind to bemoan my fate, and feel sorry for myself. Optimism runs through my veins. It has done so since I was born, to two of the most POSITIVE people in my life- My Father and my Late Mother... Dad and Mummy would always be Fair, Just and Honest- with us and others, and their Fairness rubbed off on us kids big-time. We each had our experiences, our lives converged as children of our parents and diverged from our own roles as parents in our adulthood, but whenever we meet, we can all see and support each other's difficulties and shortcomings and I feel re-invigorated when I talk to my Sister or Brother or my many cousins and relatives. My friends at University, and work in India also keep in touch via the wonder of Facebook!
In INDIA, growing up with my family, and many many loving cousins, aunts, uncles and relatives, friends and neighbours, I recollect that WE smile at babies in India , and can start chatting with a couple of people on the opposite berth of the train, in no time. We would swap stories, anecdotes, share food and soon us kids would be friends. So much so that when it was time for either family to leave the train, it would feel as if we were saying goodbye to lifelong friends. 

A Facebook picture by The Idealist (page link)
Today, on facebook, I came across this picture.... It speaks volumes about OUR WORLD and Our 'I' ness. Selfless LOVE is the only thing that can redeem Mankind. There is not, nor should there EVER be any scope for 'negativity' in our lives. If something is going wrong, I begin to look within myself for the crossing wires which caused the 'short circuit' in the first place. If my wires are untangled, and the lines are open, God will flow through and suffuse me and mine with Love...The children of the Ubuntu signify all that should be celebrated in our humanity- our HUMAN -ness. Being HUMAN first and foremost is the most important thing in the world. 

As John Lennon once said, "When I was 5 years old, my mother told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down 'happy' They told me I didn't understand the assignment, and I told them they didn't understand life."

How does one begin to pare down years of experience, millions of influences and gigabytes of memories inside of us and re-learn the whole business of being HUMAN!!??

The answer lies in our lives. When we have a newborn child in our midst, all of us, even the cynics and pessimists begin to smile. Their tiny fingers curl around our big ones and in that first touch, we see God in their eyes. When we say a child is beautiful, we are actually seeing the  purest, barest human being there ever is. A child brings love, hope and nurturing to its family. It is the promise of a better world for them that we make, silently, to ourselves as we gaze upon their countenance.... Each child is beautiful. Each person, no matter how they are presenting themselves to you, is beautiful. Look beyond the physical and you will see the same essence, the same purity in all of God's creations.... We just need to open our eyes and look inside us... Somewhat like the Dove Real Beauty Sketches show us...(here)

Monday, November 19, 2012


Dearest Monica,
Often times, I wonder at the definition of LOVE....Love -that one simple feeling that envelops your heart when you think of someone or something that means a lot to you.... You begin to smile, your eyes light up and you lose yourself in the feeling for as long as you can! It could have been brought on by listening to the voice of a parent over a long-distance Call, your better-half giving your shoulder a squeeze in a tough situation, a tiny handclasp from your toddler, the whisper of a  memory from your childhood, or even looking at a picture from ages ago....
All this made me think of how do we know it is love!!?

Sai Baba, who we refer to as Swami in our family, always said,

"Love is- giving and forgiving,
Self is- getting and forgetting."

"START the Day with LOVE,
FILL the Day with LOVE,
SPEND the Day with LOVE,
END the day with LOVE,
This is the way to GOD."

Love is the Key

Simple, yet so hard to emulate...
Some of the best experiences in Love (as an adult) that I've been a part of, have been acquired from my memory of My Parents as parents, since I myself became a parent! My two daughters teach me a lot in their interactions with our extended family, in the way they dote on their Daddy and (If I'm lucky!) me too! I feel the urge to write and save my memories for the future- whenever I get the chance to observe them. Living with a Child is a huge responsibility- of Hope , Faith and Values. We need to teach by example, good behaviour and politeness, respect and sharing begins with us Adults and percolates down to the youngest child we may come in contact with. So, teaching and guiding them right from wrong is never easy and yes, learning from them. Children never hold back- with them, what you se is what you get...! If my seven-year-old is mad at me, she lets me know; if she loves me to pieces at another moment, she tells me so too. Kids are like mirrors; they reflect what they see, hear, experience, and live with. If they live with Love, Courage, Hope and Truth, they will be loving, courageous, hopeful and truthful too. Our job, as parents, is to be powerhouses of positive energy around them, and if we do slip up, sometimes, we can always apologise to them in a heartfelt, honest way.
My daughters are forever teaching me about LOVE. They could be in the middle of the most God-awful fight ever and I have to tear them apart but if I tell one of them off, they gang -up on me straight away!
Kids don't carry baggage of feelings, to them, living from day to day is adventure enough without the added burden of suppressed emotions. They vent it out and get it all off their chest and out of their system.
That is why, their love is so valuable, so pure and so strong and overwhelming...
Reading online, I once came across some insightful quotes from children, on what they understood of love:


A group of professional people posed this question to a group of 4 to 8 year-olds, "What does love mean?" The answers they got were broader and deeper than anyone could have imagined. See what you think:

"When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn't bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That's love." Rebecca - age 8

"When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You know that your name is safe in their mouth." Billy - age 4

"Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other." Karl - age 5

"Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs." Chrissy - age 6

"Love is what makes you smile when you're tired." Terri - age 4  "Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is OK." Danny - age 7

"Love is when you kiss all the time. Then when you get tired of kissing, you still want to be together and you talk more. My mommy and Daddy are like that. They look gross when they kiss" Emily - age 8

"Love is what's in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen," Bobby - age 5

"If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate," Nikka - age 6

"There are two kinds of love. Our love. God's love. But God makes both kinds of them." Jenny - age 4

"Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, then he wears it every day" Noelle - age 7

"Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well." Tommy - age 6

"During my piano recital, I was on a stage and scared. I looked at all the people watching me and saw my daddy waving and smiling. He was the only one doing that. I wasn't scared anymore," Cindy - age 8

"My mommy loves me more than anybody. You don't see anyone else kissing me to sleep at night." Clare - Age 5

"Love is when mommy gives daddy the best piece of chicken." Elaine -age 5  "Love is when mommy sees daddy smelly and sweaty and still says he is handsomer than Robert Redford." Chris - age 8

"Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day." Mary Ann - age 4  "I know my older sister loves me because she gives me all her old clothes and has to go out and buy new ones." Lauren - age 4

"I let my big sister pick on me because my Mom says she only picks on me because she loves me. So I pick on my baby sister because I love her." Bethany - age 4

"When you love somebody, your eyelashes go up and down and little stars come out of you." Karen - age 7

"Love is when mommy sees daddy on the toilet and she doesn't think it's gross." Mark - age 6

"You really shouldn't say 'I love you' unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget." Jessica - age 8
And we think they don't notice....

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Hit the Road (vol 1)

One sunny morning, last week, I decided to get on my bike and head out... To get in touch with my solitary side, I guess.... To make sense of things in my life, with the steady, natural rhythm of pushing the pedals..To stop talking and speaking, and to start listening... Because, nothing makes me more aware of myself than the sounds of the road, when I'm on my bicycle.I ride on, at a steady, unhurried pace, soaking in the feeling of being alive... Drinking in, greedily, from the repertoire of nature- her sights, sounds and smells...
If I were a decent artist, I'd draw or paint, If I were a poet, I'd write of her beauty, her freedom and her limitlessness... But as I'm none of those, I just take off, charge myself, live-in-the-moment and enjoy the journey. Lately, this selfsame 'CYCLING' bug has bitten my better half as well, and we both take off on our bikes, riding out when the kids are fed and watered, and safe in their beds, GM (grandmother and general manager!!) keeping an eye and an ear on them from downstairs...
Yesterday, we circled Houghton Regis, and stood around when the rains splashed down, sheltered from a conifer... biking relaxes me like nothing else can, and it reminds me not to abuse my body- since this is the only one I'll ever have!! So, no more late-night snacks, staying up to watch Supernatural on Living TV, (much as I love Dean & Sam!)  or eating mounds of rajma-rice for lunch and dinner...
The one thing I can, and DO is to take a lot of pictures... and it makes for some interesting viewing- in retrospect!
Here's a peek:

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Happy birthday, Mon!

Dear Mon,
I hope you had a terrific day today and the love of family and friends, near or far, makes it special too! Raina must be thrilled at the prospect of blowing out the candles on your cake, and singing 'happy birthday' to her lovely Mummy!! I always marvel at your contentment and 'living in the moment' spontaneity! Your smiles and your voice, your gardening skills and your observations of Raina's growing-up years...!
You are unique in your optimism, loving and caring beyond measure and kind and supportive to everyone who needs you or reaches out to you. This, I know, from personal experience! Rather than living your life wondering what could have happened, you jumped right in and made things happen for you! Your dedicated hard-work, your talent and your enthusiasm has always been inspiring... Take care and have a fantastic day today!
Miss you!
Love and hugs,

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A Note in his cupboard...

My husband and I often talk about how we've steadily grown apart. Atleast, I do, while he listens. After I've finished moaning about our lack of 'quality time' together, he gets his ammo sorted, and proceeds to blame my 'sleepiness' (after a whole day spent running from one place to another), hectic schedule (work, kids's schools, their entertainment, routines, my volunteering programme, my studies...ok, ok, ok, MY FACEBOOK, BLOGS n MUMSNET addictions!!) and my inability to tear my attention away from my two brat-daughters even when he's about. I, for my part, complain about the lack of 'romanticism' in our married life, the absence of cuddles on the sofa (for other reason's than disinclination to cuddle on our part!), the lack of intimacy and the total absence of any time for us as a couple....
After a lot many such talks, and seeing no changes in our temperaments, whether singular or collective, I decided to try out my best friend's suggestion. That's you, Mon!! Remember how you told me about leaving post-it notes in H's lunch box, on his tie, near his socks etc??!! Well, I left him some of mine in his cupboard, and boy! Was he surprised!! Today on my break at work, as I picked up my phone to talk to him, I was dumbstruck to find a tender message of thanks from his phone. It made my day, and I'm wearing my 'goofy grin' even now!!
Thank you, Monu, for a terrific idea!!
Notes are something my mother would send my Dad a lot, too! sometimes she'd hide them, sometimes she'd post them via  the post. She often wrote long letters to him when he was away on duty with his Squadron in the IAF, and wait patiently for him to return... Come to think of it, they spent many moons apart- He attended courses, Foreign Trips to Sri Lanka, Larnaca, or commission a new fleet of aircraft (from the erstwhile USSR),  She taught Sanskrit to B.A students at the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, and lived on Campus, away from all of us for a year... I truly believe in the old adage: 'DISTANCE MAKES THE HEART GROW FONDER'..
Their yearning, their love for each other was like a silent stream, not a gushing, raging river, but a tranquil lake, on whose glassy, mirrored waters I see my childhood reflected. Clean and clear. Safe and Peaceful. I never heard them shout at each other, (or anyone else, for that matter!!) Their marriage was, and is an Ideal Marriage to me... Even in his solitude and 'alone-ness', Dad is not alone... It is as if her soul, her spirit is always in him, around him and he can feel the peace it brings to us all, to see him so detached, yet so affectionate and so mindful of our needs, as his children. I may have said this before, and I will possibly say it again- My Mom and Dad are my ideals in life... They signify what a a marriage is all about...

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Happy Birthday, Daughter!

Whenever the birthday of a loved one rolls around, I get ponderous, wistful and, at times, a little bit sad. Just a little bit, though! Last weekend was one such day. What made it extra special and extra poignant is that my first-born turned eight that day. There's something irrevocable and definitive about birthdays. Like time has been stamped and chronicled...so-and-so is now and henceforth eight years and counting....time that has passed on, never to return. All that remains are memories, growing fainter and fainter with the passage of time, save those special details that make memories feel so very much alive...

My first baby...Shivangi. I quite vividly remember the day she was born in all its glorious details...It was a Monday, and a sunny one at that. I had walked home, after being discharged from the hospital that very morning, after a weekend 'under observation'. After reaching home, I cooked and waited for my M-i-L to return from work. As we watched TV that night, I felt an uncomfortable pain around my bump, as if an invisible band was being gradually tightened around my ample middle... Mum asked me if I was all right, and, since I had no clue, I nodded. Later that night, as the discomfort intensified, she told me to take care and get some rest, and to wake her up if I felt any pain. My husband worked afternoon shifts as a restaurant manager, so I called him and we talked about the possibility that tonight was THE NIGHT!! After an excited exchange and numerous text messages to him, I rang the Delivery Suite team and was told to take some Paracetamol and try to relax until the contractions were five minutes apart. When I told my husband Raj, he just jumped up, and said, "Let's go!!" 

I can recollect, with some accuracy, the way the Delivery Suite Midwives settled me in, and the way I held my husband's hand with bone-crushing intensity. (Its a good thing he has always been fit and works out at the gym, come rain or shine; a lesser man would have howled and pulled away as the waves of pain crashed over me with alarming regularity.) It all felt so rushed, and uncomfortable that I felt like saying, "hang on, can we run over this bit again!!??" It left me ill-prepared to use the gas-and-air mask that a nurse told me to breathe with when the pain intensified. Consequently, I managed to deliver my precious first child whilst feeling as if I were being ripped from the inside out. I pushed and pushed and then some more until the searing pain gave way and I felt a warm, wet and soft form escape my body... I craned my neck to catcha glimpse of my child, (all I could see was black hair and a tiny, limp form, face down on the sheets between my knees. Worried and anxious when I did not hear her cries (as I had expected, thanks to the hundred-odd hindi films depicting the birth of a child) my feeling of dread was pushed to the back when the super-efficient midwife wrapped her up in a clean towel and proffered my husband a pair of scissors to cut the cord...With shaking hands, he did just as she instructed, and she lay my baby in my ams for a quick cuddle.... Meanwhile, Senior staff who entered the room (I had no idea who they were and scrambled to preserve the remnants of my dignity) A supportive midwife helped me sit up and I was relieved to see I was decent! The seniors consulted amongst themselves about her low APGAR score, and debated on the next course of action. All this took just a few minutes and soon after her birth, they had a little sterile trolley brought in and were ready to take S down to NIU to be monitored for a few hours.

In the moments following her birth, as the NICU staff whisked her away, my dear husband looked worried sick and torn in two as he brushed away tears with the back of his hand. A nurse plunged a needle into my thigh to give me some vitamin K and another prepared to 'stitch me up'. Late that morning, after an hour of bed rest, and a wash (that made me feel like I was still alive) and being examined and monitored by the wonderful staff, I was wheeled down to see my brand-new baby daughter, who I had only just held in my arms briefly, until that point... (My husband and his mum had gone home after seeing to it that both of us were okay and resting.) She looked so tiny, so fragile and yet so much her own person!! Her spiky, jet-black hair stood out in all directions,  her eyes tighly shut, an unmistakable frown (her Dad's) imprinted her forehead as she lay on her tummy, under the warm light in an incubator. As she slept, I looked and looked at her, unable to fight the urge to hold her close, yet afraid to do so, as she clearly, needed the drip and the warmth. I debated with myself and continued to look at her until a kindly nurse asked me if I'd like to hold her!!?? So, as mother and daughter were finally re-united outside the womb, a new chapter of our lives began! A chapter that said, "Hello!!"

In all our interactions so far in her young life, I try and recollect that first meeting and that first touch... As she snuggles up to me at night and falls asleep to this day, her breathing becoming regular and her little hands clasping me in different places, I thank God for the gift of motherhood...

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Music is pure joy!

Today, I visited my daughter at her school in the morning. A few weeks ago, my husband and I had recieved a hand-drawn invite to the Guitar Concert her class was practising for...Dear Dady and mum, it said, Brunel Class invites you to their Guitar Concert on 27th June 2012, at 10:30 A.M...
I was curious about her co-curricular activities at school, and had eagerly waited to see how she felt about performing! Shivangi has difficulties with expressive and receptive language, social interaction and with her fine and gross motor skills like writing, running, jumping, walking etc.... (these are the words of experts, who have supported, studied and 'assessed' her SEN so far...) but, like all children, she loves music and will rock and nod her body and head to a tune she likes... Sometimes, she bursts into tears and tells me to stop singing and at other times she gives me a big hug and a kiss on my hand as I sing, cooking their breakfast or walking them to school! ...What can I say; she's uniquely mine!!

Shivangi, all smiles after her concert at school today.

So, it was doubly important for me to see her do something she clearly enjoyed and tried to do her best with...! The concert was beautiful, and all the children played really well! I could see that they all loved it, and were proud and elated to put up the concert for their parents. Many of the parents had missed appointments, breakfast, and walked for a good half hour to be there and the pride was visible in their grins of delight and the enthusiastic applause.. Shivangi, while struggling with the strumming at times, definitely seemed like she loved what she was doing! She had a great big smile on her little face and, from behind the kids in the front row, she sneaked me smiles and kisses before they began playing. To say that my heart swam with joy is not off the mark... it a feeling every parent will relate to, no matter what their child is doing, so long as they are enjoying themselves...
They played a few songs, and the kids struck the chords well, then it was time for us parents to be introduced to the beauty of music, as the kids sang and demonstrated PULSE, RHYTHM, TONE and PITCH, and played a few more songs- reggae and country- to show us their kind of music they had been listening to.
Andy, the guitar and music teacher is a great guy, and the kids played with him well; he took them through the demo and smiled encouragingly so the kids felt at ease. Later, as we chatted about sourcing a guitar for the kids, he answered my questions about how and where to get a good kids' guitar, so that their small hands can reach across without a struggle! Its Shivangi's birthday next week and I wanted to get her something she would cherish during her childhood... My own parents inculcated in us a love for music, and so Keya di got her first tuned piano toy when she was little, followed by Me and Diggi who had a keyboard, and we learned to play the sitar(me) and tabla (him) at school when little.
I recollect that Harit and you got together largely due to your shared love of music, and its a terrific inheritance for Raina. The fact that you have so much variety in your musical repertoire, is amazing and a great learning tool besides...! Love an happy music-ing!!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Just another day....

My Dear Monu,
Life is not without end... what is eternal is how you live it.
On many occassions, at high or low points in my life, I've dwelt on the meaning or implication or the phrase, "I cried because I had no shoes, until I saw a man who had no feet.." What it signifies to me is that, basically, joy and sorrow are the byproducts of our OWN mind. Let me explain. In the armed forces, many a soldier lives from day-to-day, always following orders, undergoing rigorous training, and pushing their bodies to the limits of endurance.... Are they happy?? Or sad...?? All I know is that in that position, as my brother says, one is just happy to eat a meal, sleep for four-five hours or have a quick shower!!
For me, life is to be lived with no regrets.... if, going back, you feel you did not do something right somewhere, then its time to have a re-think, and talk things through with all those who were a part of the decision, or were and are affected by it...It is the reason why I try to talk to Raj about the slightest nagging restlessness of my heart and mind. To his credit, he can spot at once if things are not right and will ask me outright, what the matter is... On some occassions, the talk stops mid-way, like a boatman who loses the oars midstream, or a swimmer who finds his arms and legs frozen...
I then let it go, and things don't get resolved, only more complicated....
Often, when I feel I am sad or down, and can't take things anymore, I visit a friend or, in extreme situations, the doctor, who patiently listen, offer support, maybe even a solution or two... But as I am not one to push people around, or force them to do things they may be unhappy with, I just feel my stress melt away after I talk to my father or my brother... Life has taught me something; never cause yourself pain and internal suffering, from the words of others; just let it go sweeping over your head! Whenever I feel my situation is unbearable, I thik of my dearest Keya di- so far away, so alone and cut-off, and yet she remains happy- I always hear the smile in her voice when I cal her, and she make my day by sending me a mail from across the oeans, every once in a while...
She is strong, stoic, supportive and terrific... in all, I am but a shadow of her, as she goes about her life living to make her family happy and joyous, even at the cost of her own happiness...
Sometimes life, itself, gives us a silent lesson and teaches us a thing or two...
I'm just learning to listen and learn...
In your post you wrote about how you and Raina went for a morning walk and connected over a children's movie...I was smiling when I read that...! Thank you for sharing a wonderfully simple idea with me! I also take the girls out to the park fairly early on sundays, and we all love the fresh air and they enjoy playing there. I miss Raj and wish he would wake up around nine and come with us too, but he is not a morning person... My biggest solace is the fact that I, at least, am able to go out with them and do as I please.. It is these moments which are so precious! I'm learning something each time I read your post...so keep them coming!
Be happy ALWAYS!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Being alive...

My children...!

Whenever I come upon a certain day in the year, each year, there is only one burning thought in my mind- am I really alive!? Alive in the actual sense of the word, the way mother nature wishes us to be?? ...Alive to my surroundings, to the feelings of others, their needs, my own needs, our collective happiness, and joy etc!? Not just happiness that comes from eating a good meal or watching a film, but joy within, in my essential being- joy that makes me and my loved ones feel blissful and at peace...
 This day, today, is the 36th, maybe give or take a decade. Simply because, growing up, I never really dwelt on the finer points of life like I do now...now that I have my own children and watch my life's joys intertwined with their everydays!! I always spend this day thinking about my parents, secretly thanking the Lord for giving me the parents He did. My father, strong, simple, placid and calm, and a rock anyone can lean on! My mother, pretty much the same, only as flexible and as strong as a reed of willow by a lake, so that she withstood the toughest times in her life with Dad by her side and they both, together, gave me and my siblings a lesson in life like no one else can.

What can I say about my mother that I've not said before..?? She is the one who bore me, gave me life, and not having her around now for the last 17 years has been very hard.... I remember her telling me about how she was rushed to the hospital, and I was born prematurely...Dad was away on Temporary Duty with the Indian Air Force..... My uncle was the one who was called and told that I was a girl, all of three pounds, and he imagined they were talking of a child with a third leg!! ( पाँव or paun in hindi means leg)  I can imagine his relief when he actually saw me that day!! My mother would talk to me when I was growing up, and would ask her what she remembered about the day I was born... and I remember how she told me she felt horrified and indignant when women and relatives asked her in gujarati months after I was born, "છોરી જીવે સે!?" ( or "..is your girl still alive, then!?" )

I think of my father, how he has coped all these years, alone, and yet in bliss... and how hard it is for me to imagine myself in his position... That I am learning something from him everyday is an understatement... in fact, every time I think of him, he inspires me beyond measure....! He has such tremendous faith in me, that it gives me confidence to simply BE!! He is all I have now, of both of them, and in some way, he is both father and mother to me now- such is our rapport.

Each time this day rolls around, I think of my father and mother and whether or not they would be proud and happy with the way I have conducted my life thus far... I think I know, deep down, that the answer is what keeps me going and trying to better myself, and make amends when all seems to be lost or whenever I feel weak or helpless... I am lucky to have the love and blessings of my parents today, as are all the children in the world...I love life so much because it was a gift from them... and I can confidently say 'I will survive' anything, any situation, simply because their upbringing has equipped me with the necessary values and lessons to be a fighter and a soldier; I can love and I can also let go...but most of all, I feel privileged to be their daughter...

Thinking of you, Mummy and Dad, on my 36th birthday, I hope and pray that someday, you both will have good reason to be proud of me!! Till then, I shall strive to better myself each day and every time that I feel I could have done it 'just right' with a bit more effort! Please accept my most loving and sincere pranams to you both for being my parents in this life...

Monday, May 21, 2012

for You, Mon!!

Shooting to Paint, not Kill....

I've got to update my GEN on Cameras, esp. the digital SLRs... any good sites/links etc to explore my Nikon D3000 and its best features?? The camera manual is only cursory, and I'm sitting down with the two CDs that came in the pack last month... raring to go, but unsure how to get the result I am looking for... I prefer to use more Manual modes, you know... sort of expore the best features for myself...Haven't even taken it out and about yet... : (
I remember my Dad requesting Upendra, ( aapdi Niki's hubby!) to buy me a Nikon FM10 from Singapore in 2000. Previously, during our Photography studio in 2nd year, SID, I had made do with my Uncle's Cannon, (Fuasaheb and my Lataba Faiba's husband)  which had a splendid zoom lens, but was unserviced and had a problem with the film exposure to light...something I discovered later, after I got my prints back from the Imaging Studios...

Having learned the basics of Photography from Jaladhi, (our SID Senior and a terrific guy with a Camera) I have long nursed a desire to paint with my camera the way an artist does with a brush... Last month, Raj brought my dream closer within my grasp by gifting me a digital SLR...but I'm terrified of damaging it, (it starts raining out here at the drop of a hat!!)
I guess, like most things in life, I just have to take it out, use it, and learn from the experience! So far, I had been too busy with work, home and family to focus on myself and my desires... but now, having done Cycletta Bedfordshire 2012 again, I feel I can take the Camera in my hands and go out and about training myself to use it... trust it and above all, KNOW it!
I'll be keeping you updated, with how I do, how the experience pans out, how and where I get inspired to shoot with it...!! First up: I'll take it for a ride on my bicycle early tomorrow morning, if I can wake up after the insomnia of excitement that has, inexplicably, gripped me today until the late hours now!!
More later!!!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Busy but Happy!

Dear Mon,

A lot of times life is so hectic and busy, that 24 hours don't quite seem enough! I get my moments of peace at night, with my notebook and earphones, just like you do, in bed when everyone else in the family is asleep...
Work, Cycletta (next weekend) and the childrens' school and homework keep me busy, but I think of and draw strength from you a lot of the time. Even just recollecting your posts in the midst of doing my work makes me smile!
More later, my friend!
Loving Cycletta last year, September 2011.

My girls @ bedtime! (on some 'smiley' evenings!)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Lessons of Life from my parents.

Change comes slowly; unnoticeable but unfailing like the rising Sun or the tide, the waxing  of the moon or the advent of Spring.... It envelopes us slowly but surely, the way each passing moment turns 'this moment' into 'that moment'...; the moment that was.... I am ever-conscious of the way we change, with age, time and experience... Some of us become mellow and softer, some stronger and surer, still others feel, despite their best efforts, as if Life is slipping by like a fistful of sand, leaving nothing of consequence... I, sadly, fall in to the last category, and try to pull myself out of the cess-pool of self-doubt and lack of confidence with a bit of thought and a bit of ;me' time. If I need to 'sort-out' my thoughts, I just wake up early into the morning, put on my trainers and shrug into my jacket. With my mobile playing my favourite tunes, and the roads clear of traffic, I either pound the pavement, or ride out on my bike... These are my two best means of introspection.
I often have my family and friends here tell me that I talk a lot, and that my tone is not always respectful although the words, in themselves, aren't offensive. Bearing these things in mind, I have been trying to be conscious of the following points in my interactions with others. I have tried to look back on the past two decades of my life and sort through the most important things I have learnt from the most important people in my life- my parents.

My mother always used to say to me, "Remember, Ruch, Help ever, hurt never..." This message of Sri Sathya Sai Baba, stayed with me and shaped my psyche. I always try to look on the bright side, unless I feel pushed into a situation and react out of anger or some such strong emotion...With perseverance, I hope to rid myself of all such vices, eventually. Sometimes, if I'm in a fix as to how to react to something someone close to me has said, (like the incident at home that I wrote to you about) and find myself giving in to the anger, pain and hurt those words can often cause, I lash back too... Later, when I've calmed down I am left with a feeling of emptiness... So I often ask myself, "Is it because I reacted negatively too??" As a lovely song in 'The Sound of Music' goes, "Nothing comes from nothing, nothing, ever, could.... so somewhere in my youth, or childhood.... I must have done, something good..." I think of what Mummy would say/do if I asked her for her views, and would I disregard her views the same way that my Mum-in-Law says I do hers??! This has brought about  change in me, maybe late, maybe far too long in coming, but a change that I wish to celebrate and embrace- I look to her now, today, as I would to my mother, if she were alive. God, I tell myself, has given me another mother- in a new form, but in essence, a mother who loves me and wishes me well. So I am trying, each day, to interact with her the same way I would interact with my mother- sharing worries, listening, following her advice and looking after her wishes in subtle ways...So far, it looks like something I should have always done- and I never would have had any difficulties in my relationship with her. Respect begets respect, and Love alone, begets Love!

From Dad, I learned that one must always support and speak the truth. Sure, its hard, and sometimes gets us into trouble, but ultimately, it always triumphs. Not for nothing does a great nation like India put सत्यमेव जायते as its National Motto!! When Lord Sri Rama, Shiva and Krishna- the divine, beloved deities of our Hindu pantheon, upheld Satya, (Truth) and Dharma, over all else, how can I not follow their simplest of messages?? - Love, Truth, dharma, and Non-Violence- even in the mind!! I talk to my father about everything and anything. His non-aggression and inner-peace make me realise how much we take things for granted! He never criticises others, but just looks at them as' living their nature'. His advice to me is never dished out- "do this, do that" and the other!! He will narrate a memory, an incident from his life which taught him something, and after we speak or write to each other, I find myself filled with positive energy- looking to others with love, hope and goodwill. His life has been my greatest example of how to follow the way of the Lord- Realise that divinity is inside us and not something outside of our reach. We are, essentially, that which we seek- in Temples, in Churches, in the Smiles of our children... i.e, Sat,Chitt, and Anand... 

Dad is a happy person! He is neither too happy when things are fine, nor too sad when anything unexpected occurs... He is peaceful, and calm, he is ever blissful, and always content. Living by himself for so many years is unthinkable to me, but he has done it without attracting attention, or making others feel sorry for him. I only feel the greatest pride when I think of him! I learn from his example and share my thoughts and feelings with him as I do with you. (Not the bit about Raj and I, but other things!)
With the parents that I have, I feel that life has given me ample scope to beat all odds and emerge stronger and more humble. So, for the moment, I am just keeping my head down and focussing on the positives that you share with me on  your blog! It is a treat to read and learn from you, Mon! Thank you for being my friend in need!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

My Restlessness...

When things don't quite go as per plan,
When LIFE isn't going how I (imagined it would when the journey) began,
When I feel alone,
divided, and joyless inside;
my heart heavy with the sadness that comes from a few ill-timed words and an aggressive glare,
from the one I hoped, would understand me...

When love is just a faint memory, life makes my present no gift...
when we spiral into blaming the circumstances,
the finances,
or the lack of time,
when careless jokes or insecurities you voice make me feel so powerless,
so 'without-a-choice'
When our inherent differences make this joyless co-existence we pretend to uphold a burden...

A marriage 'for' whom May I ask??!!
for joy, for love, or a dragging task??
"The kids are young, they need US," you say,
and "If I didn't love you, you'd be out in a day..".
not reassuring, if I dare say myself... not at all uplifting to be told I'm a slob,
Or that I'm aggressive when I only stand up and speak my mind,
add my 'partners' bit in our so-called 'TEAM PARTNERSHIP'...
trying to be an equal ally not a trouble, nor liability.
when my self-respect is down in the toes of my shoes,
when I feel nothing, any more, not even an urge to cry..

It is time, my Dear,
Its time to let you go,
time to say goodbye,
But certainly not time to die...

Maybe, if I only gather up my shreds,
and become a bit stronger and forge on, ahead,
alone, but not lonely,
Poor and yet positive,
I might still  make something worthwhile of my life yet.

Just need to leap, to spread out my wings,
to catch the air and learn to fly...
It is time, to be ME, again, and live and let (you) live too,
I do still care,
I also love you,
just not in the way we'd thought it would be,
Our lives are now so 'separate',
they don't mingle or gel.
This is not a marriage, no, it makes us all unwell.
We need to talk, but my words are now gone...
I am numb, I'm sad, I'm tired and sore,
I don't like this, I don't need this, don't want it, any more...

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

This too, shall pass.

My dearest Monica,

Sleep is a pause for the Soul- that which is eternal, unchanging and untouched. When we are sleeping, our Soul lies with God for those brief moments between dreams and wakefulness....That is when we have no sense of 'self' no bondage, no relationships, no likes and no dislikes...we are even unaware of our own breathing... We are like a shell, with the pearl within given up, deep in the ocean's arms...This was something I realised in the last couple of days..

Last weekend,when my Mum (-in-Law) came home, Raj and I were really happy and relieved. There were many reasons: Bapuji and Ba who are both elderly and frail, were making this long-haul flight and had arrived safely, if a little exhausted from the ordeal.We could look forward to being with the whole family and mum wouldn't have to worry about them (her parents) being alone in our village in India.

It was all okay for a day or so, when mum tried to coax them both to eat a little bit and rest a bit too. Of course, we were worried for their health and how they would cope with the long journey, but given the circumstances, this was the best option: get them both here before Ba was too frail to travel. Bapuji had not been his usual self since he arrived, and this was making us all worried to varying degrees. Once, mum asked him if he would come to the doctor with her, but he declined, saying that in a day or so, everything would be allright, he probably just needed some sleep. He did not eat much, and mum had to cajole him to eat a little bit that evening. What we never imagined was that it would be the last time we saw him awake..

That night, sometime after midnight, (when we all went to bed) Bapuji passed away in his sleep... I remember staying awake until around four a.m that night, on the landing of the stairs, unable to sleep, reading, writing and listening to music... I was listening to your favourite songs, mentioned on your last blog post and noticed Ba walking to the bathroom in the night... When morning came, I woke up early, and went down to the kitchen, where mum was making some tea for them both. We talked about how they were that morning, and she said they were both asleep. Ba told mum not to wake up Bapuji, as he must be resting after a long time, so she got Ba ready for breakfast and then went to wake him up. That's when she discovered that he was really cold...

With the family in mourning, we organized his Funeral...What struck me was how composed Ba was, despite the gravity of her loss... She's a terrific Lady. She's a fighter, a Survivor and a great example of how to face circumstances like these with equanimity and composure, calm and clear in the mind... Although suffering from cancer herself, she is an example of how to be stoic in the face of tragedy.

Telling the kids what had happened, and explaining it to them was the hardest part; I didn't want to make them feel like nothing was the matter- since they could clearly see everyone was upset and grieving. I broke it to them as gently as I could, explaining that their great-granddad was no more amongst us, but would always be in their hearts and thoughts, if they wanted it. Others may disagree- choosing, instead, to keep the truth from ones so young but I am a believer in the facts of life. The sooner my kids understand the way life works, the sooner they can make sense of their world. Besides, they need to appreciate the feelings of others around them, and if they're unaware of what is causing the grief, how can they empathise??

Thank you for such a simple yet difficult lesson; prioritization! I think, I need a lesson in the ART OF PRIORITIZATION!! There is something my mother told us about a story related to Siddhartha, or Gautam Buddha, and his path to Enlightenment... In one of your last posts, you had mentioned the phrase , 'this too, shall pass', and today, or in fact, this last week, I realised the true meaning of the phrase...
It is said that Gautam Buddha was born as prince Siddhartha of Kapilavastu, to King Shuddodhana. When he was born, a prediction was made; that the newborn prince would grow up to become either a great, renowned king or a world-renouncing monk. Hearing this, the King who wanted his son to succeed him to the throne and be a great ruler, shielded his young son from all the unpleasant truths of life, in the hope that the wise men's prophecies regarding him becoming a monk would be proven wrong.

 But one day, the young prince Siddhartha witnessed the truths of life in quick succession- rendering his world-view obsolete, and gave rise to a restlessness of the Soul which made him seek the truth...He first saw an old woman, bent with age, frail and forlorn, and asked his father's minister who she was and what was the matter with her... "She is an old woman, young prince," said the minister, at which Siddhartha asked what had made her grow old, "...age, sir, has made her bent and old, and time is what has aged her... Siddhartha thought for a while and asked, "Will I too, grow old one day," "Yes, my dear sir, everyone who is born must age one day, just as surely as the sun rises and the seasons change with the passage of time..."
Then, the prince saw a sick man, ailing and emaciated, and a group of men taking out a funeral procession..with each passing sight, his questions grew deeper, his realization of the truth of life as he knew of it changed and he became more and more keen to find out what, if anything, could make a person really blissful in this world full of grief and suffering...
As if in response to his thoughts, he finally saw a monk, his face aglow and his simplicity rendering him with a magnetism that was hard to escape. We all know what happened next; how a prince realised the transience of the world, its joys and sorrows and how unaffected the soul was, in essence... How his realisation led him to renounce his kingdom, leave his loved ones and choose the path of enlightenment, becoming a seeker...

Its sad that it took a bereavement in our family to remind me of the lesson of life- living in the present and having no regrets. How do I focus on others all the time and still look after my soul and its inherent well-being!? How do I prevent myself 'reacting' to situations in a negative way and still not appear to be 'unresponsive' and 'uncaring'!? That is something I'm still pondering, as I take the kids out 'Egg-Hunting' over Easter, and watch them have fun splashing in the rain-soaked outdoors...
The learning continues...

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Amazing Grace..

Dear Friend Mon,

My Dear Girl!
Sometimes, just knowing someone, somewhere believes in us is enough to get us up and running! for me, you are THAT someone, Mon... Whenever I miss my mother, my sister or my long-ago friend, I turn to the memory of all those days in our undergrad days at SID,C.E.P.T, when you insisted I joined you for breakfast at the CEPT canteen, knowing fully well that I had no money on me to even buy us both a chai... It still moves me close to tears, how effortlessly you turned my shyness to open up as we sat, and how you shared your own plate of chana-powa with me...
Whenever I was overwhelmed, or unsure, doubtful or confused, you sat down and discussed my 'concepts' , 'ideas' and ' just-born sketches' with me, helping me more than I ever realised...
To you, my sweet friend...the angel in disguise,
if you, ever, need a friend in life,
to listen,
to care,
to share
and to lighten a burden,
i will always, always be there for you...

A Song for You:

Bridge Over Troubled Water.... (click this link!)

When you're weary
Feeling small
When tears are in your eyes
I will dry them all

I'm on your side
When times get rough
And friends just can't be found
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

When you're down and out
When you're on the street
When evening falls so hard
I will comfort you

I'll take your part
When darkness comes
And pain is all around
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

Sail on Silver Girl,
Sail on by
Your time has come to shine
All your dreams are on their way
See how they shine
If you need a friend
I'm sailing right behind
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind

 - Original studio version sung by Paul simon and Art Garfunkel

Friday, March 30, 2012

Running to stand still...

My dear friend Mon,

Do you remember hearing ...running to stand still , the U2 song with the same name, way back in SID days??! Sometimes, I feel like that's all I'm doing, day in-day out...and the world still doesn't stop spinning around in my head. It makes me dizzy with worry, at times, and at times, I laugh out from the stress of it all, till I cry...
The last few days have been like this... Kids' school, my work-shifts (the night shift days are back)..shopping for food, shopping for groceries, hospital appointments, kids to entertain after school, Shivangi's Parental Request for her new Special School place to present to the SPAG Panel next month...
At times,in the mornings, the kids are still indoors when the clock says we should be halfway across on our walk to school. Sometimes, I am lacing up my trainers trying to get them to cram their lunch boxes into the carriers...So its not surprising that I have spent the last whole week asleep on the sofa falling asleep at night, with the TV on...Sitting up, leaning across the backrest... In the early morning, a chill, a pain in my neck or the lights in the room awaken me and I sigh, getting ready for another day...Today, the girls came to a farm with me and my friend Pavla, and her son James. We'd been there last week, so it was a repeat visit. shivangi usually likes repeat visits as she knows what to expect! Tomorrow, I have my second hospital appointment at 11 a.m, so Pavla will take the kids out with her son, and said I should get some sleep. (I'm off to work now, and have another shift tomorrow). On Sunday, My Mum-in-Law comes back.
Would love to hear your ideas for calmly tackling the daily grind!
love n hugs,

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Simon says...

I have always felt that one of the biggest weaknesses of being a human is that, often, one feels compelled to given in and follow the 'herd'... Whether out of fear of standing out, or from being unsure of oneself, too many times, too many people give in to this urge. Last year London reeled from the effects and losses of the most reprehensible and vilest of acts committed by so-called 'civilized' people, namely the looting and trashing of businesses, public property and personal belongings. At the time, I thought of times of unrest in India and the subsequent public outrage- evident in images of horrifying attacks, burnings buses, raided stocks, pillaged shops, and hurt humans when the 'masses' gave vent to their mindless outburst and 'protested' some government stand, or another such unfortunate event...

 Yesterday, in the unlikeliest of settings, I saw one of the most glaring examples of this behavioural trait.It was a gloriously sunny day, so I took the children to the park, and watched them frolic, and try out the rides, sharing, playing, chasing other kids around... On and off, they called on me to help them on the merry-go-round or onto a swing and I did, returning to my favourite activity- watching them play! As they weaved in and out on their mechanical scooters, my attention was claimed by a group of nine-ten year olds, playing that popular nursery school game, "Simon says".

There were a few girls and a couple of boys, and the game was going predictably enough, with 'simon' saying "...spin around" and "roll your shoulders"...the group complied, and there were no surprises there. Then, 'Simon" decided to throw in a moral twist into the plot, telling the group, "Simon says....push Elijah", The whole group set upon the one named Elijah, pushing him onto the tarmac, and laughed at his surprised outrage. Simon, then, said "Simon says... kick Elijah" At this point, to be totally honest, a big part of me was all for breaking up this nasty 'game' , but I was held back. Was it he kids' age or the fact that one of the group's parent stood nearby, all eyes and attention, looking after a toddler and also gazing at the group of 'simons', playing nearby. I watched from a distance, uncomfortable and torn-in-two... ready to break up the 'party' come what may, if it went beyond a point...About two years ago, I had broken up just such a group, when they had cornered a five year old...I had realised then, that a group of kids, when they stand against one child, can be ruthless and unforgiving... At the time, an older sibling had taken a cue from me and made them see sense. I had heaved a sigh and turned to my children...

Thankfully, the group broke up, fighting amongst themselves long before the need arose for me to intervene. I was left feeling sad for the loss of an innocent childhood, witnessing an age when youngsters think nothing of pulverizing one of their numbers in the name of a dare, of looting and trashing others' belongings, destroying their lives and defying the Law confident that their 'human-rights' will be stronger than their lawless disregard of authority and judgement, no matter how horribly they trample the 'human rights' of others... Of how we, inadvertently, breed, raise and allow this violence of mind and body...

My heart was struck cold by the playground antics, wondering if, someday, my own child would be a victim of this apathetic hatred and indifference. A cold wave washed over me and I decided to speak to someone about this...soon. Memo to self: Talk...Ask...Scream Out Loud...STOPIT!

Friday, March 23, 2012

'फुर्सत के रात दिन- The Heart and the Home.

Dear Monica,
When I look back on the last weekend and those two days I spent with my brother, I find it hard to believe I was so free, so relaxed, and yet so out-of-place... I could not understand the restlessness inside me until, as I walked off the bus nearby and turned around the corner, I saw my home... The feeling of peace it gave me, made me realise what I had been missing, all along. I BELONG HERE... my heart said, and my head, filled with relief, concurred. So, what is home!!?? It is a harbour to the ship called body, it is a parachute to the jumper called desire, it is a rein to the horse called drive and ambition... home, truly, is where the heart is!!

When I knocked on the door and Raj opened it, his smile said it all! Then, the kids soon came looking towards us from the behind him, smiling and exclaiming "mummy!!!", ..."You're home..."

This is one of my favourite songs of all times....It reminds me of my childhood days, when, in a home without a TV, I watched my parents sitting outside in the Lawn on summer nights, the light filtering out through the curtains...(Dil dhoondhta hai), There are so many memories associated with it.... Dad singing along, and even humming it the next day, as he stood by Mummy watching her cook. He would lean on the Kitchen Platform, chatting about their day, and stirring the vegetable occasionally, as she busied herself with making the rotli. 

Daddy always has loved good music, and given my Mum's understanding of various languages, (or her 'sources', like her colleague Arvinder Auntie in Chandigarh's Dev Samaj College who told her the meaning of tricky Urdu words they weren't sure of in Ghazals and Nazms), their enjoyment of world music was special and intimate. In our home, music was the constant echo, just like it is in yours, Monica... Your description of how music is a part of the very air you breathe, reverberated in my soul and I could feel an identical sense of kinship with the memories you shared!

My favourite memory of being in Ahmedabad after SID was when I was busy with the Thesis and would spend hours in the room, reading, writing, sketching nad typing things up on my PC. Later, after Dad would get home, we both would sit down with Ba, have our dinner, and then all of us would chill-out, listening to the radio crooning  musaafir hoon yaaron, or gulzar's serial- Mirza Ghalib's Audio CDs, one of our favourites...When the home stirred the silence with Jagjit Singh's melodious, pathos-laden voice as he sang, Aah ko Chahiye... By Mirza Ghalib...we felt really touched by the depth of feeling in the shayari...
Music is an integral part of life; when we go for a walk, we hear the birds sing, and as we listen, we can make out which tree the bird is in, where the responses is coming from, and how high-up in the tree it is...sort of like waking up to Nature all over again...It soothes me, calms me down and nothing else can do that, unless of course, we count a perfect evening spent with my husband, just sitting together, alone, talking or watching something and each of us thinks the exact same thought at the exact same time...This realisation of being so finely 'tuned-in' to each other is fantastic...and makes us smile! Music is the echo in my heart; when I'm restless, missing Dad or Keya didi, Digi or Mummy, I listen to a song from the past, and it transports me into that era....
Time goes by, but memories remain, and music is a power that can bring back the 'feel' of that moment back with all the sensory experiences you went through at the time....Its like a phoenix rising from the ashes each time you invoke it with the music of that bit of time...!

Note to myself...!

Dear Monu,
Reading your latest post, Big john doesn't pay!, I was struck by how you used the lesson to guide you to reach a conclusion; of hope, opportunity and getting something good out of every adversity!!

...एक राह रुक गयी, तो और जुड़ गयीं...
...मैं मुडा तो साथ-साथ, राह मुड़ गयी...!

मुसाफ़िर हूँ यारों, न घर है, ना ठिकाना,
मुझे चलते जान है... बस चलते जाना...
                          -Kishore Da's song 'मुसाफ़िर हूँ यारों'  from Parichay

I would like to share another such anecdote with you, one that my Dad had read in a Readers' digest Magazine years ago (we were probably eight or nine, Digi and me). He came home, and later read the story to us and we all shared a laugh, as a family! Just like your home, we did not have a TV at home in those days by choice and so, evenings usually went by listening to old LPs, reading, or chatting about things at school or work.
This story left such an impact on our demeanour and attitude, that if at all any of us starts fretting or worrying about 'what if' kind of scenarios, we all recollect this tale and have a laugh! If I'm panicky about 'what will happen if' I take the kids out, or if they make noise and wake up the other members of the family and start imagining their reactions, based on one incident, then I remind myself, that their reaction may not always be that way...I tell myself to loosen-up a bit and get REAL!!! Dad and I often banter about it in our e-mails and share a laugh (well, a 'virtual-laugh' at least!!) Its a good story, and makes us realise why we need to give our minds a rest, sometimes!
I'm sharing it here, (from the wonderful World-Wide Web), so you can see why its such a favourite with us!! (just click on the link, sit back and enjoy!!)
Borrowing a Jack!!

I'd love to hear your views about this one too!!
Lots of love,
yours, Ruch

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Pleasure versus Happiness

Dear Monica,

For some time now, I, too, have been finding it hard to ascertain whether I'm truly happy or otherwise.... One thing is for certain- if I were truly unhappy, I would not sit still until I changed the Status Quo. For example, when I am unhappy with my health, I try to eat more healthily, when I'm unhappy with the state of my house, I set about cleaning it through and through...and when I'm unhappy with something someone said or the way they said it, I try to talk to them about it and clear the air...
Pleasure is, as you said, a short-term feeling; fleeting and intense, but gets dulled and predictable unless we derive it from things that make life meaningful. Somehow, to me pleasure is something that is intertwined with happiness....The happiness of others.

So, when I cook, I get pleasure, but I get my happiness when my family enjoys the food! When I go to work, I feel happy if a patient is well looked-after, and their smile is enough for me then! Nothing is too much trouble, and that's the way it should be. If I take care of someone for their own sake, I feel happy. So, when they, in turn, get pleasure from my pleasure, it gives me happiness! When  the kids are pleased to go outdoors with me, it gives me happiness! As I see the delight on their faces, the excitement dancing in their eyes, I feel buoyant and light...! When Raj is pleased with something I did, I feel happy....too!!

All this is not to say I am always dependent upon others- kids, husband, in-laws, friends, workmates etc to make me feel happy. If that were the case, I would probably be more unhappy, than happy! The simple reason is, one can't please all the people all the time! Someone, sometime, is going to get upset/ displeased with me. I accept that, and I also look at it with a rational mind and open heart. Sometimes, others' expectations of us are so high, we cannot please them, no matter how hard we try...In such cases it is right to do our best and leave the rest to God...! He sees our effort, and He will reward us with the peace and happiness our soul craves.... For its is सुख not ख़ुशी we seek, surely!!??

All I do is be honest with myself, and make sure my inner being is always happy! It is important to revitalise ourselves and do things that make us happy- just for us, sometimes. Like go and do something that is good for us, which only we, ourselves, will understand, even if anyone else won't ...That isn't selfishness; we OWE it to ourselves! This will ensure that our 'bank' of joy is always in credit and we never run out of spirit! So, if I feel like taking a walk, reading a book, eating a chocolate muffin, writing/talking to my Dad or sister, I DO IT! But, these activities are sensory, so that, when the phone-conversation, muffin or book is finished, so is my pleasure... Why does it not translate into happiness??!The reason, to me, is because it was dependent on other, external situations, people, scenarios etc to derive that pleasure. 

We just need to remember one thing: never, deliberately hurt others by our thoughts, words or deeds. That is cruel and disrespectful, unnecessary and malicious. We, our Soul, our hearts work best when we are at peace with ourselves. Just as a car works best when the engine is clean. If we liken our life to a car, the body of the car is our physical self, the condition of the car is like our attitude, our way of co-existing with others... the fuel is how we handle our relationships- with anyone and everyone- from our spouse to our milkman, from the bus-driver to our child's teacher... Just as a car tries its best on any road or surface you drive on. Then, the performance of the car is the peace and joy we get out of our lives... This peace comes only from making sure we are kind, in our hearts, our mind, our words and our deeds. Such peace is everlasting and buoyant, weightless and eternal.

Remember how we greet every new person in our life with respect, attentiveness and a smile??! Sometimes, because of different attitudes and outlooks, there are, fights, arguments and misunderstandings among two people. Then, the same people cease to look at you the same way..! We, still, for our part, need to be at peace and this is only possible if we 'erase' all the hurt, all the pain, all the frustration and dislike in our hearts and replace it with peaceful love for them. How is that possible, you say, when the other person hates us??Just imagine you're meeting them for the first time, again, and the feeling, the 'vibe' will return. Slowly, they too, will see the change in us and feel differently about us...

When I find this hard, or feel I'm not getting the desired result for me soon enough, I remind myself-

I need to be like the flower which is always smiling, always giving away its fragrance, its nectar, its pleasant colours and its life- to give pleasure to others. If I pursue my pleasure alone, all the time, I will be no different from the bee, which flits from flower to flower, in search of sensory pleasure for its own gratification.  

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Journey of a Mum:

As I walked to the car last Friday morning, on my way to Swindon to see my brother and his family, (Raj and Shivangi were dropping me off to the Leagrave train Station) I checked my bag and shared some last-minute concerns with hubby (Where the kids' socks, underwear, day/night clothes are kept, how early they are likely to get up over the weekend, where the Paracetamol was kept, how to reach School, in case he needed to ring there, etc etc.)..I tried to calm myself down and push away the feeling that I was, somehow, abandoning my family over the next two days, to cope as best they could without me... Raj reminded me we had discussed this and decided this together already-WHY I simply needed this time: to unwind, to revitalise myself and find myself again...

The Train journey began tentatively, with me learning (again) about the various tickets, and stuffing them in the pocket on my Jacket. I lugged my backpack to the Platform and waited. A passing train hurtled past a minute later and I realised that it was, indeed, a GOOD IDEA to do this trip alone first. I would have had a hard time with the two girls, tickets, luggage etc if I were unsure of it myself! I told myself there would be plenty more chances to visit their Mama-Mami and took mental notes to listen for the warning over the PA System, and hold them back safely behind the Yellow Line, as instructed.

 As my train approached, I got onboard and settled down. Soon, it was off again, and the city stations gave way to a free-rolling meadowy landscape that made me itch to fish out my phone and take some pictures... Conscious as I was of the many people around me, I suppressed this desire, contenting myself with making the images stick in my mind instead!
Soon, we were rolling into London St Pancras International, and it was as magnificent as ever- just the way I remembered it from a previous journey alone a few years ago. At the time, I had gone to Victoria to get Mum a Visa for India. That first journey into the Great City was a true adventure for me. now, as a mum with kids who are growing up swiftly, and with my brother here for a year, I needed to make ever effort to make the twain meet!! Getting off the train into St Pancras, I soon joined the massive horde of people walking, purposefully towards the tube. I stopped briefly to consult a London Underground Map, to make sure I was heading for the correct tube station in the right direction!! If I goof up, I told myself, I'll have ended up far away in another direction...(and miss my connecting over-the-ground train, too.)
Map of the London Underground Tube network.
I mentally thanked and lauded the people who had done their homework, making so sure there was a map of the tube or string of stations before my eyes stopped moving, so I knew, at every junction of the maze, where I was supposed to be heading!! That I did not, even once, have to re-trace my steps is thanks to the nature of the Maps (both whole and part thereof, with relevant sub-stations depicted) themselves...The Designer in me was marvelling at the Font Size, placement and positioning of the signs, whether on walls, ceilings, 'stand-alone's or along tunnels to the tube.

The tube was not choc-a-bloc, as I had travelled during 'off-peak' hours, but people facing each other resolutely averted their gaze. No one smiled. There were no 'friends who took the tube together to work' kind of people about. Everybody just stuck to themselves/ their companion(s) and waited to disembark. I smiled to myself, thinking about Shivangi and her nature: remembering how she chats away at the TESCO Checkouts, looking into the eyes of perfect strangers, giving them a winning smile and saying boldly, "Hello"... This always gets her a smile and a mini-conversation always ensues!! I took this time to take stock of the surroundings, realising I'd be better-off giving the kids some of their belongings for the trip, in a backpack of their own- as they don't (yet) have a Nintendo DS, maybe even a doll or a plaything; unless it got left behind. That would be horrible...!

As I reached my destination and spent an idyllic two days being calm and chilling out with my brother and sister-in-law for company, I had time to rethink, unwind, rewind and come up with enough can-do spirit to last me a  few months. I, bravely, decided that it was now or never. If I wanted the kids to see their uncle in the holidays, I would have to get a move on and do something about it soon!

As Prachi and I went for walks, went out shopping and visited their friends, I realised how good a change can feel. On my return journey, I was much more confident, and got on and off the trains easily... I had time to really appreciate the Stations, their Architecture, the new 'Language' v/s the Old where vaulted roof structure in steel coexisted with a steel space-frame with the appearance and engineering of a tensile structure. The scale, the beauty, the light and the whole space filled me with joy and awe...!


Beautiful steel Vaults with Tensile Steel links across the span. One of the many Platforms. 

The Old and the New.
The Kireet sir & 'Frei Otto' memories:  East/west concourse, King's Cross.

The Scale of it takes your breath away...!! Lit by natural as well as artificial light...

The lattice of Steel, Glass and Natural light
Daylight catchers along the periphery
Go West!! Looking towards the westbound links.

The 'sentinel of light' Tree-like and beautiful! 

St Pancras International:

Looking (and walking) across towards St Pancras.

Old and New Juxtaposed...
Level one, Inside!! Beautiful and Poetic: Arcs and the Arches
London, 2012!! (See the Olympic rings!!??) 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

A Spring in my Step....and a song in my heart...!

A Long, long time ago at the age of around 10 yrs, I sat mesmerized in a science class in Primary School, in Chandigarh, India. Our teacher was discussing the chapter on evolutionary biology. One of the students volunteered to stand up and read the text for the whole class to follow and I read an account of Origin of the Species, By Charles Darwin...

Darwin's 'Theory of Evolution' became a much discussed, interesting and very well expostulated, scientifically researched paper for us.... There was a group of us friends who stayed in at lunchtime, choosing reading, writing or simply chatting over the noise and dust of the playground. I belonged with  my books and with them, spending many a lunch hour sharing first the food and then something of what we were reading. We often discussed the textbook, catching up on revision plans for the upcoming tests or examinations... It was about this time that I first realised the connection between what we were starting to read in our history books, (Old Stone-Age or the Paleolithic Age, Iron Age, Neanderthal Man, Fossils, Volcanoes and more ) and what we read in our Biology textbooks... The way the Earth's Crust, Mantle and Core were changing; imperceptible to us with our blink-and-miss life spans but chronicled for millenia in the topography of the great big sphere we call 'home' , in the erupting of volcanoes, the rising of the oceans, the heaving Earthquakes etc.

As a student, I had always been in love with the Languages and Sciences...So, Science, Hindi, Sanskrit, and to some extent Mathematics were my favourite subjects. I enjoyed reading about history too, although, Geography  (Maps, especially!!) , and Economics, P & L (Business studies) were my weakest subjects. I 'evolved' into what I am today shaped by those predilections, passion for the languages and hunger for books that could whet and satisfy my appetite for knowledge.

Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution lists a few points that are necessary for the evolution of a species. These include 'Natural selection', and 'Survival of the fittest' , amongst others...Basically, I understood that in order to survive, Nature has devised her very own 'checklist'. Unforgiving and unrelenting as it was, Nature gave us many a source of Stability, Inner-Strength and Courage. That no matter where we look, there will be lessons to learn from, and things to follow...all life long!

So, if I were to list my Revival-Essentials, they would include:
Nature :
 Being one with nature, listening to the sound of the birds...feeling the crisp, morning dew on my tired face and aching head soothes me! This sense of oneness and peace is beyond the scope of any medicine, its works like a palliative on worn, stressed minds and tired, aching bodies...

Sounds of Nature: birdsong, the gentle caress of the wind as it blows, the sight of the changing seasons, the many, varied, ever-changing moods of light from dawn to dusk... Are all so invigorating and spellbinding!!
Watching the leaves on the trees change colour, fall off, only to be reborn anew in the spring season... when buds blossom, tiny leaves burst into bloom, and the trees begin to sway and dance in the breeze again...
In this life, my constant source of joy and delight is my family and the kids... as I watch them, interact with them, I learn something I never considered... If I need help or support, guidance or advice or simply a hug, I turn to my family..My sources of  inspiration and strength (Dad), love and understanding (Raj) and guidance (my brother)....never let me down!!
 My greatest ally would be my friend, my sister, Keya didi, who, despite living half-way across the globe from us, makes it a point to respond to each and every e-mail with love, kindness, thoughtfulness and great practical, helpful advice!!

Dad and Bachchi's in 2010.

My anchorRaj.

Raj and Shivangi

Some of the most inspirational people have been constants in my life only after Raj and I got together. He and I shared our memories of childhood, our youth and inspiring people we idolised, seeing them in films or reading about them in their autobiographies..
Some of the most well-known of these are:

 My Inspirations:

Bruce Lee, his life, his writings, his Jeet Kune Do his philosophy...  
Bruce Lee

Bear Grylls
Bear Grylls is inspiration personified!! A Martial Arts Expert,  Ex-Army (Special Forces, 21 SAS) the youngest -ever Briton to Climb Mt Everest, daredevil adventurer, a loving husband and Daddy of three boys, presenter of Discovery Channel's most popular adventure shows: Born Survivor, Man V/s Wild, The Island, Running Wild, and the latest Mission Survive, to name but a few!
As a parent ourselves, my husband and I spend a lot of time sharing inspiring TV programmes, books, music and Films with our children these days. So obviously, Bear Grylls is a family favourite, always!! Not only is he one of the most charismatic men I care to watch, read or follow, his simplicity and selfless attitude to sharing his love for nature and Adventures with the people of the world is truly commendable. That he happens to be the most well-known Britons the world over is a testament to his courage, strength of character and his devotion to his family and friends. Whenever I feel stressed or shattered, I pick up one of his many books that I and Raj have gifted each other over the years, and there is always something deeply inspiring in his writing. Reading his books has been a great shot-in-the-arm for me, personally, in tough times. Bear's grounding in his Faith (he reads the Bible on many of his journeys, including his trip to Mt Everest as a 23 year-old climber, his bond with his family, his Armed Forces Background, and the respect and love for his family echo my own experiences in life. I often read bits of his books to my husband, (who is something of a book-o-phobic man!) He'd much rather watch Bear in his Series, whether it be the Classic Born survivor series, the Gruelling Escape to the Legion, or the Wild Adventure of Life trips- amusing journeys where he took a few celebrities like  Jonathan Ross (Bear's Wild Weekend)!! 

Inspiring us all: Bear Grylls.

The Crocodile hunterLate Steve Irwin -Australian Conservationist, who grew up on a Zoo owned by his family... His Nickname is misleading, because not only did he help rehabilitate Crocodiles, working and campaigning ceaselessly for their natural habitat, he also shower us all a much different side to these terrifying reptiles. His series on Animal Planet was a favourite of ours for many years. 

The Dalai Lama ... his simplicity, his smile and his messages...truly inspiring! 

Prachi on the walk!!
A walk or bike ride gives me a great feeling of peace. This morning, my sister-in-Law, Prachi, walked with me around their village near Swindon. felt rejuvenated.

I DID IT! At the finish line, with Prachi and friends. (Cycletta South, 2011)

Taking the girls outdoors is another great 'pick-me-up'per!! As they play, explore, munch and crunch, sip or dip, tumble or rumble, I remind myself that this is a God given opportunity for me and also my responsibility as their Mum... I immediately begin to try and gauge where the 'slack' is, in my line and pull up the reel taut, to haul in the fish of my  spirits from the waters of despair!! My children love the freedom of the great outdoors, revelling in the natural 'feel' of things, the way the earth 'gives' under their weight as they jump, into sand-pits, and the way the wind whistles in their ears, sometimes! They're naturally attracted to animals and birds, observing unafraid, approaching them in response to a primal calling... knowing just how to touch,  how to play.... and when to stand back and watch!!

picnic in the park


Paddington Station, London: Travels of a nomadic soul...!
 I love travelling and exploring new places- journeying by bus, train, bicycle or on foot....As the miles stretch on, so does my mind, my questions, my thoughts and my imagination!! That is why I started writing, to give form and face to my thoughts and tales, anecdotes and observations...! In a lot of ways, this trip to see Digvijay and Prachi has been a Godsend.  I got a chance to unwind, detach from the kids and stress of my daily life, which was weighing heavily on my mind, and this gave both of us a chance to re-evaluate the ' Biggies' in our lives together and come up with answers, solutions and strategies to help make our parenting skills more effective.

...watching the Swans on the Bridge, in Watchfield.
 Reading a good book, listening to my favourite music, sketching or drawing and looking at pictures of family... these are some of the things I also do, to revive myself and relax after a wholesome day's work! Life is uncomplicated and blessed, and I have a lot to thank God for...