Tuesday, 31 March 2015

shocking and unnerving...

I know that life teaches you a lot by itself. I grew manifolds after I left home when I was 18 years and there was no looking back since. A few weeks back I had some interesting conversations with my mum-in-law. We both come from very different school of thoughts but we still have managed to agree, understand and respect each others thoughts. We spoke about first impressions, my upbringing, how important is freedom and space for kids as they grow and the role you play as a parent to make them independent (especially by letting go!).

A few days back, my elder girl and I had gone Indian grocery shopping. I refer to that store as our store for survival! It's doesn't give you the greatest shopping experience but it's one of those things that needs to be done! And that was the whole reason to drag the 7- year old. 

On landing there, I asked her to fetch a shopping cart. The poor girl landed at the wrong aisle and asked a sales guy for his empty trolley. Instead of directing her to the right trolley station, he snapped at her. There was a few seconds of pause between all of us. She froze and I stared. And that was it. The poor guy saw the bad side of me! Of course it then led to apologies and we were back to our shopping within minutes.

The next few minutes there was utter  silence between my girl and me. She was shaken. It's very rarely in Singapore you come across such situations. And for kids seeing us in this mode is very rare. I hesitatingly asked her "are you fine". And she blabbered, "I have never seen you like this before". Of course I wanted her to see the bigger picture- I told her right there that it's important to be strong and get yourself heard especially if someone does something wrong to you!! This was surely a reality of life that she had hardly seen before. I know it left her thinking and a bit shaken.

Monday- We all woke up to the shocking news of the death of the founding father of Singapore Mr Lee Kuan Yew (LKY). So much has been said and written in the last one week. I have also witnessed the deaths of the premiers of Dubai and the Ruler of UAE during my stay in Dubai. But this was different. It had shaken up the whole nation and everyone was united in his moment of grief. We had a lot of talk at home on this.

Friday: As a family we try and spend our Friday evening out by having dinner together. As we stepped out our cabbie informed us that there are major road blocks and a journey that normally takes 15 minutes may take more time. People had been queuing up for hours to pay their last respects to their bereaved leader. The Parliament House was close to the CBD area. We headed towards the CBD area, as we wanted the kids to witness those crowds. 

The cabbie who drove us had a slight vocal problem- he was stammering. My 7-year old immediately noticed and asked me in a whispering tone- is something wrong with him? I explained to her that there are people who have such speaking issues but yet they make it in life! It moved her. He tried to make a conversation with her (his daughter was also of the same age) and she patiently heard him out (sometimes not fully understanding what he said). By the end of the journey, they both landed up having a conversation on LKY!

The Fullerton Hotel, Singapore
On reaching the CBD area, our eyes first fell on some of the reflections that were so beautifully done up on the buildings to pay respect to their leader. And of course the queues were shocking. The 7-year old froze again! She couldn't believe that everyone was waiting so late into the night just to get a glimpse of their leader. She asked me if I respected any leader like that back in India- and my answer was NO! Maybe the closest would be Mahatma Gandhi (but my generation wouldn't relate as much to him as maybe my parents and grand parents).

The crowds waiting for the funeral procession
Two completely different incidents shook her over the week. The former maybe was less effective and soon forgotten. Her subsequent visits to the mall, library during the week made her notice a lot.  She and even we had never seen these kind of emotions. People crying while watching the funeral procession on large TV screens at malls, the crowds on the road on a rainy day to witness the funeral procession and the PM's eulogy that was very personal and emotional. This was a historic moment and we were here to witness it. From a 7-year old's perspective, this was unbelievable. She knew something big had happened! Hopefully it will stay on her mind, and when she grows up she will have a tale to tell her kids!!

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

a bit of me..

Friday: My 7-year old (out of the blue) asked me "do you miss your work?" I am not sure where that question came from. My instant reply to her was 'No'. Of course that lead to many other questions- what exactly does dad do at the bank? why does one need a salary? does he get paid on a daily basis? some were funny and some got me thinking. I was happy for once she was thinking.

I let her question pass by, but when I got a moment in the day to think, I wondered- do I miss it? Maybe yes and no. Yes for the money, the team and the firm that I had built, PR being in my blood and it giving me a direction in life (at a stage after college when I had absolutely no direction). No because it always kept me under stress, even after years I would be nervous while executing any PR campaign for a client, I always lived with a guilt on the personal front (and felt I was missing out on so much with the kid-then just 1) and I didn't need to play 'tag' with my husband anymore (who would get home first, who would attend the PTA, who would be there at that sports day). I weighed both my options and (subjectively) found myself way happier today than I was 4 years ago. So somewhere my answer was right (from my perspective)!! But I also know that this will be short-lived. The girls are going to get busy before I even realise. And I better have my life sorted before it gets late for me. Not sure if I will want to get back to that corporate rat-race ever again, but am sure some mid-path will open up (that will work for me and for the family).

Tuesday: I had an impromptu breakfast date with my daughter. She is on her Easter break and the younger one just got back to school after her 2-week break. The mother in me was in a dilemma a few days ago- should I have them both home together so they can bond? Or should I just let them stick to their holiday schedules and focus on them one at a time. Well I opted for the latter. I decided to give each one some time with 'me', so they both can get the best of me. Of course (the guilty mother in me) will give them those few days of bonding as well!

Anyway at our breakfast date, she asked me some questions- what did you do when you were a child during holidays? Did you go for nice holidays? Did you have play dates with your friends? She was shocked that I had never heard or used the word 'playdate' in my childhood. I told her we only played!

My memory of my childhood are only the annual summer trips I used to make to my grandma's house in Kerala (India) and all the cousins meeting up there. We had simple pleasures like- scrabble sessions, hide n seek, table tennis on the dining table, an ice cream outing (walk without the elders following us). So I realised the simple things I did had a 'bigger' impact on me after all these years.

I wonder what it will be for our kids?Will it be the big exotic holidays we do? Or will it be the simple activities (maybe grocery shopping, trip to the library, weekend outings, time spent with cousins, family walks, movies together). I am hoping it will be both.So I threw back the question at her this time- what is her best memory or favorite thing so far- and promptly she answered ' trips to my grandma's house in Bangalore and visiting my brother'.

I was happy- even though kids today are being brought up differently, somewhere it all merges. We have a constant debate at home and with our friends - are we doing the 'right' things for our kids..we sometimes feel what was 'right' for us may not be 'right' today,etc. But the 'hopelessly optimistic' me feels that somewhere it's not the big things that will shape them. It's the simpler acts that may help them grow and have a bit of 'me' in them.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

away from the norm....

These days I am living a bit of a Non-Singapore lifestyle...you probably wonder what does that mean (atleast for the followers who don't live in Singapore!)..well we are a bit (really a bit??) spoilt here. This country gives you the best blend between the East and the West. Maybe Dubai comes a closest second. The lifestyle, work ethics of the West and the convenience of the East. So we are all pampered with house-help around because of which a lot of things are taken for granted (from the adults to the kids).

So these days our so-called house-help is away visiting her home in the Philippines. As a generous employer we decided to give her a month-off (away from the norm of 2-weeks). So what has that done to us? Well good and bad! Bad because I am pretty much home-bound (with my 2-year old). Struggled and juggled with my gym and run routine for a week and then gave up and consoled myself that even I am on a month's break from my routine! Poor kids have to eat food cooked by me (am not the 'greatest' cook and not one of those food indulging mums).. But I see a big 'good' in that.

Of course I often think of how my mum managed me and my sis (with almost no help) all her life, of my many friends who live in the west and live this life everyday. But let me admit (in full honesty), mine being for just a month was a bit relieving!

And now the goods- maybe this has opened up a new thinking (unconsciously) in our home. The kids have started reacting more responsibly and sensitively. Atleast for a month, they may live the life I lived all my life- lay the tables, keep out their uniforms, make their beds. Things that we did all through our childhood, but is a rare with kids these days.

The family is spending more time doing household chores together and probably bonding more because of that. We have started doing things for each other- if ones needs water or the other needs a towel, they actually move their butt and do it for each other now! Even the 2-year old wants to be involved. She has taken upon herself the task to keep the uniforms out every night! And of course, they are getting used to the 'averagely' cooked food as well! Keep telling my 7-year old, am training her for that 'first' overnight camp she will go to soon! And you surely can't ignore the support of friends who ensure that you have a constant supply of food or land up doing your grocery shopping- I am not sure if this is a norm in the west! I think this is a typical 'east' trait..even my temp help was shocked to see the inflow of food and friends who keep landing up to help or check on me!!

I know this going to be short-lived and soon we will be back to our routine and old lifestyle. But am happy to see that even if it's for a month, the whole family has re-aligned itself and moved away from the norm. Somewhere such moments ground us and the kids begin to value each member's role in the house!

Thursday, 12 March 2015

India's daughter! really??

This blog topic has been circling in my head for the last few days but I never managed to get those 30 minutes to put my thoughts together...I surely can't focus and write when one kid is watching 'Sam & Cat' and the other is engrossed into her 'Peppa Pig'.  Of course had you quizzed me about Peppa Pig and his family, am sure I would have excelled!

I think we have been reading enough and more about the documentary 'India's Daughter' filmed by Leslee Udwin and released by BBC (I know am late- the film has been banned on the internet by the Government of India and so I can't upload the link here). Though most of us managed to see it within 48 hours of its release (it just proved the strength of online media today). The publicity it has generated is probably more than what was covered in the media when the incident really happened.

During my PR days, the social/online media was not really around and now living out of India, I highly rely on online media for my news articles and updates. So I have been reading tonnes of articles/blogs that have come out post this film was leaked out. Some of them have been disturbing and some re-assuring.

Watching that film gave me goosebumps. I never managed to see it in one shot. I needed the breaks to digest what was being said. Did they really mean that? It's not an India I relate to. On one hand, we talk of India being the fastest growing economy etc etc and then a film like this comes by and shows the country in poor light. Which is the true picture? Is it the India I look upto or is it what was shown in that movie!

Having lived that way in Delhi (the same city where the incident took place) most of my life  and having been in a 'likewise' situation several times, this could have happened to anyone. When I think back about my college days, I always thank my stars for scraping it through. Traveling in those public buses, getting back from friend's homes in an auto late evenings, I probably was just lucky. Of course with no mobile phones to even track you, I wonder how our parents survived each day! Even today I constantly live in a fear, that something may just go wrong. It's tough for me to let my kids out of sight (even when they are just playing down).

My 7-year old walks back by herself from her bus stop every afternoon. Of course the (hyper) mother in me, waits for her at the balcony. If she is a bit late, I start getting impatient. Letting her do it required a lot of self-convincing. And mind you I live in one of the 'safest cities' in the world. Had I been in India, I am not sure when I could have let loose. Every time she travels to India for her breaks, she has to be told that it is not 'safe' to operate in the same mode there. Soon, she will have to be confronted with the harsh realities of life that she may not be exposed to here.

Am not sure which life (the one I lived or the one my daughter is living) is better! I think my situations taught me a lot and in her case I may have to do a lot of the teaching! 

This morning I chanced upon this news piece:
(only the last para is relevant)

In response to suggestions by Members of Parliament Lily Neo and Low Thia Kiang to deploy women-only train cabins, Mr Lui said this idea had been raised and looked at carefully before.
"There are practical difficulties and challenges, such as how to and how strictly to enforce the rule, and also how this could sub-optimise the capacity of our trains," the minister said.
"From the experience of other systems, the women-only cabins are often utilised less, meaning that more commuters will have to crowd into the other cabins or wait for the next train."

REALLY? In Singapore? And I wondered for what reason!!!!

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

making friends down the way....

While doing my gym work-out with my trainer (less)-cum- friend (more), we chanced upon an interesting topic. Yes we talk a lot while working out. She has to always remind me to save my breath for my exercises. And I look at it as a perfect one-hour to catch up with her! Anyway to get back to what we talked about..

Making friends is always one of the biggest challenges after a certain stage in life. Especially if you have made a move into a new city, new condo making that fresh start is always tough. Of course if you have kids, that's the easiest route. Their bus stop, their playground gets the ball rolling.

When I moved to Singapore 6 years ago, I knew very few people. Though am not a social butterfly, I do treasure my close 3-4 friends who I always hope to find and keep for life! As expected, the bus stop and playgrounds were my starting points. Having come from Dubai (where life is pretty similar to Singapore), I was kind of used to people being busy and  meeting only when 'fixed'.

And then my routine to the gym started almost two years ago. That was one place I met people from different backgrounds (mothers with elder kids, single mothers, young mothers, women with no kids, working mum's). Though we all come in with a common agenda to work-out, everyone's life once outside that gym was way different.

At one end if I am worried about juggling my day so that I am back in time before my younger one gets home, someone else is worried about what she would be wearing to a lunch she had later in the day, another is worried on how to entertain her visiting in-laws, someone is busy sorting out her son's future and attending several counseling sessions (with his university coming up soon). While chatting with them, I often wished I could swap some of my 'to do lists' with theirs- atleast for day!!

This was a perfect meeting ground for all of us to actually 'forget' our worries for that one hour and chat about anything random! Over time, I have started to treasure and enjoy that one hour I spend in the gym. Most of these friends are not really my 'best' pals, yet I look forward to meeting them.

Same is the case for my running club friends and my yoga gang (though I meet them a bit lesser)! Through the running club, I have seen some very 'inspirational' running journeys of friends which has in turn motivated me to get better. Whether its a fellow runner running her 1st 2km or someone who has just finished her first half-marathon, each one has a story!

We try and run in a group, so we can while chatting get to a better pace! And it has worked wonders for some of us. We have been able to escalate to longer distances and better pace!! Of course  what we chat on a weekend morning at 6:30am, you may not want to know. Most of us get there after a late night the previous night (family and kids cannot be ignored just because you have a 'running club' run the next morning!!!) , and in our half groggy state actually land up (sometimes) running our best!

All these melting points initially started off as fitness points for me but today is an integral part of my life. Making friends there made my fitness and weight loss journey far more enjoyable and less stressful! I feel for stay-at-home mum's such groups are critical to make sure we talk and think a bit beyond our home and kids! Am sure we can take that hour's break everyday!!!