Thursday, 28 May 2015

the imperfectly perfect situation....

I remember someone once told me, “God does the best quality control job. You will hardly ever find 2 individuals who look and behave alike in the same household.” True and am certain most of us relate to this.

Let me start with my (elder) sister and me. If she is a perfectionist (for everything), am not. If she likes to be punctual, I learnt that very late in life. She is extremely orderly, and my cupboard, handbag and wallet are always a mess. She is an extremely intelligent (I mean academically) person, and I just managed to scraped through. She is perfect with her dressing and etiquettes and it’s a struggle for me if I have to dress up (well).

I see the same with my 2 girls. One is perfect with her work, cupboard, upkeep of her toys, etc and the other can’t care less. One likes to be on time to the bus stop, the other is always asking for more time. One needs to be told that this ‘belongs’ to her and it’s her right, the other ensures that she gets more than what is her ‘right’. There is a constant struggle in the house (as they are growing), with each one fighting for their space and their needs. The elder one has to be often told, that she can impose some conditions and can be a bit pushy. The younger one has to be ‘always’ told, that she has got it way early in life! If one likes bournvita, the other only drinks strawberry milk. Despite these differences, they manage to strike that balance.

 Of course when we had my 12-year old nephew visit us in the summer, the equation was even more intriguing. Here was a boy (almost a teen) amongst these two girls. A boy who I needed to give his space, his freedom but also unknowingly keep an eye, and manage all emotions (from the 3-year old to the 13-year old). The balance the three brought in seemed perfect. Nobody's demands seemed bigger or important. Each one made space for the other- from the TV shows they would watch to weekend outings the family took. He taught me to 'chill' and stay 'calm' (as much as I could).

I wonder if my mother noticed so much difference in her daughters and did she have to make an effort to ensure we both got our due. Or did she let us fight it out? Times have changed so much now. Kids are far more aware, they have more access to information, and they are very vocal about what they ‘need’. So somewhere I feel, our parenting role is a bit more complex in today’s world. Though in no way do I undermine what our parents did for us. I think the challenges were different then. Our parents were only busy ensuring all our ‘wants’ were met. With today’s generation we are forever playing the ‘bad policeman’. They need to be ‘watched’ and ‘told’ always.

Tuesday: I went on this day-long field trip with my elder one’s class. I was warned that it was going to be ‘hot and long’ day. For me it felt like I was heading for a 10km run. And indeed it was. With 20 ‘active’ kids around, getting them to do any task in an orderly fashion was the challenge. I could see a huge difference in the way even their teachers handle them these days. They talk to each other like adults. That’s probably the biggest difference in our upbringing and theirs. They are questioned about every act of theirs and are asked to think. We were only ‘told’ on what is right and wrong. From my kids I have learnt, there is no ‘one’ right way or wrong way. I think that’s a big learning. It’s made me more acceptable, more broad-minded in my thinking. 

And on that note the (‘hopelessly) trying hard to be perfect mother hopes my mother’s way and my way ultimately cross paths somewhere and lead to the same destination.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

..and who says the Indian girl doesn't have a mind of her own.....

Wednesday- 8:45am- On my bus ride after dropping off my younger one at school, I met my 'old' friend. By 'old' here I mean, a little kid's grand dad who I befriended during my morning bus routine. He and I had got chatty some months back and with our chance meetings every morning, we would talk a little more about our lives in those 10 minutes. Today uncle took me by surprise and told me, "You should write about Modi, about the synergies between India and Singapore". I think I had a bit of a 'shocked' expression on my face. He immediately said, "My wife and I have been following your blogs and I think you can write about some 'serious' stuff too". Of course I had a big smile on my face and very politely told him that not only does he have high hopes from my writing but he just made my day, I had to tell uncle politely that I write only to bring out my emotions and I am far away from Indian politics. We ended our brief conversation with, "see you tomorrow" and then he said I probably make people's day with that wide smile of mine. He even said not sure if you realise it, but you even smile this widely at the bus driver every morning. Well that was surely a very good start to my day.

11:30am- The time of the day when I finally get to my desk, sort out my things for the day, discuss the day's menu with my helper (and there are days, when I tell her today she has to think and suggest the menu!!), and on days like this sit and write.

I (finally) managed to see Piku just 2 days ago after it's almost two week release. Let me tell you for stay-at-home mum's even going for a movie in the day requires a lot of planning and co-ordination. You are always debating with this constant 'guilt' of not being there when the kids wake up (if u go for  walk/run in the morning), not being there when the kids get home from school. Anyway long story short, I managed to get out for the movie (with more a push from my elder girl who had seen the movie and insisted that I see it too!)

My verdict- It's a movie after ages that left me impacted, I was awake all through the film (that's a rare with me as I always take a power nap in the theatre). The roles have been written and acted so beautifully. Probably a few years back this movie would have been bracketed into an 'art movie' category but today it's an out and out commercial movie.

The main character Piku is a lot like some of us. Well, maybe yes and no. A lot of us (Indians my generation) have that streak of independence, have lived life on our own terms, have had only our 'needs' fulfilled as there were no avenues for the 'wants' and are still deeply rooted to our parents. No because, I still cannot talk about my sex life in front of my parents, with my independence came freedom- freedom to not be answerable to anyone, to take my own decisions and also bear the consequences if they were wrong.

Every time I go back to India, I see a lot of 'Piku's' around- be it at malls, at pubs, at restaurants, friends daughters, cousin's girlfriends. She is not rare anymore. The young Indian girl today knows her mind and is not ready to fully compromise. Somewhere good and bad.

Movies like Piku show a progressive India. An India some of us relate to and some of us don't. It portrays a modern, cosmopolitan Indian girl who despite being forward thinking, is attached to her roots and tries hard to find her 'own' life while handling her father's life.

I happened to read this blog Piku, our loveable, modern day Jo March, just today. So well written and apt. I love the way this blog ended. It shows a true picture of our society, our emotional tie-ups, our attachment to our roots (despite being away from it for years), our constant dilemma of being away from our parents, and a natural transfer of responsibility as parents get older and the kids take on the role of managing them! With every generation we are getting more open-minded, we are ready for change but some things that is so 'us' hopefully will stay constant.

I walked out of that movie (after ages) with a smile, and immediately called home to see if the elder one was back from school safe and sound! Guess that's the bit of 'Piku' in me...however independent and broad-minded I may be, I will always be deeply rooted to my home and my kids...

Thursday, 14 May 2015

life moves on.....

Wednesday 8:30am- This is probably my most relaxed 15 minutes in the morning. I am normally in a bus going off to drop off my younger one (and I can happily say that's her 'me' time with me)..We talk a lot in that bus ride, see some familiar faces, discuss our day, see the elder sisters bus pass by and sometimes even sing some rhymes. Once we get-off at the bus stop close to her school we have a short 5-7 minute walk to her school gate. Even here we have familiar faces we see daily and now it's a routine to wish each other every morning. One such person we wish is an old 'uncle' who comes by to the park everyday and under a  tree practices 'Tai Chi'. Without fail, we see him every morning and we greet each other. Between my girl and me, we have him named 'Tai Chi naana'. Of course that's our little secret. And the days we don't see him, my little girl will surely ask me, "Where is Tai Chi naana" this morning?" Am sure when she grows up, we will remember this bus ride and our 'Tai Chi naana".

Wednesday 10:00am- I chanced upon this blog piece- The Exclusive Club Sheryl Sandberg Never Intended To Join. A lot has been said and written about Sheryl Sandberg's personal loss. No doubt nothing in the world can compensate for that loss. But this blog piece in particular was far more moving. With no personal offense to Sheryl, I think her situation was slightly better. More common stories we hear  (actually we hardly get to hear about them as they are all unknown faces leading absolutely anonymous lives) of women who have to build their life from scratch- economically, socially and emotionally. And with the responsibility of bringing up kids, one cannot shirk away from that job. In her case, her financial and economic independence may have made her come back (a bit) easier. But only someone in that situation knows how tough it is to be alone and to play a dual role for your kids. But having said that, life also is a great teacher. It teaches you to handle adversity and gives you immense strength which you would have never envisaged that you ever possessed it.

Another piece I read just this morning: My Mother Doesn't Know My Name Anymore
Years ago, I had interacted with the writer. I was a junior PR executive and she an upcoming journalist. I don't personally know her but at some level I know of her. Today when I read the piece I had goosebumps. I can't even imagine how the family is coping with the situation and they continue to live a 'normal' life. Wow!

Like they always say, 'Life moves on. It waits for none.' Both these stories and both the women in question are perfect examples of how you look for inner strength and spread joy around you....

Friday, 8 May 2015

what's in a day???

Wednesday (5:30am)- I had an interesting chat in my cab ride while I was heading back from the airport after seeing off family. There are only 2 countries in the world where I can 'dare' to step out by myself at such an hour of the day- Singapore and Dubai! I am certain that I will be home safe and sound...

Anyway to come back to my talk with the cabbie 'uncle'- that's what we call them fondly here! He was curious to know about 'safety' conditions in India. He asked me, "would I dare to be out alone at this hour in India". Of course most of us know what my answer would have been. He was very knowledgeable about India. He spoke about our political scenario, socio-economic conditions. He asked me if I faced a situation of panic what would I do? Well I had to explain to him that India is clearly divided into 2 sections- those who 'dare to speak' and those 'who dare not to speak'. I am lucky that I belong to the former.  It was tough for him to apprehend it. In our short 10-minute drive I tried hard to explain to him that India is too complex and living in those conditions has its own challenges and charm. The huge socio-economic disparity is evident in society and that has a clear impact on our upbringing and thinking. Guess that left him thinking. But he left with me surprised of his knowledge of Indian politics. He spoke at ease on India's last 50-years political history and had an opinion on today's governance as well. And let me tell you he must have been atleast 70 years old!

2:30pm- My recently done Mother's Day features for Polka Cafe, a portal I write actively for went live. Both the features tackled two ends of the emotional spectrum of a mother. 

It was an interesting platform for me to gauge what other mum's think (is it any different from me). I always feel (just may be), I am a little over protective of my kids and over-indulgent (though I try very hard not to). Though I 'think' I have lately tried to 'let loose' a lot. But both these features proved I am not the only one!
Someone asked me the other day, "So are you still home (and not back to work) because of your younger one?" And I said, " I am not really sure who I am home for (amongst both the kids)." I feel it's very tough to answer that.  

A close friend asked me after reading my Mother's Day piece, on where are my thoughts. Well I think everyday should be celebrated as 'Mother's Day'. As mothers our role is like a fluid. We exist in a big way but somewhere we tend to get lost and merged.

When I did both my stories, I clearly noticed two aspects- some very emotional moments shared and some very practical and clear. I couldn't figure out where I stood. I would love and hope to be somewhere in the middle.

Today having come a full circle (from a tough corporate routine to a full-time stay at home mum to now trying to get work going on a part-time basis), I am quite ready for a mid-path. The day you can be at peace (with yourself) for letting go that money and that life, you can be a happy soul. I remember once someone telling me, "When you decide to quit, leave it at a high. Never at a low". That stayed with me always and when I quit, I was probably at my peak. So today the urge to go back to that is no more. I rather compensate that with a few laughter's I have with the kids when they come back from school, hear their silly stories for the day and indulge in some kind of 'stimulation' that keeps my mind ticking. This life is probably my best 'Mother's day' gift I could have given myself.