A FLASHBACK

When Charlie sent this picture to me, I remembered my childhood days. I mean, what a coincidence! The picture depicts my childhood. 

It has two kids and a real cycle down there. I and my cousin would ride a bicycle with the same expression. It was my childhood dream to own a bicycle. I never had one and this always made me feel inferior. I used to see my friends and cousins riding their new and colorful bicycle. It is not that my parents couldn’t afford one but they had priorities. They thought to pay my school fees and buying me a new school uniform was way too important than buying a bicycle. 

Whenever I sat on the back of my uncle’s bicycle, I felt as if I am on the top of the world. I used to sing whole way and never wished the ride to end. Some days, I used to throw tantrums for not eating food and weeping until my uncle would promise me for a bicycle ride. Such a drama queen I was!

Anyways, I used to ride my cousin’s bicycle. He was around 4 years old and I was around 9. He knew I don’t have one and how fond I am of a bicycle, so he asked me to ride his bicycle. But I didn’t know how to ride. I fell down every time. I would come home with skinned elbows and knees. My aunt would scold me for this. 

(Image Credit: Pixabay.com)

Then one day my cousin told, “Di today I will help you in riding the bicycle. Come sit and I will give you the support.” That evening, my Grandpa came out of the house and saw me trying my best to not to fall from the bicycle. He said, “Sit, I will hold the bicycle from behind and you have to put one foot on the paddle and then after paddling put the second.” I followed his instruction and to my utter surprise, this time I didn’t fall. I rode the bicycle for a complete 2 minutes and this was my biggest achievement till that day. I saw my cousin jumping happily. After that day, both of us would ride together. He used to hold me tightly while sitting behind me on the bicycle.

There were five bicycles in our street. Those who had would come along with their bicycles and then we would ride each of them turn by turn. Life was so easier then and we were so happier those days. I remember we used to celebrate birthdays by giving permission to ride the bicycle for a complete 3 minutes and that person could take the bicycle down the street to the old lamp post. Sunday mornings were dedicated for cleaning the bicycle. We used to participate equally and with full enthusiasm for the cleaning program.

Presently, I still don’t have a bicycle. But now I don’t feel pity or inferior. Because I have those memories where we used to share our belongings with each other.

These days, we are not willing to spare some time for people, forget about the belongings. If anyone parks his/her vehicle under our house, in no time we yell at them. In fact, if somebody asks for a lift or a ride, our calm expression turns into a frowning one. Even when someone asks for our help or assistance to do work, we pay no heed. We feel blaming others for our failure is easier. 

But we must keep in our mind once we welcome people with an open heart all the bitterness that we hold in our heart will vanish like a vapor. 

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LET THEM GET DIRTY, LET THEM EXPLORE

Those tiny little feet are a bundle of joy. We do our best to take care of the little baby in the house, from massaging to cleaning, from caring and pampering to child-proofing the house. But, as the little baby grows up old enough, we forget that the tiny baby isn’t tiny anymore. Instead of making her/him independent, we go overboard in making the child dependant on us for every little thing. Why?  Simply because we fear that they might not be able to do themselves or think that doing things for them is easier than making them learn themselves. And as our little children grow up into adults, we expect them to take their own responsibility themselves and make decisions themselves.

(Image Credit – Pixabay.com)

Look into the picture, the soft pink feet of the baby are covered in sand. As the child learns to walk, those always so clean feet and legs are bound to get dirty. As the infant becomes a toddler and starts tottering, she/he is likely to get some bruises. So, should we stop putting the baby on the ground or the floor?

The answer is simply no. We can’t lock their exploring bodies and creative minds for the sake of safety. Children can’t learn unless they have hands-on experience.

It’s better to let them fall so that they learn how to succeed from their failures.  Instead of giving into their wants, make them learn how to wait and let them learn how to deal with NOs in their lives.

IF ONLY WE COULD HOLD A CONVERSATION…

Image result for shopkeeper and customer anime

How often do we actually take out time to exchange just a few words with the people who don’t hold much importance in our life? Rarely or maybe sometimes. Recalling one of such acquaintances, I cannot forget my childhood memory associated with the purchase of junkies from a nearby colony provision store. No sooner was I able to collect a few coins than I used to rush to the shop to purchase either a pack of chips or my favorite cola! However, the owner of the shop had such disposition that all my excitement always cooled down on seeing his grumpy face. Since it was the only shop in my area, it seemed more of the kind of a monopoly store. His irritation level would rise to heights if I would ask him to display his collection of candies or if even I just had to add one extra item in the billing list. A smile was the last thing one could expect from this shopkeeper. Whenever I returned home after my purchase, I always complained to my mom about the rude and ignorant behavior of this man. But then again, I had no option than to go again to this merchant for purchases as it was the only store that existed in my colony at that time. Moreover, if anything went wrong or if I ever had to return an expired item, he took it back with so much of sternness as if he was doing a favor on me. His nags and my complaints went on endlessly until a piece of shocking news broke out one day.

I had risen from my morning sleep when I saw my parents leaving home early that day. When I asked my maid about it, she told me that they were going to attend the funeral of Mr. Jaiswal. It was as if the ground below my feet had shaken for how could a man who seemed so fit could pass away. I couldn’t help remembering how often I used to engage in a fight with this man at his shop even for his fuzzy attitude. All of a sudden, I just felt as if I had so many unsettled accounts with this person, left to finish. When my mom returned, she told me that this shop owner was suffering from mouth cancer and he committed suicide.

For a moment, I couldn’t believe if it was really true and when this reality seeped in me, I could somehow relate to the reactions of this shopkeeper in the past. Mr. Jaiswal was not bad, it was his circumstances that had turned him sour and bitter. Now it clicked to me that why he didn’t respond to my anger as uttering a word from the rotten mouth was so difficult for him. Moreover, the pain of those blisters in his mouth was the reason for the constant frown on his face. I really felt sorry for a dead soul that day and more than that I was agitated by my own self that how I could hold so many grudges against a diseased person for petty issues. It really struck me that why I didn’t even try for once to gauge the depth of his situation. I really wondered if I had just even tried getting into his shoes, I would have never held any complaints against him. I cursed myself endlessly for not making any efforts to discover the reason for his sternness. Why for God’s sake, I didn’t even hold a conversation with him? Sympathy filled my heart when I came to know from the neighbours in my colony that how lonely he felt as he had no one to look after him. It was not only the disease but solitude as well that was killing him. He certainly might have felt very low which led him to commit suicide and there might be no one around to even console him. Connecting the dots seemed very easy at that moment for one could then sense that his frustration was definitely the outcome of his sufferings. I couldn’t help questioning myself that how I could frame so strong and wrong perceptions about this person just because his behaviour was bad with me.

Mother Teresa has rightly said:- “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.’’ These words were somewhere resonating in my ears for I had turned so nasty in judging the shopkeeper that I had no time to empathize with his problems that were probably greatest than all of our rants. I felt very sorry for him and at the same time, I really felt that I just could not forgive myself for passing angry comments on him. I learned a lesson that day to not judge a person without knowing his struggle story. Moreover, it does not take much time to know the sorrows of a person only if we understand the real meaning of tolerance and patience. Even if it takes time, isn’t it worth it, if it can save someone’s life and make him feel worthy enough to live on this planet; making someone feel a little less lonely?

This incident really questioned my indifferent conscience that day and struck such chords in me striving me to live a life of awareness and kindness with empathy and compassion filled in the heart.

MURDERERS OF CHILDHOOD – I FEEL SORRY FOR YOU

I feel sorry…

Actually, I feel sorry for everything that happens around me, or even for matters that fall in my ears. If I am to cite an incident on instances I felt sorry, I would have plenty of them to pool in.

Marriage is all about in a relationship with a lot of understanding beyond imagination. Coping with married life needs better understanding at least with respect to age. When families marry off those kids (girls) at such a young age, I wonder how much do they concede. It is true their perception is never recognised, but all they do is flow with the marriage.

When in India, the legal age for marriage is 18, there are still child marriages happening in India. To my knowledge, my maid, who is hardly now 25 years has already four kids, and she was married at a young age of 15. And such young ages they conceive and give birth. They hardly get basic education, health facilities or anything that is requisite for such a young age. And they are all the more burdened with responsibilities of managing the family.

As she narrated me, there are many girls in their village who are getting married at the same age, they are mostly given a minimum education which she claims is just enough to read and write as the schools in those outskirts are not much more advanced to offer enough learning. Imagine, when we are assured the government is offering a good education, there are schools where nothing is done -maybe I can say, there is no school itself.

These girls are married off to some guys, who just ensure they have two three kids, and abandon those kids and the wife to survive on their own. And it is up to them especially the girl’s family or all by herself to endure then.

Is that what responsibility means?

It is not just poverty-stricken families who are on the same page, there are many in the urban areas who ensure to get their girl child to marry at a very early age- as if they are de-burdening themselves.

I felt sorry for such families who do such heinous act. At such tender ages, they are bound to enjoy their teenage, learn the life lessons step by step. For them, Marriage is like pushing them into a well and then lock up there for several years to endure a responsibility that came in soon.

It is not just the issue of younger age, they are also bound to give sufficient dowry to feed the richly-poor grooms family who shamelessly asks the girl’s family to pay for their expenses.

Even the urban areas are infected with such pathetic people, who are shamelessly greedy enough.

I feel sorry for such parents, who marry their girls off to such families, who are just greedy. Nothing could be done other than they being cursed with a Midas touch like a curse.

I being a mother of two girls, would ensure I don’t steal my children’s future and their dreams just to keep my reputation or my societal commitments. Instead of being sorry, for such wretched souls who are doing harm, I would be better to take a step ahead to protect them, at least my own children.

THANK GOD!! MY LEGS ARE STILL INTACT 😜

I am a fearless person when it comes to adventure. My father used to warn me many times when I had to go for sports tournaments or bicycling tournaments with the same sentence every time, “Do not attempt any feats.. please“.. Such was my interest in doing different stunts.. Jumping from the top of water tanks (12 – 15 feet), running down slopes that are made of rocks, stand on the window shade of the top floor of our school building, walk on the roadside parapet wall overlooking a steep valley, I can go on with a big list.

Several times I got wounded. Most of my summer holidays were spent in hospital or at the least making rounds to the hospital for dressing of the wounds. There was one incident, that has changed the way I thought. Many of you in India may have used or seen a teak cot. The double cot in our home is made of teak, a type of wood considered very strong and durable. One day, me and my sister were playing a game which required us to jump from over the head board of the bed. I am pretty sure I would have invented that game only because I wanted to jump :p In the process of jumping, or should I say playing (LOL), my leg hit the head board, right in between of the knee and ankle. It was a very small bruise. There was not much of pain either.

4 or 5 days after this incident, I started to experience pain, followed by swelling. I kept this to myself for a couple more days thinking it would subside on it’s own. Well, no, it came to a stage that I could not put on my school shoes. My father noticed this and as usual performed his duty of taking me to the hospital. The doctor said the wound is infected and covered it with some medicine and bandage. She said we should come back the next day for dressing and she would attempt to remove the puss. The next day when she opened the dressing, there was a fist sized perforation which was red. She started with the puss removal process. It was quite painful and lasted for more than an hour. She dressed my wound again and asked me to come back after 3 days for dressing.

This puss removal and dressing cycle continued for 3 more rounds but the doctor could not understand why the puss formation wasn’t reducing even after the medication. We got an X-ray done and there it was, a tiny piece of wood in my muscle. She cut open the wound and removed the piece of wood. Are you wondering what changed me? The simple ritual of using the restroom at home took as long as 20 minutes, to get off the bed, drag myself on the floor because I couldn’t walk because of the pain, then a struggle to hold whatever I can so that I can get up and do what’s needed and get back to the bed. My parents are very caring, but come on.. I cannot ask them to help me use the restroom because I wanted to try a crazy act of jumping off the bed. I felt ashamed as that situation of mine, it aroused because of my ‘adventures’.. All of this is mischief as a child but a lesson learnt to be very careful while having fun.

So, should I stop trying anything new? I keep doing adventures even now, I tried sky diving when I was injured. Somehow adventure brings life into me. Usually when I am going to attempt an adventure, there are two kinds of feelings in me. The first one, of course the excitement and the second one, the fear.. What if, this adventure leaves me disabled physically or even mentally? It is extremely difficult to find someone who can care without criticizing me or I might end up spending my entire life cursing myself for attempting it. Weird feeling I must agree. All of our body parts are very important, but mobility gives us freedom. I lived without using my hands, my eyes, my mouth, my legs etc (substantial injuries you know :D), out of all these lacking mobility was difficult to manage. When we can balance our body on our legs and move forward everything seems a little simpler or so I feel..

I use my legs a lot. I usually stand in all my meetings at office unless the organiser wants me to sit. One of my colleagues used to joke that some day I might get varicose veins.. Of late, I have become very lazy and uninterested in exercising making by body unfit especially my legs. I realised it after practising Bhangra (a Punjabi dance form) for couple of days. I could hardly move my legs for four days post the practice sessions. This motivated me to start going to gym again. You notice the fear? I told the trainer I would come back when I get fit enough to attempt tough Bhangra steps 🙂

Mobility is an important part of our day to day life. If we imagine our life without legs or even decreased mobility as per norm, we would notice that it takes two to three times the time to move from one place to another. Compared to a normal person, an amputee or a physically disabled person would have to invest time to plan their commute, considering the places they have to be and also the extra time that would be needed. A sore knee can set us back by a good amount of time. Please take good care of your legs. My mom says, several glands and organs of our body are connected to our legs. If we maintain healthy legs, then automatically our body would be healthy.

IT IS MY IDENTITY. CANNOT LET IT GO.

I love shopping for groceries. I usually go to places where there is a display of wide variety of vegetables, fruits and other staples. There is some satisfaction in walking aisle by aisle through various sections drooling over what is offered. Usually I make up my mind on what I want to cook for the upcoming week, so, when I am walking I am recollecting the recipe and required ingredients to buy apart from what’s there at home. I have observed one thing that distracts me from this process many times, which is kids talking to their parents. Usually they pick-up a chocolate or fruit and keep asking their parents to buy it. What grabs my attention is that most kids do this only in English. Most of the parents respond in English too. 

India is a non-English speaking country. There are many languages Indians speak at homes (or so I thought). The trend now has changed. Most parents want their kids to learn English at a very early age. I can understand the need because they have to leave kids at day-care centres. Especially in metro cities, people from many states come for jobs. So, it is difficult to manage if the kid cannot speak English. While this is true, I clearly do not understand why kids are not encouraged to talk in their mother tongue. 

Kids of many of my colleagues cannot speak, read and write in their mother tongue. I don’t know why speaking in English makes us feel ‘elite’. When adults look down upon their own language, they won’t consider the language worthy enough for their kids to learn. This is the situation with people who are migrating to new places inside India. People living outside India have a different story. Some of my friends did not even manage to make their kids speak in Telugu. The reason they give is that, “the child does not have an environment to speak in our language. Who can they speak in that language with? only us, so, it is very difficult to teach“. As a result of this most grandparents cannot even feel the satisfaction of talking to their grandchildren because they don’t understand a bit of the conversation, in some cases there is no conversation only gestures. It is making children deprived of rightful love and care they deserve. 

Couple of years ago, mother of one of my friend’s neighbour expired while she was at her daughter’s place. Let me tell you what happened. The daughter and her husband moved to Melbourne. This lady, who expired travelled to Melbourne to help her daughter during her second pregnancy. They went out for medical checkup leaving their first child and the grandmother at home. By the time they returned home, the grandmother was on the kitchen floor, dead. The parents asked the kid about what had happened, for which he replied, “She was saying something when she fell on the floor and he did not understand what it was”. Apparently she was asking for water in their language, and the boy did not understand that one word, which might have saved her life. 

Mother tongue is a language in which we can express well. Learning mother tongue also has a positive impact on our brain. It also improves our ability to learn and improves cognitive thinking. Until the age of 6, children learn languages very quick.  As parents we should encourage our next generation to learn our mother tongue. Mother tongue is an identity, also a very important link to our cultural roots. There are simple ways in which one can make kids learn mother tongue. Always conversate with them in your own language at home and even when you are at public places. Remember bed time stories?? Without buying those English story books, teach kids about our culture through bed time stories in our own language. If kids talk in English (which they do because of what they learn at school), make sure you only respond in your native language. This would automatically make kids pickup the language. Do not worry about their English speaking skills, eventually they would pick up the language from school. 

That’s for kids, what about adults? Now-a-days many of us read books only in English. Isn’t this true? Once in a while read books from your own language. Read some news in your local language. Write in your language. When was the last time you did this? You may start with grocery list :-). 

I am not against learning or talking in English in any way. May be, few years from now, there may be a world with only one language, “English”… It saddens me that one day next generations won’t be speaking my language. It hurts to see languages die. Many languages are becoming extinct because we don’t use them any more. My mother tongue is my identity and I would love to talk in that language with pride anywhere, except for professional reasons. Let’s preserve our languages !!

No man fully capable of his own language ever masters another

– George Bernard Shaw

 

DEAR MOM

Dear mom,

I have never written about you. I have written about girls I have liked but never written about you. So here I sit down and type this letter just for you, dear mom. Although I don’t have clear memories of my early childhood and never asked you if it was easy for you to give up your job as a nurse to look after me, to take care of me, help me grow up, I thank you for that. It may have been a difficult decision for you to make I assume, but you still did it for me. Women are hardly asked about the effect of quitting their jobs to care for a baby or look after the family. It is expected of them, so much so that in certain cases if the newlywed wife doesn’t intend to give up her career she is criticized unfairly by others. Of course, things are changing in the present times but men are never expected or asked to give up their careers to bring up a son or daughter. You were so practical and did it anyway just for me so that I could receive your love from the moment I was born.

Mom, we don’t talk much. I mean at least when I compare with my friends talking to their mothers I don’t think we talk much. But I tell you things I would never have the courage to tell dad. I tell you about the girl I like, about the time I went to meet her. You ask me if we watched a movie and I say “no, no”. And I always feel very happy when you ask me to get KFC’s zinger burger whenever I go to a mall. Can I tell you something more? I have many close friends who are women, and also if I wanted to have a sibling it would be an elder or younger sister. Perhaps it’s the way in which women-kind can empathize and sympathize that makes them such amazing people, whom one can easily confide in, and talk about most things under the sun without being made fun off. I have guy friends too who share this trait but they are a rarity.

You know the one thing which is so underappreciated and equally undervalued is the immense hard-work you put in maintaining the home and family. It might seem that you are duty-bound to do it but the commitment and perseverance you show is just unbelievable. I have seen you washing clothes early-morning during the winters, do the dishes, when dad and I either just sit in front of the television or doze-off. I have seen you enthusiastically waking up early to prepare breakfast so that dad can go to the office and I can go to school on time, even though you might be running a fever. You never have any designated days as holidays. Dad has off days at work. I have off days as a student. But you never have. I heard you saying once “we women never have a day off”. I didn’t understand it then but now I do. Especially after you fell ill last Christmas and I had to help out dad with the household work. I realized how effortlessly you do the entire body of work without complaining about your grievances. I know I have let you down, by not providing more help in maintaining the house and share the chores to reduce your workload. But I intend to work on it. Men have so-called “more important jobs” and women are left to do the “unimportant, menial tasks”. I don’t think anymore that women do unimportant tasks. Their contribution is as important and sometimes even more as the husband’s or the son’s. I have to make sure that you have holidays too and that we share the household workload more.

Mom, I love your liking for water-less puchkas and excitement for an occasional “yum-yum chili-chicken”. I love your eyes lighting up for steamed-momos, rosgollas and misthi-doi. I love the sweet mango pickle, our “jelly-pickle” you make during the summers and the kheer you make whenever I return home for holidays. I get so delighted when you prepare “tikhil-asma” and “bairka-asma” and our favorite, though tasteless yet very fulfilling “thappa-roti”. I miss the “osa-dishes” you made when I was small. I used to love mushrooms at that point of time. I miss our walks back from primary school. Mom, you know what quality of yours I love the most. Well, it isn’t just one. It’s your humility, your perseverance, your silent sacrifices without ever making a big deal about it, your quiet stillness and calm amidst all chaos, the way you stay calm and brave even during earthquakes when dad gets all panicky and scampers out of the house like a rat. We both know about that. I have grown up to be a bit like you, mom. I definitely look like you and I have some of your qualities, though not up to your level but I am working on it. And I have so much more to say and write but I will stop here now. I know words are never enough and I don’t say this enough but I love you, mom.