A Letter to my Son…

My Darling C,

You’re 5 today! A mini-milestone on this happy journey of Life. Five is a good age – for you and for me 😉 you’re old enough to take those first wobbly steps towards independence and young enough to still let me hold your hand! And how I adore that walking hand-in-hand! It makes me feel loved and useful and special in a way nothing else can! And we are name-buddies too! We are both named for Happiness and to me that’s the most miraculous thing – a sign that ‘this was meant to be!’ 🙂 I’ll tell you more about why someday.

You’re not going to understand most of this letter until much later, when you’re older and hopefully wiser, but I’m really writing it now, for me. I won’t fill it with any advice other than to say, “Play hard, Laugh often and Mind your manners!” If you can do that now, you’ll have an easier time of it when you’re older and the going gets tough, as it inevitably will. Laughter will always help even if you’re just pretending! It’s a cleanser and healer and often you’ll feel better even when you don’t want to 😛 Besides we have a tradition of laughter in our family…our guffaws are legendary!! Don’t let me down now 😉

So often during these 5 years, I’ve wanted to time-freeze you! Keep you from growing up and cling tenaciously to your innocence for a while longer. Oh! I know, it’s a fool’s dream…but tell that to my Mommy heart 😉 I remember wanting to stay the ‘same’ myself too! I didn’t want to turn into a mother who cannot see, think or live beyond her children. It may work for some, but not for me. I was so afraid of losing my ‘self’ that I was blinded to the possibility that you would just ‘enhance’ that ‘self’ – give it layers and depth and meaning without disturbing its core essence. And for that I thank you and bow to the wisdom of this ancient Universe that has made it so 🙂 Yes! you’ve altered my life irrevocably but I’m still ‘me’ – just a better version 😉 Oh I know you’re going to think I’m a loon speaking gibberish and you’re right but someday you will understand – both the gibberish and the immense importance of indulging your loony side 😉

Raising you has been a life-altering experience! After B, you’re the only one in this whole entire universe who holds the key to my heart. I wish you could have known him…the two of you would have been inseparable, although I think you already are! Ever so often i see him shining through your eyes and i know then i am doubly blessed to have loved you both! You make me laugh and cry and tear my hair out in frustration 😉 You brought the joy of play back into my life at the bleakest of times and I’ve never looked back since. Your smile is more effective than any nuclear missile – use it wisely 😉 As for your tantrums – well since you’ve learnt them from me, how can I possibly complain? 😛

I’m so very proud of you and of the fact that I am your Mom. I’m enjoying every moment of our journey together and I can only hope you are too! You are many things to me my darling – my joy, my hope, my love, my faith, my gratitude, my teacher, but most of all you are my blessing from the Universe and I want you to know that I love you with all my heart – always and forever.

For Caivu's 5th Birthday1

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MY DARLING & GOD BLESS!!

❤❤❤❤❤ Love forever after, Mamma.❤❤❤❤❤ 

Women: Burden or Backbone – A Personal Reflection (For the Indusladies 4th Annual International Women’s Day Blog Contest)

This is my entry for the Indusladies 4th Annual International Women’s Day Blog Contest. It’s the first time I’ve entered a writing contest and although I’m excited, I’m also happily nervous! I’ve chosen to write about Women: Burden or Backbone, and my view on the matter is crystal clear – we are NOT a burden. We are strong, proud, gentle, compassionate, resilient, courageous, selfless – fiercely loving mothers, devoted daughters and sisters, passionate wives and lovers, and caring friends. We are many-layered and multi-textured and we carry within us the origins of our World and its history!

History is abundant in strong women role models – women have pioneered & served in every walk of life and excelled in them – Government, Literature, Movies, Finance, Media, Entrepreneurship, Teaching, Research, Science and so on and so forth. Florence Nightingale, Amelia Earhart, Jane Austen, Helen Keller, Marie Curie, Maria Montessori, Eleanor Roosevelt, Harriet Tubman, Margaret Thatcher and scores of others have left indelible marks in their chosen fields and serve as inspirations to the millions of us who follow in their wake. Closer to home, we have Mother Teresa, Indira Gandhi, Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi, Sarojini Naidu, Vijayalakshmi Pandit and more recently Kiran Bedi, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Anjolie Ela Menon, Anita Desai and youth icons like Saina Nehwal and Sania Mirza; all trailblazers in their chosen paths! And while I salute all these women and their contributions, my own role models are closer to home and no less revolutionary! They are my intimate soul mates – women who have known me and influenced me since birth – My Mom, naturally; My aunt, whom I call ‘Didi’, who is my alter ego; but most of all my Grandmother – my ‘Nani’, the proud matriarch of our family and perfect example of a strong, independent woman – her delicate femininity camouflaging her steely resolve.

She’s a beauty and a survivor if ever there was one. In her 86 years – she’s survived an abusive marriage, single-handedly raised her two daughters to be strong, independent, good women like herself, battled a continuous stream of health problems, managed financial crunches and coped with the loss of her only & beloved grandson – my brother. Through it all she has managed to be a rock of support for my Mom, who has her own battles to fight – the loss of a child and a husband afflicted suddenly and cruelly with Parkinson’s disease. Her story and suffering are not perhaps unique, after all India has millions of women who have been abused and discarded by society in one way or another and who continue to suffer, but for me – her grand-daughter, it is special and precious, because it is also my story. I come from her and through her and in that way we are inseparable and intertwined forever.

When my Granny ended her bad marriage and decided to move back to Bombay (It wasn’t Mumbai then), she had two little children along for the ride, her self-respect, a willingness to do battle, a backbone of steel and little else. I wonder how she found the courage to make such a radical decision in a time when divorce was unheard of and frowned upon. But that’s Granny – at once, rock hard and soft as daisy. She doesn’t like to talk about those days and the subject of her marriage is a closely guarded secret that I’m sure even my Mom only knows bits and pieces of. None of us have ever asked her either, because frankly it doesn’t matter. What matters is that she survived and more importantly she beat the odds in a spectacular fashion! With her family’s support, especially her brothers, she moved in with them and took up the challenge of running the ever-burgeoning household that was the traditional joint family. She managed the servants, the budget, the kitchen and the children – with equal parts of an iron fist and gentle words. She had a reputation of being fair, of standing up to injustice and doing the right thing. She was a seamstress extraordinaire and must have saved a lot of money by tailoring clothes for the large brood of children under her care. She stitched a lot of my childhood dresses too, which were coveted for their fine sewing and cuts. She may not have worked at a job but she was certainly no burden on the family that sheltered her in her time of need. She earned her keep by devoting her life in their service, a fact that in their wisdom they appreciated and cherished.

She’s always battled health problems as long as I’ve known her but I’ve never known her spirit to buckle under the stress of the fight. She’s had thyroid surgery, suffers from an inherent steroid deficiency that almost killed her when I was still a child, has had her bones broken in a traffic accident, and most recently has been battling heart disease and the side-effects of long-term steroid use. At 86, she walks with the help of a walker, has to take a million tablets a day for all her conditions, struggles with hearing & memory loss, but she is one of the most ‘robust’ people I know. And by that I mean she still retains a ‘joie de vivre’, which makes me envious and which eludes me at half her age! Even when old age and disease have ravaged her body and left her physically frail, her spirit is indefatigable. There’s a ancient strength in her bones that is secret and elusive. She still manages to make herself useful in the kitchen and I know my Mom will be lost without her when she’s gone. They have lived together now for almost 21 years and my Mom relies on her companionship and advice even today, more so today than all those years ago, when Granny first came to Goa to look after me when my parents moved to Singapore for a few years and I stayed behind to complete my Medical Studies.

Perhaps it is only fitting that I call her ‘Aai’ – for that is what she is, the quintessential ‘Mother’, fiercely devoted to her family and passionately protective of us all. When I was born – her first grandchild, there was rarely a moment when we were apart. I was forever to be found perched on her hip and Mom says she took me with her everywhere 🙂 We have a special bond – a bond that has always made me feel a little distant from my own Mom, because I was so close to Aai. She was my confidante when I fell in love and stood by me when my parents were skeptical. She organized my marriage with the aplomb of an event manager and gave me a book of her home-cooked Goan recipes, to see me through my first months of marriage because she knew I couldn’t for the life of me boil water! She stood by us through my brother’s devastating diagnosis of Muscular Dystrophy – a death sentence that would have been the undoing of our family if it weren’t for her spirited support of my Mom, her courage in standing up to my Dad and her unstinting love for me. She showered tiny gold flowers that she had custom-made, on Ishaan before he crossed the threshold to our home the first time ever as a baby, a symbolic gesture of her warmth and love and blessings! He is her only great grand-son and for him she reserves a special kind of affection that he happily reciprocates. When he’s older he’ll understand better how blessed he was to have met her and to have been loved by her. I will make sure he remembers.

Indusladies Contest Collage

How can a woman of substance like her be anything but a backbone around which our family assembles and finds succor? I believe it is her love and sacrifice that keep us safe from harm. And again isn’t that typical of all women the world over? This is what our societies are built on – the sacrifices of countless women like my Granny all over the planet. Their love, compassion, compromise and selflessness form the steely backbone on which we lesser mortals build our little utopias. We rise on the back of their labors and once raised we rarely acknowledge their contributions. And still they labor on and love us because that’s what women do. They nurture and nourish and educate, and in doing so they attempt to better a World that often treats them unjustly, judges them harshly and at every turn attacks them and diminishes their worth. How easily we dismiss their contributions! How casually we sweep away their pain! The men they raise and support and suffer & even us daughters – receivers of their boundless benefaction – how easily we forget…until we in our turn become grown men & women, contributors to society, until we ourselves face their same challenges, until we ourselves become mothers of thankless children! Then we remember, and although it’s never too late, I think the fault is ours for ever forgetting. For what would we be without them? And where? So let us remember them and salute them, these women that are an inspiration, these women who are the backbone of our country’s spiritual, financial and mental well being. These women who give freely of themselves that others may prosper and ask in return only the love and respect that is their right and that they have earned.

I’m not a great believer in celebrations restricted to particular days on the calendar. The whole approach strikes me as shallow and self-serving, as if the celebration is for us to feel good about ourselves for remembering and not for those that are the reason for the celebration! I think the world would be a much better, gentler place if women were celebrated everyday as they deserve to be – not in grand gestures and extravagant tokens but in quiet sincerity and consistent regard. If they were always treated with respect and cherished by the ones they love rather than celebrated with token gestures on a particular day in a year. The sooner we start, the faster we can expect our worlds to improve. On this Women’s Day, let’s resolve then to honour all women – our own unique tribe – by gifting ourselves and the women in our lives, the gift of respect and of time. Perhaps we can volunteer in an old age home and read to the women there or just sit with them and hold their hands. Perhaps we can connect with a long-lost relative, a forgotten aunt or cousin whom we lost in the chaos of our daily routines. Nothing is more precious than the gift of time and we have received it in abundance from our mothers and grandmothers and our caretakers who have spent lifetimes in our care. Let us begin to give back – and as always in giving we shall be enriched!

As for me, I dedicate this poem I wrote on women to my Granny and my Mom – the two women who are my World and without whom quite literally – I wouldn’t exist! They are my backbone and when they need me to be – I am theirs!

LIFESTORY

Today, I met a woman,

Her head was bowed in grace,

Quiet eyes and gentle sighs,

Solitude lined her face.

I watched her faith move mountains,

Her back straight and proud,

Her long and restless fingers,

Often caressed my brow.

Marriages and children,

Family and friends,

Shadows on her gentle face,

Alone in the end.

Years of wisdom wrapped in love,

Journeying the seas,

Courage on the wings of doves,

Her spirit forever free.

Harsha

A Letter to Mom & Dad…

Dearest Mom & Dad,

Today, you complete 46 years of marriage 🙂 To me, that’s as close to eternity as I’m likely to get! 46 years of living and loving, of compromise and sacrifice, of joy and tragedy, of holding on and letting go…there’s not much you haven’t weathered and I’ve watched you for 44 of those…observing and trying to learn. It’s been a privilege, although some times…torture! Well, it’s like that sometimes between parents and children isn’t it? It certainly is with me.

My First Birthday - 1969!
My First Birthday – 1969!

You are phenomenal people, in the way parents are to their children – mysterious, confounding, inspirational, loving… confounding – did I mention that?! There are times when I find your logic elusive or infantile, when I find your reluctance to ask for and accept help frustrating, when I wish I could shake you physically into being more engaged with Life…but none of that changes the simple fact that I love you both to pieces and would do anything…but anything for you. I know I get overbearing and crazy at times, and haven’t always been an easy daughter, but it stems from love and the need to make Life easier for you. It’s hard for me to watch you struggle when I feel there’s an easier alternative. I guess I just have to try harder to respect your independence & your decisions even though they may not make sense to me at the time. After all, you have lived longer and have more experience than I have! I promise to try harder to understand you and not step on your toes so often! I hope you’ll do the same 😉

Somewhere in me, lives the desire, to be compassionate & forgiving like you, Mom and wise & generous like you, Dad, and I constantly feel the need to do you proud through my words and actions. You’ve set the bar high and I wonder whether I’ll ever measure up. Oh I know you love me regardless, I know! Still, if I can live up to your impeccable standards, and be half as good a parent to Ishaan as you are to me, I would consider myself blessed and worthy of being your daughter. And today, of all days, I want to Thank you for being the BEST parents for me, coz without you…I wouldn’t even be here!

So here’s to you both…May Life always Keep you together – Safe, Strong & Happy 🙂

Love always, P.

Mommy Moments…

I’ve had my share in the time that I’ve been away from the Blog, as you may well imagine! ‘Mommy Moments’…mostly happy, sometimes tinged with sadness, often uplifting and always memorable. Full-circle moments that encapsulate everything it means to be a ‘Mom’. Is it just me, or do they tend to be tearful…happy-sad tears, eloquent in a way that words aren’t ? Maybe it’s just me.

Ishaan had his first Annual Day at school. He goes to a Montessori and their ways are rather different from mainstream pre-schools here in Goa, refreshingly so in my opinion 🙂 They actually allow for individual growth and development (Yay!!), and although I had a problem initially with the homework, once I realized they were not insistent on perfection or even completion, but focused instead on figuring out the child’s areas & level of interest, I relaxed, and have now learned to enjoy the ride. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that Ishaan now adores school and asks to go everyday 🙂 He surprises me this boy of mine. he does the most unexpected things. I ask him about his friends and classmates in school and all I get are vague looks and strange mumbles. I know a couple of children that he hangs out in class with from his teacher and I just assumed he doesn’t know the others. he is the smallest in his class and he doesn’t speak too fluently yet! Silly me! Well, after they had their end-of-term class photograph taken, he pointed out each child excitedly and told me their names! I was pretty impressed and not a little surprised, simply because he had never spoken of them before! And right away I see, he’s deep. He does things when he’s good and ready and not a moment before! Well, that can be a good thing I suppose, and yet not so good when I’m trying to get him to do stuff. As I see the tell-tale stubbornness of the ‘Ram’ emerge, I foresee a colorful time ahead for all of us 😉

Also he’s finally begun to do stuff from school at home – on a whim when we least expect it! I remember the first time he began to sing ‘How Much is that Doggie in the Window’, complete with “Bow-wows’ 🙂 (Remember that song?) – it took me a while to decipher what he was saying, but the tune was unmistakable! Who can forget that universal song of childhood?! And I thought to myself, ‘So, the boy can sing!’, and just like that, happy tears 🙂

And then the day, when out-of-the-blue, he counted numbers up to 20! We had been counting to 10 with him and then he just looked shyly at me and said “Eeleben, twelbe, thir-tin, six-tin, seben-tin, eigh-tin, nine-tin, twenty!” reaching a crescendo on 20, before looking up expectantly into our rather stunned faces! Needless to say, we were all of us, suitably impressed with my little Einstein 😉 Much hugging and kissing and noisy clapping ensued which must have gone to his tiny little head, coz it’s become a bedtime ritual of sorts, with him chanting numbers in his harum-scarum way to the imaginary music in his head, while we march upstairs to bed! My son the clown 🙂 and another ‘Mommy Moment’ 🙂 But I digress!

Back to the Annual Day then, where the kids gave an hour-long performance that showcased the things they had learnt during the school year. It was all very well organized I thought, except that it was open-air and extremely hot, but what’s a little heat & sweat for the children eh?! The week before, parents received emails and printouts of clear instructions on arrival, drop-off and pick-up times. I had been requested by a teacher to help in the award ceremony and was glad to help. They had picked four professions they were show-casing in the Concert – doctors, writers, economists & teachers and they wanted a parent from each field. Hubby of course missed his son’s first stage appearance. He was off holidaying on a business trip in Portugal so I took Mom who as you can imagine was only too happy to come!

We got to school and found seats on the steps of the open-air amphitheatre. The concert began with the lighting of the lamp, as do most events here on the sub-continent. I liked that they didn’t have any fancy guests, but the parent of their first student do the honors 🙂 The children put up a wonderful show. They displayed various skills they’d learnt, which when you think about it are still the basic R’s – Reading, wRiting & a‘Rithmetic! They made a book and read out of it, converted currencies (!!), did yoga, sang songs, separated foods into their nutrient food-groups and recited poetry. Ishaan was part of the Zoologist group! My son the explorer 😉 They put on a familiar tableau – Lifecycle of the Butterfly. There were about six kids, and the two youngest, (Ishaan was one), were given the job of getting on to stage (preferably without stumbling), picking up two large arrows and sitting on their mats with the arrows pointing the right way! It had been a long wait…and as I watched Ishaan finally cue up by the stage, I had to battle conflicting emotions. I was ‘Anxious Mom’, ‘Proud Mom’, ‘Happy Mom’, ‘Concerned Mom’ all rolled into one – a nouvelle feeling for me! One part of me was hoping he wouldn’t see me in case that upset him or made him so happy, he forgot his tiny part; while the other, stifled the urge to go up and squeeze the Life out of him! Aah…the travails of Mommyhood 😛 He did see me! He gave me that trademark shy smile that he has, when he’s trying to be a ‘big’ boy, but stayed in his place. Already I was a bundle of nerves with a lump in my throat, and he hadn’t even taken a step! An older boy helped him on to stage and led him to his place and I am very proud to say, he picked up his arrow and settled on his mat like a little angel throughout the performance which lasted about 5 minutes 🙂 Note to self: Get magic spell for making toddlers sit still from miracle-working teachers in school. When the tableau concluded with an older girl unfurling her silk cocoon to reveal a butterfly, my boy continued to sit in his place, until his teacher led him off gently, as the other children left, waving flags! Moral of the story: A man and his arrow are not easily parted 😉

The Man & his arrow!

He came back out a little later with all the children for the award ceremony. We four gave every child a medal – no firsts or seconds, no bests – just equals. I loved it 🙂 The ceremony concluded with the National Anthem, which is one of Ishaan’s favorite songs, along with Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and De Ghumake, the Anthem for the recently concluded Cricket World Cup. He sings it ever so often at home, as an effective distraction, usually when he wants to shut out my yelling, which is pretty often 😛 He did not however sing a word of it that day on that stage! I wouldn’t be honest if I said I wasn’t just a teeny-weeny bit disappointed, not because he didn’t sing, but because I thought he loved it so much he wouldn’t be able to resist! Moral of the story: Mothers don’t know everything. They just like to think they do 😛

Medals & the Anthem!

It was a wonderful, happy morning for all concerned 🙂 And in typical Mom fashion, the show had hardly ended before I was off day-dreaming about next year, when Ishaan would hopefully play a more active role! Living in & for the future…that’s Me 😉 In the car, on the way home, Ishaan has already moved on to his favorite thing in the whole, entire world – Cricket! As he chatters on about Sachin (his favorite), and Sehwag & Dhoni & Harbhajan (all members of the Indian team that won the World Cup)  and I pretend to pay attention (Yes, I do pretend! Quite often in fact and I feel no guilt so sue me :P), my mind wanders to how quickly he’s growing up! Conflicted Mom’ takes over…I want to freeze time so he stays like this forever – innocent, trusting, protected and happy. No, no! I want him to grow up, so I’m done with the raising and start to enjoy the just being (like that will ever happen!), be a star in whatever he chooses to do and still stay innocent, trusting, protected and happy. I want only the light, never the shadows. Aah…I want the world for my boy. Can you blame me?! I know, I know! I’m delusional! It’s alright. Comes with ‘Mommy’ territory 😉 

Loud shouts of “Muuuuuuuuuuumy!” in my ear interrupt my reverie…he’s catching on. He knows when I’m not paying attention…”Muuuuuuuuuuuumy!”…”What?! I’m right here!”….He always keeps me grounded this boy, never lets me stray too far away from the business of being a Mom 😉 He’s smart like that and rock solid. My anchor 🙂 Howz that for a Moment, eh? 😀

That’s it for this post…but more Mommy Moments to come. A big one…the Birthday!

Have a Fun Sunday, People 🙂