I am a… Part 2

Okay, my previous post led quite a few readers to reach out to me and express their happiness of how well they identified and could relate to my situation. Thank you. That inspired me to delve one step further and clarify in my head what prayer means.

I think prayers are of two kinds, the standard one and the custom one. Let me explain. A standard prayer is printed somewhere or is carried forward from generation to generation, like the Lord’s prayer or Naamam as per Hindu traditions. The custom prayer of your personal outcry where the language is yours, words are yours, style and mood is what you define, an original piece of art. As a child I was never taught a standard prayer at home. I was that kid who came from Bangalore to central Kerala every summer with a suitcase and frocks in a taxi ambassador or Jeep. Cousins would gather to see what was in the suitcase, what frocks I had, and to hear about the magic of a distant land called Bangalore. Bangalore was the US of the 80s for most Keralites and I was privileged. So during one of those summer trips I found my aunt telling my cousins as the sun set to wash their hands and feet, light the lamp and pray. I followed them because as cousins you just copy each other. In my borrowed pavada-blouse (long skirt-blouse) I sat down with them. They started chanting the “Naamam” which is a prayer in praise of the Hindu Gods. I had no clue that something like this existed. I was surprised why my mother didn’t teach me these things. I just enjoyed the routine with my cousins, happy to wear the borrowed pavada-blouse and feel like a real Malayali.

My custom prayers almost always happened before the exam. My father told me to think of his deceased parents for blessings and write the exam, in the hope (he was sure) that they would help solve that crappy chemical equation or the long math theorem. Anyways I diligently obeyed prayed to them and aced my exams.

As I became more aware of the world, yonder world, souls, God, or to put it simply, as I increased my Spiritual knowledge, the magical Destiny kicked in. I started to believe that everything was destiny. If there was a supreme power that defined destiny, maybe. Until I read about and attended Dr Brian Weiss’s session. It was all about the soul. I still believe is Destiny but the soul and destiny define almost everything there is to life. So then going back to my original question, what is prayer? Are you really talking to God or the creator or the supreme?

No.

You are talking to yourself. To your inner conscience. When I “pray” asking for strength there is no magic happening where an ounce or pound of strength is invisibly pumped into you. I am telling my inner conscience to become stronger. Before all those exams I wrote, when I prayed to get good marks, nobody changed my answers on the answer sheet to make a 70, 95. What I had learnt and wrote got me the 95. Let’s take this example, you are going through a rough phase. You pray for help, strength, happiness whatever. 9 out of 10 times (unless your destiny is totally crappy) in a few hours or days or months the rough phase will pass. And you think, God made this happen, He turned things around. But really, did He? Look at it from the opposite side, good things were in store, so before that there was a low, that is how destiny plays out. Everyone can’t have good times all the time and everyone can’t have bad times all the time. So, did prayer do the magic?

So then why pray?

It is to create a layer above you. Otherwise we would simply drown in our ego. The layer you are creating above you is your conscience. It is your conscience that you should uphold at all times, irrespective of what you do. From times unknown or from religions created around the world, this layer has been called God. So we pray to God.

This is where the whole concept of custom prayer sky rockets way above my head. How can there even be a custom prayer? And that too loudly recited? Whose inner conscience are you reaching out to, your neighbors? Because the emphasis is not (most often) on feeling or meaning each word but play catch up. If you are slow you skip words to make the chorus sound right. It is funny and sad. People’s belief in custom prayers has blinded them from their inner conscience, is my personal take.

I am not an atheist. Atheist is one who does not believe in God. Do they believe in their inner conscience, maybe not is what I can guess. I am not sure. The only staunch atheist I know is my brother. Yes isn’t it a paradox that my father a staunch Brahmin and his son just the opposite.. 🙂. Having said everything I said above, I am starting to think that I am in between.. I believe in my inner conscience and I call that conscience God.

I want to teach my children to pray, so they believe in their inner conscience and can reach within for answers. That is what is important is my deduction based off what I wrote and read and spoke over the last few days. Not religion.. not practices.. what they decide to call this inner conscience and the practices they decide to adopt is upto them.

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I am a…

Growing up I was told we were Hindus. My father born in a Brahmin (priestly) family staked claim of how superior we were. My mother kept it neutral, her father was a Namboothiri (priestly) and mother a Nair (not priestly). None of this deterred them from sending me to Bishop Cottons a Christian School. Here I recited the “Our Father in heaven”, every working day for ten years of my life. Teachers read from the Bible, we learnt the hymns and it was all Christian. Irrespective of the faith your family followed, every student followed the same Christian rules.

My family’s Hindu-ness was limited to the corner of the kitchen adorned with photos of Hindu Gods, a lamp was lit everyday and the yearly trip to Guruvayoor (a Hindu temple). There was absolutely no other show of religion in any manner. So I grew up amidst the Hindu believers at home and Christian believers at school which I think just neutralized the whole concept of religion in my mind. Was I divided? I don’t think so, it didn’t matter much. I prayed before an exam, before I got my marks, or to win a competition. That summed up religion for me.

Muslims were a different category altogether. My father has been blessed (pun intended) with the skills to identify a Hindu from a Christian from a Muslim and immediately tag them with certain behavior. I am glad that my mother kept me grounded and taught me to respect the person first before their religion. So wading between these beliefs and catching up on Ramayana, Mahabharatha, Bible on the television shows aired on Doordarshan, I grew up.

Fast forward a few years and I ended up marrying a Christian. Nothing was new to me because I had said the Lord’s prayer for ten years of my life. I was baptized in order to get married in a church. At that point love was blind and bigger than religion so I said, why not? So I crossed the bridge and tried to adapt to new ways and all of those religious accessories that come with the conversion. A few years along I wake up from the dream, the love is there but not blind like the dating days and I tell my husband that I am going to cross the bridge back. To my good luck his belief in religion was also on an as needed basis. So he let me choose what I wished to follow all along. Although some of the extended family had strong beliefs, we sailed past those with some manouvering.

Now I am the mother of two teenage boys and the last thing I want to teach them is religion. They know in theory what these religions and their beliefs are, but then, what’s the point? This world is heading to a place where religion has taken precedence over humanity, so I ask myself, shouldn’t I be teaching them humanity? Based on how independently teenagers think, I don’t think ten years down the line, religion will be upheld the way it is today. Everywhere you hear news about sexual abuse in the churches, which I see the”informed” generation rejecting. There is a ton of gold and money donated to Hindu temples and I wonder why? Shouldn’t that be used instead to feed hungry children, give them an education? Why does this world need any more temples or churches or mosques or other centers of worship when one cannot uplift and uphold the human within?

I am not against religion, but dead against the belief of religion that divides people. By the law of nature there are only two categories of humans, the XX chromosome and XY chromosome combination. Every other divide whether it’s based on religion, color, race are created by some person. I am tending towards believing that the only religion that should exist is humanity. Abolish every other religion, practice and belief. Every XX respects XY and vice versa, that’s all that needs to exist to make this a better place. I know this is wishful thinking and the world and it’s people are so segregated that all they can think of is either themselves or their small community.

Is it too late to look at the larger picture?

My little one

Your eyes filled with a million dreams

Tears that roll down your little cheeks

A scary dream about me shatters you

Lying down on my lap

Is your happy moment

When you are happy you have to share it

With me

When you are disturbed

Telling me reassure you

This trust you have in me

That I am there for you

How did you learn this my little one

Was it when I held you

As you took your first steps

Or when I fed you as your little tummy growled

Was it when I held you

Each time you fell ill

Or did it form deep within

Even before I held you

This trust is the strongest of the strong

That I strive everyday

My little one

To hold onto

With my every being.

Her wings..

“You add constraints to everything… and I cannot do this anymore…”, he said.

“How is this a constraint? Anything I say is a constraint now… I think I should just stop talking…”, responded Neena.

“Yes, that’s better. You open your mouth either to say no or restrict something. I want to be able to do what I want to do, when I want to do it, not as per your will…”.

“You should have thought about that before you got married…”, said Neena sternly.

Shiv flung the TV remote across the room and stood up from the couch to leave the room.

Neena knew there was no point in explaining anything to him, still she tried. Maybe he would understand if she tried to use his words or phrase the sentence better, maybe lower her tone, she still wanted to give it a shot.

“I have tried enough and it won’t work Shiv, I don’t want to set myself up to be hurt again…”, Neena tried to explain. She was sitting at the dining table finishing dinner. Wasn’t it an hour ago that they laughed at an old movie dialogue? Where did that go? How did they even get to this conversation?

Shiv stomped out of the living room and turned to the bedroom when the kids came in with a cake in their hands, candles lit.. singing.. “happy anniversary to you.. happy anniversary to you.. happy anniversary mamma and papa.. happy anniversary to you..”.

Neena and Shiv looked at each other, a long look, of a thousand silent words…

Frickin’ Fourteen

Being a mother to a fourteen year old is one of the most difficult phases of my life, well, so far. I know other moms going through these struggles will agree with me. Like my friend said, “adolescence tantrums”. What are they cribbing about? The boys, I mean. They don’t have to choose bras, sanitary napkins, go through the obnoxious pain of periods, then what the hell are they so icky about? It was so much easier when they rolled around in their diapers or just tagged along holding our hands, wasn’t it? Their mood swings to top it all, my goodness, is that even allowed?

How many times have you heard, ‘you don’t understand’ or the more polished lingua ‘you don’t get it’! I get it boy, I really do. I went through your age, I was not born as a 40 year old. I went through this without a frickin’ cellphone and internet!! Every time I rant the same gyaan over and over again, I must admit, I get bored! I see the listening switch going off on his face so clearly. I must admit, I am one of those mothers who doesn’t want to be traditional too much, yet want to be a buddy to my kids. I hate it when I nag, but do they even give us a choice?

Text in capital letters, anyone? Oh yeah, I get it. The happy face, kiss, hug emoticons come only, yeah ONLY, when I increase screen time. How did I solve it? You will not get a response if you text me in capital letters. Seriously? We are solving texting issues? How many times have I wanted to throw the cell phone from the tallest building around!

My husband introduced and implemented and monitored (yes, more credit to him, I do that on rare occasions), no-screen-on-weekdays! Yup, for many years now, the boys get to do any screen (expect educational material) only on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. It is so effective that Friday evening when they get home from school, they won’t even notice if I am not home. Oh and screen does not start until a certain time in the morning and ends at a certain time even on weekends. Amreekan bouy says to village-born Indian mother, ‘Who does that Amma (he still calls me that), all my friends get screen everyday!!! (note the exclamations, its unending in his head, I know)

To add to my woes, iOS12 introduced “Screen Time” and I set that up on my fourteen year old’s phone. Everyday, believe me, e-v-e-r-y-d-a-y  ‘my friends don’t have this’, ‘why should I have it?’, ‘I need more time’, ‘my friend’s get to do screen everyday’, with that what-did-i-get-into look on his face. Probably worse, why-did-you-put-me-in-this-family-God? I too have said it, once upon a time. He plays on his phone in the bus, on the way to school, back from school, thats the trend you see. If you don’t do that, you are from the Indus Valley civilization, is what I am told…

Screen-time-activist – I showed my friend that I have screen time and he asked me, don’t your parents trust you?

Ouch!! That went right in…

Village-born mother – its not about trust, its to regulate the time you spend in front of that, playing games.

To top it all, my hero has braces. I have revised my counting to ten thousand (haven’t done that since junior school), by telling him to brush and put his bands on. The money I pay to the orthodontist dances like that devil in the sky, while I continue my rant of ‘put-your-bands’. I feel like I should just record these repetitive statement and just play it in the house, placards maybe?!?

His best or worst attitude is, no attitude. Something didn’t happen, it didn’t happen. Something didn’t work out, it didn’t work out. Missed out on something, so what. The chap is as calm as a cucumber. No hurry to get anywhere, except to his phone and FIFA on PS4 or to the dining table. Do they sell accelerators for people anywhere?

It’s not all a dance of the devil, there are blessings as well. As you see the tiny thing you created grow up next to you, such that you look up (literally) to him. As you revel at his handsomeness, his kind demeanor with people and you think, I must have done something right. I give it to him, for very smoothly handling a riot like his younger brother. Although sometimes he asks, ‘from where did you get this guy?’..

Should I wait for fifteen? Guess its pretty much the same or even worse. Every parent thinks, maybe the next phase is better till you realize the previous one was way better.

Wonder when the girlfriend will make her grand entry… Ooooh myyy God! (Janice style, remember F.R.I.E.N.D.S?)

It’s all frickin’ teens!!

For the record… I love being a mother, it’s my absolute favorite role!

The little blue brush

When I was pregnant with my first kid, I got a little blue brush and comb as a gift at my baby shower. The bristles of the hair brush were so soft, they reminded me of Barbie’s hair. When my little one was born, I used that brush to gently part his hair after his bath. He was clean, hair neatly parted, a smile on his face and the world was perfect. I was perfect as a new mother.

Fast forward thirteen years. In a life of seventy or eighty, thirteen is a small number, but you ask the parent of a teenager and they will tell you, its a lifetime. Some days, that same baby of mine, forgets to comb his hair when he gets out of the shower. His hair is ruffled and he says, ‘I’m ready to go to school’. My “mother” in me, looks at the clock and determined in the snap of a second, if I should rush to get the comb and part his hair, or if I should sound a “mellow” yell, “you need to comb your hair and look neat”…

So yesterday, the split second decision was to grab a comb and make his hair look neat. As I raised the brush (a big blue spiral one, now), I had to raise my hand above my eye level. For a tiny miniscule of a second, (that is all we have to think, in the morning rush), I thought, ‘Wow!’. That tiny little thing that fit so snugly in my arms, was an inch above me.

Where the hell did the years go??

From diapers, to immunization shots, to feeding, to potty training, to daycare, to school, to books, to homework, to aches and pains, to summer camps and boom before you know it, its done. When we embark on this journey of motherhood, we feel this a life changing decision and is going to last a lifetime. As my kiddo turns fourteen, I am stressed that soon it will be time to let go. Yes, it is the bond of a lifetime, but its not that you can hold on to for a lifetime, you HAVE TO LET GO. You have to let them flap their wings and fly.

Nobody prepares you for this. All the relatives, parents who encourage you to have children, don’t explain enough. It’s definitely not about that one moment of inception. It’s not about family portraits that you can send out at Christmas or decorate your Facebook wall with. It’s not about the grades or the career, definitely, no. It is a challenging emotional journey of a lifetime. It is like you are living another person, you feel what the child feels, you are constantly in battle with yourself to do the right thing. Once they grow up, it doesn’t stop, because, technically, when do they grow up? I still need my father and I am still growing up. Marriage is more accommodating than having a child. You can talk, argue, reason, demand ‘adjustability’ from your spouse. With your child, you HAVE TO BE the bigger person. When you are not, instantly you will know.

I wonder how my parents let me go, in a world of no internet or cell phones. Today, I appreciate how brave they were to let me flap my wings and fly.

All said and done, is it fun? Oh hell, it is. It is a beautiful relationship, magical and however science explains it, it is a MIRACLE. To create a human being, nurture him/her, help him/her learn essential skills like eating, talking, walking, sleeping, watch him/her grow into an individual and build his/her own ideologies, perceptions is a whole discovery in itself.

As I watch my miracle grow, I tell myself, soon it will be time to let go. The little blue brush will be a memory I will hold on to for a lifetime. As for him, all he will remember is how his mother nagged him before he left to school!!