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?

The fellow..

I have written about various people in my life but I don’t think I have ever written about my sibling, my brother younger to me by five years but looks and thinks otherwise. The story of his birth is one of my favorites. When I joined Nursery at Bishop Cotton’s I am supposed to have come home and complained to my parents that every one has a brother or sister except me. And so the stork carried this light skinned baby boy to our house who was the apple of everyone’s eye.

Fast forward few years and like almost every first born I felt my parents were partial to him. The feeling of why I don’t have a brother changed to why do I have a brother, pretty quickly. So amidst favoritism we grew up fighting for the remote, grabbing things, hitting each other, annoying each other, the usual sibling stories. Like most families it was I who took the blame. He was the younger one and I being the older one was supposed to adjust. Our mother had no two rules about who got the beating irrespective of who started the quarrel. She gave it to us equally, like she was watching a tennis match, one here, one there, repeat, with a red plastic spatula.

He didn’t want to compete with anyone in his class at academics, all he wanted was to beat my grades, which he did most times. He developed a passion for basketball just to grow taller than the rest of us at home, we are a short family otherwise.

Although we fought quite a bit my feelings for him took a complete u-turn when my son was born (my older son looks like him by the way). He felt more like a son than my brother. It’s a strange feeling and I mix up their names even. One of my personal achievements that I feel fortunate about is that I was able to support him at various stages to better opportunities. And to me that checks off a major portion of my responsibility of the relationship. At the end of the day your sibling is your pillar of support whose foundation runs deep. There could be a few cracks but those heal magically, your parents already put in pixie dust in the cement.

He is going to rofl reading this, shower me with choicest words, making mincemeat of my emotions, like he always does, I know this. My father too is probably going to read this say brother-sister too much love, wonder when you’ll start fighting.. But the bottom line is that I love him and it’s an amazing blessing from the angels above that we now live a mile apart. The last time we lived under one roof was twenty years ago. Blessed, blessed, blessed!!

At the movies..

I am a movie buff.. I love everything about the movies, specifically Indian movies. I am that person who will watch a movie in any language reading subtitles in English. Sometimes I watch the movie twice, like a Bahubali, once to read the subtitles and the second time to just watch the magic on screen. I have always watched movies. During childhood it was two movies a weekend via a rented video cassette tape from the video library nearby. Pick them up on Friday and return on Saturday or pick them up on Saturday and return on Monday. My brother got to pick a Mithun Chakraborthy movie while I got to pick a Jayaprada one. As hilarious as it seems now, yes there was a wave of these actors once upon a time. My parents got to pick a Malayalam movie once in a blue moon.

I grew up watching the sanskari-type (Indian culture extravaganza) or the bad guy-good guy type dishum-dishum movies. My brother had an array of toy guns imitating the heroes of these movies, shooting down the villian. Once in college, my mother and I took our craziness to the theatres, buying tickets in black, sitting in the first row, second show, you get the grind. She was my movie-pal.

As I grew out of my last teens, like most other girls my age, I fell into the traps of the lovey-dovey type, dreamy eyes boys, frock clad girls “variety” love stories. An ancient version of today’s chick flick! Meaningful cinema happened somewhere in between where classics like Bharatham, Mr and Mrs Iyer etc crept in. This was when I started watching a lot of Mohanlal movies.

Langauge has never been a barrier to enjoy a story. And well, stories are my thing 🙂. Alaipayuthey steered the way into Tamil, Aparna Sen into Bengali, Kannada was what we spoke at home and went with neighbors to theatres, Malayalam was mother tongue so parents influence, Telugu was from Sagara Sangamam. Every Sunday Doordarshan played a national award winning movie around 1 pm after the news for the hearing impaired. This round lady with heavy lipstick sat in the corner of the TV screen reading the news in sign language. I remember staring at her trying to make sense of sign language. So coming back to movies, Oriya, Marathi, Punjabi, Bengali, Gujarati blah blah movies aired during this time. All of them were award winning and slow, which gave me ample time to read the subtitles. I guess that’s where I picked up the subtitles-reading habit.

I shouldn’t miss to mention the umpteen Suraj Barjatiya and Karan Johar type films which I watched over and over again for absolutely no rhyme or reason. A colossal waste of time but pure no brainers, where a dog or a cat or a mouse would win over common sense!!

My young woman years delved into the deeper off-the-shelf romance adventures like Ijaazat, Sindhubairavi etc. Feeling the film became a big thing where I would wake up the next day with a hangover from the film. The characters stayed with me for a few days and that became the yardstick of a good movie. If the characters stayed with me, I had had a wonderful movie experience. There are a few films like Pursuit of Happiness, Life is Beautiful, Fashion, Arjun Reddy, Mahanati, Iti Mrinalini, Mr and Mrs Iyer, Vikram Vedha to name a few; which elevate you to a different level.

Then there is ’96!

The feel the movie created is like it went right into your body and gave your heart a warm squeeze! I don’t think there is a more beautiful and rustic narration of destiny in a movie. It simply says that if two people are not destined to be together, it just will not happen. Period. The subtleties, nuances, every touch has a meaning, every look says more than the words uttered. The music carries you in the sway, like drenching you in a drizzle, like the wine slowly soaking your gut.. like they say in Tamil.. sema feel!!

To life like stories and narrations, cheers always!!

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!

Perspective..

As I inch towards the closure of another decade I skim through the past decade to see what I have achieved in the past ten years. One thought led to the other and if you look at a life span you can divide it into 6 or 7 parts. Yes, very much like the seven ages of man, as written by William Shakespeare.

That is all it is, at a 360 degree view, 6 or 7 or 8 parts. You can condense an entire lifetime if you hold up enough fingers on your hand. And what intrigues me is how much have I progressed in each part? What does one achieve in each part? Not materialistic achievements, naaaaah! How does one grow as an individual, harnessing this gift called life?

The first part is where you are constantly learning. So pretty much ignore it. You just do what your told to either by parents or teachers. You are not even allowed to reject the food on the table, so you simply acquire basic skills, one of the greatest ones being getting to the toilet each time you need to go…

The second part is where you explore a bit. Your parents let the harness loose, just a tad bit. You can reject the food on the table and go through the consequences of that act. Wings are beginning to flutter. You want to try and fly. You learn that you have wings. So yes, that’s an achievement.

The third part is where you make all the mistakes. Some mistakes you can walk out of, some change the course of your life. You have the money, so you want to go out there and achieve something. Some are pushed into getting things done, some take flight and have their first experience of crash landing. This is the part where your parents take a step back, because you think you know everything and have seen the world enough compared to their stage of fourth or fifth part.

The fourth part is where you are done making mistakes. This is the true part where you grow into the person you were meant to be. Everything before this was prep work. By the end of this part you have set base, your foundation is strong and you are now truly flying on your own. You can recognize the mistakes you made in the earlier one or two parts and have learnt from them. This is when you achieve personal progress.

The fifth part is where you try the dives. You try to soar. You want to take yourself to the next level. This is where you want to push yourself and seek answers to your true potential. For some though, this is where you relax after four parts of hard work. You sit back on the couch of life, sip in your success and feel good about yourself. For me personally, this is where you limit your possibilities. This is where you can make the choice to optimize or give up.

The sixth part, well… If you surpassed your expectations in the previous part, maybe continue to soar or take a break. Sit down, put your feet up for a while and enjoy the cocktail of life. Take all those vacations you wanted to take, while you are healthy enough. This is the part where you truly enjoy life. You have no idea how many more parts you are left with.

The seventh part is about reflections. You reflect upon everything you have done in the previous parts and filling the gaps, to just do it. If you want to walk on the beach, do it. You want to eat that dessert, eat it..

Everyone is gifted with this beautifully crafted round cake, with icing and sprinkles. You take once slice at a time, with no inkling of how many slices are there. Savor each bite and fill your senses with the joy of knowing that your are blessed. There will be hurdles, there will be ditches, always believe in the moment and live it to the fullest!! Enjoy every bite…!