Either left or right…

I was driving to work this morning and as I got onto Lamar Blvd, here in Austin, I hit a red light. There were quite a few people on either side of the road waiting to cross the road. As they were crossing, I noticed most of them were in athletic wear, shoes probably taking a walk or jogging. One had airpods, one had a good grade water bottle, Nike shoes, probably branded clothes… My first thought was, I am driving to work and these people are taking a stroll??!! What do they do for a living? Probably retired or telecommute-blessed people… maybe? My morning had been the regular pack three lunch boxes, breakfast, get ready, hit the road, freeway traffic, 45 minutes to get to work… the same old, you know the drill…

The light turns green, my reverie breaks and I drive on. I am on the left turn only lane at the next light waiting for the cars in front of me to drive ahead. There is a long median along the length of the left lane. As I drive into the left lane, there is a man in old dirty clothes, torn here and there, unkept beard growing from everywhere. He has a handwritten sign clamped to this chest which reads ‘need money for food’. He is walking up and down the median, looking at every car passing by. When the light turns red, maybe there will be one or two cars, who will pause their music, roll down the window and pass a one dollar bill. As I am about to turn into Barton Springs Rd, there is another elderly man starting his walk along the median in the hope that he can make one meal today.

This is the world we live in, extreme to its core. Extremism is the order of the day, be it politics, religion, livelihood, opinions. People vote a party into power and the losing party does everything it can to make the government dysfunctional. There is no need for a world war three to ensue, because we are already living in it. Every country has an ongoing war between the ruling political party and opposition. When will you do the country any good? Religion is maligned with extremists and their opinions. A place of worship has become devil’s kitchen – be it the churches where children are abused or the Hindu temples where judiciary and government are poking their nose. Leave the places of worship to the believers. Don’t turn it into a battleground. Media fills us day in and day out with discussions of left and right parties. Media is such a powerful tool, but to them, throw everything at the viewers face, and let the viewer take sides, has become the TRP mantra. They are the catalysts in this war. In this war of blowing up “my extremist opinions”, we’ve killed everything in the process, balance of life – richer are becoming richer, poorer and middle class are well, hanging from somewhere, the forests – literally destroying them to make more money and make the divide even stronger, animals and their habitat because humans are so greedy, they want everything, water – clean drinking water is one of the greatest blessings of our times, air – fart pollution into it as much as you can. When will people start sitting across the table and actually talk to make this a better place? Maybe never! Everyone just wants to make their booty bigger, take sides, switch sides and what not…

I still go back and blame the technology and internet boom, which brought information to our palms but screwed up our minds. I don’t have an opinion is not acceptable anymore, you have to take sides. Everything is becoming more and more binary, either 1 or 0! Well that’s what this entire gamut of technology splurge is based on, the presence of absence of pulses, leaving us humans more inhumane, day by day.

Michael Jackson’s ‘Heal the World’ released in 1991, we are twenty seven years after the fact, governments have changed, people have come and gone, we are simply getting stuck stronger to our extremist thoughts… Now probably there is no point even trying to…

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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…!

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!!

 

Judgemental

This word is very beautifully explained in the movie English Vinglish in the climax scene. The protagonist of the movie has overcome her inner conflict and is telling a newly wed couple of how a family should not be judgemental. I clapped at the end of the scene.

When I look back at the almost-a-lifetime relationships I have, I see that the strength of these relationships lies in the fact that the other person or me are not judgemental about each other. We may not agree about everything, but we do not pass a judgement on their character. That is precisely why the relationship has lasted so many years.

When a person passes a judgemental remark you want to steer clear of them, that’s basic human instinct, I think. They may want to help you become a better person, because they definitely see what you cannot see. But there is a sensitive way to put it across. At the end of the day what you want to preserve is the relationship and not correct that one trait.

If you are a person who doesn’t care about such remarks, good for you. Cheers! There are those sensitive, emotional, humbugs like me, where attacks on character are like that bell inside your head which refuses to shut off. At every instance of the action, the bell goes off and one part of your mind is telling you, just do it. It’s a crazy conflict to have, in time this too shall pass. Probably there are people out there whose self-confidence could be shaken.

Ever wondered why these relationships are so complicated to make and maintain? You cannot live without them and sometimes with them 😉…

To lifetime relationships, don’t judge, there is too much at stake.

Is that what it is?

As a mother me like many of my friends are in a constant battle in our mind about what is right for our children. Sometimes spouses help make a decision and sometimes leave it to us to decide. It’s the leaving to us to decide that scares me.

The logic is simple.. “will I be blamed for this later?”, by anyone, is the question we are finding an answer for, day in and day out. It could be the child who says, you did it this way or you didn’t do it this way. It could be the spouse or it could be a friend or family member. We gnaw on our brains constantly to find the right balance, right answer, right thing to do without being blamed.

So that is what it is? Finding the path of no blame? I know my mom went through this when she was struggling to get an admission for my brother at Bishop Cottons. She said she didn’t want him to blame her later on that she sent me to Bishop Cottons and him to a lesser standard school. So she did go through this phase.

Maybe these thoughts led to my character, Shalini in my second book. She is a mother of four who constantly tries to avoid being blamed by everyone. Mother instincts I guess.

I always believe identifying the problem is half the job done. I guess it’s time to adopt Nike’s caption.. Just do it! Or maybe not.. what if……..?