Tag Archives: mother

My hero this Woman’s Day

The dust has settled down on Woman’s Day tamasha. I’m not sure whether to be happy about this circus coming to town every year or not. What good does it serve really? Each year different NGOs and organizations pick women achievers and reward them. Elaborate awards functions are held. Everyone appears well dressed and happy. Pictures are taken. Happy moments are born. And so on. Well, clap clap, great show ladies. Now let’s move on.

I have nothing against awarding women achievers. Really. But on what basis are we picking these women? I see a pattern. The women who walk away with the awards are socially active, they are financially well off and they have supportive families. Not to belittle their achievements…but what and where are the odds they battled?

Each year, I like to pick my ‘woman of the year’. Last year it was a tie between my maid and my iron lady. This year, the lady I choose is truly special and inspirational. And here’s her story:

Until 2012, Shanti was like any ordinary Tamil Brahmin middle class woman. Her conservative tambram family was supportive within their limits. Her husband, very loving and caring. He was hardworking and preferred that she managed the home and their two lovely daughters. The future held hope and promise.

Then in October 2012, her little bubble crashed.

Her husband died in a really freakish train accident. With no work experience and virtually no savings, their future was a big question mark. On humanitarian grounds, her husband’s organization gave her a job. But with no prior work experience, she got in on a low salary and was expected to work late hours. The children handled it very well, but she was riddled with guilt as she had to stay away from home from 7 am to 7 pm or even later sometimes. And then to supplement the income she started taking Hindi tuition. This went on until 9 pm. By then it was almost bed time for the kids. Her in-laws took care of the children well, but threw veiled acidic remarks and barbs in her direction. Finally, one year after her husband passed away, she took up another apartment and her parents moved in with her. Her father, a retired 70 year old man, took up a part time job as a warehouse book keeper to support her. Her relentless running around continues to this day. In addition to work and Hindi tuition, she is now doing her MBA as she feels that her current qualifications will not help her much professionally. The organization she is working for is going through bad times and she recently revealed that she does not get paid for months together. She is looking for another job, hopefully one where her timings are not as erratic.

Yet despite it all, you will never see her without a smile on her face. She greets everyone with a big grin. Though her eyes tell you the story of her struggle and sleepless nights, I have not heard her complain about life even once. She takes it all in her stride. She does not compromise on her children’s happiness. She allows them to go on field trips, participate in programs (where one has to pay through the nose for costumes) etc. She is taking it one day at a time. And she believes that things can only get better. Her attitude and courage are an inspiration. She is an amazingly strong person and I salute her. In my eyes, she is a true achiever.

Is there a ready formula for parenting?

It didn’t hit me at all while I was in the hospital. There was me. There was the baby in her crib. And there were these zillion people – nurses, friends, aunts, uncles, strangers – walking in and out of the room. It all seemed surreal. If I was expected to feel a rush of emotions brought on by motherhood, well, I did not. I felt sort of removed from the experience. And all I wanted to do was sleep away my fatigue.

After 5 days in the hospital, we were asked to go home. So we bid goodbye to the horde of helpful nurses. My mother insisting on thanking them all personally while I waited with the baby in my arms and my husband looked just as lost as me. Then we marched out of this surreal world. After days of being stuck in a dark room, it was good to see sunlight. I looked down at the baby in my arms. I saw her crinkle her face as the powerful sunlight hit her. Instinctively I hugged the baby.

And it was at that moment that it hit me.

I was a MOTHER. This baby was now MY responsibility. I had to protect her. I had to teach her to decipher right from wrong. I had to bring her up as a morally and physically strong individual. It was a mind boggling thought. Suddenly I felt frail, incapable and so so so scared. I cried.

My alarmed mother and baffled husband had no clue as to why I was crying. I don’t think even I could articulate why.

I think I know now why it was so frightening. It’s because there really is no set formula for successful parenting. It’s not like you follow a time tested recipe and viola! – it comes out right. I’ve seen remarkably wonderful people go wrong with parenting. And I’ve seen the most disorganized people raise amazing children. So what works?

Also, what works for my child may not work for someone elses’. I know that stern voice and yelling at my daughter will fetch no results. It will only get her to be more stubborn. So I have to keep calm and explain things to her. Always explain, explain, explain. Pros and cons. We have managed to lay one clear ground rule – if there are things you don’t want other people to do to you (like messing your bed, or throwing your lovely ironed clothes on the floor, or teasing you, or laughing at you when you fall down…) then you cannot do the same to other people. This seems to work for us – by and large. But I know that some kids need discipline drilled into them. They will not listen until you scream at them. There really is no one-size-fits-all formula.

A friend of mine has twins. A girl and a boy. Sure enough they are poles apart by nature. The girl is calm and mature and needs to be handled differently. The boy is simply hyper all the time. So she has to talk sweetly to the girl and slap the boy when yelling does not work. She goes crazy trying to balance this yin and yang in her life. There are people who are quick to judge and scorn at her ways of raising children. She loves the girl more than the boy they say – because she is always yelling at the boy. But I know for a fact that she loves them both dearly and it’s just that they both need to be handled very differently.

If I’ve learnt anything at all after becoming a parent – it’s to not judge anyone’s parenting methods.

I know only one formula that works when it comes to raising children. It’s called instinct.

 Instinct – is a mother’s magic wand.

Don’t let it get clouded by well-meaning advice that pours in, hearsay, parenting articles, real life incidents in other people’s homes and a zillion other frightening distractions. And you’ll do just fine.

When you are confused, wave that magic wand. Search within yourself. Your very own, unique, parenting formula will present itself to you.

A tra la la outing

When little girls don’t need taking care of, and before they become teenagers – when it gets too embarrassing to be seen with parents – there is this lovely phase when you become pals. I mean like real giggly pals who do girly things together.

It so happened that on Saturday hubby was not in town, so M and I had to find ways to entertain ourselves. Having nothing better to do my 7-year old and I set off to for the most happening mall in town – Express Avenue, rather the EA.

Kala Khatta Ice GolaSince M was hungry, and I had promised her a surprise treat, we headed straight for the food court. My objective was to get a special chocolatey doughnut from a little doughnut store that I’d read about in the paper. But when we got there she spotted the ice lolly kiosk. We watched gleefully as the man pulled out a disc of ice from his ice box and put it in a machine that shaved it into little flakes. With a gloved hand he picked up the flakes, give it a little shape and poked a stick into it. Then he put it into a glass and spluttered orange syrup (for M) and kala khatta (for me) into our respective ice golas. We found a cozy nook to sit and “mmmmmed”our way through the lollies. M’s lips turned a shade of bright orange and mine turned dark maroon. We grinned and showed our coloured teeth to each other. We were mighty thrilled that we had not chosen the green flavour, whatever that was, because then we’d look like monsters. A lady seated next to us ordered just that and we watched with unabashed interest to see if her lips would turn ugly green. Much to our disappointment it did not, but then we noted happily that her tongue and teeth has indeed turned monster green. Ha! Silly choice! Not smart like ours. We just looked like we had lipstick on. This done, we packed a chocolate doughnut with vanilla ice cream filling and another one with strawberry filling. These were to be shared with the family.

Then we were off to our favourite store – the Body Shop. M loves the store, not just because I’ve told here that all the products in there are not tested on animals, but also because there are quaint bottles in every shelf with the label ‘Try Me’. So M feels obliged to try it. I mean when its sort of pleading with you – why not try it? We obliged and tried most of it. By the end of it our cheeks shimmered pink, our eyes shone blue and our eyelids were emphasized by a subtle shade of pink. The backs of our palm were lined with little streaks of various lipsticks and lip liners. From our wrists arose the fragrance of myriad perfumes ranging from flowery to chocolatey. In the end we picked up a bottle of organic, forest friendly shampoo and walked out totally pleased with ourselves. I’m sure the mirror in there must have sighed with relief – since we had spent a good part of an hour giggling into it and admiring ourselves! Not to forget the patient sales lady who had given up hopes of us buying anything and jumped like a startled rabbit when we told her to bill the shampoo.

Ah! An evening well spent, giggling and doing girly things together. We went home with wide grins on our face. Smelling, I’m sure, like nothing on earth. But absolutely at peace with ourselves.

These are moments I will cherish and treasure in a secret chamber in my heart. I’m not sure how many more such outings we will have. But I know these sweet memories will keep me going, long after such innocent days are no more…

Momma is off for a day

Amma don’t leave me and go said my daughter for the 100th time. This while we were in the middle of studying for her EVS test. Right after we agreed that India is a peninsula not an island. Pearly tears formed in her eyes all of a sudden and threatened to flow down the soft cheeks.

My heart gave a little tug. Cancel the damn trip to Mumbai, wipe those tears, give the child a big hug and just stay at home – it screamed.

But the mind did not relent. She is old enough and will handle your absence better than you think – advised the mind. Anyways it’s not like you have a choice. It’s an official trip not a joy ride. It chided me.

I sat there torn between wanting to give in to the child and taking a tough stance. After all, how many more years will she say that to me? Probably in another year or so if I tell her I’m going for a day – she might grin with relief. Or she might not even react, just shrug as if she couldn’t care less. Or worse, I might come back after a day and ask her if she missed me and she might say ‘oh you were not at home yesterday?’ I shudder to think how much pain that will cause. I hope such a day never comes.

For now, I’m important in her life. And I’m basking in that feeling.

I hug her and say, what if you were going on a school trip and I start crying ‘Baby don’t go! I’ll miss you.’ She paused in her whimpering. Even the flow of tears down her cheeks seemed to pause. You mean you’ll cry if I go on a school trip? She wondered incredulously. “Are you a baby?!” she chided me. No, I reasoned, but then you are not a baby either and you are not allowing me to go.

Silence. As she pondered over this for a few moments.

Ok! She relented angrily. Go if you have to. But… I’ll miss you amma. She said and those tears sprang up again. My heart went all gooey again. With an effort I diverted her and we delved back into the world of peninsulas and straits. Soon we were giggling over something and all was well again with our world.

As I prepare to leave my six year old and go away for a day, I wonder who is more affected by it. She or me? And if, as I’m sure it will, a day comes when she has to leave me and go on to build her own life, how oh Lord how will I ever handle it?

Women’s Day and all that

Here I come with my too-late-in-the day-Women’s Day post! What really inspired this post was not the day itself – rather it was posters displayed at a nearby car showroom. There was Indira Gandhi, Kalpana Chawla, Arundhati Roy, Mother Theresa, Kiran Bedi…all grinning at passers by from glossy posters. For two days they grinned and then they were removed and relegated to a store room – perhaps until next year.

So is this what women’s day is all about? You hail these very visible and famous achievers for that one day and then you relegate them to a corner?

Well, I’d like to celebrate it differently.

My first hero is my mom. Who taught me that no matter how many times life pushes you down, you simply wake up, dust yourself off and move on. Because if you don’t make that effort no one is going to come there and help you get up. She has done this for as long as I remember. And I’m so very proud that this incredible woman is my mother.

My maid is another amazing person. Straddled with a drunk husband and a completely directionless son – she chugs on with a big smile. She saves hard and sends her daughter to college. Her daughter – God bless her – is amongst the toppers in her BCom class.

The lady who delivers our milk is yet another classic case. She trudges from street to street every morning with a basket full of milk packets. Her tired bow legs carrying her frail body. Her husband is no more. Her sons have thrown her out of their home. She lives here and there. Yet she always has a smile and a kind word for us. All day long she exchanges cheerful banter with her women friends as she rests under the shade of a tree. Sometimes I wonder what is it that makes her smile so much. In her place, I might have been miserable!

We have a lady who is our standby cook. Whenever we have get-togethers or functions at home – we simply call and place an order and she dishes out the yummiest of South Indian food. This lady is a widow and supports her abandoned daughter and granddaughter. All day long she cooks and cleans and cooks and cleans and earns enough to pay for the three of them. Always smiling. Always giving us that extra unordered dish as a compliment. What a remarkably strong woman she is!

There are so many unsung heroes who walk in and out of our lives every day. Do they even know about Women’s Day and the much publicized Woman’s Bill? Is it going to make any difference to their lives?

This post is dedicated to them all. I salute them and I celebrate their spirit. Every single day.

Oh, I’m but a slave!

One day I decided to switch off my mobile phone. Actually it switched itself off when the battery ran out. So I said tiddle dee dee and went on with life. Working peacefully without disturbance. Until…

A panic phone call from mom to my office landline (how she ever got hold of that landline is still a mystery). “Are you ok?” was the first thing she asked me. I pinched myself, jumped a few times. Yup – all vitals working fine. Me ok. Wassup at your end? I asked her flippantly. “I have been desperately trying to reach you since morning! Why is your phone unreachable?” She chided me.

“Ugh..it’s out of battery. Tell me amma, what’s the problem?” I said immediately concerned

“Problem? Who said there is a problem?” asks mom, still irritated.

“Then why were you trying to reach me so desperately?” I wondered

“Oh that…you know our banana plant at home…well..its got its first batch of fruits! Yeah! A whole bunch of tiny bananas!” She said excitedly.

I was like “that’s it? You were desperately trying to reach me to say that?” My turn to get annoyed.

“Well…yes but I got worried because I was unable to reach you since morning.” Mom said a trifle sheepishly.

“Oh c’mon ma we just spoke this morning at 8 am! Why must you panic! Ok let me get on with work now.” I said disgustedly and put the phone down.

A little later my boss called me into his room and asks me if I had checked my mails. I shook my head saying I was busy with so and so work and did not log on. He sighed and said “go check your mail. Everything is now sorted out though.”

I checked mail. Panic mails from the most annoying client in the world. All to the effect of agency is being uncommunicative. The concerned executive is unreachable. All the work has got stalled because the person cannot be reached. This kind of attitude will not be tolerated. How can any deadlines be achieved at this rate…well…you get the drift. So I picked up the phone and called the dude.

“What’s the panic?” I bark into the phone.

“I could not reach you. Something urgent!” He blubbered

“What is it? My phone was out of battery and I was out all day.” I lied efficiently.

“Well…that layout you sent me yesterday…it’s approved. I need the artwork by tomorrow.” He said like it was the most urgent thing in the world.

“Is that all? For this you sent all those mails? And why din’t you simply communicate this by mail instead writing all that nonsense.” I yell – for this had now become a big issue where my boss had to intervene and ‘sort out’.

“And how have we missed any deadline? You will get your artwork tomorrow.” I screamed before I slammed the phone on him.

Next a call from my mother-in-law on the office landline. It seems my daughter had been trying to reach me and was now crying because she was unable to talk to me. So daughter comes on line and we coochie coo a bit. After I have pacified her I ask her why she was trying to reach me. “Amma what is that Dress up games site? I want to go online and play that game. You have not bookmarked it in Firefox – so how can I find it!” she accuses me.

That sorted I try to focus on work. My brother calls on the office landline. “Are you ok?” he asks me concerned. “Amma was worried and she called me 10 times today to ask if you had called me for anything. She was not able to reach you.” He explained.

I sighed. “Yes I spoke to her. My phone was out of battery. Nothing to worry.” And then we exchanged sibling notes on why-is-mom-so-unnecessarily-worried before we finished the call.

Another phone call from my mother-in-law comes. A friend has been trying to reach me all day. She finally, somehow got my residence number and left a message. I call the friend right away! It was my schoolmate Devi – she was down from the US and was in Chennai for just a day. She had tried reaching me all day in the hope of meeting me. She was off to Bangalore that night – but had some other plans for the evening. So no hope of meeting her. I was disappointed. I would have loved to meet her. We chatted a bit and then I vaguely promised to try and make a trip to Bangalore.

I realized then that I was a slave to that instrument called the Phone. People controlled my life through that phone. My day was shaped by that phone. I shall hereon and henceforth label it my Master. And me the humble slave shall always keep it charged and ready to take orders!