Being married to my mother

GUEST POST:

BY ZARA CHOWDHARY

My son’s parents ended their marriage two years ago.

One day his father was there, the next he’d moved out. And suddenly, the scared little child had a cat too depressed to get out from under his bed, and a mother too broken to get off the couch. The boy ached for company, for things to just go back to ‘normal’ as his four year-old memory last remembered it.

And then one day, his grandmother arrived at their door – with a fresh haircut, a spring in her step and a super-sized grin that’s hard to miss. She was everything his slowly crumbling household needed. She spoke in absurd languages that made us laugh even when no one felt like it, she cleaned out the unattended organisms from the fridge, replaced all three forgotten multigrain bread loaves with three kinds of seasonal fruit, threw out the wrinkled packs of frozen fries and packed in fresh meats in separate bags, she put bleach in his uniforms, oil in my scalp, and threatened us if we forgot to turn on the lights around maghrib (our evening prayer time) saying ‘The angels won’t come in’!

Slowly and simply, the smells, the sounds, the sights of one person we’d been used to for five years, were replaced by the noise, the madness, the super-loud, body-jiggling laughter of this other person whom we’d otherwise only seen during the holidays.

And that’s the thing about people when they become habits. It’s important when replacing alcohol or cigarettes (or any other analogy that works for you), to choose a healthier option in its place. Our oats-loving, Abba-singing, paintbrush-wielding Nanoo was better for our well-being than any new pets, friendly neighbours or (God-forbid!) rebound boyfriends could have been!

I’d seen my mother do this so many times in her life: walk into an empty house, set up the kitchen, whip up a meal, fashion sofas out of metal trunks, fill the balconies (and bathrooms!) with plants and make it a home —  all in a matter of hours. I watched her as a 29-year old with the same awe I had at ten, efficiently piecing my life together and putting it safely back in my hands for me.

People in my ever-shrinking social circle kept pointing out, how lucky I was to have my mum around to ‘support’ me. But I don’t think it hit me until I finally got off that couch (thanks to her threatening to throw away or burn my pajamas), found a new job and came back home from my first full day at work.

I opened the door and stepped in at six in the evening, the house was all lit up like we’d become used to by now. The scared four year old now a more confident and chirpy five year old came hurtling out of the room and torpedoed into my navel, the cat lay belly-up and smiling at the fan, and there mum sat at the dining table, art material piled up in a heap, my spare room officially converted to her studio, a new business plan swirling in her head — and I knew. This was mum telling me in not so many words: ‘I’m not here to just support you. You can never crash on me like that again. Looks like you’re doing better now. So I’m going to do what I need to do to keep that spring in my step. And we’ll both be doing the supporting from here on.’ I paused for one second wondering if I should say something about the paint likely to stain my chair covers. But instead I scooped my son up, plonked on the sofa, and started to tell them the story of my first day back in the world. Cheesy as it sounds, it did feel like the angels had finally come home and brought with them a partner for me, someone I’d never thought I’d be living with as I turned 30.

My son now has two parents living with him again, there are two individuals playing tag between what they want for themselves and what they know their family deserves. If you ever heard us squabbling over closet space and what to watch on Netflix, you’d think there was a couple living together here. And some days how we both wish we could have it any other way but this interdependence. Yet it’s been nothing short of amazing being married to my mother this way for the last two and a half years. It has taught me what marriage is supposed to look like. There are the occasional expectations that go unmet and some sulking happens with both parties. There are days when nobody wants to have to care about what’s for dinner. There are days of feeling frustrated and taken for granted, but usually some ice-cream or a drive to town or a movie date when the child visits his dad can sort those out. We take turns playing good cop-bad cop because no one parent should ever have to be just the one. We try to never sleep over a fight. Hugs and cuddles are a daily prescription, though the cat son usually claws his way out of those.

It’s a household that depends on honesty more than anything else — it requires being harsh enough to tell each other when we’ve lain long enough on that couch and need to get off our asses or be nagged to death. It’s a house that acknowledges the two little boys and the two grown women in it, and that no job is too big or too small or too ‘girly’. It’s a home where you will always find food, laughter and lessons in how to give before taking. And it’s a place that will, hopefully, always remind my son of what family is supposed to look like, no matter what marriage it is built on.

Manwatch: Looking at men through book-tinted glasses

BY YASHASVI VACHHANI

“Men are more interesting in books than they are in real life” – The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

As a single 27-year-old who has looked at the world through book-tinted glasses, this line jumped out from the prose and spoke to me. I went from reading to love stories, and sweet valley to falling in love with Jane Austen in my teens. You can imagine why I was single for a long time – where on earth is Mr. Darcy with his mansion, clipped British accent and brooding eyes?

When I was about 12, I interacted with a fun, bindass ‘modern’ aunty in my building. She was everything my mother was not. She didn’t cook and waxed eloquent about the beauty of rugged men with scars. Her husband was a navy man and he was away on ship when they moved to our building. For months we heard about a good looking, rugged man, (this clearly was an important feature), with a silver ponytail. She spoke of him like he was a character from one of her beloved Mills & Boon novels. From the same library where I picked up teenage love stories, she sent me to pick up Mills and Boon by Penny Jordan and some other favourites. I was to pick only those and none others, the modern ones didn’t appeal to her romantic side as much as these oldies. Most of the books were tattered and really old titles, but when she had five of them at her bedside, she was happiest. And so began my tryst with romance. My childhood reading was not all sanitized, I was a big fan of a series called Love Stories (cliché much) and still have a few lurking among my books for the sake of nostalgia.

My friends and I were frequent visitors of Rajesh Library, where we paid Rs.10 for each book we borrowed and later exchanged notes on the boy that made us swoon most. Sweet Valley was a big hit as well, though I was never impressed by those people. Some twins lurking around some school, I don’t remember too much of that, but I do know they had a profound impact on group dynamics in school. There were also days when aunty sent her good-looking son (I was crushing hard on him and two other boys from school at the time, wondering who would be the right one for me. Which one of these fine boys I would hold hands with) to the library with me and we would comb through the titles looking for the ones she wanted, while I stared at him and his perfect hair and looked for him in the hero of my next book. Well before you think he was Mr. Right, didn’t you notice in the beginning of this essay, I said I’m single? So well, that was that.

Much influenced by her, I later sampled a few M&Bs and promptly rejected them. They were too slow, the heroes were not to my liking, I did not like any of it, although I did read the sex bits in the modern ones. I think my parents figured what was in those books and put an end to it. You can deal with discovering a boy with porn, but what do you do when you discover a girl with something like porn? You ban the books and never address the topic again.

I eventually discovered Jane Austen, who sustained my romantic dreams through my teenage years and gave me enough fodder for all my dreams and fantasies. The only problem was I was not in love with one of her books or one of the characters from her books, I was in love with many and I wanted all the good qualities from all the good men all rolled up into one fine specimen of a man. If I dig up my diary, I think I’ll find the exact description of ‘the right one’ drop dead gorgeous, respectful, a gentleman, funny, quirky, intelligent, intellectual, conversationalist, friendly, caring, loving, non-smoker, intense, brooding, shy, tenacious, affectionate, distant and passionate. I’m sure I had more adjectives, but this guy already sounds like he suffers from a bipolar disorder.

{This is the time you shake your head and think ‘no wonder this girl is single’}

How in the world I thought this person existed, I do not know. But, I was on the lookout for him – my dream man, a customised mish-mash of magical characters.  If this dude is out there in the world, I don’t want to meet him anymore.

There were many whose little qualities made it to the list. But the most important one was that the hero always had a heart of gold. That is one quality that still kind of appeals to me. A man with a good heart – that is all that really matters, I suppose. But I could do with a healthy dose of humour, intelligence, quirk, intellect………………….

Okay, before you think I am stark raving mad, there are some bits added for humour, alright?

Anyway so, I grew up a bit more, went through heartbreak, and a string of ‘could-bes’, but for the most part I was single, pining away for that perfect someone to come along and then, something happened. I revisited Pride and Prejudice. As I was reading the book, I realized I didn’t fancy Mr.Darcy anymore, his broodiness did not have me swooning or conjuring images of myself next to Colin Firth’s version of him in a hat and wild hair (of course I’m Elizabeth!), but I  found myself drawn to Mr.Bingley. There is not much about him in the books or in the film, but he is a good-natured, decent man who likes to have fun and wants to marry a nice girl. He seems light and happy, there is no hidden heart of gold or passion. There is a just a nice man who will have a perfectly normal life and so he is destined to the fate of not the starring in many teenage fantasies while his buddy Darcy takes up all the mind waves.

But as I grew older, I realized, that is really all I want: a good-natured, nice man who is fun and knows how to be happy. It is such a relief to know I am not looking for a unicorn anymore. This is the kind of person who exists in the real world and I have a shot at a happy ending after all.

PS: “There is a chance that a man can be as interesting in real life as he is in a book, only remember to look for the sidekick, not the hero” – Yashasvi Vachhani

 

About the author: Yashasvi is a writer, reader, watcher, talker, part-time gypsy, living and laughing in Bombay.

Lessons from a pigeon

BY DEEPA KALYAN

You get to learn life’s most important lessons in the most unlikely of places. I did not imagine I would find one in my balcony.

Pigeons – I have never had a great relationship with them because they always messed with the few plants that managed to survive our humid balcony. A few years back, a couple of them managed to build a nest atop the A/C outdoor unit. When there was a water leak in the room, the mechanics told us it was due to a hole in the duct, thanks to the ever-gurgling pigeons. Sometime later, when we had to replace the A/C, moving the new outdoor unit to the terrace was the only safe option. Its pipe had to go through the balcony railing, and so a part of the shutter was open always. One particular pigeon pair made good use of this opening to build their nest in one of the potted plants. Thankful for even the smallest sapling that ever sprouted in our humid balcony, I was at my agnostic best whenever I spotted them on the railing. No matter what, they kept coming back through the small space and trampled all my plants.

Days went by without any respite. And then, one day, I found an egg in one of the recently bought jasmine pot. A pair of pigeons sat on the railing waiting for me to go away, so they can hop in and warm the egg. Not again – was my reaction. This time, I acted as if it was a real war. I would be on the lookout for even the faintest gurgling sound and rush to shoo them away. They would flutter and create a total ruckus – bringing down, at least, one weak branch down, every time.

One day, I secretly noticed the way they behaved when I was not around. While one of them stayed on the railing to watch over the egg, the other, the mom I presume, kept it warm and cozy. They did not mess with my plants – much to my disbelief. They stayed calm – no gurgling, just the silence of the sunny balcony to keep them company. It hit me so hard that day – I realized, it was me, who was making all the fuss.

With a change of heart, I approached them the next day. The mom sensed my calmness, or so I liked to assume. She simply gave me a timid gurgle as a sign of acceptance. It has been a month since then – we are good friends now; she never gets perturbed seeing me, neither do I. I check her out when I go to dry the clothes. She smartly hops on to the railing until I finish watering the pots.

She’s the most silent mom I’ve ever seen. She takes off to the opposite compound to ruffle her feathers and doesn’t mess my balcony with her droppings. A few weeks later, I found another egg. And, what a delight it was to see a new life waiting to come into the world in the comfort of our small balcony. Another few weeks down the line, the eggs cracked and two little pigeons came out. I can’t say they looked beautiful, but the way she cared for them, it warmed my heart so much.

The baby pigeons turned out exactly like human babies. While the mom was neat and tidy all through her nesting period, the babies messed up the whole place again. The plant was suffering and the place was smelly with their droppings. She didn’t seem to mind, though. She covered them during the crow visits and keenly watched over them – all the while.

Two weeks down the line, I was surprised to find her missing in action most of the time – to get them food, I assumed. She was not around when the crow flew in, or when the babies were trying to stand up by themselves. I was angry with her – how could she leave her two-week-old young ones to fend themselves?

Occasionally, I found her in the opposite balcony trying to avoid my angry glare. I brought it upon myself to shoo the crows and check the babies out, every hour. Each time I went near them to place some grains or a bowl of water, they moved away from me. When I heard the familiar gurgle in the balcony, I was at peace to know that she was back to look after them. The babies, for their part, were making good progress. In two weeks, they moved from being tiny, hairy creatures, to well shaped, independent beauties.

It only took another two weeks for the babies to look like adult pigeons, except that their feet were not completely pink, yet. They slowly started to move – I soon found them both outside the pot, exploring my balcony. One of them slowly started hoping on to the railing, attempting to fly. On a sunny Friday morning, one baby went missing. Panic struck, I wondered if it fell from our second-floor balcony. I could not spot the little one anywhere around, and the one left behind was now trying to flutter its wings.

Seeing me in tears, when the first baby pigeon went missing, my younger son consoled me saying, “They grow faster than us, Ma. And, they would learn to fly by themselves. ”

How true, is all I managed to reply.

As I write this, I know that the next kiddo will fly away soon. And, that’s exactly why I’m winding up at this juncture. I don’t want to wait for the eventuality to happen and then stop making notes. I close it with hope. I hope they become like their mother – she taught me the value of patience, persistence, and more importantly, that life can be nurtured, no matter what – all you need is a little love.

 

About the author: Deepa Kalyan is mom to a tween and a teen and this is her maiden attempt at writing. After all these years, she has just found the time to pursue two of her long-time passions – veena and gardening.

My father’s shoes

BY JAYDEEP DESHPANDE

Dr Jayant Deshpande, a few years before he passed away

It’s almost weird what reminds me of my father. It mostly is small, worn-out, badly (rather hurriedly) chosen shoes on a middle aged man. He had small feet and he wore shoes like that. Uncaring and apathetic to brands, fashion, style and disrepair. It was a ritual in the home, for Aai to force him into buying moderately expensive, well-fitted shoes and it always led to an argument about how he was made to splurge money. Never mind that we, the kids, spent more money on movies and eating out in a week than he had to on those shoes. It was spending on himself that always made him act like a debt-ridden man.

He never cared about appearances anyway. Any grooming apart from the daily shower was more of a social and professional compulsion for him. That haircut happened when it became too evident and the hair took more than three seconds to obey combing commands and fall in place. Shirts and trousers were selected inside of two seconds.

The only vanity he allowed himself was a regimented, daily shave. Even in his days of prolonged hospitalization, he craved that shave and felt embarrassed when the doctors saw him with a little scruff on his face. He was after all, till his last breath a dignified doctor. I remember one exasperating occasion when, having had another in a series of brushes with death, the first thing he asked me when I came down from Ghaziabad to the hospital was to help him shave.

But that isn’t what reminded me of him today. It was a father-son pair at the barbershop that made me long for him today. Growing up as a cripplingly shy kid, I never had mustered enough courage to get a haircut myself till very late in school life. The daunting task of walking up to a grown man, looking him in the eye, telling him what I wanted and then course correction in between was just beyond me.

Most barbers tend to be too boisterous for my taste anyway, compulsively talking and socializing as they stood, snipping with their scissors on every branch of my family tree. So for me, he was the communicator and the handler of tough situations like asking the barber to make it shorter than what had been done. But ironically, I loved keeping my hair minimal, so every 10 days, I would drag him along to sit and twiddle his thumbs while I looked at him and signaled him to intervene every now and then. Time passed and my shyness abated a little, the barber issue was resolved when teenage hit like a tornado and our haircut philosophies no longer matched. But till the end, he remained firmly in-charge of the house.

So even though throughout my teenage, I continuously battled him for the alpha male position at home, demanding to be trusted, brandishing my bravado of having well connected friends and my ‘knowledge of the system’ (he remained too naïve and tended to get things done the straight way, as per regulations, which I thought was boring), I was never really required to take any responsibility of doing menial tasks like paper work, government filings, etc. I still don’t. Living away from home meant Aai had to take up the baton, something she has done so well.

Seeing that kid and his father at the barber today made me reminisce on the presence that he had at home. An anchor, that was drawn up in January this year, and our lives took a sudden, unexpected course that none of us had imagined. Like every kid is of his/her father, I was in awe of him. The reverence with which people spoke to him, his uninterrupted sense of duty which made him treat patients who had come home even at 3 AM in the morning, the way he had built whatever we had right from scratch, getting no handouts from anyone and through a sheer sincerity of effort. It’s now I realize how little he enjoyed any of what he earned, but I do not remember a time now when I had to really give up anything because of finances. Yes, there was the one odd really expensive toy I wanted that he refused to buy, but then I was just being a brat. For what it counted, education, lifestyle, books, things that truly enriched us, we were never short. The only grudge I still hold against him today is never buying me an RC Helicopter. And I will never buy it on my own, just to hold up his end of that argument.

I digress. So what happens to kids who are in awe of the parent? One word. Teenage. For us, it unleashed a demon that unraveled the very fabric of our relationship. When I rebelled, I didn’t do it halfheartedly. And for his part, he was too consumed of worries about my future, my academics, etc. for us to sit down and talk. I would anyway have fought my way through, even if we had sat down to talk. But for whatever reasons, we never talked about it. Even later, there were no apologies. Maybe apologies weren’t needed and this was a rite of passage, a testing of boundaries, so to speak. And we never hugged it out because in our dictionary, that was just plain weird. What broke the ice between us was the realization of mortality of a human being.

News of his cardiac surgery and the complications therein mediated an unspoken truce between us. At the same time, the quarter life crisis hit me, and in the hangover of that turbulent teenage, the smoke screen began to dissolve. Partly out of guilt for having done and said the things I had (and having not done and not said the things I should have) the thought of his mortality jolted us back into a time where I was almost subservient to him. And he deserved to be revered like that. Things seemed happy after the successful surgery. But that was short-lived.

A couple of years down the line, all hell broke loose. I won’t go into the details of it. It’s unnerving to recount the horrors and moreover, now that it’s all over, the everyday details that I then thought were terrorizing have lost their sharp edges. Now, they seem more like a movie we all watched while in a deep state of exhaustion, floating through the days, deeply connected emotionally but somehow physically removed from the scene of the crime.

What those three years did is more important now. It changed the meaning of a lot of things. It changed the meaning of Aai. From being a mother and a wife, she went on to be a selfless organ donor, never even questioning why she was doing it. From being a sister, Renu and more importantly, her husband and her in-laws, went on to be generous, large- hearted care takers that we shall forever be emotionally indebted to. For me, it changed the meaning of going home. Now in my vacations, I didn’t go home, I went to the hospital. Flying down from Ghaziabad stopped being a happy occasion and started being one long, tensed time-out. A phone call from Aai even a minute off from the usual time sent the heart leaping out of the throat and “Hello” changed to a panicked “What happened now?” The only place that felt eerily safe was the hospital premises, because having hospitalized him twice in an emergency, seeing his life almost ebb out in the car had left driving with him an unpleasant and scary suggestion.

The hospital became our new home. The chores of sending home cooked food to the hospital and giving medicines and checking vitals every few hours almost became a routine. Again, had it not been for the sister, her husband and her in-laws, who turned their entire household machinery to suit our schedules, none of this would have happened. And what changed most was him. From being a fit, active man who bordered almost on an anxious restlessness, he waned away physically. He still remained mentally sharp, checking his own medical reports even while on a ventilator, but that flock of thick, dark black hair (that had survived at an age when most of his contemporaries had submitted to alopecia) went away. From being a man who sprang to his feet at the slightest sound even while in deep sleep, he had to be held while walking. And the displeasure of having to accept these physical changes was apparent on his face. After all, he still wanted to hold on to his position as head of the family. More than the condition that afflicts them, I think patients are more terrified with the prospect of being dependent on others. And for people who had built their life from ground up, it seemed almost like a cruel, insulting defeat at the hands of fate.

Three years of running in and out of hospitals, misdiagnosis and mismanagement at Nagpur, shift to Pune, panicking, continuous and compulsively worrying, a transplant, almost made it. Wait. Something went wrong. No, ok, it’s treatable. Yay! Happy Diwali! Wait, again somethings not right. Uh oh, this might be serious. Ok, serious but treatable. Yaaay. Wait. Fracture. Ok healing well. Yaay again. We will pull through. Things will be back to normal. Let’s plan what all of us will do after Diwali. Go on a trip, start your practice again. Cough cough. Tch, damn cough. Let’s just be a normal family and start arguing again. Baba, you’ve lost it. You are immune compromised, can’t be around sick people anymore. Ok fine, but only 10 patients a day just to keep you busy. Cough cough. Wait. Doctor doesn’t look happy. Shit. Oh ok, not that serious, I read the report wrong. Doctor says it’s negative. Yaaaaay ok so back to planning. What the hell is partial lung resection? Honestly? Phew. Ok fine, doctor says it’s a pretty routine surgery. Ok, bye baba, I’ll wait here in the, well, waiting room LOL. Be back soon. Ah, all doctors are going in. Surgery must be over. But too soon, no? Why am I being called in? I know what a Myocardial Infraction is. I’ve become half a Wikipedia doctor myself. May pull through? Ok. He’s pulled through before. He will again. I’m confident. Heart stopped? Ok, restarted after 20 min? Yaaay? Ok. He’s unconscious, but can listen to me? Ok. Baba, got a good job, just like you always wanted. Will you come to my convocation? Baba? Ok I’ll wait. Wait. Wait. Wait……….

Silence.

So he didn’t pull through after all.

I will never be able to faithfully express everything that happened and that we felt in those years, but then maybe some things aren’t meant to be faithfully expressed. Some thoughts, some moments of laughter, tears, anxiety, are best preserved in the mind as mementos given by those who left us. With him, our lives too set sail. Never had we thought that Nagpur will stop being our ‘home town’. It was a city where our lives happened. It was a city where I knew most of the lanes and where I had spent all of my formative years. It was a city, where even random shops on the road had a memory to share. It was a city where he raised his family. Tearing away from the hometown, with the collateral damage of a much loved dog has been the hardest decision to deal with after him.

What I do vividly remember of Baba now is how in those few moments of remission, he never stopped putting up a brave face. He had been our go to guy for all medical queries. Now that he was on the other side, he had to hold the fort even now. And he still smiled. Worried as he always was, listening to stories of Nagpur and how stupid some people are, he gave his usual, easy laugh that came so naturally to him.

Those shoes that I so nostalgically mentioned, had a metaphor in them too. We grow up with our idols. We try to be them, we fail, we shun them, we see them in a different light, then we try again. So we try to be a mutated version of them. I wear better shoes than what he did, but then, I can never fill his shoes anyway. They may have been small, odd, and in bad fashion, but in what they represented, a life lived for others and in worry of other, they were just too big for a man of my stature.

Phew. So, kid at the barber shop. Be a brat. Love every moment of being a brat while your father caters to you. It’s how things happen. You too will grow up, you too will be at loggerheads with him. You too, will come back to him. I can tell you to be nice to him you will regret it later and blah blah blah, but the thing is, you won’t understand. I didn’t either. Maybe guilt isn’t a bad thing after all, if it ends up making you a better person than what you were yesterday. But don’t be too hard on yourself. Forgive yourself. Your baba will too. And hope the same for me.

About the author: Jaydeep went from being an engineer to a copywriter at a radio channel to an MBA student to now being an Assistant Manager with an Ecommerce portal. He writes, on and off, mostly for himself.

 

Letting go is easy. Just dance.

BY MIRABELLE D’CUNHA

letting go with dance

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a mother with a toddler has an intensely demanding life. At almost four, my LO has a clear sense of what she wants to play and how. My role and that of friends is clearly demarcated, including how we are to act, what we are to feel and when we are to do it. This can often be daunting, especially when I have much work to do or just want to sit down with my cup of chai.

Yes, she is also constantly observing, chatting and asking questions. At times when its too much for me, there’s only one thing that comes to the rescue…..music and dance. Good music facilitates an almost immediate letting go for everyone, specially for me and my little one. It helps us both support our needs without having to talk and the power struggle that can oft result between parent and kid just melts away.

I have spent many hours searching for good kids’ music to dance and listen to. In an overcluttered world, where traffic and Bollywood music with lyrics totally unsuitable for children badger our ears, having a home lit up with free flowing dance and laughter is just irrepressibly transporting. Every evening, we turn on the mood light and light a candle on the dinner table before our meal. On the tough days or the just we’re-so-happy-to-be- mummy-and-baby days, I either give her a massage with soft music playing and coconut oil mixed with lavender essential oil or we just play music and dance…..however we want. It could be Hanuman Jump by Jai Uttal or Composers Write Music or The Wiggles; we just let our hair loose and dance. There really is some great music out there for kids. The music, the dim lights, the candle burning…….and us letting go.

Kids need catharsis too in these busy times where despite our best interests, we sometimes run around like headless chickens.These dance jams of ours are so rewarding,  it led me to create collective group experiences through The Rhythm & Soul Playshop and to create my own songs with an Indian twist that I’m eager to share soon. They have helped me share with her and other kids at the schools I do playshops at, how to let it go, let it flow. Simple stuff this; instead of telling kids to stop fighting/pushing, just giving them breathing tools to facilitate that through a dance-along song. It’s all about integrating breathing into everything.

When we dance, we adapt to the pace and feel of the music, we trickle into its nuances, we settle into its steadiness, we are excited with its rhythm and we paraglide with its melody. My husband and I dance too, with the little one taking turns to partner us or just making a circle dance. We have danced together at weddings with her wrapped in a mei tie sling, we dance when laziness has overtaken us into a space of restlessness on a weekend. We have danced on the streets of Istanbul to the duff and have inspired musicians to play the only ..errr… Bollywood song they knew. We dance in the rain and with our arms flailing with wild trust in the winds whose majestic power we seek to harness in those wide upturned arms. We sway and dance when we cry together, we dance because we trust, we dance because it is the only effective way we know to surrender, we dance because there is gratitude, surrender and celebration in every micro-moment that we harness from this mad rushed overwhelming pace of Mumbai life.

About the author:

Mirabelle‘s life purpose is to facilitate experiences of joy and reverence. She does this primarily through children’s entertainment storytelling, dance-alongs and yoga. She is also author of the best-selling children’s book “366 Words in Mumbai”.

Two pink lines too late

2pinklinesBY LAKSHMI IYER

I remember the evening. I remember the lights and sounds muffled, trickling upstairs through the gaps in the doors. I remember the dust, the tendrils of hair coiled at the corner. I remember the smell of the clothes, damp and piled in the laundry basket in the corner. But, most of all I remember the utter lack of feeling.

I remember later when I shared the news with family and friends, they would ask, wide eyed and eager: “How did you feel?”

I was standing by the stove one early morning when it happened, a wave of dizziness. I felt the earth give away, the recessed lights swim before my eyes, a darkness envelop me before it was gone and I was back on solid ground again. I blinked. I looked around. Nothing had changed. The stir-fry in front of me sizzled and crackled giving off a delicious aroma.

I stood in front of my vanity, ready for my shower. Mirrors do not lie, I told myself as I looked at my reflection. Ten pounds, which is what I had as a return gift from my niece’s first birthday just a month ago on the west coast. I looked at the scale which stood a mute witness to all of the emotions raging within me. Water weight I concluded as I realized I was due to start my period. I took one last look at my bare torso and wished for just a minute that it was the body of a pregnant woman before I stepped into the shower.

Two days later, the app reminded me I was four days late. Slowly, uneasily, reminders of a past that I had boxed and put away surfaced. The hyper awakened state in which I functioned as each period neared. I remembered the methodical way in which my mind filed away each twinge, each pain as a potential symptom. I also remembered the deliberate nature of each minute, each hour ticking away to the next period or a baby.  Twelve years since I married my husband. Nine years spent ruing my fertility. Four years spent raising children who came to me from another mother. I should have this pat by now.

I was a week late. I broached the subject with my husband. He scoffed at the idea. I felt hurt. I looked back on my history. Three IUIs, One injectable cycle, Two IVFs, I would have scoffed too. I let the hurt slide and hauled my PMSing self to bed. I lay there, in the semi darkness, every sound amplified. The room felt suspended in the middle of nowhere, timeless and claustrophobic at the same moment. I tossed and turned. I was not sure what I was afraid of. Was it the possibility I could be pregnant? Was it that the test would be negative and I will have to go back to figuring out what was making me late?

The sounds from the TV filtered upstairs. The twins were giggling along. The husband was cleaning the house. On an impulse I slid out of bed, pulled a jean and tee and strode out of the house saying I needed a break. Not waiting to hear the reply, I pulled the Prius out of the garage and drove out into the sunlight. The dashboard read 4:00 PM.

4:25 PM. I am home, in the bathroom. My fingers tremble as I tear open the package. I sit down to steady myself. I find a cup and dropper from the supplies closet. I take a deep breath and do the deed. I set the test on the floor, and set a timer on my phone. And I watch.

I watch as the liquid travels along the strip. I see it move past the control line. I see the second line in the wet zone. I wait. My mind is spinning with possibilities. The control turns deep pink. Each second seems like eternity. A ghost of a line appears on the second. I am looking, but not seeing. I stare at the test till the timer goes off.

In that window is a line. Not the dark line that would put an end to the misery but a ghost of a pink line, shimmering and swaying till there are dots in my eyes. I look because I cannot turn away. I cannot think. I cannot move. After what seems eternity, I pull my clothes on, wash my hands and walk downstairs. The TV sounds louder. The sunlight seems harsh. The dust motes are swarming in the air in a band of sunlight streaming in from the top windows. Everything looks magnified

I am too overcome by the implications of what I have seen to function. As if on autopilot, I pack the test away, remembering to take a picture for posterity. I wash my hands again and walk downstairs to the world I know and I am comfortable in.

Numb, Empty, Scared and Afraid.

About the author:

Lakshmi Iyer is mom to three, an open adoption advocate and a blogger. She resides on the East Coast of U.S.A with her husband and three daughters. On most days, she can be found by the stove serving up hot food. When she is not cooking, she recounts the mundane-ness of her life in startling detail on her blog Saying it aloud!. She also blogs occasionally for The Huffington Post. She is on Twitter as @lakshgiri.

Why moving to Dubai was not a bad idea for my boys

BY SAILAKSHMI DEEPAK

Reading during the rideMy husband and I lived with our two boys (10 and 6.5 year olds) in Mumbai until two years ago. We were happy to send them to an ICSE school there, knowing it was an extremely grounded one. It gave them the much needed foundation in terms of introducing the concept of school, timings, uniform, being independent, and largely sticking to a time-table for the day. But what the school offered in terms of education has always been a favorite topic of debate and discussion between the two of us, and among friends in India with school-going kids.

Education in India three decades ago did not do as much for my husband and me, as did the way we had been brought up, or the experiences our lives had given us. What schools and teachers taught us outside the curriculum has made us what we are today. Our scores and rankings were poles apart at school and college, yet we have been equally successful in our careers. Our ability to handle situations, make decisions and to reason out issues are comparable.

The system that was followed in India back then has changed in many ways, in order to accommodate the easy access to information today. But the basic framework is the same: subjects, tests, text books, homework, heavy bags, projects, learning by memorizing etc. The more we spent time in Mumbai, the clearer we were that this was not the kind of education we wanted for our children. Our children needed much more learning outside of books to prepare them for the future.

The International schools in Mumbai offered much better facilities, extra-curricular activities and the kind of education that we wanted for them, but they were unaffordable. Moreover, we wanted their early years to be spent with children that belonged to a similar economic background.

So, in 2013, when we were transferred to Dubai (a move that we had actively pushed for), we instantly looked at enrolling the kids into an international school very close to home. We have gone through a lot of challenges and changes due to this move, but it has given them the kind of experiences that education cannot.

  • The curriculum at the school here is based on learning to think, rather than just learning. They are encouraged to explore on their own with basic guidance from the teachers. They are tested not based on their knowledge of “correct” answers but based on opportunities that mandate application of their learning. This is almost always done without the children even knowing that they are making that effort.
  • We have hardly had any homework since we moved, except for a few weekends where work has been given that would require parents to share some ideas with the children. A lot of their free play during the evenings is invariably influenced by all that they are learning in school. It is so interesting to see them use varied material as props to support their games.
  • The school uses programs that are based on monthly or term-wise topics across the primary school. Hence, both the children are learning the same topic but the extent is different. Our weekend discussions revolve around the same subject. They come up with some amazing questions, quite thought provoking even for adults. They are always hungry for more information, and that is exactly what we want the school to do for them.
  • Their teen years will likely see them all confused about many things. The school will, however, present them with many opportunities and expose them to varied professions so that they will be better equipped to make decisions on what to study at university. It will also give them the courage to do something out of the ordinary and to follow their passion, if that’s what they’d prefer.
  • Their tolerance towards members of different communities, nationalities and culture is much higher thanks to an international set up. Yes, they make stronger bonds at this age with other Indian kids since they can relate to each other better, but with the others, they already know what works and what doesn’t.
  • In India the choice was between taking the school bus or the car or an auto to school: which was the most convenient mode to get from Point A to Point B. Here, the children needed to be educated about incomes and expenditures and affordability to make them understand why we could not buy a luxury car or a sports car.
  • We were now arguing and discussing pros and cons of having their own devices; why carrying a book made more sense than carrying an iPad to school every day; why being a 10 year old does not mandate carrying or having a mobile of his own.
  • The older one took a lot more time to settle into the school. He had to break into a group that had been together for 7 years; he had to move from being ‘popular’ in India to ‘insignificant’ in Dubai and then to ‘acceptable’ in his class; he was also being bullied for a long time by another child in his class. It taught him and us as a family a lot about his coping mechanism, but it was an ordeal we went through for a large part of the first year.
  • They are now exposed to older kids in their bus-ride back from school. This unsupervised interaction gives them a lot of unwarranted opportunities to learn about things that we are not sure they are ready for. We are having to sit with the 10 year old discussing appropriate / inappropriate behavior, objectification of, and respect to privacy of, women, sex, sexual preferences. In fact, at the end of the first day of school, we were wondering how we could tell him it was ok to be the only one in class who didn’t know the meaning of the ‘F-word’!

In a way, the last two years have seen an incredible amount of growth in their personality, knowledge base, and in their ability to make decisions. Yet, they have quite suddenly lost their childhood, innocence, and some of the important life skills that educating in India would have retained in them.

After all this, do I think I made the right decision 2.5 years ago? I most definitely do.

 

About the author:

Sailakshmi lives in Dubai with her three boys: 6, 9 and 40. She loves to read, eat, bake, sing and dance! She works part-time as a librarian, and the rest of the time she is busy going completely crazy with, for and because of her boys.