Losing me, finding me

me time

Every now and then, and sometimes for periods longer than you can control or imagine, you do lose track of the one thing that makes you “youer than you”, as Dr Seuss would say. When you have a child, you may go for a long period before you decide to do something about it. In my case, luckily, I am quick to recognise the symptoms (Re’s reminding me of my shouty voice is usually an alert) and sometimes, being a person who does things on impulse helps. There is only so much you can plot your life; everything else is chances you take (or don’t take)

This weekend, I packed Re and one of his friends into the car and took off on a road trip to escape the festival din in Mumbai. The idea of course was to shut down (at least temporarily) the several channels of communications that had once again, become a part of my life. Of course reuniting Re with the landscape where he had spent a great year and made some good friends was part of the plan. But mostly, it was about me.

I know putting the self before the child is not a parent thing to do; we have often been conditioned that parenting (at least lead parenting) is the road to continuous martyrdom. But I decided to rewrite the rules a long time ago, realising that only when I am happy can I truly and completely give to my child. Or anyone, for that matter.

Re and I have reached that place of peaceful coexistence where he and I can do (separate) things that make us happy, as long as our channels of communication are fully open. He still needs to share a lot with me, as do I, with him.

We went back to the school where I taught for a year, and just being reunited with the space that calmed us down, and distilled us a wee bit as human beings did great things for both of us. While Re was busy reclaiming the land, the lake, the mountains, the trees, the swings and his friends, I was finding the me that actually stopped to stand and stare. The me that found hidden treasures in every square inch of the landscape, sometimes in the faces of the children I taught and those I didn’t teach, but who shyly made eye contact with me. The me that found new stories unfolding in trees that had been standing for years. The me that gazed for an hour at a wild banana plant that had flowered for the first time in four years. The plant that had sprouted out of nowhere by the roadside and grown unattended, untended to, weathering sun and hail and heavy monsoon, and often appearing to have died. I had an intense conversation with a botany teacher who was excited that I was interested in the backstory of this plant, and she told me how it revealed layer after layer before it announced it’s grand finale as a full blossom. I could see myself in this plant. I felt as though Re’s arrival in my life had actually helped peel several layers of me, revealing my true self.

I signed up for a folk dance workshop with my students on campus. I have been a dancer in my early years; it’s something I was trained for and good at. But somewhere along, I had stopped being a student and that was the end of me. Now, inspired by this banana plant, I was ready to start all over again. I was weary and tired and my body didn’t feel lithe and graceful like it once did, but hey, I was on the road to learning.

I then realised that being a teacher has it’s limitations, but if you are a learner all your life, the sky is truly the limit.

(A version of this post appeared as my column in Pune Mirror on 22nd Sept, 2015)

 

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Enough of ‘bad mothers’. Anyone talking about ‘bad fathers’?

bad mother bad father So Marissa Mayer announces her micro maternity leave of two weeks. The world explodes:

“What kind of a mother is she? Does she even know what it takes to raise a child, leave alone twins! What kind of message is she sending out to other mothers?”

Indrani Mukerjea (allegedly) murders her daughter Sheena:

“What kind of mother would kill her own child?”

Bad mothers are always in vogue. And it doesn’t always take murder.

I have heard this far too many times. A woman does something that puts her interest before that of her children. She is instantly labeled a bad mother and several discussions ensue on good mothers and bad mothers and the effect they have on their kids.

No one ever talks about bad fathers.

Women are constantly blamed for not being ‘good’ enough.They are either ‘too emotionally involved’ with their children, or ‘not present enough’.  Meanwhile, the men in their lives quietly slink under the radar. Mamma’s boys get bad names, while daddy’s girls are cool.

Post Indrani’s arrest, I saw this query on a popular social media forum: Do cunning and selfish women make good mothers? Are mothers selfish when it comes to providing for their own children? Are there any scientific theories that talk if a woman would make a good mother or not? Can you site some instances from real life where a mother’s conduct was distasteful? Are there cases where a mother harms her child because she’s jealous of her child?

I was first amused and then angry. Just like I was when I read articles talking about what kind of mother would raise a rapist. Just like I was when I defended Marissa Mayer here.

Motherhood is constantly beset by feelings of failure, often corroding you in the process. If you have a career, you are neglectful; if you don’t, you are smothering. If you discipline, you are controlling; if you don’t, you are weird. If you are present, you are too involved, if you are not, you don’t care enough. It’s like you can never win. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

Ayelet Waldman in her book Bad Mother explores this guilt and ambiguity and says she wrote the book because so many women she knows are in real pain. “They are so crippled by their guilt, by their unreasonable expectations, that they can’t even allow themselves to celebrate the true joys of being a mom.”

Mothers are expected to be all things to all people. A good mother is expected to sacrifice of herself and her happiness for her child. She should be there when her child wakes in the night; she should be there in the morning when they wake up, she should be there for tucking them in with stories at bed time. She should always put her child’s needs before her own. If she does have needs, they should be invisible.

The only requirement of a father is showing up. Being in the same room. All it takes to be a good father is to do photo-opp things. Like wearing your baby or pulling a stroller .

Mothers are often asked, “Do you think you are good mother?” If not by others, by themselves, by the self-doubt that is an intrinsic part of motherhood.

I wonder if one ever asks this question of fathers.

Why is ‘good’ part of a mother’s default setting? Perhaps nurturing and caring is a byproduct of giving birth, but the whole ambivalence of parenting stems from the fact that mothers are always expected to be good, and almost nothing is expected of fathers. It speaks a lot about us if we always blame mothers for things like say, ‘bad upbringing’ or any kind of deviant behavior in the child. Before they are mothers, they are also human beings, and are all human beings good? No.

Motherhood is a state of continuous conflict, negotiation and renegotiations for a woman. Fatherhood, on the other hand is just a side effect of being men. Parenting is a state of ambivalence for both parents. The difference is: women are spoken of as being mothers before they are women. And men are always men who are ‘also’ fathers. In this complex playout of emotions that ensues, if the onus is always on the mother to be good, while the father is deemed good unless proven bad, is just unfair.

We really need to up the ante for our men. They can’t just play Kinect with their children or watch television together and check the “daddy time” box. Many men (mine included) refer to time spent with their own children as “babysitting’. I have burst enough capillaries screaming out loud that you DO NOT babysit your own children.

I wonder if anyone asked if Steve Jobs was a good father. Or Bill Gates. Or Narayan Murthy. Or Peter Mukerjea for that matter.

(A version of this post appeared as my Pune Mirror column on 14th September 2015)

Rediscovering letters, voice messages and a lost era

the joy of letters

Goa to Bombay

Around the time that Re started to write, he also discovered the joys of letters, postboxes, stamps and envelopes. And the fact that he could gift-wrap himself and get delivered to a friend or family far far away. And that he could receive bits of them too.

When we moved to Sahyadri school two years ago, I didn’t realize we had signed up for fleeting Internet and zero courier access. The landline and letters became our only window to the world and we discovered the joy of dialing numbers and talking to people on the other side. We also wrote many letters and sent paperplanes, lanterns and butterflies to people and got some paperlove in return. Sometimes we also received flaky puff pastries from a friend who is a coastal guard in Porbandar and who, despite being young, believes that there is no joy like receiving a letter by post. My mother, who is an advocate of all things old and gold, wrote to us too, as did my friends (they were amused at the turn of events, but they obliged). Things bought at the local village fair began to find their way to Bangalore, Goa, Bombay, Ahmedabad, even Los Angeles. My world (and heart)  opened up a lot more since the arrival of the Internet.

The cycle continued despite returning to Bombay a year later. Letters were now fairies that had to be set free. Re and I kept writing to our friends and we always made new ones, and the chain continued. We had reclaimed the lost art of letter writing.

At a panel discussion on parenting and pop culture this weekend at the Pune Lit fest,  as we discussed the ill effects of technology and how it had diluted the minds of our children, I couldn’t help but thinking about how the last year was actually a dilution of technology for Re and me and a process that actually brought us closer to each other and the people we love and want to love.

When I told a friend I wanted to visit the agriculture college nearby to buy stationery (years ago, I bought some really nice handmade paper and envelopes there and still hoard a few), she wondered why. It’s then that I realized that Re had actually brought back a little bit of my childhood. His wanting to write letters, doodle and send them to his friends had made me want to do the same. He was reminding me of the person I was, and for that, I am grateful.

This year, I find myself using technology to rekindle the same love, through voice notes. Re now sends his voice in pockets to his friends and they send him voice goodies back. It is the most heartening thing to listen to a voice on a thing you thought could only take you away from people as you go swipe after swipe, into a world far far away. I was finally using technology to keep it real. It was a great feeling!

(A version of this post appeared as my column in Pune Mirror on 7th September 2015)

Lessons from Aikido and how inadequacy is all in the head

GUEST POST: BY BINU SIVAN

You think you would have outgrown it! After all 42 years of age is old enough to know better. But a couple of days ago I realised that no matter how much time has touched someone’s life, certain things never change.

Let me add a bit of background here.

I quit working, as in with a company, for a monthly pay cheque, about 5 years ago. Since then, I have tried to survive as a freelancer. Having a husband who supports my love for writing and foots the bills helps for sure. But I take my job as a freelance writer for publications and PR firms seriously. Then yesterday I had to go for a meeting in relation to a new long-term freelance writing and editing gig. This basically means I am assured some money every month as a freelancer. This was my first meeting with these folks who will be sending work my way for the next year.

After 5 years of not being answerable to anyone, I was back. To say I was nervous would have been an understatement. I wanted to make a good impression. I wanted them to realise that I am really good at what I do and hell, they are lucky to have me on board. I wanted to be good enough to be on board. I wanted to impress. I wanted to crawl into a cave. I did not want to go. I wanted to call up and cancel and then plan what to cook for dinner and maybe work on chapter 5 of my novel.

I have been a writer pretty much all my working life… that is 20 plus years… with magazines, newspapers, websites, film companies, TV companies and whatnots. When I am not writing to earn my bread and butter, I am writing poems. I am writing stories and even blog posts. And all the time, I am writing to unravel my thoughts. Many a times I have sat down in front of a blank journal, my brain racing a mile a second, my heart close behind, and feeling stressed, anxious and well, inadequate in the face of life. But if someone were to ask me what the problem was, I would be left floundering, trying to pin down the elusive source of my unease but getting nowhere. It is a lot like those faint outlines of a tree that you see on a fog covered mountain track. It is vague but you cannot really assess its actual size, colour or distance from you. And then I start writing, filling in the blank spaces in the page in front of me and 9 times out of 10, by the time I have filled a couple of pages, I know exactly what is bothering me.

Why am I telling you all this? So that you understand how important writing is to me. It is like breathing. It is what I do. Sometimes I think, it is the only thing I can do and know how to do.

So for me to feel this incredible amount of inadequacy was shocking. For the last one week I had been trying unsuccessfully to come up with an excuse to avoid or at the least postpone the meeting. But the lady in question has a lot on her plate and can suss out bullshit in a nanosecond, and I could not think of anything even remotely creative or original.

The universe, however, does teach us our lessons in the most unusual manner. It was a day before the meeting and I was feeling increasingly powerless. My 9-year-old daughter Aku (that is her pet name and she has a few) had to go for her Aikido class. It was her first class after a two month long break. (We are based in Dubai and schools here have their summer break in July and August.) Two months in India, lapping up her ammamma’s and achamma’s treats had left her a bit heavier and feeling sluggish. She was also experiencing a growth spurt so her outfit, called the gi, was pulling at all the wrong places. She felt that she would make a fool of herself and did not want to attend her class.

If there is one thing I had promised myself I would never be, it is a Tiger Mom. Not my cup of tea. So she and I chatted and talked and eventually I got it. She likes Aikido and she wants to continue but she does not want to go back for the first class of the term, as some of the other students who had stayed on in Dubai during the summer would be really good at doing their Aikido moves, whereas she will be floundering. In her words –“I have forgotten everything mumma! E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G!”

I kicked in to my wise mother zone, (yeah I have one. I also have silly mumma, angry mumma, strict mumma and cuddly mumma zones. Who doesn’t!?) and asked her, “So you will go for the class next week?” “Yes mumma.” “But Aku, won’t next week still be your first class back if you don’t go today?” It took a moment for that truth to hit home and she quietly went away to get ready for the class. Of course there was grumbling the entire drive to the class.

When she stepped on the Aikido mat in the dojo, I could sense her nervousness and fear. I felt it along with her. The sensai started with the warm up exercises and then moved on to teaching the new defence moves… 5 minutes later, Aku turns to me with the biggest grin ever. She is back and she remembers and she is enjoying it. The relief!

The remainder of her class was a blur for me as I sat there and realised that my journey was not all that different from Aku’s. The meeting was my first class back. I could postpone it but I could not really cancel it… not unless I wanted to quit writing professionally. There was only this far that I could run away or this long that I could hide. Eventually I would have to step out unless I wanted to remain in a shadows, a shadow of my former self.

Many of my friends are at that age where the kids have become old enough to not need their attention all the time. Quite a few had taken long sabbaticals from work, some had never ventured into that. But now, they want to. However, there they are standing in front of us… our fears, our doubts, our belief that while we may ace at a myriad things that go in to being a home maker and mother, we don’t have what it takes in the outside world. Not in a world peopled by beautiful, talented, successful, confident young women. This is what I have to say to my friends and to my own self… keep moving. I can bet you that that confident young woman is right now battling her own inner demons but instead of turning back and running to her cave she is moving onwards. Like Aku. Like you. Like me.

How did that meeting go? Great.

Silly mumma.

About the author:

After 20 years of being in the print and visual media industry, Binu Sivan finally called it quits to become a freelance writer and focus on becoming a writer of stories, poems and an occasional blog post (https://binusivan.wordpress.com). When she is not writing, she is busy cooking non-gourmet meals, hanging out with her friend, nagging her husband and daughter, being a mom, reading, avoiding exercise and planning her next road trip in India.

On phonics, bullying, art and why Neil Gaiman always has the answers

Scene 1:

The other day, I was at the library with Re and I saw another mother and child, sitting beside each other. Libraries always make me think of this piece by Neil Gaiman and smile. So here, a mother was reading to her child. Correction: Child was reading and mother was facilitating. Correction: Child was trying to read and mother was interrupting him every second with, “Tell the sound of the word!”

Normally I have a warm, fuzzy feeling about libraries. Especially children’s libraries, like MCubed, which we are members of.The feeling gets even warmer and fuzzier when parents and children are reading together.

But I am intrigued and confused by phonics for kids. Ever since Re came home and said sh- am- poo one day. A word he surely knew before, but now was saying it in a weird way, I thought. How can breaking something that is whole help in making it a new whole?

Something happened between my childhood and Re’s childhood. Phonics happened. What was this strange way kids were learning these days, I wondered. I looked at his books for the first time. I felt dizzy. I called Maria. She said, “Stay out of it. You will thank me one day.”

I took her advice. She is one of those people I always listen to. No questions asked.

These days, Re and I are best friends. I never ask him about homework or school work or sounds of words. But we talk about everything and discover new words every day. I am just the cool mom who takes him swimming and to the library every week.  Sometimes we go on rainbow hunts and make cards for people and post them.

I am a new kind of hands-on and I love it.

Scene 2:

Re came home with a note one day. It said he had been chosen for an inter-school art competition. I jumped so high, I almost hit the fan. I immediately got on to the Whataspp mommy group that I had muted (for a year) and shared the news. Who else is in, I asked, excited, plotting future art play dates with artsy mommies.

Stunned silence. No reply. I rebooted my phone. Still no reply.

When I checked for the third time, the other conscientious mommies on the group were busy discussing Olympiad and Hindi homework and other such ‘more important’ stuff.

I felt like a badass who was excited about art. I suddenly felt like a bit of an activist about art being considered a ‘co-curricular’ activity and vented on social media.

Many moms and dads jumped in saying, “Of course they do art in school; they also do plays and sing songs and what not. What are you saying?” A mother of a toddler informed me it is part of ICSE. (No less, mind you)

They obviously hadn’t heard me screaming, “But why is it called co-curricular?” And yes, I know that bit about art being the choice for sixth subject in class nine, because I taught in a school. It still doesn’t say much about the state of our curricula.

It’s very hard to make parents think about why they do what they do. So I give up, and celebrate the child and his art and we draw ten more ‘wainbows’

Scene 3:

Re tells me about being hit regularly by a boy in his class. This is not new. It is not the first time he has been hit/bullied and I am a bit depressed and sad.  I tell him to say he doesn’t like it the next time it happens or inform the teacher. What else is one to do, I wonder. Hitting back has never been an option for Re and I don’t want to be the one to suggest it. 

I peep once again into the (still muted) Whatsapp mommy group conversations so see if I can pick up a thread from there. Perhaps they are also discussing behaviour and other issues? No. They are busy sending cheesy Raksha Bandhan forwards or discussing lost and found Math books. And more homework. I run. 

Scene 4:

Re tells me once again about being hit by the same boy and now my maternal instinct takes over strongly. I track down the mother of the boy who starts out being all understanding although intrigued by my concern, because “no one has ever complained about Y before”. I mumble something about how there is always a first time which doesn’t make sense even to me. A few minutes later, she texts to say her son has denied doing any such thing. I then do the unmentionable of saying perhaps he is not speaking the truth because he has been cornered. All hell breaks loose. She then sends me a long list of things I am doing wrong (thankfully encouraging my child to make art is not one of them). I shudder. I write a note to the teacher asking her to change Re’s place of seating, and she obliges. I have learned the art of “this will do for now.” Re teaches me how to make dresses from playdoh. 

make good art

Art is the answer

Scene 5:

My first PTM meeting at Re’s big school and I don’t have a list of question or concerns as I wait my turn and overhear another mother going over the progress of her daughter subject by subject and thinking about how little I know about what he is ‘learning’ in school. Then I think about the art we made and the laps we swam and the books we read and castles and rainbows we drew and feel better.

When my turn comes, I quickly rush through the interaction, while mentioning concerns of the alleged bullying. The teacher explains that Re is an extremely ‘well-behaved” child and the other child is a very “vibrant and expressive” child and so there is a clash of personalities.

It makes sense to me for 30 seconds and then I wonder. Is a well-behaved child really a cause for concern? When did it start being the exception and not the norm? And when did ‘vibrant’ become a euphemism for ‘aggressive’?

I don’t seek answers to these questions. Instead I quickly ask for directions to the art room so I can meet the art teacher.

As Neil Gaiman would say, when everything fails, Make Good Art.

(A version of this post appeared as my column in Pune Mirror on 31st August, 2015)

On raising a grandparent

I am quite sure, like many of her kind all over the world, my mother is chuffed about her grandparent status. She was the first person to hold Re in her arms when he was born, she is always the first grandparent to wish him on his birthday and on every other occasion (and she never runs out of them). She is now also the one he meets when he gets back home from school, the only one he will discuss homework with, or take instructions on grooming from. On his part, he will remind his grandmother about taking her medicines or “not watching shouty channels”, because “she has a new heart and has to look after it” (Re was four when my mother had her second valve replacement surgery). I want Re to make the most of it now, as I know he doesn’t have too many grandparent years left, as all four of his are in their seventies already. I had my both my grandmothers until my twenties; I don’t know if my son will be that lucky. Susanna Schrobsdorff, who is Managing Editor at TIME magazine calls it the grandparent deficit.

Every Tuesday, my mother takes Re to the local Ganesha temple and he willingly accompanies her, because he likes the elephant god, and of course the modaks that come as part of the prasad. The one time that I went along, he told me to do three pradakshinas and that I had to sit quietly on the floor for some time before I made a beeline for the prasad. “Otherwise, ganpati will think you only came for the prasad,” he explained.

My mother has had a hectic social life post her retirement and she is happy to have an arm candy for most of it. She tags Re along to her various chanting groups of fellow grandmothers: Vishnu and Lakshmi sahasranamams, haldi kumkums and various other things that ladies of a certain age congregate to do. “Will there be prasad? Then I will come,” he tells her. Re has also begun to evaluate various prasads, like “M aunty’s sheera is better than P aunty’s sheera”, and “Can I have two of these laddoos, because I really like it when it is beige and not brown like R aunty’s”

He in turn, teaches her ballroom dancing, how to walk like a princess, how to turn her saree into a gown, and all those things I could never dream of teaching her.

How a grandparent keeps it real

All around me, I constantly sense a dilution of all things traditional or ritualistic, and so it really moves me to see this grandmother-grandson duo, lighting diyas, collecting flowers to make garlands for deities, bowing down and joining hands in prayer whenever they pass by a shrine. These are things that never came naturally to me, but I am glad that it is an important part of Re’s relationship with his grandmother.

I don’t know where I stand on deities and worship. My mother is a believer, but I have always been passive about all her rituals. Although the thing about rituals is that they bring you closer to who you are and where you come from — roots that we have to try harder to hold on to than our parents did. In a mixed-culture marriage such as ours, sometimes the rituals multiply. But sometimes they divide too. And sometimes we end up culturally bankrupt, because we didn’t want to do the work. But now, with Re being integrated into it all, I feel a sense of belonging, a feeling that I have something to hold on to when things feel hopeless.

He is lucky. After all, he does get her all to himself, because she has no other grandchildren and so no one else vying for her attention. I had to compete at least with 12 other cousins for my favorite grandmother and seldom got her to myself, one-on-one. ‘Grandmother’ was always a community thing, as were grandmother stories, grandmother delicacies and grandmother lullabies. I grew up in a time when grandmothers were the default caregivers of young children, and with families multiplying ever so rapidly, my poor grandmother was always being shunted from one home to the other every few years, and I can imagine what it must have done to her. But she raised us all with the same amount of love, the same stories and the same sense of rootedness.

There is something about grandparents. And I don’t mean it in that warm, fuzzy, sepia-toned kind of way. There is all of that for sure, and some. Something also changes in the equation between you and your mother when you have a child. She becomes the equaliser in your life. And not just because she is (usually) the most non-grouchy caregiver. But more importantly, she is someone who never trivialises your troubles by saying “this too shall pass”. She may not have the answers to your convoluted problems, but she is an antidote to your pain nonetheless. And so is her rasam, in my case.

The odd thing is that my mother is still as much a mother to me, as she is grandmother to Re. She is still the one who senses from my voice on the phone when all is not well. She is still the only one who knows when I need to be left alone. Although we have our share of fights ever so often, she is still the one who gets me more than anyone else. I know that in a few years, she will be the one needing the care and I will be the caregiver and hopefully, so will Re. I didn’t choose to marry late; it’s just that it took me really long to meet a man I wanted to make a baby with. I know there are so many conflicting factors when planning a baby, but I just want to say that it’s good to take into account how much grandparent time your children will have.

And age 71, my mother is still not tired of playing mom. But I already am, and I can’t even imagine myself getting to the grandmother stage. I am constantly torn between my mother and my child trying to parent me. In fleeting moments, I do forget that I am a parent to both of them. But I am nicer to my mother now. I find myself asking her, “What else?”, “Have you eaten?” and “Did you sleep well?” I find a calming reassurance in inanities. I am becoming my mother.

(A version of this post first appeared as my column in Pune Mirror on 24th August, 2015)

Is your reality getting in the way of your child’s imagination?

child's imagination

Mermaids are just the beginning of a child’s imagination

I have always believed that a child’s imagination is a place where anything can and must be allowed to happen. But earlier last week, Re came home one day and said, “Mamma, teacher said that there are no fairies. And no mermaids also.”

My heart sank. I cried a little. I was angry, disappointed, depressed and sad at the same time. A revelation of this kind can only make a six-year-old’s world come crashing down. I found her words not just insensitive, but also dangerous. But I had to do something about the damage, although I could sense that Re’s voice was incredulous even as he said it.

“May be she hasn’t met a fairy called Imagination,” I said.

Re has never asked me if fairies, unicorns, mermaids exist. He just believes they do, and I have never, for the purpose of “letting him know the truth”, told him that things like that are only fantasy. I hope he never loses his sense of wonder, his inner fairy, and most importantly, his ability to fantasise. Because I don’t believe one must take fantasy lightly. And I don’t really know what the “truth’ is. 

Exchanging stories with your child is a key part of parenting; Re tells me his, I tell him mine, we read some together and nurture our little world of wonder. And how can we tell good stories if we don’t believe in fantasy? It’s our prop, our muse, something that comes to our rescue each time, even after we are all grown up. 

Oh, the things a child’s imagination can do!

When we discovered rainbows, Re began finding rainbows everywhere. In bubbles we blew. In petrol trails drenched with water. In doors, windows, streams, elevators. He found them in different shapes. Triangles, squares. octopus-shaped. Even a circle rainbow (we spotted a sundog last year from our school campus). For months, he only drew rainbows. It opened up a whole new world for him. It made our home a happier place. We are still looking for our pot of gold and we believe it exists.

C.S. Lewis once wrote a letter to his granddaughter about The Chronicles of Narnia that began:

My Dear Lucy,

I wrote this story for you, but when I began it I had not realised that girls grow quicker than books. As a result you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still. But someday you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again…

I think I am. I had reached that point where I felt too old to believe in miracles. Growing up with Re has made me believe in fairies all over again. And for that, I am thankful. He is six now, and I have already started to feel that he is growing up too fast. Very soon, he will be “too old” to build his dream castles, wear his mermaid suit, make Playdoh dresses and picnic with his princesses and fairies. He will soon be too grown up for his own good. He will soon morph into a person that says, “I’m-too-old-for-fairies!’. And yes, he will lose some of his wonder. But as a mother, I don’t want to be the person who led him there. I don’t want to be his fantasy-squasher. If that makes me an over-indulgent, removed-from-reality mother, so be it.

The gift of wonder and imagination is the right of every child and we have no business to deny them that. Because our thoughts, ideas and more importantly, our imagination are just another dimension of who we are. And whenever I lose hope, I remember this by Roald Dahl:

“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”

For all those who told me to not read happily-ever-after stories to my child, including teachers at school, I have this to say: Sometimes our reality hinders us from believing in love and wonder, but that doesn’t mean we stop our children from believing in it. The fact that we have started listening to TEDtalks on how to dream and how to imagine explains that we are already bankrupt in our minds as a race.

So I am going to allow him to dream for as long as his heart will allow him. If we believe that things don’t exist just because we haven’t seen them, that’s bordering on arrogance. I really worry for us as people. I worry for his teacher too. As a start, I wrote her a note:

“Dear teacher. I know you don’t believe in mermaids or fairies, but we do. And maybe you should give it a shot as well. Because the world would be such a boring place if we didn’t believe in magic.”

She hasn’t replied to it. But if she says, “I don’t believe in fairies,” one more time, I am going to unleash some bad pixie dust on her. And introduce her to a certain Miss Tinkerbell.

Meanwhile, Re and I are working on spreading pixie dust all over the world. And we need all the help we can get.

(A version of this post appeared as my column in Pune Mirror on 16th August, 2015)