Tuesday, 5 July 2016

8 going on 18

My boy is 8 years old now, soon to become 9. He is busy with his school work, sports, and friends. What should have been a blissful pre-teen period for us has become an anxious anticipation of the next tantrum. He is an angel for a moment, and a sanity-defying monster the next. I have heard horror stories about the teen ages from other parents. But I am definitely not prepared for an 8 year-old behaving like an 18-year old in terms of mood swings and temper tantrums.


I and my husband are at our wit's end on how to deal with this. Our boy is hyper-active (physically and mentally). He way ahead of his peers in his knowledge (in any subject), and constantly challenges us with increasingly complex questions. We are so proud of him. But we are definitely not proud of the dark side that he has started showing us, more and more often.


When I think about the whole picture, I realize that maybe he is not getting a 1-on-1 time with us any more. Because of the increased activities in his life, he has free time only on the weekends. That is when I insist that he spend some time catching up with his school work, and other reading. He also wants to spend some time playing with his neighborhood friends, whom he can meet only over the weekends. And he also wants to spend some time watching TV, which he is denied over the week. The end result is that there is absolutely no time to communicate with us.


I came up with a simple solution for that. Have dinner away from home every Friday evening with a strictly 1-on-1 time for us. Let me explain.


My boy is out of the house every day from 6.30 AM to 9.00 PM. After he is home, he is just ready to gobble down his dinner and head to sleep. But on Fridays, he looks forward to be able to stay up a little later than usual because he does not have to go anywhere on Saturdays. However, on Fridays, he is so exhausted, that he ends up going to bed a little earlier than usual. I thought to tap on the 'relaxing mood' that he gets into on Fridays. So since a few weeks, I and my husband pick him up from his Gymnastics practice, and go out for dinner on Fridays. Any small place works for us. We have only 3 criteria: decent food, decent place to sit, and ABSOLUTELY NO ELECTRONIC INTERFERENCE. The last bit is really important. We are not supposed to even look at our cell phones/tablets/laptops etc. during this little dinner meet. we ignore all phone calls and just concentrate on talking to each other. About everything and anything. We don't force our boy to talk about his school. We don't even force him to talk. Sometimes he is just content to listen to us discuss bigger things happening around us. For example, the drought-like situation that we are in. Or the budget planning we would have to do before we could start some redecorations at home. He does not participate, but he is always involved. He has no other options - he cannot immerse himself in an electronic game, nor can he poke his nose in a book while we wait for our food. Sometimes he wants to talk about all that's happening in his little world. That's when we really get to understand the little dilemmas he gets into and solves on his own or with his friends. These snippets are precious. They reassure us that no matter how he misbehaves, he does have integrity. His values are enough to make him a good human being. Our little dinner time gets over in an hour. But that hour means everything for us. We have been able to reconnect with our youngster.


Have his temper tantrums reduced? Has his moody behaviour changed? No.
But we seem to understand him more, and seem to accept his behaviour more. Because we are convinced that he has the capacity to become an extremely charming human being. And that gives us faith that his moody behaviour is only a phase.

Friday, 1 February 2013

The Great Laundry Adventure in the USA

There I was - Little Miss Know-it-all - who left early from work to do laundry. I came home...well the hotel, actually, but my home for 10 days...and I painstakingly found a bag to put my used clothes in. I called the front desk and confirmed that I could get quarters there. I went down to purchase quarters, and I realised I had only 2 dollars on me. Well, you need at least 4 dollars for one load of washing and drying and 1 more dollar to buy detergent. So I traipsed back to my room, got the money, went back down, and purchased the quarters. The next step was to find the laundry room. I could see the breakfast counter (with no breakfast served at this time of the day), then there was a door that said "Employees Only", and another mysteriously locked door. I looked helplessly at the front desk assistant, who immediately came out to help me. She took me through the mysterious door, and there I was in the excersize and the laundry room.

Here came the interesting part. I had to use my quarters and buy detergent. Excellent. But how? Having never done this before (yes I was in the USA before, and no, I have never bought detergent from a detergent dispenser, because I have always bought it at the grocers) I was at a loss about how to use the detergent dispenser. I saw a wall-mounted machine that had pictures of a detergent, bleach, and a softener. These pictures had slots for quarters below them. I put in the quarters in the correct slots and waited. Nothing happened. Then I banged the machine. The coins slightly moved. Then I looked for a handle like how I have seen on TV in casinos. Nothing. Then I scratched my head. Again, nothing. I bent down and examined the bottom of the machine. Yep it was clean. And nope nothing happened. Then I took out the quarters. I was going to turn back, disappointed and slightly embarrased, and suddenly I thought of trying to push the slot itself. Bingo! Gleefully I put the quarters back, and pushed the slot. It came right back outside. I pushed harder with full vengeance. And i got my manna!

Next, I put in the clothes in the washer, put in the detergent in the correct slot, put in the quarters in the correct slot and started the machine. Thankfully, I had used this machine before. So I could still think of myself as Miss Know-it-all.

While my clothes were in the washer, I went for a walk, and then did some treadmill. The time had come to put the clothes in the dryer. I took them out of the washer, and put them in the dryer. I put in the quarters in the machine and was about to start the cycle. That's when I realised something was not quite right. Things seemed too easy! Ah there it was...I had put the clothes in one dryer and paid for a drying cycle in another dryer! Sigh. I moved the clothes again to the correct dryer and first prayed. Then I started the dryer. And I said my thanks to Him for giving me the knowlege and insight to wash and dry my clothes.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

The good old-fashioned ways

I just sharpened a pencil for my son the old-fashioned way - by using a blade instead of a sharpener. And I realised how I sometimes crave to live life the old-fashioned way. Of course, "old-fashioned"  for me means the way I lived before I brain-washed myself that I couldn't possible exist without certain "comforts".

I just want to live one day in the simple way that I had before I started getting Miss Uppity-Up. How would I live that day then?

After waking up in the morning I wouldn't have any of the 'exotic' breakfast that I have come to expect every day. I would eat a chapati with milk. A bath would mean using half a bucket of hot water mixed with another half of cold water. A running hot shower would not even be the stuff of dreams. I would use only shikakai to wash my hair. No shampoos, no conditioner. After this, I would wear clean clothes that would be folded in a way that no ironing would be required. If I had to step out of the house, I would wear simple slippers, and walk to my destination. I would not need my vehicles. Or if I had to travel far, I would just use my bicycle. If I would feel thirsty on the road, I would just wait till I headed back home or find a coconut-seller. Bottled water would be nowhere in the picture. For lunch, I would eat whatever was made at home. I would then lie down on a chatai for my afternoon siesta or curl down on the floor with my book. Tea time would mean having tea and chivda or ladu made at home. A walk in the evening would never turn into a shopping expedition. Having dinner would mean eating the same food that I ate for lunch. After a nice, simple, uncomplicated day, I would head to sleep on a nice, simple, uncomplicated mattress on the floor.

There was a time when I actually lived like that. In fact, everyone I knew lived like that. That was the way of life about 20 years ago.

Times changed and I never even realised when my necessities changed. Some things came into my life and definitely made my life more comfortable. Some other things came into my life and made my life more complicated. I never understood when this happened.

Ten years from now I might not even remember my life from the stone age. And I might just yearn for the "simplicity" of my life today.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

How do I teach him to lose?

My five-year-old...the apple of my eye. How do I teach him to lose? How do I make him understand that winning is not everything? How do I teach him to understand that even if you do your best, it may still not be enough...but it is enough to make you proud of yourself. In a world where your success is judged by your victories, how do I make him understand that the real victories are not visible at all? How do I teach him to lose the battles in life to win the war of life in the end? How do I teach him to trust himself to give his best and not be the best all the time?

I give him unconditional love. How do I  teach him to love himself unconditionally? How do I teach him to respect himself because the world may not respect him? How do I teach him to look at himself through his own eyes, and not through the eyes of the world? How do I help him gain confidence in himself?

My five-year-old...the apple of my eye. How do I save him from the hard path of learning how to lose? How do I save him from learning how to lose too late?

Monday, 5 December 2011

Ghanashyama Sundara

When I returned from work the other day, I went to a cold and lonely home. It was just me and my son to entertain each other that day. And I was not in the best of moods either.


I thought of going online and listening to some old songs. That was probably the best thing I did during the day.

I stumbled upon an old Marathi classic “Ghanashyama Sundara”. Oh what bliss! The supremely melodious notes of Lata Mangeshkar and Pandit Nagarkar…the soft soothing music that was perfect to wake you from deep, sweet slumber…the whole package is just perfect. There is no other word for that.

The most divine part was the whole image of a beautiful rural morning that the song brought before my eyes. I could actually feel the sun rising and casting his warmth on a world that was made sleepy with the night’s cold blanket. I could hear the birds chirping in the dawn, and the cow bells tinkling in the cowsheds. I could smell the cowsheds and hear the cattle mooing. From my chaotic day, I was transferred within a second to a Utopia.

That is when I realised that words have the power to paint beautiful pictures. And the painter (the poet, in this case – Shahir Honaji) can achieve near-perfection in a picture that can be captured in so few words.

No blogs or essays or odes can achieve the perfection of this song. The perfection of lyrics. The perfection of poetry. The perfection of aesthetics. And of course, the perfection of this painting.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Entertainment on the Roads

While driving on the road, there is a lot of entertainment in the name of shops.

At one corner, our dear Lord Pandhari has become a paan merchant. In another lane, He has become a dry-cleaner. Our revered saint Sai Baba has to play multiple roles in the span of a few kilometers. He is an expert hairdresser, an excellent tailor, and can make amazing kulfi. He is an efficient dabbewala, and a world-class istriwalla. Sri Sai Baba owns a fleet of buses, trucks, and lorries. He can ferry you around in vans or small cars.

Now-a-days, hospitals have even mountain ranges as their namesake. We have the Sahyadri Hospital here, and we also have the Himalaya Healthcare. Unfortunately, the height of the hospitals is not proportional to the height of the mountain ranges.

The Woodlands restaurant is famous for its seafood. It is perhaps the only wood in the world where sea food is abundantly available - for a price, of course.

The Goddess Lakshmi is sometimes forced to supervise hotel management, and the Goddess Saraswati is a very efficient tea-stall manager. Jejuricha Khanderaya makes excellent sweets, and the Lord Krishna provides nutritious and sumptuous breakfast. On the other hand, Krishna's Basuri can conjure up excellent south-Indian food.

You can get good Chinese food in fountain spots, but there will be no fountains around. You can find two chat corners in a single lane that has no corners to speak of.

As I said, driving on the roads can be very entertaining. Shops keep changing, malls keep coming up, roads keep changing directions, and life still goes on.

The Magic of Smells

There is magic in living, and our sense of smell renders this magic possible. Smell can make us happy, smell can make us sad.

I was driving to work the other day. The day had started on a stressful note. I woke up late, had a hell of a time in getting my son ready for school, had no time for breakfast, and got out of the house at a time that was just on this side of respectability. I was tired before starting the day. I was driving to work in the worst possible frame of mind. And I suddenly got a whiff of freshly-made cake. I was instantly transferred to a lazy day in my childhood. I remembered the invaluable time I had when mom had sent me to buy some eggs on a wonderful summer day. My mood just changed; I was suddenly feeling as light as the day of my ancient past.

For me, smells have the power to change my mood. They can make me ride on a huge crest, or sometimes throw me at the bottom of a well. They make me hopeful for my future and nostalgic about my past.

The smell of fallen leaves always reminds me of some of the laziest and happiest days of my childhood. The smell of a wet dog or a horse takes me back to the days that I spent in my mom's office, scampering among the gardens. The smell of a tamarind tree takes me back to my first school. The smell of wooden benches or new notebooks always takes me back to the schooldays.

I feel jittery when I get a whiff of a Camlin eraser - you see, I am still scared of some of my teachers. The smell of mothballs has never failed to make me sad. For some strange reason, this smell reminds me of my dear ones who have now passed away. The smell of books - whether old or new - transfers me to some other plane. I feel happy, nostalgic, and hopeful - all at the same time. My love for books is reinforced. My zest for life is redoubled. (There was a time when life was equivalent to reading books.)

Smells cast a magical spell on all of us. You can smell from afar that there is a new baby in a house. You can understand how welcoming a home is, just from the smell of it.

For me, smells even herald the seasons. I can smell rain in the air a month before the monsoons. Summer has its own lazy smell. The smell of autumn mingles with the smell of the monsoons. It refreshes me and makes me nostalgic at once. Winter steals in with a cozy smell of blankets.

I remember a time when I could not smell the season. I landed in the US for the first time in winter. Winter in my native city in India is vastly different from that in the US. Here there are subtle smells of foliage and winter trees. There is a smell of warm stoves and hot food. In the US, it was as if nature was taking a complete break from life. No smell of any life, not even any whiffs. I felt completely lost. I could not understand the complete absence of smells all around. I started coming back to life at the onset of spring. I could smell the leaves again; I started getting comfortable again.

Smells give colour to my life. They make my life beautiful. my life gets remarkably dull when I get a heavy cold.