Author: obsessivemom

It’s a grey world out there

It’s a grey world out there

A few Sundays back H and I happened to sit down together to watch Scent of a Woman. The film is about the relationship between Charlie, a young student and an old cantankerous ex-armyman played by Al Pacino.

I won’t go into the entire story but what caught our attention was Charlie’s dilemma. At school he witnesses some students playing a humiliating prank on their principal. He is spotted by a teacher and is called in for questioning where he refuses to divulge the names of the culprits despite the principle trying to bribe him. He then has to face a disciplinary committee hearing with the threat of expulsion. However, he holds his ground, refusing to tell on his peers even though they never were too kind to him.

So why didn’t Charlie speak up? asked H. After all he wasn’t lying or trying to get anyone in trouble. Besides, they were a bunch of not-so-pleasant boys who had played a prank and they deserved to be punished.

I was glad he listened to Al Pacino’s closing speech. And I have to quote it here because whatever I say wouldn’t be a patch on this:

“I don’t know if Charlie’s silence here today is right or wrong. I’m not a judge or jury. But I can tell you this: he won’t sell anybody out to buy his future!! And that, my friends, is called integrity! That’s called courage! Now that’s the stuff leaders should be made of. Now I have come to the crossroads in my life. I always knew what the right path was. Without exception, I knew. But I never took it. You know why? It was too damn hard. Now here’s Charlie. He’s come to the crossroads. He has chosen a path. It’s the right path. It’s a path made of principle — that leads to character. Let him continue on his journey.”

You can watch the entire speech here.

Al Pacino fills the room with his presence. His voice is powerful, effective, though peppered with expletives. His blind eyes look straight ahead while every eye is focussed on him and his words.

Just as mine and H’s were.

Despite that spectacular speech, H wasn’t convinced. If you see a murder, wouldn’t you help the police? he persisted, even though the cause may have been valid?

Then finally we worked it out. It was the bribe that made it wrong, otherwise it would have been alright for Charlie to tell on his mates. And also maybe he didn’t like the principal and had enjoyed the prank like the other boys, H added with a grin, imagining, I’m sure, one of his teachers drenched in paint (as it was in the film).

That’s a lesson I would much rather not pass on to him, that of laughing at his teachers. However I did realise that he was old enough now to question authority rather than accepting it blindly.

I am glad we watched the film together. I am glad it made H think. Isn’t it wonderful when a film does that? I’m glad he asked his questions. And I’m glad I was there to answer him. It’s a valuable lesson – that truth isn’t always enough. It needs to be examined, at times, through varied lenses of principles and values even kindness and consideration.

It feels like a milestone of sorts that the children are grown up enough to begin to see how complicated life-decisions can be, how grey it all is out there.

 

PS: If you haven’t seen the film you really must because this is but a small part of its magnificence.

Why we need argumentative children

Why we need argumentative children

Sample this conversation here:

H: May I sleep in your room today?
Me: Why?
H: Because I get the best sleep there.
(The real reason is perhaps because his room is messy and he’s too lazy to clear it).
Me: Nope, you’re thirteen and you need to learn to be independent.
H: But mama India got independence after hundreds of years, I am just thirteen!

That was kind of funny, I know. However two words that top my list of most-detested-words are ‘But mama..’. I deal with them day in and day out, a million times a day. They have driven me to distraction, they have led to long arguments and missed buses. My personal Utopia would be a place where those two words didn’t exist.

Imagine for a moment, that did happen, that children stopped arguing with us. Imagine they ALWAYS did EXACTLY as we told them to.

Bliss.

Right?

Life would be peaceful.
There would be no dissonance.
There would be no tantrums, no whining, no arguments.
And so, things would move faster and we’d probably get way more done. We’d be more productive.

Right?

However, also, consider this:

Children would never learn to reason and think and make decisions.
Their mental capacities would lie in a limbo from disuse.
They’d grow up into adults with no minds of their own.
Things would perhaps never change because each generation would be a replica of the previous one.
There’d be no progress.
We’d probably still be hunter gatherers.

Puts things in perspective, doesn’t it? I mean arguing with your children sounds infinitely better than spending your life wearing leaves and living in deep dark caves crawling with all kinds of undesirable life forms, right?

Jokes aside, as a mom I hate the thought of my children not making their own decisions and taking over the course of their lives at some point. It is staggeringly frightening to think that I would always and forever be completely and wholly responsible for everything that’s right or wrong in their lives. That’s not how it should be.

Children argue because they have the capacity to think.
They argue because they do not want to follow rules blindly.
They argue because they want to try new things, new ways.
They argue because they think differently from you.

And that’s a blessing.

Be grateful.

 

Linking up with Mel for Microblog Mondays after a long time.

If we were having coffee together – 7 #wordsmatter

If we were having coffee together – 7 #wordsmatter

The maid has just left. The house smells of Colin and Lizol – fresh, inviting. As I step out into the balcony, the sky is thick with clouds, the air redolent with the promise of rain. It’s a beautiful day and I feel ‘settled’ like I haven’t felt in a long time.

If you were here and we were having coffee together, I’d tell you I’d finally found peace in this new home of mine. Together we’d raise a cheer to that – you with your extra strong coffee and I with my ginger tea – each with our preferred ‘hot beverage’, as Sheldon would put it :-).

You’d smile at the Big Bang reference, relieved to see me well and truly out of the dumps just as I was happy to be out of them. I’d apologise for having been fretful and whiny over the last month but you’d brush that off with a wave of your hand. That’s what friends are for, aren’t they? you’d say and I’d agree wholeheartedly.

If we were having coffee together I’d tell you that life had definitely been looking up for me since we last got together. I’d tell you about this house which was slowly, surely turning into a home. It was only now that I was beginning to truly appreciate it.

I’d tell you about other friends who had dropped by in happy batches exclaiming over each new fixture, opening cupboards and peering inside with the ease of long friendship, suggesting reading nooks and writing corners. I’d tell you how they’d complimented my freshly arranged bookshelves, picking out books to borrow.

I’d wonder if perhaps it was their excitement that had endeared the home to me. Does this happen with you sometimes – that looking at something through someone else’s eyes changes your view of it? That a glum lonely space suddenly becomes warm and cosy? It echoes with the memory of love and laughter long after everyone has gone.

It is this memory that wraps itself around me like a comforting hug as I go about my day prompting me to open my heart and home to more friends. I stock up happy memories, collecting them like Shylock hoarded gold coins, chasing away the gloom of the past few months.

If we were having coffee together I’d tell you how I had been inhabiting the kitchen more often, finding pleasure in going back to some of my favourite recipes. I’d tell you of the time I’d delighted in laying out a full homemade ‘party’ meal despite my rather limited cooking skills.

Together we’d look outside my window and watch the rain that was now coming down in a gentle pitter-patter. We’d watch the sparrows sheltering in the trees and I’d point out my plants that were slowly coming back to life, sprouting new leaves, making a new beginning.

Just like me.

Things weren’t perfect, but then perfection is a mere dream, I’d muse. It isn’t, you’d correct me, it exists scattered in small moments like this one, you’d tell me and together we’d laugh at our philosophical ramblings as we drain our cups and head out to meet the rest of the day.

So tell me dear friend, how is life treating you? What would you share if we were having coffee together?

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I am participating in the #wordsmatter bloghop. I received this tag from Pooja Priyamvada who blogs at Second Thoughts First and I’m happy to pass on the tag to Rachna at Rachna SaysDo follow the #WordsMatter Blog Hop and prepare to be surprised!

The elevator hates me

The elevator hates me

*I solemnly swear that all instances quoted in the piece below are absolutely true. No really, it’s all true.*

N was down with loose motions and I was just back from the medical store. I stood in the lower basement waiting with my thoughts on my girl hoping she’d have been fine in my absence and wishing the elevator would hurry along.

When the elevator didn’t arrive for a while, I realised one was stuck on floor 6 while the other was on floor 11. I pushed the button again, not that it was required or made any difference, but finally, the one on 6 moved, I relaxed. It reached the ground floor and stopped. ‘Really?’ thought I, ‘today of all days?’ I willed it to come down.

It didn’t.

After a long lazy pause the one on the 11th floor began to creak its way down. It reached the ground floor and then .. yeah, it stopped too. I was almost stamping my feet in frustration and heading towards the stairs when it moved again and finally reached me.

That’s just one instant when the elevator has acted weirdly with me.
It hates me!

There I said.

This sounds like the rambling of a batty old woman but it’s true. I know it because this isn’t the first time something crazy like this has happened.

The first germ of suspicion was planted in my mind way back during my working days in Mumbai when on an official trip to the Stock Exchange one day the elevator went part way and came to a stand still. That, on a 20-something floor.

It stood there, a smirk on its face, (or so it seemed to me), enjoying my mounting panic. Mercifully a colleague was with me and we sounded the alarm. After much hoohaa the doors were prised open and we found ourselves stuck between two floors – too high to climb up, too low to jump down. It really seems easy in films. In real life, however, you either need to be the really sporty kind or have a spiderman boyfriend to bail you out. Since I am/had neither, a tall stool was positioned so we could step down to freedom.

Then recently, as I stepped into the elevator I saw a lady rushing towards it. Even before she motioned to me to keep it waiting for her I was reaching out for the ‘keep door open’ button. I threw her a reassuring smile to say that I was holding it for her. However, the elevator had other plans. Slowly, inexorably it started to shut. No matter how hard I jabbed at the button the doors continued on. I tried to wedge my foot but the otherwise all too sensitive sensors pretended not to sense it at all. Knowing my history with elevators, I had a feeling it would squash my foot with a wicked happy happiness and so I pulled back, and just in time too. Then, right before my horrified eyes (and the lady’s very very annoyed eyes) the lift shut with a gentle malicious click.

I imagined what it would have seemed to the lady – That I smiled at her and then shut the elevator in her face. What kind of a mean person would do that?

She now refuses to acknowledge me when she bumps into me and my hopes of making friends in this new place have died a silent death.

That’s not all. Each time I’m in a hurry I’ll be sure to find both elevators stuck on the floor furthest from me. And when I try to summon them, I can almost hear them arguing.

‘You go’

‘No you go’

‘I went last time’

‘So what you were just a floor away’

‘I don’t care. It’s your turn.’

… and so on. Quite like H and N when I call them for a chore.

If I hesitate for a moment, or stop to pick up my bag or pause to smile at someone, it tries to squish me. Once it carried away my stole, carried it right away in its evil jaws, even as I barely managed to save myself.

I’ve now taken to dashing in and diving out without giving it a chance to mess with me. Of course that means I sometimes knock over unsuspecting people. And then no matter how much I apologise and try to explain this strange vengeance, I come out looking stupid. All the while I can see the elevator laughing its mean laugh and if I as much as turn to give it a nasty look in return, I further damage my credibility.

What? Did I hear you say the elevator is an inanimate object and cannot have feelings? Hah! You, dear sir, have no idea!

I’m not crazy, okay?

How honest are you with your children?

How honest are you with your children?

Last week the dentist told us H needed a root canal. He was blissfully unaware of the discomfort about to come his way, thanks to the wonderful paediatric dentist he went to when he was younger. I, on the other hand, was more than aware of what it entailed having undergone a rather painful procedure in my thirties.

I tried to not let my anxiety show but it must have been somewhat apparent because H asked me, ‘Will it hurt?’ Torn between reassuring him and being honest I hmmed and hawed and tried to get away with a noncommittal answer. I should have known better because H has the knack and persistence of a badger when it comes to exacting precise information.

Finally I told him it would hurt but that he would be on painkillers so he’d be okay. Rather than finding it reassuring it freaked him out to the extent that he tried to tell me he was quite fine and didn’t need the treatment after all.

That made me wonder if it would have been better had I not told him it would hurt. Perhaps it really wouldn’t, given that I had chosen this particular dentist on the recommendation of a friend whose son had sailed through a root canal without much trouble. I wondered if I had made H needlessly anxious.

When the kids are young it is easy to fob them off with simplistic truths or with a distraction. As they grow, however, their queries become more layered and they want honest, precise answers.

So what I want to ask you is How honest do you think one should be with one’s children? More specifically, with one’s teen? More so, when it isn’t something as straightforward as a root canal.

When they talk to you about complicated relationships (with friends and teachers and believe me when I say, it can get really complicated), about life choices, about friendships gone wrong… how honestly do you answer them? Would you warn them about the pitfalls they might encounter or would you rather they go ahead with innocent enthusiasm and figure it out for themselves? Do you worry that your constant warnings might turn them into suspicious over-thinkers (That’s rather ironic, given that you’re overthinking this whole thing in the first place).

I know I do.

It’s a tough one.

A lot will obviously be guided by our own experiences and attitude but I sometimes wonder if, in our bid to tell them ‘as it is’, we end up over-sharing details that really aren’t necessary and we mess their world view. That the children are growing up, means we can talk to them more freely yet they don’t need to know everything about the world in all gory detail. Sometimes it is okay to leave them to find out things on their own.

That might of course mean that they will sometimes fall on their faces, they will get hurt but those are the lessons they will remember forever, way better than the ones we tell them about.

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On my other blog: Beat About The Book

Faces in the Crowd #BookBytes 16

Faces in the Crowd #BookBytes 16

I have come to realise that one of the best places to look for book recommendations is my children’s English textbooks. They curate excerpts from some of most wonderful reads. I have been doing it for the longest time actually – since my own school days. I’d read an excerpt and find it so engrossing […]