Category: life lessons

The heart of a festival

The heart of a festival

Dear H and N,

Yesterday was Rakshabandhan – the day for sisters and brothers.

The popularly accepted version of the festival says that sisters should tie rakhis onto the wrists of their brothers and in return get a gift as well as a promise of lifelong protection. It’s a sweet tradition and when I was young I remember feeling envious of girls when they came to school the next day jangling their purses, telling us how much money they made. We never tied rakhis because we lacked that one key ingredient – the brother. And so we settled for mailing ours to our cousins.

Like most traditions have a way of becoming, this one too is a tad outdated. So when both of you came along we brought in some changes.

One: That you will both tie rakhis to each other.

and

Two: That there will be no gifts.

You understand the first one well enough. That thread is a pledge by both of you to help and support each other, to draw strength from each other and to be there when the other one needs you, always.

Why is it only the brother who should be ‘protecting’ his sister? Click To Tweet

‘That’s unfair’, I hear you protesting, H. And you’re right. N, you should be protesting too for the tradition implies you cannot even look after your own self let alone your brother. From the countless times you have come to his rescue, we all know how untrue that is.

Now for the second one – the one I find you resenting. You love gifts, I know and I’m sorry it disappoints you that there are none for you on Rakhi. I see the shine in your eyes when you see those rakshabandhan commercials. I love them too. I like the way they capture the festival – lit up homes, children running around in traditional clothes, dressed up adults and of course lavish gifts – elaborate gourmet chocolates and dazzling jewellery.

The sad part is that these ads lead you to believe that you must have all of that to make a festival complete. What they don’t tell you is that a celebration can be fun even without all those trappings, because they are just that – trappings, not the real thing. At the heart of every festival is something more than chocolates and jewellery. I’d much rather you focus on that core. I love a good celebration more than anyone else, you know that, well. But..

When the peripherals take over the core, become the core, it is time to take stock. Click To Tweet

When you are older and are making your own money, go ahead and get gifts for each other, get them without waiting for Rakshabandhan, and while you’re at it get some for me too.

For now, let’s just focus on the warm hugs and banter of the day. The way we get together with your cousin for a fun morning. Let our memories be of how you, H, never get used to the tika and how you protest and shake off the rice that falls onto your glasses. And when it’s your turn how you can never remember the correct finger to use or the correct hand for that matter, and the way you make a big long one for N, only to hear her complaining. And N, you remember how you have to hold H’s head up each time because he insists on looking down always?

Let’s store away in our memory the way you do “Eenie, Meenie, Miney, Mo” to decide which sweet you should pick for your brother after you tie his rakhi, the way you stuffed a whole big laddoo in his mouth so he couldn’t talk for a full minute. Oh and also the way he tried to aim and lob the laddoo at you when it was his turn.

Let’s remember all of that and the long chats after the ceremony, over hot cups of tea even as you, N, are bugging us all for ‘one more picture’.

It’s this – the warmth, the laughter, the teasing, the love – that are the core of the festival. Let’s not lose all of that in the clothes and the gifts.

*************

 

Linking up with Deepa and  Amrita for #MondayMommyMoments.
Kreativemommy.com
The trouble with being a good girl

The trouble with being a good girl

Dear daughter,

These last few years I have watched you grow into a wonderful young girl. A good girl – I’ve heard people call you that and I’ve seen how you glow with happiness each time someone says it. You deserve it too. However, there’s a danger hidden away in the midst of all the compliments and I write to you today, to tell you about it.

Many times over you will hear people (including me, sometimes) praising you for, or pushing you to be – a good girl.
In the middle of a fight you’ll hear – “Let him have the toy N, you’re a good girl, no?”
Or at school – “Be a good girl and sit quietly.”
Or at home – “Good girl, run and get my phone, please.”

Interestingly enough, you will hear it much more than your brother. And that is rather ironic because I see you trying harder than he ever does. He really doesn’t seem to care much for what people think of him. But you do. Which is why the danger is greater for you.

The thing is, the more people praise you, the harder you try to fit into their image of a good girl. As you grow you make that image your own. It becomes your yardstick for measuring your worth. And that’s a little crazy for many reasons.

To begin with, being ‘good’ is a rather vague idea. So when you set out to be a ‘good girl’ you set up unclear, unrealistic expectations for yourself. Obviously, you cannot meet all of them, and then you end up feeling guilty or incompetent or not-good-enough your whole life.

If you are always striving to be a ‘good girl’ you set yourself up for failure and unhappiness. Click To Tweet

Sounds weird coming from me? Yes I know. And no that does not mean you have the license to be rude or irresponsible, inconsiderate or unkind. What that does mean is that you do not always need to do what you think is expected of you.

Being a good girl is important but being real is even more important. Click To Tweet

Get that? Being the real ‘you’ is important for there will come a day when you will realise that fulfilling every one’s expectations isn’t really making you happy from the inside. Then you will try to figure out what you truly want. And that will be difficult because you’ve been so busy listening to everyone else you’ve never listened to your own heart. You’ve lost touch with yourself. And if you don’t know what truly makes you happy how can you ever hope to be happy at all?

Besides, being a good girl 24X7 is exhausting. You can never relax because you’re always on guard lest the real you slip out of the mask that you wear all the time.

Worse still, you never make real friends – the pukka kinds who know you inside out, share your deepest darkest secrets and still love you. Because you’re always scared the real you isn’t good enough, that they won’t love you enough if they know the real you. But then it isn’t necessary to be liked by everyone, to fit in all the time. It is worth losing a hundred superficial friends for a handful of real ones.

It takes courage, of course and a lot of practice. That is weird, isn’t it? Being yourself should be the easiest thing on earth. Unfortunately, putting only our best versions out for others, comes way more naturally to us. Being real needs practice. But do it. Do it even if you find it hard. Do it because in the end it is the most liberating feeling ever.

It is important to be yourself because there’s only one of you in this whole world :-). Click To Tweet

So look inwards. Get to know yourself independent from people and happenings around you. Speak your mind – be kind, be polite but be honest too. People will love you and respect you for that.

************

Linking up with #Chatty Blogs from Shanaya Tales

Of growing children and social etiquette

Of growing children and social etiquette

We’re on our annual visit to my hometown. As we walked out of the airport we were met by our driver, who has been with us for a long time. He greeted us with a loud Namaste! and followed it up with a, “Mashaallah, bachhe kitne bade ho gaye hain.” (My Goodness, how the children have grown). To my complete surprise and his (even greater) shock the twins promptly bent down and touched his feet. (If you didn’t know this, in India that’s a way to show respect to  elders). Of course it would have been perfectly fine had it not embarrassed the poor fellow out of his wits.

It’s strange, this transformation the children undergo here each year. Back home they need to be prodded before they deliver their dutiful ‘Hello Uncle’ and ‘Good Evening Aunty’ but here the namastes come pretty quickly and they don’t think twice before diving at everyone’s feet.

I’m not complaining. I’d much rather they overdo the courtesies than forget them completely.

When we were children…
..growing up in joint family meant our house was always full of visitors. There were friends – across generations. And there were relatives – a constant stream of them – aunts, uncles, cousins. Some would come for a visit, some would stay back for a day or two while others would stay on for months or even years till they completed their treatment at the city hospital, finished a course or a training programme or, sometimes, till they found a job.

Slowly but very surely we picked up basic social etiquette
Not only were we supposed to appear with that mandatory glass of water as soon as someone arrived, we were also supposed to ask ‘Uncle’ if he wanted tea, coffee or a cold drink and then serve it too.

Our dad would say, “Don’t just dump the glass of water and run off. Sit for a while and talk.” It was terribly awkward and we had no clue what to say. But the good girls that we were, we would make the effort, however stilted. We’d answer questions, often inane ones – What class are you in? How are your studies going? and so on.

My sister and I would sit with polite smiles on our faces, making secret eye contact, asking each other if we’d sat long enough, if it was okay to leave. Over time we figured it out. We knew how formal each set of visitors was, who should be offered tea and what biscuits would go with whose coffee.

Our parents wouldn’t think twice before pulling us up if they didn’t see us doing our namastes or getting up to see off a guest to the door. They thought nothing of embarrassing us in public.

Things are different for the twins.

We barely have any formal visitors. Nobody stands on formality of any kind. As a result when we do have one the children have no clue what to do. Either they disappear after a ‘hello’ or they go about their business as usual.

I was reading this post from Rachna here and it only confirmed what I felt – that they seemed rude, unconcerned and stand offish through their acts of omission. A lot was forgiven till they were young. As they’re growing up they need to learn the courtesies beyond thank you, sorry and please.

We’ve been working on it. And I have some simple rules for them:

  • Stand up and switch off the television when a guest arrives.
  • Wish them.
  • Get them a glass of water.
  • If you know them, sit and talk for a while.
  • See them off when they leave.
  • Oh and one last one – No fighting before the guests.

Seriously! Every little thing needs to be articulated.

They’re getting there but it is a struggle because the opportunities to practice are so very few.

However, making a guest feel welcome goes beyond rules
It is about being warm and friendly and welcoming even to someone they might not know too well. And there really are no guidelines for that. I am hoping that at some point, their instinct will take over and as their shyness fades they’ll pick up the right way to do it. Meanwhile, the basic rules will have to do.

Linking up with Tweens,Teens & Beyond 
Plan, prepare, perform

Plan, prepare, perform

The great annual International Blogging Festival kicks off in another few days. Bloggers across the world will be writing, reading, sharing  and encouraging each other all of April. It’s like one big happy party. And I’m not going. Obviously I’m feeling a little sorry for myself – a bit like when I was invited to a party and all my friends were going and I knew it was completely ‘my thing’ but mum said I couldn’t go. Except this time there’s no mum to blame. It’s just me. I wish I’d planned ahead and I wish I’d scheduled my posts and I wish I could have joined in the fun.
But I didn’t and I can’t.
Here’s a lesson for you dear H and N. ‘Not again,’ I hear you groan, ‘Not another ‘lesson’ mama,’ I see you making quotes in the air, but this is a lesson not just for you but for me too and has to be reiterated. I promise to keep it short.
If you want something really badly, plan for it, prepare for it. If you do not, you’ve no business to feel sorry for yourself.
Spontaneity is fun but for the important things in life, preparation is the key.
It’s a bit like cooking. Remember the time we started off making cookies assuming we had all the ingredients and then got stuck because we ran out of butter. Oh we did go ahead but the cookies weren’t half as good as they do turn out normally. You remember that?
And then, N, you remember, there was the drawing competition on Independence Day a few years back? Many of your friends came to me asking for help with ideas. And they went home and practised. You’re good at art. I know that and so do you. So certain were you of your win that you didn’t give the contest a second thought. You knew you would do well. And you lost. To a girl whose art wasn’t half as good as yours but who was better prepared. Remember how she’d woven quotes on freedom in her drawing? The judges made a mention of that, I well remember. I also remember how you’d cried, heartbroken.
Heartbreak is a great teacher.
You did not forget. Next year you did prepare and you won too. How you’d jumped around in your happiness! That, dear girl, is proof enough, if you wanted any.
It isn’t enough to be smart or good at something. Preparation marks the difference between success and failure.
I hope you always remember that. I hope you remember that feeling of losing something that was so well within your grasp. And I hope you never let that happen again.
As shall I.
For this time I will watch and enjoy the fun. I shall blog hop to my heart’s content and cheer all my friends. It’s going to be one crazy, exciting month.
Oh and while on lessons – here’s anther one. Age doesn’t insure you against making mistakes. The good part is that nothing stops you from learning from them either.
#Women at work – The fruit seller

#Women at work – The fruit seller

I see her busy at her shop right across the road from our apartment building. She has a small outlet stocked with fresh flower and fruit. Somedays I see her attending customers, somedays she is polishing the fruit with a piece of cloth or arranging them in meticulous piles.

I pass by her shop some half a dozen times a day and she never fails to give me a smile. She knows I love flowers as do the kids. She also knows I prefer gerberas and roses for my vases as against the ones she keeps – marigolds, Indian roses and jasmines which are used more often for religious rituals. And yet when I am buying fruit and she has a specially pretty rose she hands it over to me with a ‘take this for the kids’.
And so H and N here’s a lesson for you – Take pleasure and pride in whatever you do, no matter how small your job, how tiny your business. You don’t need to have a lot of ‘things’ to be generous. All you need is a big heart.
When most shop keepers take a siesta break (a ritual in my city), she doesn’t go home. She sits quietly enjoying her break. Her hands keep busy as she picks out flowers from a basket on her lap and threads out colourful garlands, readying for the evening rush.
Somedays she talks to me. A lot of it is in Marathi but I nod along even though I don’t understand all of it. I ask her why she doesn’t shut shop for the siesta. 
And she says, 
“My husband passed away recently. When he was alive, he was always pestering me. ‘Why are you always at the shop? I need you here at home to serve me lunch. I need you to sit with me while I eat,’ he’d say. 
I’d get annoyed and I’d tell him – the children are there to take care of you. How much can a woman do? I have the shop to look after.
But he would have none of it. We’d have arguments but I did go home each day.” 
I nod along, the feminist in me not quite happy with the story.
She continues, a trifle wistfully,
‘Now he is gone and no one asks me to come home. I have children, son, daughter-in-law but they don’t know if I’ve eaten or not. I’m happiest here at my shop.’
I don’t know what to say. The feminist is a trifle confused and chooses to stay silent.
And here’s lesson number 2. This one is for me: Relationships are complicated. No one relationship is quite like another. It is easy to pass judgement, to give advice but different things work for different people.
I cannot end the post without wishing everyone a very happy Independence Day. And I’m glad I wrote about this lady today. Isn’t she a symbol of Independent India? Of doing her own thing and being at peace with herself?
Despite so much that is not quite right with our country, we do have things to be proud of, things that set us apart, make us special.
Today, I shall focus on all that IS right with my country and it is that which I shall be celebrating.

HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY!
Linking up with Parul for the #Women at Work bloghop. If you have a story about a working woman do share.

Meet me on Instagram @obsessivemom06

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