Category: Thoughts

Traditions

Traditions

I don’t want to wear formals, announces H.

That’s how most of our festive days begin. We have this tussle each year, at every festival. I’ve been giving in to him slowly but surely, bending to his will, letting him have his way. We moved from Kurta pajamas, to short kurtas and trousers and then to a shirt with an Indian jacket and jeans. This year I don’t even have the mind-space to push for that.

I don’t regret it. Not much, at least. I know he’s getting older; he’s a teen and I’ve learnt to choose my battles.

‘Alright’, I tell him, ‘but change out of your shorts and vest’. Crumpled tees and shorts have been his uniform these past few Covid months. I haven’t much bothered. This was but a small trade-off for quiet mornings.

But he isn’t done. ‘Why must I change? ‘What’s wrong with these clothes? They’re clean and that’s what should matter,’ he challenges. He loves a good argument, this son of mine and I indulge him most often, but not today. The cook is on leave and a pile of chores beckon me from the kitchen.

‘This is why I hate festivals,’ he continues.

That gets my attention and stops me on the verge of my don’t-argue-just-go-and-change outburst.

It’s an almost compulsive thing with me, this need to make festivals happy and stress free. Paradoxically, the stress of being stress-free stresses me out.

That is one reason I’ve let go of many traditions. And that’s why H’s remark hits home.

I pull my gaze away from the kitchen, realise I’m frowning and straighten the frown. I will myself to relax as I prepare to gently wade into this sea of arguments.

N walks in holding up a bright orange tee shirt for H. ‘Remember, I gifted you this one? It’s perfect for today. Please please wear it.’

I sigh in relief and quickly push home. ‘Come on H’, I tell him. He gives a huge fake sigh but I know he’s coming around.

As I busy myself with the cooking, I hear them argue.

‘I won’t wear trousers.’
‘But you can’t wear these shorts.’
‘Okay, then I’ll wear my Eminem Tee shirt.’
‘Noooo!! Not on Rakshabandhan. Have you even heard his lyrics? He uses such bad words in his songs.
‘At least he has a message to convey. He’s not just mooning around like your One Direction.’
‘I don’t care. You’re not wearing that ugly black tee. Mamaaaa tell him, pleeease,’ N calls out to me.

I don’t respond. I don’t need to. As I stir the kheer on the stove and get out the dough for the puris, I know already that H will wear what she wants him to, but that doesn’t mean he can’t have his bit of fun. Just as I know N doesn’t really expect me to intervene when she  calls out to me.

When I glance into their room I find them giggling together, playing tug-of-war with the unfortunate Eminem teeshirt.

Finally, they’re ready. Much fuss is made out of tying the rakhis. As per their own weird tradition H smears N’s forehead with the kumkum instead of making a neat little teeka. She’s used to it and stands still while I wipe it off and make a small round one instead. ‘I’ll take revenge,’, she says when it’s her turn. That freaks him out a bit. He takes eons to fix the clasp of her rakhi and ends with pushing an entire kaju roll into her mouth. She does the same and we’re done.

As I put away the puja plate I realise I forgot to ask them to cover their heads, as per tradition. I realise I miss doing things the traditional way. I miss the colourful kurta-pajamas, the chaniya cholis, the laddoos, the elaborately decorated puja thali and the sitting down cross-legged on the ground with a handkerchief on the head. I miss it all. I was wrong when I said I didn’t regret letting go of traditions. I do, at least some part of me does.

I want to tell the children: this is your culture, your heritage, your link to the past. Don’t let it go.

I hear them laughing and arguing and I hold back.

Instead, I tell myself, this is change, embrace it.

Image by minxutopia from Pixabay

Mornings #SOL

Mornings #SOL

6.15, says the kitchen clock. The sun is just lighting up the skies. I slide some butter on the hot pan, the sizzle sounding loud in the early morning quiet. I put in slices of bread quietening the sizzle, then turn the flame down and head off to wake the children.

I find H sleeping on his stomach, head twisted upwards at an awkward angle, a thin sheet barely covering him, the fan on full blast. I reach out and decrease the fan speed then call out to him. He doesn’t stir. I give him a gentle shake, trying to reach him through the swathes of sleep. He nods finally, as I tell him he has five more minutes.

This five minute warning, I have found, helps ease the children to start the day. I like it too. I hate dragging them out of bed, specially on cold winter mornings or on rainy overcast days. Mondays are the worst, specially exam Mondays, like today.

He’s a night owl, this one, lying awake late, then waking up to lethargic mornings, often begging for an extra minute after the five-minute buffer.

In her room, N lies invisible among the folds of a thick comforter, the fan switched off. She stirs as I call her, gets her head out then silently points to her cheek, eyes still shut. I give her a kiss. She turns her head and points to the other one for another kiss – our own private little ritual. Then she snuggles down for the extra five minutes. Mornings are easier for her specially if she has a ‘good’ day lined up.

I marvel at how different they are.

I smile remembering how passionately we read Linda Goodman back during college, how confidently we allotted character traits to people we barely new. ‘Ooh she’s a Scorpio, beware’. ‘Oh he’s an Arian, bound to be flighty’. Judgement came only too easily.

How ridiculous it seems now! How can people born over thirty days have the same traits when these two, born a few minutes apart, are chalk and cheese? How drastically did the planet alignment shift in those two minutes to get me two such varied ones?

Interesting subject of study for an astrologer, I muse flipping the bread, and tipping the egg on to it on the pan.

I glance at the clock again. Five minutes are up. I walk to each of their rooms in turn, checking on them, calling out again, trying to inject a sternness in my voice this time, a sternness I don’t really feel but there’s no time for mush now.

Another day beckons.

 

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Jumbled mythological ramblings

Jumbled mythological ramblings


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The maid was on leave. I was dusting, sweeping and mopping while trying to keep an eye on the children studying for their geography exam. I glanced at the two of them. N was bent over her book while H lay sprawled on the floor, writing.

‘What are you doing?’ I asked him.
‘I’m making a soil chart – alluvial, black, red, laterite,….’

I tuned out rushing to switch off the tap as water overflowed from the mop bucket.

‘…… loamy, clayey’, the tail end of what he was saying brought me back to their massive Geography portion. I glanced at N struggling through the jungle of vegetations and soils and I remarked rather absentmindedly, ‘Whatever it is, share it with N after you finish, okay?’

And BAM! Right there I knew how Kunti got Draupadi in the five-husband mess. When Arjun won her (Draupadi) in a Swayamvar and entered the house saying, ‘Ma look what I got!’ her obvious response was, ‘Whatever it is share it with your brothers’. And so Draupadi landed up with five husbands.

I have always felt truly sorry for that poor woman, and I mean Kunti. Imagine having three boys and then a pair of twins; boys again! What’s worse, she lived in a joint family with her sons and their one hundred cousins, all boys again. I feel faint each time I think of that much testosterone packed under a single roof. Oh and her sister-in-law would have been little help with eyes permanently blindfolded.

You see now how her patience must have been tried? That sharing line was the most natural thing for her to say.

The thought of the brothers squabbling over whatever Arjun had brought must have freaked her out even before she knew what it was. And she said the obvious pre-emptive thing any mom with multiple children would say, ‘Share it’. Thank goodness they were in exile and the cousins weren’t around. Small mercies.

It’s been twelve whole years – take a few months off for when the twins were infants – but since then, with every living breath of mine I’ve been trying to teach them to SHARE and they still don’t get it. It has been one of my most epic fails as a parent. And yet I persevere, reminding them to share share share till it has become a reflex, I say it without thinking.

Just like Kunti.

H goes to a birthday party and comes home with cupcakes – share it, I say.
N wins a goody bag at a school contest – share it, I tell her.
Her friend gives her a chocolate – give half to your brother, I tell her.
He wheedles a computer game from us – okay we say, but share it with N.

I can completely imagine being absentminded enough to say the exact same thing as I work at my laptop.

Am I being fair? Perhaps not. Definitely not in the kids’ minds. After all, as N tells me, ‘When I win something it is mine alone, and it should be my decision to share or not’.

Right? I’m sure Draupadi would agree and Arjun too.

However, as a mom there comes a point in one’s life when all one wants is peace at any cost and fairness be damned.

I have to add that all said and done, this new age funda of I-for-myself doesn’t quite gel. It’s more than just about keeping the peace – I do genuinely prefer the old Indian way of sharing – sharing willingly and with love. And till the kids get that, they can whine and complain but share they shall.

 

 

Note to self: When your child says, ‘Look what I’ve got’ – check what the ‘what’ is before asking him/her to share.

Man maketh the clothes #MondayMusings

Man maketh the clothes #MondayMusings


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A few weeks back I attended the investiture ceremony at my niece’s school. There she was, right in the front, in her spotless white salwar-kurta, her hair in a neat little bun, a smart cap on her head. My heart filled with incredible pride as I watched her march by and accept the head girl sash.

Her salwar-kurta reminded me of my school days. Till we were in class ten we had uniforms – a sky blue blouse with the school initials in a beautiful cursive on the pocket, neatly tucked into a matching sky blue skirt. I still think of it with happy nostalgia perhaps because school was my absolute happy place. Also, that sky blue was so very different from the white, grey and navy of all other schools. We were ‘different’ and that somehow translated as ‘better’ in our young minds. We were a cut above the rest and that uniform was an inherent part of the feeling.

In class eleven, the school did away with uniforms since we were now technically in Junior College and we were free to wear whatever we wanted. That was our first taste of freedom – freedom to wear our own personalities, our first tentative steps in the world of ‘fashionable’ wear.

And yet, so in love we were with that uniform, that a bunch of us continued to wear it at least few days every week. It seems strange now. Why would one choose a uniform, that of a junior class, when one could pick simply anything from the wardrobe? But we did just that.

By the time my sister got to junior college the no-uniform rule was gone and the girls were given a cream and blue salwar-kurta ensemble. How everyone resented that! First there was the whole idea of a uniform and then this – no smart skirts, but this shabby shapeless thing.

Even my classmates and I, who were by now in Colleges and Universities across the country, hated the thought of girls from our alma-mater wearing that ‘behenji’ dress. It somehow diluted our cool-quotient, or so we believed.

How very wrong we were, thought I with the wisdom that comes with age. I looked on as my niece accepted the flag from last year’s office bearers and delivered the Thank You speech. She did so with amazing flair. The way she marched, the way she spoke, the way she carried herself, I barely noticed her clothes, nobody did. All we saw was an accomplished young girl, solemn and earnest, eager to shine in the new role she was being entrusted with.

She completely rocked that salwar-kurta!

In that moment I realised how stupid we were and I was so so proud of the level-headedness of this new generation that wears the LBD with just as much panache as the salwar-suit.

Clothes are after all, just an enhancement of our inner selves, nothing more. Mark Twain was way off the mark when he said Clothes maketh the man; definitely not true for young women, not any more.

 

Linking up with #MondayMusings at Everydaygyan

A loaf of bread and a lesson on ‘receiving’

A loaf of bread and a lesson on ‘receiving’

The other day a friend of mine, who is taking baby steps in baking, got me a freshly baked loaf of bread. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I am exceptionally fortunate when it comes to friends.

I’d have been fine with a slice or two, but she insisted I keep the entire loaf, ‘I baked it specially for the children,’ said she. I felt a little awkward but she insisted. After a bit of a back and forth and a promise that she’d charge me for it I accepted, with a heartfelt thank you. ‘I hope the children enjoy it,’ she added giving me a hug.

We are all a little awkward when it comes to receiving, aren’t we? I know I am. It’s like an obligation which, I feel, I have to repay. That’s the way I was brought up. The idea was ‘If you cannot repay a favour, don’t accept it.’

I grew up meticulously keeping hisaab, refusing favours and always remembering to give back if I did accept something. Receiving made me uncomfortable, a little smaller, perhaps.

We talk of giving all the time and I’m all for it, but isn’t receiving an equally important aspect? There has to be a balance of come kind, I presume. After all there can be no giving without receiving.

Five ways receiving enriches your life Click To Tweet

Here are five ways receiving enriches your life

  • You form an instant connection. Accept a favour and see how quickly you form a bond with the giver.
  • You give the other person the chance to feel good about themselves. Isn’t that just wonderful? That you’re bringing happiness to someone?
  • Oh and conversely, you feel good about yourself too. The fact that someone wants to give you something reinforces your sense of self. After all who would want to give something to someone they don’t quite like?
  • You learn humility because you’re accepting a favour.
  • And you learn gratitude.

 

As moms, parents, adults we are used to giving all the time. It would do us good to sit back and receive for a change. So all of you out there:

  • Receive help. Ask for it and accept it with gratitude.
  • Receive compliments. A simple thank you without putting yourself down does it.
  • Receive gifts, yeah why not?

Accept, without any thought of paying back, simply with an open heart full of gratitude and nothing else.

PS: In case you were wondering, the bread was absolutely scrumptious – soft, flavourful and ‘cinnamony’ with a mild sweetness and nuts and raisins that sprung a delicious surprise in each bite.

Perfect!

 

and with #ChattyBlogs from Shanaya Tales

On my other blog: Beat About The Book

The Bluest Eye #BookReview

The Bluest Eye #BookReview

Book: The Bluest EyeAuthor: Toni Morrison 11-year-old Pecola Breedlove believes she’s ugly. And nothing can change that. Nothing at all. Unless … unless she could trade in her eyes for beautiful blue ones. Now if she had those blue eyes, things would be different; because then, everyone would love her.