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Unlocking Happiness in Times of Lockdown

Unlocking Happiness in Times of Lockdown

Dinner is done and the children and Husband have withdrawn to the relative cool of the bedroom. I’m done too as I put away the leftovers and wipe down the kitchen platform.

I glance at the dirty dishes piled up in the sink. We went a little overboard with the cooking tonight, I muse. Dinner was definitely worth it but it resulted in loads of washing up. Even though everyone has done their own dishes, the sink is full.

Washing up after the night’s cooking is the Husband’s responsibility. He’s the first one to wake up each morning and handles the twin tasks of washing and disinfecting the kitchen and dining area.

I know he hates it but I’ve been resolutely turning a blind eye and deaf ear to his deep sighs. These are Covid times and like it or not, everyone needs to pitch in. I’ve become good at assigning chores and am quite enjoying my newly-discovered despotic streak.

Most days the Husband tries to clear the sink at night so he can have a peaceful morning. But tonight, spent from the constant work calls, he’s let it be.

On a whim, I decide to surprise him, even at the risk of exposing a chink in my despot’s armour. I take up the scrubber and begin to do the dishes.

H saunters by for a glass of water. Glances at my soapy hands and the pile before me and walks off. He reappears with a set of headphones, fixes them on my head, tunes them to my playlist on the mac and walks away again.

Vishal Dadlani comes on with the cheerful Kudi nu nachne de (my current favourite) and the chore suddenly seems a chore no more.

Lockdown memories aren’t going to be all bad after all. Do you have a happy #sliceoflife to share too? Tell me about it.

Leaving you with this track that continues to make me smile.

A how-have-you-been post

A how-have-you-been post

How have you been dear friends? How is the Covid-19 lockdown treating you? Are you able to step out at all? It seems surreal, even now, after over a month, that we’ve been housebound this long.

It’s been even longer for us as the children have been home since the end of February, preparing for their exams which ended midway. Needless to say, they were thrilled to bits. Who wouldn’t be, to be free of exams?

Slowly, over time, the thrill has faded as the seriousness of the situation sunk in.

Initially, the little things irked us

… having no home delivery: no milk, no bread, no vegetables everyday; having to limit our forays into the outside world: not being able to go buy a vada pao or a muffin or even a chocolate or a bag of chips, on a whim.

But those are inconsequential

We have come to realise that we’ve had to face no real hardship at all, that we are uncommonly fortunate, privileged even. The Husband made it home just before flights were cancelled as part of the Covid-19 lockdown. We’re ever so grateful to be together and safe.

A month of challenges

That said, it has been a month of challenges of a whole different kind. The Husband hasn’t lived with us this long for years. He is barely acquainted with this teen-version of the twins. The shut doors, the constant headphones, the messy rooms – the whole teenage thing takes him by surprise. While I have had years to reconcile myself to all of it, he has had to absorb it all over the last few days as a crash course in Nirvana. There were days when i thought I’d go crazy with the constant arguments along with the additional pressure of cooking and cleaning and keeping the house running.

A month later, I am glad to report that we’re all still alive. And thriving, I might add. Somedays when we’re sitting at the dining table and the Husband is ribbing the children about something silly and we’re all laughing together, life seems as perfect as it can be under the circumstances. Wars over the TV remote continue to rage, though.

When we watch the news…

..when we see hundreds of thousands of people stranded, away from homes and families, with no income, hopeless and hungry, I am conscious of my privilege evermore. There’s guilt too and helplessness. But we plod on through the days hoping the craziness ends soon.

We have another few weeks to go at least, so stay home dear friends, stay safe.

Choosing your own race

Choosing your own race

Choices are bad. Choices drive you crazy. Choices give you anxiety. Big anxiety.

It’s choices that have been troubling us over the past few months. This coming academic session the children will step into their first Board-exam year. They had to make subject choices and helping them make that decision drove us all to distraction. If you’re wondering why I didn’t simply ask them, tell me, do you really think a 13-year-old is equipped to make a life-decision like this one?

To be fair, it is possible but only for a child who is sorted, who has clear likes and dislikes, a clear path ahead of him. But what of the one who hasn’t yet formed a picture of the path he wishes to tread but can do reasonably well at whatever he takes up? How does he choose?

We’ve been going back and forth over their options in an attempt at selecting the least stressful one while not closing any doors to them later in life. We’ve done career counselling and aptitude tests but in the end the decision is so much more than all of that.

It is tempting to stick to the (generally perceived) educational Holy Trinity of science-maths-computers. Every reasonably decent student does that. And yet I just wasn’t convinced. Part of me argued why a child should study stressful subjects he has no interest in just because he can? Wouldn’t it be better to allow him time to focus on what he truly enjoys? The other part of me wondered if it was too early to close doors by quitting even one of the elements of the Trinity.

Seriously, when it comes to decisions I’m Chidi. From The Good Place. Have you watched it? If you haven’t, suffice it to say that I find making decisions very very hard, specially when it comes to the children, even more when the decisions will have long-term implications on their careers and lives.

Anyhow, based on what they said, taking into account their likes and dislikes, their interest, their aptitude, their attitude, their capacity for hard work, also discounting peer pressure and societal norms and tempering all of that with doses of practicality, we have together made the choice.

Fingers crossed now.

The pressure on the children is incredible. And no matter how cool we are, how much we tell them that grades don’t matter, it doesn’t ring true given the the whole world’s obsession with them. During one long tearful conversation N said as much, ‘No matter what you say,’ she had said, ‘grades matter. Maybe not to you, but they matter to my teachers, to my friends and to everyone else. And so they have to matter to me.’

The race has become only too real. Already.

As parents our goal should be to keep our heads above water, to make sure our children make the correct choices, to ascertain that they don’t get overwhelmed, or give in to panic with this whole ‘It’s-our-first-boards-exam’ thing. That’s what I’m going to do.

We have to try our darndest to help our children stay focussed on their own individual races, rather than joining in the ones laid out by their schools, their peers, the society or even their own siblings.

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.

The magic of four bamboo sticks and a blue plastic sheet #ProjectWhy

The magic of four bamboo sticks and a blue plastic sheet #ProjectWhy

Top post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers 

As a parent I often worry that I’m raising a generation of entitled children who assume the best things are all theirs by right. That’s rather strange for a country like India, considering almost every day we see children who don’t get even a single square meal.

And yet we don’t really ‘see’ them, do we?

To be fair, we do empathise and most of us are lending a hand in various ways. Often, however, one has the will to help yet is at a loss to figure out how. How do we identify a genuine charity? How do we ensure we are supporting the right people? How do we know the aid we’re giving is going to the right people?

Pressures of the daily grind coupled with those doubts push away thoughts of helping out. We go about our daily chores with mental masks blocking out those innocent, dirt-streaked faces craving the basic necessities of life. Unknowingly, we pass on the same indifference to our children.

Then, every once in a while we stumble upon a piece, a conversation, a story that brings it all into focus. Reading Damyanti’s piece here did just that.

This is the story of how a miracle was wrought by four bamboo sticks, a blue plastic sheet and a bagful of good intentions. A garbage dump was converted into a school for children living in slums around the Okhla Industrial Area. Two women Sophiya and Pushpa took up the task of educating them.

This was 2004.

More children came in every day and now the school has 12 teachers, catering to 300 children in classes up to XII. The school also boasts a computer centre.

If that isn’t a miracle what is?

The centre is full of stories of courage where people have gone beyond themselves to help usher in this  change. For instance there’s Mithu who lost both his legs to Polio but hasn’t let that get in his way. Do spare a minute to watch this video.

You can read more about the project here. 

In March 2019, the centre’s funding comes to an end and it is in danger of closing down. If you, like me, are moved by this story, if you feel strongly that each child deserves education, if you want to do your bit to keep this miracle alive, do lend a hand. Drop by the Project Why page on Facebook and consider making a donation.

Also, talk to your children. Tell them about Project Why, about children who’d give the world to be in their shoes. If possible identify a similar school in your vicinity and plan a visit. Help them look beyond themselves. They will benefit almost as much as the children they’re trying to help, perhaps more.

On my other blog: Beat About The Book

Red, White & Royal Blue #BookReview

Red, White & Royal Blue #BookReview

Book: Red, White & Royal BlueAuthor: Casey McQuiston I fell head over heels in love with the endearing premise of this book even before I read it. The love story of the First Son of the United States and the British Prince — the stuff of dreams. So we have two delightful protagonists, Alex and […]