The smell of rain-kissed earth fills my senses as I sit in my living room, typing out this post. It’s a gentle reminder of how life is beautiful, even in the smallest of ways.
Our home’s balcony overlooks the road, the same road that Gy walks down every single day to board her school bus. It’s a bit patchy in places and has more dust than I’d feel comfortable about, but none of this fazes her. She strolls down this path, a friend by her side, occasionally throwing back her head in a hearty laugh at something the other child said. …
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It’s 8.30 p.m. on a school night.
Gy has finished her dinner,brushed her teeth and headed off to her room. An hour earlier she’d prepped everything for school the next morning- her uniform was all laid out and her bags were packed, pencils sharpened to their point.
Wiping the kitchen counter down, I pause for a second and cock my ear to listen for the sound of the light switch being turned off. Not hearing the click, I head quietly to her room and look in. There she is, seated on the bed, her blankets next to her in disarray and her back propped against a pillow as she reads her book borrowed from the library: J.K. Rowling- the wizard behind Harry Potter.
Standing there, I debate between telling her to go to sleep and finishing my chores and then make my decision. Heading to my room, I pick up my copy of Thrive and head back to her room. Nudging her on the shoulder, I ask her to scoot over and with a delighted and surprised expression, she complies. Deftly, she places a pillow for my back and then snuggles up to me, her back resting on my shoulder and we both sit and read in silence for the next 15 minutes.
As the smell of little girl and love wafts over my senses I sigh and rest my head on hers and comment, ‘I like this. We should do this often.’
‘I agree’, she nods and goes back to her book.
Watching the curve of her cheek, I see how she has grown up- from a tiny, chubby bundle to this confident, smart kid who has her wits about her, almost all the time. Choking back a sigh, my lips instead say, ‘I am going to miss you so much when you are all grown up.’
Turning and hugging me, she replies with, ‘That’s many many many years away, Amma. Let’s not worry about the future. This is the present. Let’s enjoy these moments. We will think about the future when it becomes the present.’
Yet again, I’m struck by how we appear to switch roles almost seamlessly- she comforting me, while I plod on through life wondering if my actions are the right ones, if I’ll ever be the mother she deserves.
As her head droops a little from the exhaustion of a long day, I close my book and hers too, gently settling her on the pillows, tucking the blanket under her to make sure she’s warm.
And it warms my heart immensely to affirm that these moments- the quiet, unobtrusive, simple, heartwarming ones- these are the moments that really matter.
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My maid quit six weeks ago. She’d been with me for nearly four years and was one of the kindest and strongest women I’ve had the pleasure to know. But, her health had always been on the weak side and it finally was something she couldn’t ignore. Doctors have advised her to refrain from doing any more housework.
So it was with a bit of trepidation that I welcomed the new maid who landed up one morning in January to take the old one’s place. The new lady is quiet, goes about her tasks dutifully but did seem a bit alarmed at the idea of doing laundry. Not wishing to lose good hired help, it fell to my lot to go back to doing laundry, a task my other maid had been doing for all this time.
At first, I resented the fact that I was losing a good chunk of time doing laundry when I could be so much more productive with other things. Slowly, though, I began to embrace it the way I used to, before I had handed the reins of this job over to another person.
This week alone, I’ve found it very helpful with two things: Dealing with being part of the sandwich generation and coming to terms with who I am as a person/writer/blogger.
It’s a known fact that as parents, we’re supposed to be the strong ones, for our kids’ sake. After a while, it’s almost as if we’re responding on auto-pilot when they need a hug or a kiss to make things better for them, because we’ve grown into that role of the caregiver who knows what to say or do. What happens, though, when a parent exhibits frailty?
My mom, one of the strongest people I know, emotionally and otherwise, called me yesterday and from the sound of her voice, I knew she was choking back tears. The ‘maternal’ instinct woke up inside me and I asked what was wrong. Turns out she had a terrible toothache and the pain was more than she could bear. The painkillers weren’t helping either. It was all I could do to not grab my keys and start the 30 km drive over to her place, but she’d anticipated that and assured me that she’d be fine.
I just wanted to hear your voice, she sniffed. My mom.
Wait a minute. I’m supposed to say that! Not her! Yet, here I was, a woman 20 years younger donning the role of caretaker. After the first instinct of worry dissipated, I soothed her, told her to try and lie down, maybe apply some clove oil if she had any and call/message me again if the pain didn’t die down.
After this, I pulled out the stack of clean laundry and proceeded to fold each piece of clothing. As I did, my mind calmed down from the fluttering state it had inhabited and infused me with a deeper understanding of an important truth.
The more relationships change, the more they stay the same.
It appeared quite clear that as a member of the sandwich generation, I’m going to be taking care of two sets of needs at all times: my child’s and my parents’. Practising mindfulness, even with the simply mundane tasks of folding laundry can help me stay centred about what I am capable of doing.
Additionally, as I put away the last neatly creased shirt into the wardrobe, an important thought struck me. This is me: the calm, relaxed me; the one who gets pleasure by simply putting away clean clothes. I don’t need much to make myself happy.
I’m happy doing what I do- be it blog or write or work at my job or giggle with my daughter or listen to my favourite songs on the radio or share that with friends and family or even cook a really bad gravy dish which needs extra salt (most of the time).
And that’s perfectly fine.
I may never live up to the ideal of the ideal blogger or the perfect mom who ensures that her child only has healthy, organic food in her snack box, but I am happy. I may be the tardiest when it comes to replying to messages on Whatsapp and I may not agree with every single thing that I read online.
But, I am happy. In this moment, in this incredibly mindful moment, I am happy.
Sometimes, it takes the simple act of folding laundry to unlock the emotions inside.
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There are far more than 5 things that I miss from my childhood but it’s good to start somewhere, so why not with five?
This morning, Gy and I decided to walk down to a breakfast joint not too far from home. Ordinarily, I would have taken out my trusty scooter and been there in under 2 minutes, but the morning was welcoming and lazy enough for us to stroll hand in hand down the street, work up an appetite and savour the taste of hot masala dosas right off the tava.
As we walked back home, our thoughts on the just-finished meal and our eyes taking in the sights by the side of the road, Gy stopped ever so often to point out something in excitement. First, it was a black and white mongrel who trotted ahead of us and looked so carefree. Next it was a capricious little yellow butterfly that flitted around us , teasing us with her dance of abandon. Finally, it was the most adventurous little squirrel who darted swiftly and bounded across walls in an attempt to eat up all the grains at his disposal. We stopped and gazed at him in delight as his tiny paws held up something to his eager mouth which worked like a dynamo, relishing the food.Walking the rest of the way home, my mind harked back to things from my childhood which are either redundant or extinct today. Oh, they exist all right, but they seemingly have little practical value.
This was one of my most prized possessions. I recall having one at every stage of life. Jumping out of bed to switch it off, changing the battery when it slowed down and just looking at it through the day made me feel so grounded and in the moment.
Today, my smartphone has an inbuilt alarm clock, with multiple recurring alarms. It’s just not the same thing.
I must have been in grade 7 when I first laid hands on a scientific calculator. My dad bought me one after my final exam since it was finally mandated as a part of the syllabus. It was a thrill to punch in numbers, watch the magic of addition and complex division come together to give us the answer.
Today, my smartphone has an inbuilt calculator. The charm is gone.
This is one of the things I miss the most! Walking down the street to post a letter, an inland card, a postcard, an aerogramme, oh the sheer joy is indescribable! It was also one reason I did the snail mail challenge with my blogging group, an act that was received with much favour!
Today, I can send an e-mail using my smartphone. It’s instant, it’s lightning fast and the recipient receives it immediately. There’s something a bit unsettling about that.
It’s probably silly but I used to wait eagerly for the monthly edition of Reader’s Digest to come home in the post and then settle down to read all the jokes first before flipping to read the articles! A magazine was also very treasured because of the glossy paper that was used for the pages (not very eco-friendly, I’ll admit), which came in handy to cover books that we were really fond of.
Today, I can read any magazine on my smartphone. As an added problem, I can’t use them to cover any books now. Sigh.
A fixed line telephone
To be honest, I still have a land line at home. I still use it to make phone calls, but it works more as a convenient option rather than the only available solution. Long calls without worry of radiation, smothered giggles exchanged with girlfriends, heart-to-heart conversations with that one true love of your life, ah, the memories are unending.
Today, I have a smartphone. Somehow, I don’t feel so smart though.
You may wonder why I give credence to things, these material objects, in an age where we are moving forward and away from material pursuits, minimalist living and evolved life experiences.
Truth be told, I find that some of my best memories of life were formulated at a time when I had these simple and easy things to lay my hands on. It is also one of the primary reasons I keep Gy away from devices like the smartphone, the Tablet, the computer and the TV. She uses them all, but minimally and with supervision.
Today, we have every convenience imaginable but life is so very complicated.I think I know what I miss the most- the fact that life was actually pretty simple back then.
Did you grow up in a time when these things held importance?
Do you miss them too or do you find life simpler now?
(*All images used courtesy Pixabay under No Attribution license)
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