As the clock strikes 3 pm, as part of my daily ritual, I put my phone away, shut my laptop and head to the most important place in the house. Streaming directly into my living room, the afternoon sun scorches my verandah. I cannot stand there unless I shield my eyes or wear my shades for protection.
But every weekday, between 3.10 and 3.30 pm, I am there. That’s the window within which Gy returns from school. Her bus trundles up the slope just beyond the block we live in and from my vantage point, I watch as it rumbles and grunts its way to the bus stop at the next building.
As I write this post, I am sitting in one of the best places on earth- my mother’s living room. Gy has ten days off from school due to the festival here in India and a part of me really wanted to get away from it all, after weeks of preparation for exams and other stress-related concerns.
It’s been a week since I got here and it’s positively magical how worry evaporates when I am with my parents. Even as I type this out, my mom is quietly moving about, doing her work, getting things done and attending to her family. Every once in a while she calls me or Gy to help her out with something.
Soaking in the love and warmth of this wonderful person, I realise that there are some incredible lessons I can learn by merely watching her.
Welcome People with Love
The second she knew that we were coming over to stay with her, she swung into action, buying all the food items she knew were our favourites and also setting up the Navarathri golu in preparation for the festival. You’d be surprised at the energy she exudes when it comes to cooking for the family or doing things for the people she loves. (Hint: She loves everyone; something that doesn’t come that readily to me, I confess)
Listen with rapt attention
Whether the person is one year old or ninety-two, she can listen to them with complete attention. I’m amazed at the reserves of patience she must have. But, I think it goes deeper than that. She is truly a person who believes that every person deserves to be heard. So while I may get a tad irritable when it comes to people talking non-stop, (yes, Gy, this means you and yes, I do love you)she will hear them out without a trace of annoyance. No wonder my daughter listens readily to her than she ever does to me.
Feed people with love
Moms appear to come pre-programmed to ensure that every person is well fed. Again, I personally don’t fall into this category. Cooking is one thing I shy away from, mostly because I don’t enjoy it as much as, say, cleaning the house. But my mom? She will ensure that you are eating something every 30 minutes- fruits or green tea or nuts or snacks or. . . you get the picture. Aside: If I come back home a few kilos heavier, you all know it wasn’t in my control.
Speak softly and kindly
I can’t remember the last time she raised her voice, if at all. It makes me wonder how resilient and loving she is, simultaneously. I’m the kind who likes to say something once, repeat it thrice and progressively increase my tone in strictness until it’s obeyed. Suffice to say that works not at all. The only thing it effectively achieves is mutinous glares from my daughter and a sense of tension that hangs in the air between us. Surprisingly, I used to be very soft and very kind too. Maybe becoming a parent has changed me. Time to remind myself of the person I used to be.
Embrace life with excitement
My mom’s close to 60. You wouldn’t think it to look at her. She’s always looked young for her age (a fact that I’ve never really forgiven her for!) But you should see the excitement she expresses for every aspect of life- meeting people, making new dishes, jet setting across town to teach songs and bhajans to people (she’s a singer) or giggling with me and my sister over memories from our childhood, sometimes late into the night. I appear to have forgotten that in this mad rush of work and school and managing life.
Always be ready to learn
My mom calls me up every other day to ask me if I can teach her the newest feature in Whatsapp or how to download a voice recording app or even how to make a dish I learnt from my husband! That child like enthusiasm is something I find significantly lacking in most adults. We are all so bent on saying that we know everything. To admit we don’t know is probably more liberating than we realise. This is one thing I strive for on a daily basis, at least on my professional journey. For this, I credit my mother completely.
At the end of the day, I realise that my best parenting journal has been right by my side all these 38 years, teaching by instruction and action, love and compassion. And it doesn’t take too much effort to be kind, compassionate and loving.
You just have to be open to everything; like my mom.
Life can be a confusing thing, full of paradoxical truths that can startle you out of your complacency.
Just as you think you’ve found yourself and become comfortable with the way you approach people and circumstances, Life rises up and throws you a curve ball. You swing wildly, hoping that by some stroke of luck, you’d manage to connect the bat to that projectile headed your way.
Sometimes it’s a hit. Most times, it’s a miss.
As we have grown through our experiences, which shape our emotions and our reactions, we try and impart a fraction of those to the innocent minds under our care.
Truth #1: The world is both wonderful . . .
. . .and terrible
As you grow older, you’ll find many incredible and beautiful things in this world. They’ll range from the fascinating monuments, buildings and structures built by man to the fabulous reserves of strength, endurance and compassion that you see in people. You’ll find butterflies in the wind, a symphony that you’ll cherish, a person to fall in love with, a walk in the pouring rain and friends you can count on.
But, you’ll also come across bitter squabbles, news of war, terrorism and rape. You’ll realise the truly dark side of humanity on some occasions. Each time, remember all the good things I spoke about earlier. That will help you reconcile both in your heart. And never give up on the world. It’s more resilient than you think.
Truth #2: Be sensitive . . .
. . . except when it threatens to harm you
I was always called a sensitive child and I see the strain of that in you as well. Being sensitive is great because it helps you feel compassion for people, animals and all living things. Sensitivity is a powerful gift and you can learn to be kind, loving and generous.
But being too sensitive to barbs, insults and misdirected anger will harm you. Learn to walk away when things get too painful or argumentative. This isn’t quitting. It’s knowing which battles to fight.
Truth #3: Befriend everyone . . .
. . .but stay wary of their inner devil
Always be open and accepting of people, just as they are. Friends are wonderful support systems when life gets overwhelming. Befriend people for their goodness.
Also be aware that friends can sometimes be hurtful. If they do it repeatedly, take a long, hard look at the relationship and gently sever the ties. Everyone has an inner devil. Some of us hide it better than others.
Truth #4: Be selfless at all times . . .
. . . except when you need to be selfish
Learn to give everything to those who need it: food, clothes, books, hugs, a willing ear and a strong shoulder. You’ll never lose anything when you do any of this.
Sometimes, though, it is important to look after yourself. Know when to draw the line between selflessness and over-exhaustion. Do things for yourself and believe me, this is a good kind of selfishness. It helps you feel selfless once again.
Truth #5: Look up to those who inspire you . . .
. . . but carve your own path
Be open to ideas, discussions and debates. Find role models in the ordinary people around you. Watch as a gardener tirelessly tends to the garden or the teacher who shows up every single day to impart knowledge. Learn from these people the value of hard work.
But, don’t copy or imitate them. Be your own kind of awesome. Chart your own course, try things on your own and make your own history.
In a nutshell,