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The gift that keeps giving

The gift that keeps giving

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.

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Important Life Lessons from my Mother

Important Life Lessons from my Mother

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.

Life Lessons_Mom_Love_Shailaja

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.

***

Images courtesy Shutterstock: Mom and Love

5 Paradoxical Truths I’m teaching my Daughter

5 Paradoxical Truths I’m teaching my Daughter

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,

Be Yourself

Things you should remember

Image courtesy: Truth via Shutterstock
A Strange Kind of Grief

A Strange Kind of Grief

Some pieces are hard to write. I should know. I’ve been trying to get this post published for almost a week now. I know how it feels. I’m a mom, after all.

Joy

I’ve known the nine months of endurance, of the way I had to waddle around in four of those months, of checking my blood sugar levels every day since I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes.

There are things I remember with shocking clarity: being rushed to the hospital twice: once in the third month and again in the fifth month, because the baby appeared to be in distress. Both times, my anxious family hovered outside the waiting room, pacing up and down and then sighed in relief as the obstetrician came out to confirm that the baby and the mother were fine. It had probably just been some mild bruising in the uterus which had caused it.

I recall exhaling with relief as I heard that and tears welling up in my eyes as I saw the tiny sac move around on the ultrasound after both scares.

9.20 pm, Monday, July 17th

My shrieks rent the air and coupled almost miraculously with the first wail of the most incredibly beautiful thing I’ve ever held in my arms. Pink, wide-eyed and curious, I held Gy in my arms for the first time. Pain and pleasure have never been more alive than in that particular moment. As long as I live, it will be embedded in that corner of long-term memory, forever retrievable, eternally precious.

Somewhere I knew that this was meant to be. Me and her- bound inextricably, come what may.

I never believed that I’d yearn for something as much as I did before I conceived Gy. Many doctors had seen me prior to that. The diagnosis, although worded differently, was unanimously negative.

“You have PCOD. It’s very difficult.”

“You could try fertility treatments. But they’re not always effective.”

‘Try this procedure. I can tell you what’s wrong.” (It did nothing but cause agony)

“You may have to consider never having a child.”

“You’re overweight. Maybe that’s the reason.”

After giving up hope and accepting that this was what it would be, V and I were shocked to see the pregnancy test turn positive in November 2005.  Miracles do happen. There IS a God!

Almost as if in a daze and except for a couple of scares, the pregnancy went smoothly and we have this amazing bundle of joy and exasperation called Gy, 10 years later.

Grief

February 2010

I stared at the pregnancy test in a mixture of disbelief and joy. It was there. The positive! I rushed to tell V and we smiled, thinking of the sibling that Gy would pamper with all her love and ‘older sister’ attitude. I began to plan how to save up all of Gy’s baby clothes and wash them, put them away for the baby to use. Toys! Oh, she/he would love those tiny board books and the animal-song toy from Fisher Price that drove me nuts!

The doctor saw me, congratulated us and asked me to meet her 2 weeks later. I came home, beaming with a glow on my face at 12.30 pm.

By 4 pm, it began. The cramps hit me in waves and I couldn’t stand. I decided to lie down but that’s when the unthinkable happened. The pain got worse and so did the slow, determined loss of a baby I hadn’t even managed to hold in my arms or my womb for more than a few hours.

I lay down, hoping that by some miraculous last-ditch effort, I could stop this baby from leaving my side. But it wasn’t to be.

A chemical pregnancy.

The doctor’s voice sounded hollow as she tried to help me cope with the loss. Numb, I sat there and chided myself: This isn’t a miscarriage. It’s not a loss. People have gone through worse. Don’t you dare give in to this and make yourself a martyr. How can you lose something you never had? Stop feeling so sorry for yourself. Get over it.

But, there are days when the heart doesn’t listen to the head. A loss is a loss.

I love having a sister with whom I can talk about anything under the sun, gang up against my folks and celebrate the whole sisterhood thing. I just know that Gy would have enjoyed it, perhaps far more than I would have. She’s such a people person and thrives in sharing every minute detail of her existence with me. Imagine what she would have done with a sibling.

I wrote a note about it a while ago and while many people empathised, there were those who scorned my pain. Attention seeker! Holier-than-thou mom! Weakest person ever! These were some of the nicer epithets thrown my way.

I’m human. I don’t begrudge people their happiness and I try to feel compassion for their pain. Perhaps it’s too much to always expect the same in return.

Coping

As the years pass between the incident and my memory of it, you’d think the pain would abate. You’d assume it would all evaporate in the humdrum existence that we inhabit.

But it doesn’t. In ever so tiny ways, it ruptures that suppressed membrane of feeling and thrusts itself to the surface. And just like that, every second of those 48 hours plays itself back in excruciating slow motion.

So, I try to distract myself with chores, work, blogging, writing, talking to friends, even laundry if that means I don’t have to relive that experience in my head all over again.

Most days, it works. Other days, it’s a mechanical way of going through the motions of life, without stopping or pausing to let the pain touch you for longer than necessary.

Then, I cry.

And in that moment, I am that woman who lost a baby. All over again.

The people you miss

***

Featured image via Shutterstock

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