Akash the brave Bengal Tiger


It’s decluttering time in our home this month, and I shudder at the number of things we have managed to hoard since the last declutter. Each room presents a different challenge. The process can quickly become irritating if one realizes one’s inherent hoarding potential – something I seem to possess in abundance.

Having said that, decluttering is also a journey into the past. Pulling out old clothes, books, stationery, devices, cards and photographs is a pleasurable experience – if and only if one has the time and the inclination to take on this never-ending and challenging task.

But that’s not what this blog is about. During this journey towards a minimalistic life, I chanced upon an old stuffed toy – a beautiful, white Bengal Tiger.

Akash, the white tiger, entered our lives when our daughter turned one. He was her constant companion, resting on her shoulder or peeking from the crook of her arm. He was all important. He heard her secrets, and offered her comfort when she cried or when she hurt herself. He was always next to her pillow, watching over her.

Meet Akash the brave

As my daughter grew older, Akash’s role as protector and counsellor diminished. However, he still occupied pride of place on my daughter’s bookshelf. And he sits there to this day, faded with age and enjoying his retirement.

I pick him up to dust him. And it hits me then – my nest is partially empty. He reminds me of wonderful days spent with my daughter. He reminds me of the swift passage of time.

I hug him! Now, I am the one who seeks comfort from Akash the brave Bengal Tiger. And he plays his role to perfection.

Virtual sands of time


It is the twilight hour. I stand on the balcony and observe the world outside. The world is slowly being enveloped in the dark purple of night. I turn around and look indoors. Warm yellow light fills our living room. My husband is on a work-related call, my son is finishing up his homework and my daughter is attending classes in her room.

The dining table is set for dinner. I wait patiently for all of them to log off from their virtual lives and log in to family time.

With all family members at home all the time, there is a false feeling that we are spending a lot of time with each other. In fact, we walk around the house leading our own lives, not engaging in quality family time.

I think back to the family holidays we took before the pandemic. Whenever we went to a beach, we would all imprint our footprints on partially wet sand, along with the date. A simple, cute memory of lovely times spent with family. There are many such pictures of our footprints on the sands of time. And just after we took those pictures, the waves would come and wash them away, and we would run back laughing.

How things have changed!

I head back in. All of us are done for the day. We head to the dining table to eat.

And just after dinner, and before everyone slinks away, I order a family hug. My teens react with incredulous looks and awkward smiles. They ask if a hug is really required. I insist. And the four of us gather around for a family hug. We fall into a beautiful silence. That hug, just 10 seconds long, rejuvenates all of us, though the kids will never admit it.

No footprints on the sands for now, but the hug will do quite nicely till then.

Healthy clothes


It is yet another humid afternoon in the tropics. My phone buzzes, and I pick it up excitedly. It’s my sister. Soon we are both in that land that sisters inhabit, where conversations can morph from being serious to being silly in a mere second; where we can break into song or seamlessly glide into an argument with each other!!!

Soon, my little niece walks in and seats herself on my sister’s lap. She has just woken up from her mid-morning nap, and looks refreshed and cheerful.

She is wearing a white frock, on which are embroidered various colourful fruits. When I ask her about them, she pretends to pluck at them and feeds me fruit and says cutely, “Pemma, eat.”

I make chomping noises, and she giggles. And this game goes on for sometime. My niece soon gets distracted by a dog, and goes away to watch it from the balcony.

My sister then shares a funny incident that happened earlier this week.

With everyone working from home, my sister had given my niece a box of dates, and had asked her to transfer the dates from that box into another one. After a while, my sister was completely caught up in her work, and quite forgot about both the dates and the boxes.

Photo by Naim Benjelloun from Pexels

Later in the evening, when she took out a load of washed laundry from the washing machine, she found specks of brown on most of the clothes. She tried to figure out what the brown flakes were, but could not.

A couple of days later, when she wanted some dates and looked for the box, she found that it was empty. She called my niece, and asked her where she had put the dates.

My niece walked to the washing machine, and said, “Me put here.”

My sister burst out laughing! The healthy clothes had to be washed again. Sigh!

The lullaby bond


Earlier today, I chanced upon a physical photograph from our children’s childhood archives. My husband and I have been meaning to digitize all these pics some day, but that day is yet to arrive.

The photo brought a smile to my face, as it was a top angle picture of my daughter gurgling inside her cloth hammock cradle, taken when she was a chubby six month old baby.

The cloth hammock was baby- pink in colour and made of netted cloth. It was attached to a spring, and suspended from a strong hook on the ceiling in my daughter’s room.

Image courtesy – http://www.shutterstock.com

My daughter was a light sleeper, and would wake up at the slightest sound. My husband and I were permanently sleep deprived, and took turns to carry the baby, sing to her or rock her in the hammock.

I had a few lullabies that I had in stock as I rocked the cradle. And, when I felt that my daughter had gone to sleep, I would try to slowly walk away, but I don’t remember ever reaching the door without her gurgling and announcing that she was still wide awake.

Then my husband would give it a shot, and on it went. But on many such nights, when both of us were weary from a long day, and had to leave for work early the next morning, my dear father in law would tell us, “Why don’t you both catch a few winks, I will rock the hammock.”

And even before he completed his sentence, my husband and I would slink away, our hearts filled with gratitude for his help and love.

While for us, the parents, it was one of our duties in child rearing, for my father in law it was a pleasurable activity, as he woud talk or sing to his granddaughter with absolute joy.

The first deep bonds of love between granddad and granddaughter were sown then, as they had late night chats and gurgled to each other. And whenever my father in law paused his singing or talking, my daughter would say “hmmmmm” loudly, as if asking why he had stopped talking to her. And with delighted laughter, my father in law would resume the conversation again.

Truly precious memories!!

Lessons in parenting


A few months ago, when life was normal and busy, and when weekends meant dinner with friends or extended family, we had friends over for dinner one evening.

After a sumptuous dinner, we settled down in the living room, some of us stretched out on the couch, some of us on the floor – totally comfortable in the company of friends we had known for a long time.

Our conversation meandered down the alleys of the past, and into the unknown alleys of the future. At one point, the discussion turned to past holidays and vacations, and as we dug into our desserts, we laughed and enjoyed the various anecdotes from past holidays.

And then, suddenly, my daughter chipped in. She narrated an incident that happened when she was about 8 years old, when we had gone on a short cruise.

In one of the places where the ship docked, we were taken on a sightseeing tour in the afternoon. One of the attractions was an elephant show. All of us were totally engrossed in the show, and admired the elephants and their grace.

One of the items on the show was a ‘baby elephant massage’. The organizers asked for kids who wanted to volunteer.

My daughter hesitated, but I was so excited that I raised her hand. The trainer picked my daughter to be the privileged one to receive a massage from the baby elephant.

Photo by Adriaan Greyling from Pexels

Things moved very quickly after that, and before we knew it, our little daughter was lying on a mat, and the baby elephant was brought in.

Everyone clapped and cheered, and we did too. We took pictures and cheered our daughter.

Cut to our dinner…. I watched my daughter narrate the incident, and she said, “Can you believe it? Mom volunteered my hand, and before I knew it I was watching a baby elephant towering over me, and I closed my eyes in sheer nervousness. But it worked out ok in the end.”

All of us had a good laugh. But, only now, after nearly a decade, it hits me that I was so excited that I had pushed my daughter to do something that I thought was fun, and that may have been scary or uninteresting to her.

And when I think about it, I realize that sometimes, as parents, we consciously or unconsciously push our kids to do things which we would have liked to do or which we had dreamt about as kids.

While we do have to push our kids at times for the right things, sometimes it is nice to stop and think before volunteering a nervous eight year old for a baby elephant massage.

Lesson learnt after many years!!!

The Mom Blueprint version 2.0


Every mom views herself as that all-important go to person for her children. From the moment she holds a tiny, bawling baby in her hands, every mom is finely attuned to her child’s needs. As her child grows, the mom becomes adept at gauging the child’s moods, its likes and dislikes, and the many hundred things that she instinctively knows about her child. Being a keen observer, every mom pre-empts most problems, and has a range of solutions to help her children. I am no exception to this Mom Blueprint!

After dinner this evening, my son and I were exchanging small talk. He then talked about how he had not completed a few projects and pending tasks, and worried about whether he would finish them on time.

Click! The Mom Blueprint kicked into action. I gave him a few options, I suggested a possible schedule, I also gave him a pep talk about staying focused and that he could do it etc.

Courtesy – http://www.pexels.com

It took me a couple of minutes to realize that my son was staring at me without nodding or agreeing with my inspirational talk and clear-cut solution. I asked him what the matter was? Pat came the reply, “Mom, I didn’t come to you for a solution to my problem. I just wanted to rant. You don’t need to solve all my problems, mom.”

My daughter, who was supposed to be immersed in her work, suddenly joined the conversation and strongly agreed with her brother. “Mom, chill. I am sure he can manage this.”

Hmmm. That was a first. Another milestone reached as a mom; where I have transitioned from an active problem-solver to a passive-observer. I hope I have done my job well, and have taught my kids all the most important lessons, as they go out into the world and face life’s many challenges. I have to apply to Mom Blueprint Version 2.0, and acquire a whole new skillset now.

Wake up!


Parents from around the world have different parenting tricks up their sleeves. Tricks that have been honed to perfection, through repeated testing on their offspring.

One of the most successful parenting tricks is the one that gets kids out of bed in the morning. I have heard many stories about parents in the tropics, who would switch off the fan or the aircon, and then allow the intense humidity to engulf the sleeping- innocents and jolt them awake. Parents in cold climes would probably snatch the blanket to get the kids to wake up.

My Dad was a strict disciplinarian, and when we would hear his footsteps approaching, we would usually know that it was time to wake up. He would say ‘Wakey, wakey’, in a cheerful voice, and we would groan, ‘Morning Dad’ and wish that he would leave the room, so that we could sneak in some more shut eye.

Only when I became a mom of school-going children did I realize that every parent needs to have a strong ‘waking-the-kids-up-skill-set’ – an arsenal of various tricks – good and mean, cheerful and stern, loving and angry. And on any particular day, the parent has to use the best mix to goad the children out of bed.

Courtesy – http://www.pexals.com

This morning, when it is time to wake the kids up, I decide on a cheerful morning wake up call. I decide to whistle like a bird, interspersed with wake up, wake up in the same tone. My daughter groans and buries herself into her pillow. My son is woken by this musical bird sound and looks really irritated. He says, “Mom, can you stop that sound, please? It is really loud.” And then my ever-considerate son looks at me with half open eyes, and feels maybe that he has hurt his mom, and says, “It was quite melodious actually, only that it was loud.” I laugh and give him a bear hug.

Without skipping a beat, he says, “What’s for breakfast mom? I am famished.” I head to the kitchen to start my work. Another day begins. It is business as usual.

A pair of black pumps


I am peering at my laptop screen, my eyebrows furrowed in concentration, trying to comprehend what I am reading.

My phone is on silent mode, but from the corner of my eye I can see the screen lighting up – it’s a call from my daughter.

She is out shopping with my niece for a formal event at school.

I pick up the call. She says, “Amma, I’ve sent you some pictures of formal footwear. I have marked the ones I really like, I am unable to make up my mind. Please see if they are ok.”

I quickly open my messages to check. The black pumps that my daughter seems to like look elegant, but I am worried about the height of the heel.

Image courtesy – http://www.shutterstock.com

My daughter has never worn heels before. I call her and ask her if she’d tried them on and if they were comfortable. She replies in the affirmative and says, “I have to get used to them, Amma.”

Motherly love and practical concerns about posture and back pain run through my head, but I realize that I have to let go.

In a few hours, she comes home, bubbly from all that shopping. She puts on her pumps and walks up and down the living room.

She suddenly looks so tall. She walks – awkwardly at first, and then finds her rhythm. There is the odd, shaky step where she fumbles for balance, but she manages. Up and down she goes, getting more confident with each step.

As I watch her, I walk down memory lane to the time when she was a baby. I was at work one afternoon, when my father-in-law called to tell me that my daughter had taken her first steps, his voice suffused with excitement.

I remember rushing back home from work that evening, eager to see this little miracle for myself. But, it was another two days before my daughter attempted to walk again.

And then, over the next few days, she would constantly attempt to get from one place to another – wobbling and stumbling frequently. I stood and watched, clapping and encouraging her each time she made it from one sofa to another, or from the living room to the study.

I come back to the present. Nothing seems to have changed. Time seems to stand still. And just as I did then, I let go now, so that my daughter can walk into the world confidently.

Mom-paedia


I have just gone in to take a shower. My son seems to have this uncanny ability of sensing this precise moment, and chooses it to ask questions across the closed door – over the gushing sounds of the shower water.

There is a sharp knock. I pretend not to hear it. My son repeatedly hollers, “Mom, mom”, till I give in and answer wearily.

“Mom, where is the cordless phone?” asks my son. I tell him that it must have gotten wedged between the two seats of our sofa.

I come out of the shower, and in just a few minutes, my daughter asks me if I know where one of her workbooks is! Sigh!

And this is an integral part of being a mother – the skill of knowing where every article in our home is at any point in time. But, I do also know that every mom is blessed with some form of sophisticated MOM-GPS that thankfully helps her remember and identify the precise location of her daughter’s favourite hoodie, or her son’s graph notebook that has mysteriously disappeared from his school bag, and the hundred other things that go missing in the house.

And then again, most moms are also walking Mompaedias, for they need to answer questions that straddle many levels. From answering questions about why rainbows are formed to answering questions about the purpose of life (to a teenager), to answering questions about fashion, which are immediately deemed as being outdated, to answering questions about the little bird that visits the plants on the balcony – a mom needs to have answers to simply everything.

A mom also knows that while her sub-ten year old will cling on to her every word, her teenager will probably listen with a disinterested look, or with an expression that says, ‘Can’t wait for you to finish, mom’.

But from all these years as a mom, I do know that children listen, even when they don’t want to be seen as listening. They watch and they learn.

And they do love their moms, for no one in the world could take her place. When she is not around, they even miss her nagging. The energy of the house is pure mom. And come Mother’s Day every year, they pack all their love into their lovely cards and gifts, and make the day super special for her.

My daughter has already given me a beautiful coffee mug; my son is giving me knowing and secret smiles, and is slinking from one room to another, planning his big surprise.

There was a time, not many years ago, when the excitement of keeping the mother’s day gift a surprise was too much to bear for my son. But he has now transformed into this big boy, who is able to keep secrets.

So, I wait patiently.

I think of my journey as a mother and what it has meant to me. I realize that this is a love so deep, which only keeps growing with time. I wonder how one heart can hold so much love. But that is who a mother is – every pore of hers filled with love. A love that comes camouflaged in many flavours – happy, sad, silly, proud, angry, irritated and nagging, but all of them mere manifestations of that one all- encompassing love.

Happy Mother’s Day to you all.

Image courtesy – http://www.pinterest.com

Change


It was a Friday evening, a few evenings ago, and my kids were home, ensconced in their rooms. I walked around the house, clearing and putting away stuff, room by room. I suddenly looked out of the window, and was stopped in my tracks.

The late evening sky was a breathtaking sight. Trees were silhouetted against a canvas of pinkish-orange; a shade that defied description. I felt transported to another world. Time seemed to stand still. How did I miss this, all these days? Did this magic happen everyday? I was sure it did.

Sometimes work pressure and chores take over your life; where there is simply no choice except to run this race and get things done.

Cut to a few days later, another Friday evening. Mother Nature gets busy, she is racing too. She has no time to show case her verdant beauty. The skies open up and heavy rain lashes all through the week. Rumbling thunder and lightning take turns to make announcements.

I watch this spectacle from my bedroom window. Lashing rain that splatters forcefully on the windows; raindrops who seem to surrender all their energy to the window and slide weakly down the glass in thin streams, joining their brethren in rapidly forming puddles.

I realize that nature has her busy and calm periods, her emotional and peaceful moments too!

Soon, my husband walks in; a spring in his step simply because it is the weekend. He asks if we can go out for dinner?

I am game. The kids…..they want to order-in and do their own thing. The rain has stopped, and the rays of the late evening sun are draped across the sky.

So, it is just us in the restaurant, the kids have ordered pizza at home. We laugh incredulously. There was a time just after marriage when we went out like this, then came the phase when we stayed home and ordered-in for ourselves and cooked healthy meals for the kids at home.

Then came the phase, when we went exploring the world with our kids, from insects to animals to the sky to toys to the movies; when we took them to restaurants and helped them try new foods. We learnt more about them, their preferences and their behaviour and likened it to ourselves and genetics.

Then, now, this! Where the kids are ordering-in and we are out. We talk about this and laugh, we also know deep inside that this will be the norm a few years from now. We talk about our day and the conversation veers back to the children. We laugh and joke about it, but that’s the truth. Because that’s what gives us meaning and purpose.

When we walk out, the skies have opened up again. There is a steady downpour, and lightning streaks illuminate the sky in bursts – now here, now there.

The wipers in the car work overtime to give us a clear view, but the raindrops continue to fall relentlessly.

Everything is constantly changing, the rain, the sun, the children, their parents…..!

We head back home. The evening quickly flies away.

My pedometer shows 10500 steps, but when the clock strikes twelve, even that will change and will be reset to zero.

Another day will begin, filled with hope, possibilities and more changes.