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.

MMS


The sibling justice system is an ancient one, with its own laws and by-laws, defying common, every day logic. It is a system like no other, which morphs itself often to suit sibling convenience.

These laws were in evidence in our home last week, as my kids had had a fight. And as I was to find out, over something so silly that I shook my head in disbelief. So, the silly fight simmered through our rooms, words clashed, apologies were demanded, none were given and multiple eruptions happened that evening.

And then there was an eerie silence, the siblings had descended into a cold war. They looked past each other, ignored each other and stopped talking to each other. My husband and I intervened, but the cold war froze us in our tracks. And as all wise parents know, we adopted the best course of action by letting them be.

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

However, this cold war brought about some unexpected challenges. Both warring factions started referring to the other as ‘You know who’!

Though they did not talk to each other, they constantly sent messages to each other. Enter yours truly – Mom’s Messenger Service – MMS. All through the week, I patiently carried messages between the two warring factions – a neutral messenger, without passing any comment or judgement.

Finally, a couple of days ago, when I got home from the supermarket, I realized that both kids were in the kitchen, chattering as usual and discussing the merits of chocolate and ice-cream.

I smiled. Another sibling fight in history had just ended, till the next time. And as I put away the groceries, I remember all the fights and petty squabbles I had with my sisters over pencils, pens, food, pillows, books and over everything and nothing.

This sibling saga will continue and so will the MMS!

Ain’t so cool!


I got this picture on our family group a few days ago. My little niece is able to stand now, and one of her very first projects was to check out the refrigerator.

In her earlier crawling phase, my niece would smile and gurgle in delight if she was in the vicinity when the door of the refrigerator was opened. But now, she is able to hold on to things and walk, and she heads to the refrigerator often, pointing out and babbling her intentions to her parents.

At 1 year, she looks at each object with fascination. She touches the cold tomatoes and the glass bottles. She tries to pull things out. Her parents are on alert, allowing her to explore this new world, while also ensuring that she is safe. Everything inside the refrigerator is exciting – the colours, the textures and the cold air.

Cut to the scene in my house. My kids are also frequent visitors to our refrigerator. After all, it serves as a pit stop for them during their hectic day, when they seek rejuvenation of both their spirit and their energy.

My kids open the refrigerator. They see its fully stocked insides. They rummage through each rack; they open the freezer. They explore all the sauces and bottles on the door. They can see fresh fruit, some snacks, cans of juice, chocolate and Indian sweets. They cluck in exasperation. “Mooooooommmmmm”, they holler, “…is there anything interesting to eat?”

I deliberately point out all the edible snacks they can devour, but none of them seem to pass muster. And reluctantly, they make their choice from what’s available, muttering to each other that there’s nothing interesting to eat EVER.

What a contrast between the two age groups. Sigh! And as every mom with teenagers knows, this cycle is on autoloop, and the ending will always be the same. I quietly go back to what I was doing.

Trapped!


The roads are jammed, and most drivers have switched off their engines. I stare absently at the scene outside. An old lady is standing under a bus shelter. As I watch, she pulls out something from the waistband of her saree. It is a small cloth bag of the drawstring variety. She rummages inside and pulls out a few betel leaves and pieces of broken areca nut. She patiently tears the leaves and folds them, places the areca nut in the center, and puts it into her mouth. Her eyes have a faraway look, as her hands tighten the drawstring pouch and tuck it back into her waistband. She chews the leaves, and is deep in thought.

I watch in fascination.

A young girl soon joins the old lady. She is in her teens. As I watch, she stretches her arm into her bag, and pulls out her smartphone. She is soon completely absorbed in her own world!

I laugh at this contrast.

The old lady has stopped pondering. She looks around now, and looks at the young lady, who is completely oblivious to the goings-on around her; her neck bent at an awkward angle.

This makes me think. When did we become this way? When did we stop looking out at the world? When did we trap the world into a smartscreen and start looking for all solutions in that small screen. Instead of looking out and going out into the world, we have brought the world into our palms, to the point where we don’t need anyone or anything else to keep us occupied.

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

As I watch, the old lady chews her leaves and watches the world curiously. Her eyes fall on me. She smiles – a toothless smile, her mouth stained by the red of the betel leaves.

I smile back. There is still hope!

Expressionless parenting


We were out for dinner last night at a restaurant in the vicinity. My son brought along a book to read. We were like any other family, having bursts of conversation peppered with arguments, and then moments of comfortable silence.

As we waited for our food to arrive, we lapsed into one of those silences. When I caught my husband’s eye, he signalled with his eyes, to someone or something behind me. 

When I turned around to look, it was the cutest little girl (maybe five years old), in a pretty pink frock, who was standing away from the table that her parents sat at, looking so angry and adorably sweet all at once.

She had her arms tightly wrapped around her body. Watching her furrowed eyebrows and pointed stares at her parents, we couldn’t help but smile. The parents ignored her, and got busy with their starters. She stood her ground, our little girl.



Courtesy – iStock

My husband and I walked down memory lane, remembering our kids behaving in a similar fashion, and throwing a tantrum or two. Times when we had also sat stone-faced, trying to teach great lessons to our children by not giving in to their demands.

Children grow up, but some things don’t change. The only difference now is that my kids do not leave the table or strike a pose to convey their displeasure.  Now, we have to contend with silent rebellion and rolling eyes.

As parents, we still sit with expressionless faces!

As for the little girl, the only concession she made was that she had moved closer to the table. Maybe she would reach the table when her hunger finally overpowered her annoyance. 

Lipsticks and little girls


It was a sweltering day, many years ago, when we had the naming ceremony for my baby girl, who was only 3 weeks old.  My mom’s home was teeming with aunts, uncles, cousins and little nieces and nephews, all of whom had come to bless and welcome our little bundle of joy.

I received hundreds of tips on being a mother, and hundred ‘must-know’ things about child rearing, and a dozen versions of who my baby resembled in the family. It was a normal, Indian family celebration.

I was a little tired by the afternoon, and when my mom caught my eye and realized that I was tired, she signalled for me to go in and take a quick nap. I slipped away, unnoticed.

I went and lay down, my eyes closing involuntarily. While still asleep, I heard something. I opened my eyes and realized that one of my nieces was in the room, before the dresser mirror.

I could see her reflection in the mirror, as she made faces at herself, and then tried on one of the lipsticks. Gently opening the tube, she used her finger to apply a dark maroon lipstick on her lips. I could imagine how good and beautiful she felt. After sometime, she quietely slipped out of the room.

Image courtesy – Shutterstock

I laughed, fully awake by then. I remembered how, as a little girl, my favourite game was to play ‘teacher’. The role demanded that I have long hair, and that I wear lipstick.

The hair problem was easily resolved. I found a piece of black cloth from my mom’s sewing kit and tied it around my hair, allowing the black cloth hair to fall over my shoulders to  the front. My students ‘had’ to see my long hair.

The lipstick posed a problem. My mom did not use lipstick, neither did my aunt. But my teachers at school wore lipstick, so I needed to wear lipstick to look authentic. Then I hit upon the idea of using the red liquid that Indian women use to wear bindis (the dots on the forehead). This was available in abundance, so during the afternoons when my gran, aunt and mom napped, I applied generous amounts of red on my lips and taught and educated many children every afternoon.

Lipsticks and makeup were forgotten till high school and university, when my mom gifted me my own lipstick for my birthday. I still remember its shade, copper brown. I still wonder how my mom knew what would look good on me! I used that tube till there was nothing left. 

After that first tube, lipsticks became a part of my life, and over the years I have tried many shades, and have settled on a few that suit me well.

A few years ago, when my son had his school concert, the little girls in his class were all dressed up like pretty dolls and fairies. However, a few girls had their lips in a weird kind of pout. On asking their moms, I found out that the girls had worn lipstick for the first time, and that they did not want for it to go away. I remember how much I laughed that day.

Now, my daughter grimaces when I talk about makeup or lipstick or accessories. She is ‘at home’ in her jeans and tees.

I smile as I look into the future, when my daughter will want to try on lipsticks and makeup. She just doesn’t know it yet!

Mom observations


On my walk this morning, I saw a four year old girl and her mother. They were holding hands and were probably walking to school. The little girl was singing a nursery rhyme and the mom was singing along with gusto, totally oblivious to her surroundings.

I smiled, as I remember having done the same thing with both my kids. When the kids are younger, there is a lot of give and take in conversation, shared secrets, goofy smiles and tender hands that cling to yours. The universe then is a small place, for your child and you. Lots of time to spend, to read aloud, to bake, to colour and to carry out all those stress-free fun activities.


Image courtesy – Clipartfest

But during those years, every mom is desperate for some time out to do what she likes. However, it is only when you realize that the clingy four year old is now a strappy teenager that you want to relive those days again.

As the children grow and become independent, motherhood becomes more of an observation process. By this, I don’t mean that we are not involved. It only means that the children come to us only when they need something.

Displays of love are met with embarrassed smiles or  just a quick hug. The pi-chart that is their world shows a fat slice for friends and other activities.

As mom observers, we often wonder and sigh at this sudden passage of time. The love only gets stronger and deeper, but cannot seek expression in an impromptu nursery rhyme or colouring sheet anymore.

This love is expressed through an ocassional hug,  helping with chores, rebellion, coffee sessions and conversations in the kitchen.