Wednesday, 21 March 2012

The Stars on Earth

When a child is born, 
the family rejoices, 
when someone you love dies, 
you shed tears of sorrow at the loss of their form,
Is it not true, that we celebrate Christmas and Easter with the same joy??!
When one is the birth and the other is the resurrection of Christ in our hearts, surely the soul's journey is beyond birth and death??!  
     -this is something I wrote (on Good Friday)

As a Child, my ideal was my mother. I loved and admired her with my whole being, basking in the sunshine of the Love she and Daddy shared with each other and our entire family. As I was growing up, my lifelong ambition was to emulate her; her grace, her silence, her wisdom. All I wanted to do was be a mother like her, to my future kids, if God saw it fit that I have them. Losing mummy to Cancer was the hardest, most painful experience of our lives. but as a family, we slowly picked ourselves up. Webecame closer, remembered her Values and all that she stood for. Justice, Equality, Love, Truth, her dedication to her students at the College...I Thank God, today, for the brief time we were fortunate to have her. to love her. She may not be with me physically, and I miss her dearly. I cry bitterly, everytime Life is a struggle, a question, a bitter-sweet pain.... Then I remember what she used to say, do and wrote. I turn to my father, my brother and sister- talk to them if I can, or think about them.... I feel my pain melting away. I thank the Lord for life. All of Life. In times like these, these lines By Gibran are my inspiration, as he wrote-

Kahlil Gibran's THE PROPHET. 

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

(Stars on Earth)
I remember crying my eyes out, when I saw the film Taare Zameen Par, (dubbed version here, in English, and Spanish) for the first time (and each time since..) The whole film is really close to my heart. Maybe because it reminds me of my mother- Ma.... Maybe because my sweetest memories of it relate to my little girl, then just four years old, singing 'taare zameen par' in her little voice a few years ago...She and I both loved the song right from the first time we heard it, and I waited and waited for the film to release on TV. On another level, as a mother of a child with complex difficulties which are yet to be isolated or diagnosed for certain, (A Special Daughter) I can relate to the emotions depicted in the film. It is a sensitive and heartfelt portrayal of a child's world from his own and an adult's perspective... My little girl is now nearly eight and the film struck a chord within my heart.
It is about a unique, lovely little boy Ishaan (Ishaan's World.) Struggling with his learning difficulties, he now faces the trauma of losing all his family too. The boarding school is no different from most other mainstream schools and Ishaan goes into a shell. One day, a new Art Teacher bursts into class and inspires the kids to imagine, dream and let themselves go!! All the children respond to his liveliness with enthusiasm, except Ishaan. The teacher tries to find out WHY. He sees the child's difficulties, helps him overcome them with love and attention and sheer untiring effort and eventually rescues him from the cesspool of isolation. He blossoms under the specialist, untiring tuition of the teacher and consolidates his strengths. That he also finds a way to negotiate his life and sift through his difficulties, is a credit to his spirit and the teacher's efforts.
When I first saw the film, I was shedding tears not only for the little boy in the story, but also for my little girl, my self and all those who suffer silently as the world goes on around them, unaware that they are struggling to make sense of it...
My little girl loves sand, water and running around the park, sitting on the grass and having a picnic.... So I take her outdoors as often as I can, watching her, one with nature. She may not be ready to write, may find it hard to read, sometimes, but one thing that is certain is her evolution from a child to a little girl has been going on since she was born...She is becoming more aware of herself, her surroundings, people, their reactions and their likes and dislikes. While she sees all this, she also 'files away' the 'right' and 'wrong' things she may have done in the past. She is more sociable, more joyous and much more interactive...!
As things have a way of unfolding, I have accepted the fact that, she will, in time be who she is meant to be. That 'being' is unique; it will not, and should not be expected to be ruled by others' ,idea,  hopes or expectations of her. She is a free-spirit as are all children- a bird, a flower, a soul. She came from God and He alone will mould her into her one true form...
We, her parents, were just the means to bring her forth into this world; what she is is beyond birth and death, age and life, words and silence... For this realization, Lord, I thank thee, and pray that thee remind me, each moment of what I must do is nurture her, nourish her and love her for who she is and what she is 'meant to be'..

Monday, 12 March 2012

Look out: 'Cyclist Ahead' !!

Lessons a 'cycling' accident taught me in the past week, and lessons my 'intentional' mother-hood teaches me everyday. As I draw my learning from the accident and my innate strength from the other, I realised a few lessons of my own.

I got hit by a car as I cycled to work last week....
Okay, before all you lovely people do the whole collective "sharp intake of breath","dilated pupils"thing,
 Just remember, I'm still here, typing"
"See??! I'm fine: f-i-n-e..!"
I had a hi-visibility (fluorescent) orange vest on as it was night-time, and my bike lights flashed too, so I am perplexed- how did she NOT see me??  I guess the rain might have been responsible for the driver of the car, a dark reddish Saloon, missing me on  the road...
She later told me she was concentrating more on the car behind me, as it was raining...which is exactly my point...what would happen if She were faster, or There was a truck just next to me on a busier road than the one we were on...Not a 'happy ending' if you see what I mean...

Now, I'm a careful cyclist, and before I pedal off, I make sure that I'm clear to go first, (checking  I have the 'right of way', following the road rules, etc etc). On that particular T junction, just a few roads away from work, I was right to ride on, and the car was waiting for me to pass, and indicated as much. No sooner had I proceeded to cycle on, however, that I saw the car change gears, hit the pedal, and I felt the sudden, adrenalin rush wash over me as I got hit on the left rear wheel and lost balance. I managed to regain my footing, and saved myself a tumble, as a string of  the choicest expletives sprang to my mind. I pulled my bike closer to the edge or the road, and tried to think back to see if I had, after all, been wrong to ride on somehow, even as I realised I was perfectly justified in doing so. A man who had been walking on the pavement rushed up and asked me if I was allright. The driver herself camr hurrying over, and I saw she was almost in tears. In my eagerness to be on my way to work, and reassure her that I was fine, I forgot to check my bike in general and the rear-wheel in particular, which sad to say, she effectively totalled. Raj tried to fix it as best he could, but my lack of foresight and the car-rider's relief at being waved away, has left me with a huge bill to pay to fix my poor bike. Besides, Cycletta 2012 at Woburn, Bedfordshire, is coming up in a couple of months and I need her in ship-shape form for the event..

Cycletta 2011: At the finish line with supporters and my Sister-in-Law

A lesson to me for future reference- Look at the bike as another would look at a car. Talking to my husband the day after the hit and my sister-in-Law, Prachi yesterday made me realise what a colt I've been.I should have taken the woman's number, at the very least...
In any case, I slept off my fatigue after my night shifts at work over that weekend by lying on the sofa after the kids were fed and washed, and hubby was off to work with his packed lunch that I had made for him. When the kids came up to me and snuggled nearer....I invariably let out a sigh of peace...It is from them and their child-like innocence that I draw my resilience, stay grounded and feel happy. When I feel 'down' or 'out-of-sorts', I remind myself of Rani and Shivangi singing, 'Chin-up' from CHARLOTTE'S WEB, and its an instantly uplifting feeling, knowing that I'll always have my little girls in my life...thank you God, for this gift you have bestowed on me, these children of mine- the most beautiful of gifts, ever!! When they caress me with their little hands, and ask me to put my big head on their little shoulders as I so often to to them, I see what 'LIFE COMING FULL-CIRCLE' is all about, really...

Their love is the essence of my Life....
It is full of selfless caring and steadfast devotion...
when trying times arise, it rises to the occasion,
it emerges, unscathed from the fires and trumps every test,
it is the good and pure inside,
 it is our grit, our guts, our very best,
it is the sum of our parts, it is you, God in our hearts,
it is our Soul, our humanity, our essential being..
It is what we live by,
what we live for,
and what we live through life, learning to do...

Angels in disguise on Halloween 

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

The Humane - Divine..

Do you believe you are human...?! Do you know if you really are?? What if I tell you, that I BELIEVE in something different... would that make me less human? ...Or perhaps, more arrogant, if I were to tell you what I truly believe in....
Let me explain...

I have been thinking a lot, for almost all my life, but never really committed it to paper- or keyboard, as the case may be- before. Sometimes, my thought process was so effervescent, like bubbles in a glass of Coke... barely there, and so very volatile, they never were meant for anything anyway... never amounting to anything more, just there for the flavour, if you see what I mean!??
This made me feel as if I should give my thoughts time to mature... like a fine wine; which gains its flavour, its age in itself, its true worth... (pardon me for resorting to coke and wine; I did not do this deliberately and my thoughts are not along those lines, I assure you!)
so, perhaps, now is the right time to elaborate. write, and be read... speak and be heard... believe and be told that it is not baseless to believe in oneself...

If I look at my parents, and the values they've always stood for, I feel proud and confident of their inherent virtue, I feel a speck of cloud in the azure, expansive skies above; small, and yet larger-than-life; sure of my forefathers' immortality.
Not in form,
not even in words,
but as a school of thought that they came from.
This belief, this surety stems from the profound wisdom, the unshakable greatness of both my grandfathers, the simplicity and yet, the hard-working stock of my grandmothers, who, by performing their worldly duties and standing by their husbands so steadfastly, denoted to me all that was good and right in the world in those days.
When marriages were, truly, made in Heaven, and facilitated, nay, merely formalised by our Elders...
When the Marital vows were strong and robust, when the husband worked hard and provided for his family not only in terms of where their next meal came, but also how, in a home where he was just a presence that was 'felt' rather than 'seen'; 'experienced' and not so often 'heard' it was his principles that flowed in the veins of his progeny.
When the youngsters of the family knew, by the way their mothers spoke of their fathers, not taking their name...just by a whisper of a reference, by the sight of a familiar set of shoes in the place he always left them, by the way a window that was always half-open so she could know he had arrived...from the echo of his footfall...from the sound of the bicycle, scooter or car in the gully below... that HE was home..., that he was, indeed, a palpable a presence in his home. Its spirit, its soul its life-breath.
My Paternal Grandfather,Shri Halubha Shivubha Sodha, was just such a patriarch. He was always referred to as 'Bapuji' by all of us, He was straightforward, a man of high principles, and a low voice. He never did need to raise it, really. his mere presence commanded respect and admiration. All his children looked up to him, and strove to make him proud...
The reverence, the overpowering, overwhelming affection he stirred in his children's hearts...was expressed in the way they cast down their eyes when he was in the same place as them. The seldom spoke at him, but always listened, rapt, to his words, even though, more often than not, youth, age and irreverent recklessness gave free rein to the dreams and desires of their closest friends.
One of the most beautiful anecdotes my father shared with us, many moons ago, was the time when, having returned late in the evening from a movie he went for, with a friend, my father was told by Ba, my gran, that Bapuji was home,
"બાપુજી આવી ગયા છે..મેં કઈ દીધું છે, અજય ના ઘરે ગયો છે."
(She had told Bapuji, when he inquired, that Dad had gone out to a friend's place.)
 Later, when Bapuji asked Dad where he'd been, he looked into his father's eyes and said" I was out with Ajay, to see a film"... At this, Bapuji looked up at Ba....I can only imagine the pride and happiness he felt for his son then. They briefly conversed about what film that was (a WW-II film, if I recollect, something along the lines of those days' epic sagas from Hollywood) and both father and son shared a deeper understanding of each others' true nature.
There are many more incidents, both big and small, that have shaped the lives and thoughts of my father and mother in their lifetime.
So, you see, this is the kind of value-system I owe my existence to. I'm humbled by their solid morals and take immense pride in this heritage of Truth and Respect...

Who am I and what is the purpose of life?
This is a question we all might sometimes ask ourselves at some point in our lives. I often ask myself..and wonder...
Mystics say it takes us a lifetime (and beyond) to find the answer..

I believe, as surely as I believe in God, that, at the time of birth, each and every child is unaware of "I" and immersed in the fluid, all-pervading Godliness.... of itself. Maybe, that is the reason why all babies, at the time of birh have their eyes tightly shut, clenched fists rigid and unrelenting, as if holding on to Him... Their one-ness from God is reflected in the cry at birth, in the lament of a torturous human existence, as if removed from the embrace of a loving mother...
since I became a mother I marvel at the mechanics of the Universe- all the more mysterious, altogether  more sublime...
Mother-hood and miracles go hand-in-hand. Each new day is different...and yet, the same. In the incessant cycle of life we come, grow, go and leave behind us a legacy of memories, memoirs and mementoes. Every Child is divine, at birth; it is we who make them humans....It is only appropriate that we etrive to impart good values to them, so that they may become better human beings tomorrow...
This life, given us by our parents...Bestowed in grace and a gift, if you will, from God Himself...It is meaningful and useful only if we live up to our essence- divinity, and our extent- humanity...

Thursday, 1 March 2012

On World book Day, love to my awesome twosome!

Reading shapes the mind, sharpens the intellect, broadens the horizons and fires the imagination of everyone who plunges into an ocean of words and typescript...
Whether we swim, paddle or float; skim the surface or go deep-sea diving is up to is, (to my mind) in every manner imaginable, an immensely rewarding experience!

As a busy mum plus night-shift worker, I get an occasional rare moment to snuggle my girls into bed and have a good read with them. On WORLD BOOK DAY, today, I reflect on the lovely books we've shared together over the years and how they've caught the bug, so to speak, from a mum who reads on her shift breaks at night, and eats her dinner with her 'current read' in front!!

Today, as Rani plays 'dress up' as a Book Character at School and Shivangi tries to write her own autobiography for her Year 3 Learning Log, I wondered what other books lie undiscovered out there, and what are the kinds of books kids this age enjoy!! Over the years since they were toddlers, we've done 'tell me a story' kind of stories; the sort of tales my grandma used to tell us at bedtime. We've shared pop-up books, second-generation books , such as When Daddy Was A Little Boy (by Alexander Ruskin, impeccably preserved by my sister, Keya didi) books by Enid Blyton, (Thirteen O'Clock tales borrowed from School), and library books by Julia Donaldson, (her Room on the Broom is a great love of ours) which they both were thrilled with!

Often on Saturdays, when "...Daddy's at work", we trot to the local library and request our favourites. Once there, I browse while they share books, jokes and giggle conspiratorially, trying to decide on the ones to take back. We pick up Harry Potter and arms-full of Julia Donaldson and its a heart-warming sight when the girls insist on putting 'their' selections in their own backpacks, carrying them home. We often manage a little tumble in the park on our route back...(all the better to tire them with, my dears..Ha!Ha!HA!!)

But, I digress...I'm try to get them something to read for the weekend and its a special feeling for me with my love of books. Having ritualised bath-time, making sure they are, finally, off to bed, we read something together; or rather, I read to them (I get them to lie down, close their eyes and imagine the story) - it helps them nod off and go drifting along to la la land!!

My Shivangi has SN which makes it hard for her to read right off the bat, but she's amazing with her memory and remembers stories word for word!!! I've read the Jungle Books and we've done the audio version for Shivangi too way back when she was four which she still loves. she's quite good at doing the different voices as Tabaqui, Akela or Baloo one moment and 'gruff and grisly' Sher-Khan the next...!

As a kid, I read (and loved) Kipling, Mark Twain and Enid Blyton...when on one hand, The Famous five made me wonder what Bacon and Ham were and on the other, Malory towers romanticised Boarding Schools for years to come! Jane Austen and Little Women (in my teenage years)..were always a biggie for me, as was Jo, one of its principal characters...

Amongst Indian and other South-east Asian writers, I like Arundhati Roy's God of small things, and Khaled Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Sunsets, and The Kite Runner..but if I have to name my all-time favourite Indian writer, it has to be Munshi Premchand, for his कफ़न, दो बैलों की कथा and ईदगाह I ...R.K Narayan with his Guide and Kalidasa, that Sanskrit poet who was masterful in his imagination...(I can still recollect my mother translating the fragile, quivering, passionately imaginative and beautiful prose for my father, from Sanskrit (the ancient text of our Hindu scriptures) that Kalidasa wrote in, to hindi or gujarati...)
The way she described the smile on Uma's (goddess Parvati, before she and Shiva were united) countenance as she beheld Lord Shiva in his samadhi or narrated the writer imploring a rain-bearing cloud to carry a message to his beloved has stayed with me....made me feel fortunate beyond description, to be her daughter....

Books always were a big part of my upbringing; memories.... of Dad reading Somerset Maugham, aloud, to mum when the rains poured down, as they nursed cups of hot, steaming chai...or my Sister, Keya didi reading एक था छोटा सिपाही to us at bedtime on a cold winter's night....abound in my psyche.
On childhood holidays in Ahmedabad, India, Pappaji's( our maternal grandfather) study would be lined with whole walls of bookshelves where, amongst the thickly bound Law Journals, one could always find The Complete Works Of Shakespeare with its spine of crimson leather etched in letters of Gold..
With the ceiling fan whirring overhead, the insides of the study cooled by heavy curtains, and the outside shaded by a long, wide verandah, I must have spent many afternoons reading those books, moving my fingers over the faintly yellowed pages... The books looked well kept, neatly stacked and dusted daily, and as I pulled one off the shelf, I asked myself if my Nanaji thought I and the others (some of us barely toddlers when he passed away) would someday read the words he wrote into the margins of books on Philosophy, poetry and World Religion.The ink, cobalt blue and bright to begin with is now almost dully faint, but the awe I feel for the man who read so widely, from the Old Testament to Homer's Odyssey is still alive.