Saturday, December 5, 2009

Life's little lesson

Nia these days, is very upset about the fact that we insist that she eat all her meals by herself. She does not like the fact that she has to go to school everyday. She definitely hates the skating classes we have enrolled her into. Plus the fact that her free movement classes have ended. She finds it difficult to understand why her best friends do not live next door and that she gets to meet them only on weekends. And why her Oni ma and Maamu live in a different country with their families and not on the same street as her! Then there are the TV fights everyday. And serious negotiations around chocolate quota that most often do not end in her favour.

With all this happening, i find the soon-to-be-5 child lying on her bed in deep thought and ask her what she is thinking of. And she looks at me, still a bit pensive and says, 'vijji, i love my life!'


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

At the mercy of Weather Gods

A Saturday, mid-Dec, 2007 -
Event: Kindergarten Sports day @ Magic Puddles
Venue: Open Sports Ground
Weather conditions - its raining the previous day as we are getting the ground ready, putting tracks, shifting props.
Our reactions: Bangalore weather sucks (you don't get to hear this very often now, do you?).Can you imagine, rain at the offset of winter??? Should we postpone the event? No, that's really painful. Let's just go ahead.
Following actions: We got an overhead cover for the audience area and one in the middle of the ground for the kids. Someone says keep a picture of Lord Ganesha looking back to stop the rain(??) Strange one - but yeah lets do it!
On the D-day - the sun is shining nice and bright. After a few wisecracks with the audience about the weather, we are ready to begin the event. The sun gets really hot over the next two hours and we are happy to have the overhead cover. And we all whisper a prayer of gratitude to Lord Ganesha (Ganpati bappa morya!)Ah well, all in a day's work!

A Saturday, End-Nov, 2008 -
Event: Kindergarten Sports day @ Magic Puddles (a year later). Remember it rained last year in Dec, so lets finish off the event before December sets in
Venue: Open Sports Ground (again!)
Weather conditions - its been raining for the ENTIRE week :O! And weather forecasting websites are predicting thunderstorms on the D-day.
Our reactions: Bangalore weather sucks (ok, we've heard that one before!)Should we postpone the event? Definitely yes!
Following actions: Event pushed by a week (all 443 weather websites we are following say it'll be clear weather). And let's get an overhead cover for the entire area, just in case! Parents are unhappy with the change in date, endless phone calls and email exchanges. A lot of work to be re-done from our end as well. But we are not willing to take a chance.
On the original D-day - very light drizzle early hours of the morning and then clear weather. We imagine all the parents cursing us. Plus the skies refuse to clear through the week, so even until the following Friday, we are not sure how the weather will be on Saturday (obviously we've given up on weather forecasts and are now relying on Ganesha!). Thankfully weather is alright on Saturday. So with apologies for the event being pushed by a week and some more wisecracks about the weather, we pull of the event without a hitch. Ah well, all in a.....

A Saturday, first weekend of Nov, 2009 -
Event: Kindergarten Sports day @ Magic Puddles (yet another year later). Let's do the event as early as possible this year.
Venue: Open Sports Ground
Weather conditions - OH MY GOD, our neighbour chennai is close to flooding thanks to an unpredicted depression over the sea! And Bangalore is cloudy, raining only late nights. And thunderstorm predicted on the D-day.
Our reactions: Should we postpone the event? No way, it's way to painful, let's just go ahead!
Following actions: Everyone has fingers crossed as the shamiana is being erected on Friday evening. We all are ardently praying as we go to bed. Several of us checking the night skies through the night. Not a drop of water - what a relief!

oh oh! Spoke too early! Drizzle starts at 3:30 AM and eventually proper showers until 5:30 AM. Too late to push the event, let's just take it as it comes.

Ground wet - get extra mud, get the roller

Overhead cover leaking - get the buckets, drain the water

Chairs all wet - keep wiping them till guests arrive

Children's area wet - get water proof sheets under the mats

ok everything under control, except the drizzling that won't stop.

Until 8:30 AM - skies look clearer - phew!

And so we started our Sports Day last weekend. The kids had practised hard for the event, their teachers even harder. And the efforts showed. Parents loved seeing the little ones participate in the opening ceremony, the drill, the races. Everything is going fine until 11:00 AM - when uh oh - thick black clouds and it ACTUALLY starts to rain - right in the MIDDLE of the event - our worst fears confirmed!

And guess what, the skies didn't fall on our heads (atleast not literally!). Parents willingly adjust to avoid the leaking and continue to enjoy the event. We avoid all wet patches, and start the parent-child races. The audience loves it - through the rain and the dripping and the wet patches, we have parents and children having loads of fun!

Ah well, all in a day's work!

PS thank god we didnt postpone the event - its raining even as i write this blog three days later :)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Of Communities and Connections

Of late, life has been looking quite action packed and meaningful. The best part has been sharing special moments of life with different communities.

First one being that of my good friends in Bangalore. We got together for Diwali - with different sets of people for the morning puja and then for the evening fun. As i did things one does for a festival as significant as Diwali, i could sense a different excitement and energy for just having to share it with a community that is beyond my immediate family. Right from the excitement of the early morning oil bath to playing with crackers, felt just so perfect! And i whispered a simple prayer of gratitude for this blessing in my life as i enjoyed the delicious dinner organized by one of my friends.

The second community that felt as special was that of strangers (baring a couple of friends i met there). 80 odd women gathered on a Sunday morning to participate in a 5 k - 10 k walk/run event organized by Runner Girls India. From the minute we got there early at 6:00 AM till the end of the event, it seemed like being connected with the same level of joy and energy. Maybe it was about being part of a 'one-of-a-kind' event or maybe just the sense of satisfaction of having giving oneself that opportunity, of being attentive to one's body. It was a great day for me - doing my part in a community like that one and i do look forward to many such wonderful mornings!

The third community - SPOT 2009 - an initiative of Bangalore Little Theatre - now that's an amazing one! People from different professional areas, at different stages of their life, all coming together for three months to train in theatre and ending with a production that is used as a fund raisign event for Dream-a-Dream. Its a space where i feel constantly challenged, a space where i need to constantly push my own limits of being, of thinking, of reacting. And in doing so, learn a little bit more about myself.

So when i think of these three communities, i feel blessed. These communities give me excitement & comfort, highs & lows, energy & fatigue, a space to be myself and explore more and in all these experiences, fall more in love with life.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Wacko Wisdom

I seem to have taken a long break from blogging and have nothing of my own to write. As usual my time with nia throws up some interesting stuff for me to think about! So here comes:

nia: mamma, aunty keeps punishing maya and me in class because we talk too much.
me: and what's the punishment?
nia: she keeps sending us to the naughty corner. Today she put maya and me in different corners for a long time.
me: so what did u learn from that?
nia: sign language mamma!

and when her best friend maya is not around, the talking continues. We are in bed for an hour now, done with the stories and the singing and the sharing and yet nia refuses to sleep. Finally the tired me decides to bring in quiet time so atleast i can get some sleep.
me: so nia now its 10 minutes absolute quiet time for both of us - NOT A WORD!
nia: what are we supposed to do during quiet time?
me: i am going to read a book. you can do whatever you want so long as u are lying in bed and not talking.
20 minutes later, i glance at nia convinced that she is deep in sleep. but the little one is lying with her eyes wide open (and absolutely quiet for a change!)
me: hey nia, is the light distracting you
nia: no mamma, the quiet time is distracting me!

wacko wisdom from this little buddha of mine :)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

I baked bread.....

...from scratch!

I have always loved the art of baking. Not that i do much of it. But i feel there is something very satisfying AND humbling to spend effort blending a variety of ingredients together and then allowing a process to take over to create the end-product (that may or may not be close to what you had originally thought about). The only thing that i could manage in the oven until recently is vegetable au gratin...not that you can ever go wrong with it thanks to all the cheese and white sauce that can make anything seem like a gourmet dish!

Finally thanks to the experimentation of one friend and the enthusiasm of another, I decided to bake bread at home. And a super-healthy one at that! So in went the wheat flour, the jagery, the oil, the yeast. Lot of patient kneading. Garlic-onion-sun dried tomatoes flavouring for one set and methi-corn combination for the other. This followed by lot of patient waiting for the yeast to do its magic. Flustered by tons of questions - was it 15 minutes or 20? or do we wait 2 hours thanks to the cold weather? Is it rising enough? You think we didn't put enough yeast? Maybe we should wait another 10 mins? Or maybe not? aaaaaargh! (Thank god i was in this with another friend - couldn't have handled this agony of not knowing all by myself)

At last, ready for the final act. Out came the greased loaf tins, in went the dough into the oven. Some more patient waiting made worthwhile with the wonderful smell of bread wafting through.

20 minutes of anticipation and out came the hot bread. 30 minutes of more anticipation waiting for the loafs to cool down. And finally the moment that made all this labour worth the while - the cutting and tasting of bread....ah!

The final result - the crust nice and brown, the sides not too bad. Unfortunately the middle had bits of uncooked dough - not so soft and porous. So after hours of all that effort half-baked bread was what we savoured!

But hey who cares?! All that matters is I BAKED BREAD FROM SCRATCH! And i am all set to try it again :)

Monday, July 27, 2009

To a very special person on her very special day

Her eyes are what come to mind when i think of her. Happy, shiny eyes when she flashes her dimpled smile; tired, puffy eyes as she works on her laptop. Passionate, steadfast eyes as she makes her point in discussions and unwavering,intense eyes as she listens to you making yours.

What i value most about her is the profound honesty she brings into every relationship in her life. (the very same honesty i find annoying at times when all i want to do is wallow in self pity but she won't allow me to!)

What i find touching about her is her calm dignity as she works to better herself in her personal and professional space.

I am inspired by her sustained efforts to go that extra mile - be it meeting challenges at work, or taking care of her health or her wanting to contribute to the world in ways that she finds meaningful. Her focus on her goals. Her unabashed confession about her levels of ambition. Seeing her ways of being, i am driven to fight my own self-limiting beliefs and be a better person.

I enjoy the way she has a way with words - be it when she is talking or writing.

I feel honoured when she appreciates something i do.

I celebrate the telepathic connection i have with her in ways that i don't have in other close relationships of mine.

I am astounded by her capacity to hold her pain and her struggles. And by the deep caring she holds underneath her practical, no-nonsense self.

It is so gratifying to see her extend all her love, her warmth, her caring to my daughter even as she lives across the seven seas! i am delighted to see glimpses of her in my little daughter - the way she persists in her point of view, the way she uses sound reasoning to help me get her point of view or simply in the way her eyebrows go up when she is intensely involved in a discussion!

But what i am most thankful for is that she is part of my world as my friend, my critic, my confidant, my sister.

As she celebrates her birthday today - here's wishing her a fabulous, blissful year ahead....dear oni - may you have many more sunny days, lesser meetings at work, healthier plants in your garden, shorter catan games, coordinated moves on the gym floor, long drives to newer places, fun-filled treks with good friends, and may all your deepest dreams come true this new year of your life! I love you :)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Loving my Body

:) Today I am in love with my weighing scales because they showed me a number i am happy with and they give me hope for the future. After having been on a detox diet for one week, today is the day i celebrate! Not that i am anywhere near what my "ideal weight" is supposed to be, but there is this satisfied feeling of having spring-cleaned my insides and being healthier than what i was a week back :)

Feeling so upbeat this morning, it got me thinking how little attention was paid to our bodies as we grew up. In my own home, healthy eating was quite broadly tackled, exercise never encouraged. (When asked what my favourite vegetable at dinner time was - "egg" came the prompt reply!)School was even worse. Marching, throw ball and basketball was as sporty as one could get (the games we invented during the lunch break gave us far more stamina anyway!)

In the teen years, attention to body didn't go beyond the occasional pimple on the face. Thankfully we weren't so exposed to the fashion & beauty industry standards and never got into fad diets. But there was no concept of enjoying one's body. Bharatnatyam that i learnt was more a performance oriented thingy. First gym enrolment in early 20s happened again only to tackle weight issues.

I guess what i missed most in my early years was this thought that one's body is a gift to be thankful for, a creation to be nurtured, a treasure to be enjoyed.

Thankfully the Universe was benevolent and things have taken a turn in the past few years. First big eye opener was being in circle of women where we worked with connecting emotions with our body and healing from within. It was also where i learnt the moon meditation, a unique and simple way of connecting my body and her energies to the moon. A healing massage set chronic aches right and therein came my next eye opener. All through was an inspiring sister, who though took things to levels more extreme than my own comfort, was working on and talking about the right things. She also recently introdcued me to the dry brushing technique which i totally swear by. Next was the beginning to enjoy green tea. Weaved in somewhere were being with two immensely talented people - my pedicurist and my accupressurist. A couple of books i enjoyed reading were Skinny Bitch and You can Heal your Life. A short stint with Bollywood dancing (which my mind and body have totally blanked out!). Then - the best gift i gave myself - swimming lessons and thus started a never-ending love affair with the pool! And viola! me and my body now good friends (with HUGE fights occasionally but overall in a good relationship!)

So now as a mother, i am hoping to do the right things for my child. This summer was a lot of body focus. We did 'Body Talk' a fun workshop for children to express through their bodies, and then there was swimming. Two weeks back we enrolled into skating. Back at home, we dance a lot. And of course rough and tumble play precedes the story time ritual at bedtime.

All in all, my body is happy and (to quote Louise Hay) all's well with my world!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Rooting for the Underdog

Little Nia is in a very good mood (having just realized that tomorrow is the last day of her swimming classes) and is celebrating by walking around the house singing "pappu can't dance". I, in one of the rare moments in the history of our household, am in the kitchen cooking (smileys - to keep up with the partying child!). In walks nia with a very puzzled look on her face, here's what follows:

nia: mamma, why didn't pappu come for the party?

me: he was there in the party nia

nia: then why are his friends saying he can't dance?

me: well what they mean is that is is not able to dance - that he is a bad dancer

nia: oooooh! they are teasing him? poor pappu!

me: Yup (and getting ready for the next question. but out walks nia continuing to sing the song)

3 mins later:

nia: mamma, they are also saying pappu guitar bajaata hai (pappu can play the guitar).

me: that's right baby

nia: (face all bright) ah! now when his friends tease him, pappu can sing - mere dost guitar nahi bajaa sakete saala! (my friends can't play the guitar)

and out she walks singing "my friends can't play the guitar dhir kitana dhir kitana"....fixing the world in her own simple ways!

Monday, May 18, 2009

What a day!

Ginger chai and pakoras was what i wished for as i woke up this morning. Instead what i got was potato soup, corn & onion bread, raisin bread, a choice between mango spread and cheese spread, fried rice, steamed unpolished rice from Pondicherry and finally chocolate cake for dessert - and all this home made! Ah and some lovely herbal tea & spicy nuts as we watched the evening rains lash out on the trees and the roof. All thanks to the warmth and generosity of a couple friend who invited us over for lunch. This amazing couple i know living a simple, earth friendly life, asking the right questions, spending as much time in thought as in action and always maintaining a deep relationship with nature. As i spent a day, nourished by the food and my conversations with them, it got me thinking what it means to truly respect earth, the way i see these two wonderful people do.

It means, to be able to say "I don't need much to be happy in life." And truly mean it. Simple needs. No hoarding, no cluttering, no wastage. Being willing to share everything. (After the delicious meal, the leftover yummy bread and cake generously packed for us to take to the others back at home!)

It means to to never look for instant gratification and put love in whatever one does with one's hands. To experiment with materials, arrangements, textures, flavours. To be willing to create - at one's pace.

It means to be aware of and appreciate the perfection of nature around - in the earth tones and textures, the seed pods, the hollow gourds, the bird nest dropped off the tree by the wind, the tastes and colours of the nascent vegetable patch, the blazing sky at sunset.

It means to slow down one's pace and to sync one's own rhythm to the day's rhythm. To start the day early, rest at mid-noon, slow down as the night creeps in.

It means to work wholly with one's body - and not just with the mind. A little thinking, a little talking and discussing, a little of working with hands in silence and a little of watching and observing and absorbing.

It means welcoming others into one's life with warmth, generosity and respect. To be sensitive to what the other person wants and to give as much as one can. Be it exploring questions raised, sharing food or even working with beads and threads with the little child craving for attention in the middle of all that adult time!

For me it was a day to rest, to think, to observe, to enjoy and just feel special. Thank you my dear friends for this truly special day!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

For a Friend

Had a great experience with children in class the other day which i thought i absolutely must document. We are doing myths and mythology as part of our Summer Camp theme. In each session, we share an interesting story from Indian mythology with the kids and have a follow-up activity. In one of the classes i did with the 4-6 year olds, I shared the story of Krishna and Sudama. And of course in my self-righteousness (and indignation at the return-gifts culture of birthday parties!) totally focussed on how Sudama took a simple and yet thoughtful gift for Krishna. At the end of the session, i got each child to make a picture for one's best friend - which one could then gift to this friend. Here's some of the responses by children:

Nidhi - i will make balloons for my didis (and she tells me names of three older children from her apartment complex).
me: Are they your friends Nidhi?
Nidhi: No but if i give them the balloons, they will be!

Shreya (also drawing balloons) - i want to give toys to my friends but i can only draw balloons.

Ruhi - I don't have one best friend - everyone is my friend. I will make gifts for EVERYONE! (Ms. Universe in the making?!)

Nia: (mistaking Ruhi to be lonely, i guess) It's ok Ruhi, you can be my best friend (they've met three days back for the first time!). I will make you a gift and also allow you to come and play with Foster (a dog who she was making a picture for originally)

Sameer: My best friend is Shubham and i will make a gift for him (draws something that looks like a spaceship and finishes coloring it in 3 mins flat). Hey Shubham - here your gift is ready.
Shubham: what is this?
Sameer: This is you (that's when i notice the smile and eyes on the spaceship thingy!)
Shubham: very nice. I will also make a picture of you (makes eyes and smile on the house he was drawing)
Me: i thought your best friend was Sanjana.
Shubham: Yes but now it is Sameer (oh well!)
30 secs later, drawing discarded, these two "best" friends are wrestling in the corner!

Suhrud: (has made quite a detailed picture and done a fairly neat job of colouring it) I was actually making it for (and gives me names of two girls) but i like this picture and they always fight with me. So i am giving this to me. (ah! All's fair in ....!)

Nia: (comes to me) I hope it's ok that you don't have anyone making a picture for you...maybe it's because you only like simple gifts.

So here's the friendship rule book i got to check out as the children shared their world with me that day in class:
Rule # 1 - there is really no concept of "BEST FRIEND".

Rule # 2 - I will offer friendship to whoever is around (and then again it's ok to change my mind)

Rule # 3 - I give you the best thing i can create!

Rule # 4 - I form my relationships not based on how the other person is or treats me, but purely on how i feel about the other person.

Rule # 5 - In the world of friends - there are endless possibilities of relating and giving! So who needs the rule book anyway??!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

i talk , therefore i am

In the middle of my summer camp, working with children between 4 to 6 years in the morning and then with 7 to 11 years in the afternoon. I find this time of the year both demanding and satifying. While i enjoy developing content for the older batches, i love the time i spend with the younger ones. The difference i discovered early on in my work with children is that the younger they are, the more open they are to a variety of learning experiences. Their reactions and responses are brilliant in their originality. And they respond out of the excitement to learn and not to appear "cool" with other peers like the older ones do!

Also, yesterday in the middle of the session with the older kids, another contrast struck me - the HUGE difference in the noise levels. As children get older, the decibel levels also increase quite drastically. So the loudest group i need to tolerate (rather badly i admit) is the 9-11 year olds. They are REALLY loud - be it when responding to what i am sharing , or asking for things or simply while talking to one another. As a teacher – I myself don’t set a great example – shouting over the children’s voices to be heard and (pointlessly) trying to establish control over the group!

This got me thinking. Why do children have such a strong need to be loud? Is this their way to cope with the clamor around them? So much so that even when in quieter spaces they are unable to recognize it and moderate their volume. Most seem to use the same volume in a group of 10 as they do in a group of 60 back in school. Overcrowded cities, packed malls, crammed classrooms, angry traffic on the roads - quite a deafening world to be raised in!

Or is it that children constantly need to speak loudly to get the attention they need from us adults around? Having to speak over the evening news, the phone calls, the orders, the reprimanding...that sure needs high volume!

Another gnawing doubt, is this their desperate attempt to get the appreciation they deserve for who they are? With over-reliance on verbal intelligence in most urban learning settings, articulation gets kids instant recognition, indulgent smiles and pats on the back. So the only way for the child to feel appreciated is probably to talk talk talk and talk LOUD!

And in this entire pandemonium, there would be a child who is unable to speak up or maybe chooses not to join the hubbub...this child, like everyone else, has the need to be acknowledged, to be appreciated, to be valued would be like the others. How does that silent (yet gifted) child cope with this reality?

So as i sit in the class, overwhelmed by the decibel levels, i struggle to create a space where observing in silence, and allowing reflection to nurture one's learning and growth is possible. Where i listen first before i speak out. And allow the child in me and those outside feel valued and appreciated without having to scream out loud.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

To each her own!

A few days back, drastic temperature variations in Bangalore and sure enough little Nia fell sick. She had a terrible cough and found it difficult to eat. My latest stand in life - say no to anitbiotics - led to me treating her with some home remedies (details of which are saved for another blog). So while she was getting better (will never admit otherwise), it was a slow process.

So three days of being sick, nia was up almost all night due to coughing. With all the sleep deprivation, she woke up quite disoriented. As usual she called out to me but sounded different. When i went to her room, she was sitting up, wide-eyed and looking a little surprised, a little confused. Here's what she had to say:

nia: mamma the room is shaking

me: not it is not (and i hold her tight hoping it'd help - but it obviously didn't)

nia: it is mamma, IT IS! and what is that dum dum sound

me: sweetie there is no sound

nia continued to sit there still trying to figure out and me - i am all set to pick up the phone and call the doc. Just to check i ask her: has the shaking stopped kunju?

nia: no mamma, but why are we taking the whole house on the train? are we going to ammamma?

me: nia there is no train. it is our house baaboo.

and i just sit there - holding her, looking at her - and she still glances around all baffled, trying to figure it out.....

...when suddenly, all confusion from her face clears and with her ah-i-cracked-this-one look , she turns to me and says: now i know what it is mamma,its my heart drums!

beat on crazy drums!

Friday, March 13, 2009

My Masks & Me

i was in a learning space this week with a group of friends that left me with questions on identity. Facets of my identity have been created over the years, based on my roles and relationships. Each space that i am in – the core of my identity shines through but there is a mask i take on - depending on how i perceive that space for myself. both in terms of what i need to give in and what i get for myself. And over a period of time, i have two or three masks that become an integral part of my identity. Masks through which i express myself or relate to the other in that space. Masks through which i set and fulfill expectations.

I would like to believe that there is some space, some relationship in my life where i am authentically ‘just me’ - mask-less. But that is far from the truth. i always have a mask on, no matter what space i am in. The quality of masks differ, at times an impenetrable iron plate, giving no clues about the colour of my skin or the look in my eyes and at times, a thin, almost transparent, veil of chiffon, offering a connection seeped in authenticity.

But then the question for me that stays unanswered is - what comes first - the relationship / space or the mask? As far as i can remember, i have held on to some mask or the other - and they have become my primary means of connecting with someone or living upto a role. So WHAT is this big fear of staying mask-less even as a intimacy grows; the fear of being completely open and therefore maybe vulnerable to the other? Sure, each mask helps in satisfying some need of mine in that space, but what about me do i perceive as so unacceptable if there is no mask to cover it?

As i got thinking about the different masks i don, i also got in touch with how it is most difficult for me to let go of the masks that i have taken on in my childhood. Much before my own independent identity was formed. Though there has been a lot of learning and growing and challenging of the self since i was a little girl, I simply cannot drop the mask from those early years. Almost as if peeling off that mask would mean having to scrape of my skin itself, leaving me covered with raw, wounded flesh. Or like a friend asked: do i hold on to the mask to cover the wounds that are already there, afraid of the vulnerability or even rejection that i would then have to deal with?

I don't even know if i want to take the masks off; whether i really can is a different matter altogether. But now the big question for me to work on - can i see me in the mirror without any masks on and be accepting of what i see?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Blessing of Sunsets

I find something oddly comforting in the beauty of sunsets. The light of the sky transforming into swirls of deep red, magenta and violet, the fury of the sun dimming into a intense, yet soft orange and the slow creeping of black to engulf the world.

The message i receive as the sky transforms from a splash of vibrant colours to darkness is that no matter how your day has been - it's now time to rest. To take a deep breath & pause. To move from a frenzy to stillness. To find a sense of peace within.

And it is so heartening to see that no matter how my day has been, the beauty and peace of the sunset tells me that all's right with my world!

(Picture: Evening @ Banwasi with friends)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The legend of the Worry Dolls

The Worry Dolls is a beautiful legend from Guatemala that i first heard when my sister gifted me these dolls as i was returning home after my first visit to her home in Seattle. I have used them often and find great healing potential in this ritual.

Two years later, i decided Nia, now all of 4, was ready for her own set of Worry Dolls. Again my sister came to the rescue (sometimes i feel she is my real-life worry doll!) and sent me a set.

That night Nia was thrilled. She absolutely insisted that i too use my worry dolls that night. And both our rituals were so strinkingly different; here's a peek:

nia: what are your dolls' names mamma?
me: huh? ok here's my doll #1, #2 and #3.

nia: MAMMA! greet them nicely!
me: nice to have you here yaaaaaaawn!
nia: hi daya and baigo. daya thank you for taking care of your younger sister baigo. now both of you have to take care of me. this is my room, my pillow, my sheet. see around carefully - this will be your home now.

Then there is some whispering going on between nia and her worry dolls.

nia: ok mamma you go first
me: worry dolls please take care of my worry .....
nia: ok now my turn. Daya since you are bigger, i will give you a big worry. You make sure that i get only good dreams all through the night. And Baigo, you make sure that when i get up i remember all the good dreams.
me: ok nia time to sleep, get the dolls under your pillow.

nia: mamma one last thing - daya, baigo, if you feel thirsty in the middle of the night, let me know. I have some water with me.

lights off; blissful silence for all of 60 seconds.

nia: mamma put on the light - one last thing....whisper whisper whisper

lights off; again 60 seconds of snoozing off, when....

nia: mamma pleeeeeeeeeeeease put on the light - i promise one last thing. get me a napkin, they are cold and need a sheet

me: NIA!

nia: i said please - you cannot shout at me!

me: sigh!

Napkin on, lights off, another uneventful minute passes by...

nia: mamma i promise one really really last thing

me: one more time the lights come on, i am sending u to Guatemala!

nia: (completely ignoring my threat) Daya, Baigo, one last thing - please don't worry too much!


my dear worry dolls, the gods in heaven, mother universe and whoever is listening - take care of this child so that she never ever loses this magical adorable spirit! And help me that i never stop to listen...

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Farewell & remember...

Recently a school next door hosted a farewell party for the Std X class – a ritual we see in most schools in India. It had the usual trappings of any such event – sentimental songs from Hindi movies, an adapted version of Auld Lang Syne, and of course faculty speeches to the outgoing batch. The sounds drifting from the microphones got me thinking about my own farewell party almost two decades ago! Sadly, there isn’t much I can recall except what I wore and a simple ritual of passing a lit candle to our juniors.

Though I loved school and had my share of achievements, I am more proud of what I achieved post-school both in terms of connecting with people and also stretching my own limits. I do wish school had equipped me a little better to deal with the world and my life. So here’s my wish list of some of the things they could have told me on the night of our farewell party:

- Life is difficult and you are on your own!

- The most precious gift from your school years are your friends. Never again will you get such a long time in one place to nurture friendships. So always stay in touch with your school friends.

- We taught you language in school not so you can score marks in exams but more so that you have the ability to speak up when required.

- You probably didn’t make it to any sports team because the Physical Ed. teacher didn't know how to handle a large group. Find opportunities to play and enjoy a sport - you will learn a lot more than the game itself.

- The labels you've earned in school are not part of your identity for life. You shed them when you step out of school. And life will present you plenty of opportunities to create new labels for yourself.

- It is not important what your teachers thought of you. What you believe about yourself will shape your destiny.

- Failure is great because it will push you to stretch yourself and set you free to follow your dreams

- We punished you in school not because what you did was wrong but because we as adults could not handle what was happening and needed to regain our sense of control!

- Knowledge that you gain from books will be insignificant compared to the knowledge you gain from your experiences. You will pay a high price for it but it will be knowledge well earned.

- The world is filled with limitless opportunities and there is a space under the sun for everyone to achieve something.

- Competition is real but it will take you only to a particular level. After that, it is how you are willing to do better than what you done today

- Don't channel your efforts to build skills for a specific profession - instead channel your efforts in exploring your skills and then see which profession fits in for you.

And finally
- working with children can be very satisfying!

Maybe my teachers thought all this and tried telling me in their own ways, maybe i was not ready to receive the messages then and had to discover it in my own ways. In any case, it might be interesting to go back and listen to what they are telling the girls now. And maybe request my school principal to allow me to share my two-bits with the outgoing batch. I guess i owe this much to my school :)!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Special Friends and Special Me!

There is this amazing circle of women that i am a part of - four living in Bangalore and one in Chennai. We got together almost three years back to form a team that would facilitate a specific training program. We have developed deep personal connections with each other, through the work we did with each other and with the groups we met. And we keep meeting in-between as well :). Women at my back is how i see them in my life - truly grateful to the universe for connecting me with each of them.

i was recently with a couple of them last week, when i realized that i don't know their birthdays. i know only one woman's and i have always forgotten it almost every year since I have been friends with her! it seemed a little strange not to know it despite having been together for almost three years now.

And then i realized that we have never celebrated birthdays together. Instead, just by chance and without any pre-planning we have celebrated each time we met. Invariably one of us would have gifts for everyone. It doesn’t matter what day or why or after how long we are meeting. Each of our meetings is preceded by a little exchange of gifts. Either picked up from places where we might have travelled with our families, or simply while walking down the streets of our own city. I have a treasure chest holding all the gifts - reminding me of these special connections we share and more importantly reminding me how special i am. Incense cones, key chain from Romania, a beautiful diary with handmade pages, a bamboo clip from Shillong, flavoured teas, a t-shirt from Hawaii, worry dolls, hand cream from Bath & Body works, a compact shopping bag to fight plastic, a bright red tea light holder, a tribal good luck charm, lavender oil......the list goes on!

I guess, this is my circle of women where we don't celebrate occasions - we celebrate people.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

A must visit site for women

Following upon a web article a friend of mine sent me the link to, i stumbled upon this really cool website : My Inspiration Lounge

Created by a woman, it has tons of links to very interesting websites, thoughts, ideas, practical tips and everything you possibly need while you are looking for inspiration. The inspiration you seek could be to start a venture, go travel, save, go green, get healthy, cook and entertain (that's the one that got me) and even references for books, movies and films. I loved the idea and I loved the look and feel of the website. A must see for all my women-friends

The aroma and feel of special connections

There is an ecofarm called Aikya in Bangalore where I have stashed special memories i share with an incredible group of women i met over five years. Each year the group would spend 10 days together working with oneself on aspects of living and leading. In the process some of us bonded deeply with each other. Although I live a few miles away from this farm, I never visited the farm after the 5-year program ended. Until recently, I went there with two other women from the same circle, this time to offer yet another learning space for a circle of women who trusted us enough to gift themselves the workshop!

While I was really excited about going back to Aikya, strangely, I wasn’t caught by a surge of nostalgia when we finally reached there. Yes, there were great memories but nothing to set my skin tingling, my stomach churning and me getting all goose-bumpy! Until my morning bath the next day. Since Aikya does not have any geysers, water is heated outside our rooms in two black pots from where we then take it to our respective rooms. The water catches on the strangely pleasant aroma of the wood and dry coconut shells, which I had quite forgotten. When I poured the water over me, the uniquely “Aikya” aroma of the water brought back the sounds of the laughter and tears, the confronting and the comforting, the struggling and resting, all of it.

Another memory comes fleeting in with the call of the ‘atira’ bird. Yet another unique connection in Ahmedabad where I first heard this bird calling in the middle of a deep conversation with a friend. I had never heard it, not that it was melodious or soothing in anyway – just very strong and unlike anything I had heard before. My friend, who is as clueless about birds as I am said, “ arre yeh birds toh hamesha ATIRA ke paas dikhte hai” (you can always see these birds near ATIRA). And so the bird became the ‘atira’ bird for me. I have heard the calling several times afterwards, in Ahmedabad and other cities that became home later. I still don’t know what the bird’s real name is, not that I am trying to find out! It will always be the Aitra bird for me – with memories of a very special phase of my life resonating in its calling.

With all the moving and reinventing I have done with my life so far, I often forget special things I have shared with people. Conversations with my friends, people I worked with – many ordinary yet special moments that define me as a person today. And though the mind forgets, the body remembers. She has so lovingly and carefully tucked all these special moments in her different senses bringing them back to me in moments I least expect. In the aroma of lavender oil, the grainy texture of sand, the dampness of the night rain, smokiness of burning firewood, aftertaste of cold coffee, strange harmony of off-key singing, simple taste of masala bun and chai, rough warmth of old cardigans – each bringing in special times with special people. And with a sense of gratitude for this power of my body, I breathe in deeply and touch and feel intensely all these special connections in my life!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Year beginning blues & purples!

After all that self-praise on losing weight, i woefully realized that i have actually regained a lot of the weight i had lost over the year, given my reckless eating through December and foolishly cutting back on the swimming.

Thankfully, the energy of new beginnings and the 2 hours i spent creating my list of resolutions for the year (41 and counting!) stopped me from slipping into a depression. Track shoes in hand, i set off on a hunt for the perfect gym. The effort sure paid off! I found an all women's gym pretty close to home. The whole look and feel of this place is so different from the kind of gyms i have visited in the past. What appealed to me in my first visit to the place were mainly:
1) special aerobic floor boards that have some kind of buffer to avoid impact on knees and back
2) a 10 min stretching routine at the end of the workout to minimize muscle soreness.

But the biggest selling point for me was that the entire gym is done up and in blue guessed it - purple :)!! From the walls to the door to parts of the furniture all have my lovely purple. The colour has seeped in so much that even the little PET bottles they have filled with water are purple (no points for guessing this time!) Ever since i have started this blog, i am convinced purple is the colour for healing. And all those purple patches all over the place (did i mention the ceiling?) sure help me feel upbeat while i workout.

So now its 3 days (and counting), since i have started going to the gym.. Hope to continue with all earnest so i can get to my ideal body weight and buy that little black dress (Resolution # 4 and resolution #39 respectively on my long list) by the end of 2009!