Thursday, December 29, 2016

Many moons, many memories.

Last night I dreamed I went to Murari Pukur again (that's so Rebecca-ish, I know). A luxury resort had been built and within the pond, right at the middle was an intricate swimming pool which had to be reached by arched foot bridges. There was another huge square pool on the other side, covered by a mosaic tiled canopy, it stood shimmering in the light. The house was back, only the front fa├žade was covered in white and the current owner assured me that they were working on building ornate dining rooms out there. The rooms were cottages looking onto the pond, I asked the owner if I could swim in the pond and he was shocked that I wanted to, "it is so deep and such a long distance!" From memory I know that pond cannot have been more than 50 meters in length. At one time I could take a deep breath and dive in on one end and come out at the other, gasping and pretending I was some super sleuth in training. The lawns were neatly manicured and cut, plants carefully planted. None of those flowers and wild-grass jostling for space as I last remember it. Young Frangipani trees strategically added to the luxurious feel and I found myself marvelling at it all and wondering if the planner had imagined it a trifle better than I had. Yes, at one time, in my youth and brimming enthusiasm, I had told my father that what he should do is turn the place into a resort. He had sighed and turned away, smiling. I wonder if he knew, then, that Murari Pukur would be lost to me one day. Just as he would disentangle my fingers from the crook of his elbow and walk on ahead leaving me struggling to catch up….in more ways than one. 
I think of the old days a lot, those warm sun-kissed days, those lazy unstructured evenings, those long nights of balmy silence interspersed by giggles and secrets shared between friends. Is it likely that my dream may have been triggered by the visit of two such sisters recently? Possible. They dropped by one day  and we met after years. Years that melted away quicker than the ice-cubes in our glasses of orange squash from the summers of yore. They brought back memories not quite forgotten but hidden in recesses of my mind.
Or was the dream triggered by the fact that over the last two days I have packed up all of my late father-in-law's clothes into carton boxes that now sit in the living room waiting to be given away to charity? As I took out those suits and jackets I remembered laughing with him, visiting places together, holidays as a family and conversations that now echo only in my mind. That blue striped shirt he loved, that jacket we bought together, that sweater he said kept him as warm as a bear, that shawl we got him from Kashmir… it was all I could do to stop crying and carry on.
And at the end of the day, I think that's all we have. The warm snapshots faded at the edges of days gone by, of friends we laughed with, the joyous music lifting our spirits even when it is cold and the wind blows outside. Everything is magical: the scoldings from our elders, the lectures of that Uncle we all secretly despised, the histrionics of that fat aunty we all loved to hate and would imitate with a pillow stuffed down our front! The other day someone asked me what I wanted for myself for Christmas. I could not think of a thing; I am fortunate, I do not need any more clothes or sarees or shoes or even books. I'd rather spend money on an evening out with people I love than buy another handful of possessions I do not need. (Actually to be honest, the only thing I still like to buy are books, there are endless worlds awaiting and those fascinate me more than any new piece of clothing or accessory ever could!)
So what I am saying here is nothing I haven't said before and nothing new. Let's make memories. Let's just meet up, find friends we never stayed in touch with, catch up with people who have moved out of our lives, get closer to the people we care about and spend our energy on the things we want to do, not the ones we HAVE to. Memories are all we take with us when we go and all we really leave behind when we are gone. Because, you know, those clothes will fade and be given away, the jewelry will be stored away in bank lockers, all your possessions will gather dust somewhere, even the house you so lovingly built may lie vacant and locked… what you will leave is a smile at a shared memory, a laugh at a sudden thought, a spoken word about something you said or did and that is how you will stay alive, even after you are gone.

Life is too short and impetuous for much else. 

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Why I should not be writing about Parenting!

It's been a busy few weeks. One daughter developed respiratory distress and had to be hospitalised for three nights, she has only just been allowed back to school. No, she does not have asthma. But with all the dust and pollution around, are you really surprised? Her pediatrician and pulmologist think it was caused by a bacterial infection. The other one has been suffering for a few months with pain in the joints of the wrists and fingers. Initially we thought it was a ruse to avoid writing, but she seemed to be in agony so over the past four months we have repeatedly been visiting doctors in succession: a pediatrician, an endocrinologist and a pediatric rheumatologist. (I have learnt so many big words this year!!)We have done a battery of blood tests and even a nerve Conduction Velocity (NCV) test which entails electric currents being passed through the hand and the doctors are as yet unable to come up with a diagnosis! Today, we shall try Homeopathy. I'm grabbing at straws here. Add to that the usual rigmarole of the wedding season, social obligations, school duties (bake a cake, collect a cake, deliver a cake), filial obligations and daily living. My work has not only taken a back seat but has also probably fallen off the wagon and I have no time to do anything but somehow breathe and stay alive, much less write.
In fact I have received a few emails with writing prompts and encouraging words saying that I have not written a blog post for a while and I should.  I have ruthlessly been deleting them all. You see, in all the melodrama  that has been going on, I have had a lot of time to think. And the primary thought that has occupied my mind is that I am NOT qualified to be writing on parenting.
Here's why:
1.      I am evil: As I have often explained, I am not mummy material. The sight of babies' drool does not send me into a tizzy. I cannot do the ga-ga goo-goo and am likely to do permanent damage on children just by glaring at them. Just the other day at a relative's place, a small boy was being naughty. I guess all small boys (and girls) are like that. We were waiting for the kids to finish eating so the adults could start. This child was sucking on a small plastic water bottle and refusing to eat. I asked him to leave the bottle and eat. He shook his head, no. I asked again. He shook his head more violently. He was sucking on the bottle so hard it was creating a suction. I tapped the bottom of the bottle. The rim must have hit his lip or mouth because the next moment, he had thrown away the bottle and tears flooded his eyes. Thankfully there was no cut or anything and I never meant to hurt the boy. I spent the next half an hour making friends with him and playing with him. My daughters, who were there and watched me trying to soothe the boy with unbridled glee, told me I was evil.
2.      My house, my rules: I do not hold back, I tell the girls exactly what I think and why. I tell them when they look like a tree trunk or need to diet. I do not hesitate to let them know that their work lacks depth or sincerity. I have been known to scream at my daughters ( and even their friends) in public or elsewhere if I felt it necessary and I have never hesitated to discipline them or make them apologise for their mistakes. I am told that it is wrong. I have been told that I should sugar-coat my words for fear I may traumatise them but I do not think it necessary. See the cover photo? Yes, that's me in a mask frightening my girls and their friends! When the girls were younger, we often visited my in-laws who lived in another house over and on weekends.  Often, we got late returning and the girls would fall asleep in the car. I used to make them get up and climb the four storey stretch of stairs to reach our apartment. I would walk behind them and prod them to keep them moving up the steps. If I had not, they probably would have fallen asleep on the stairs! My daughters tell me that this has scarred them for life; to this date they cannot climb the stairs (especially at night) without thinking that someone would poke them from behind.
3.      I have no maternal feelings: My relationship with my own mother has always been iffy. She came over and helped me when the girls were new-born and I was struggling with diapers and feeding bottles and I am grateful for that but it is only recently that we have mellowed down enough to have an almost civil relationship with each other. Maybe it's because I have now entered my purple years and have come to a stage where I am not bothered by anything anyone says or does and do exactly as I please. But I have never had a role model to look up to or aspire to be. I was, like all mothers, inundated with advice and lectures and after a short span of time realised that I had no patience for it.  So I threw away the guidebook pretty early on.  My brand of parenting is, at best, described as dictatorial. I order, they obey.
4.      I have failed: I order they obey. Did I just say that? My daughters do anything but obey. They bend all the rules, they do not listen to a thing I say. They can argue the hind leg off a donkey. Take this example:
"Can I watch TV?"
"Don't you have exams? Go Study."
"Please , I have to watch my show".
"I said NO, why do you ask if you won't listen?"
"Only while having dinner"
"Please Ma, only half an hour."
After an hour, the TV is still on. One child sits at the dining table chewing a chapati in slow motion. The other is curled up on the sofa, eyes glued to the TV.
"Why is the TV still on? Didn't you say you would watch only while eating dinner?"
"I watched when I had my dinner, now Isha didi is having dinner!"
 5. I'm an optimist. This is an obvious handicap while raising children in this competitive world. My girls are pretty so-so in studies, they manage to pass. Just about. And sometimes it is not even that. They do not play any games, they are not fond of any sport and generally lead unhealthy, in-active lives spent in front of some screen or the other . It's not that we did not try. We have been through dancing classes, singing classes, roller-skating, squash, piano lessons and what-not together. At the end of the day, you will only find them on the phone or on snap chat and even sending voice notes on Whattsapp. Even though ICSC looms round the corner, my daughter is seen more on Instagram than at her study table. We turn the wi-fi off, they sweet talk my sister-in-law (who stays opposite) to sharing her password. We confiscate their phone, they sneak them out of the cupboard. They lie for each other and cover up for each other except when they are fighting like wild cats. They eat an unhealthy diet of chocolates, chips and shortbread in the middle of the night and wonder why they are putting on weight! Yet I believe in them. I think they will turn into normal, well-adjusted, happy, responsible adults. I still think they will follow their dreams and succeed although there is every indication that they might not even get admission into a college of their choice. Such is the blind optimism I have been cursed with.
This is why I have not been writing. This is why I told myself that I should never write a word on parenting ever again. But then I realised that probably there are other mothers like me who go running about with a glazed look in their eyes and wonder if everything they are living for or doing is wrong.
All I want to say is that it probably is, but don't worry. As long as you are yourself and doing the best you can, surely, everything will turn out right!