Category Archives: A to Z Challenge

Zis is the End !

Z

As Adele croons in my ear I write the last blog of this challenge. Very late and rushing to meet the deadline, in a few minutes it will be the 1st of May everywhere in the world. I’m skidding and sliding and hoping to do it justice.

This is the end of a challenge that was taken on enthusiastically, my reason to finally begin writing blogs, something that I always wanted to do. I discovered a lot through the month about myself as well as others in my life. Random thoughts that aimed to share, to humor, to scare, ideas to reflect upon and love to be expressed all tumbled out of me. The alphabet challenged me and tormented me. With lots of support and encouragement from family, old friends and new ones made within this challenge, I persevered and got here to zee end today.

To those who would be thinking of taking it on next year, I would recommend think it through carefully. It is tough, a lot of grit is required not to throw the towel in. And, I am glad I didn’t. It revealed to me that I had a lot to say and I could express it to my heart’s content. I also discovered that I had supporters who carried me and championed me to here, the end.

The blogging will now ease off for a while, I will concentrate on the stories that I neglected while I was absorbed in meeting this challenge. Thank you to all who have read and thank you to all who have shared their thoughts and encouraged me, and helped me get zis end of the A-Z Challenge.

Where you go I go
What you see I see
I know I’d never be me
Without the security
Of your loving arms
Keeping me from harm
Put your hand in my hand
And we’ll stand

You Should Procrastinate

Today I’m going to turn another universal truth on its head and hope that by the end of this even if you do not agree with me, you’ll still recognize that there is some truth to the virtues of procrastination. Virtues!! Hell that’s the worst thing to be, our mindsets have been tuned to being anything but. From time immemorial our elders and betters pontificate that the early bird gets the worm. We are inspired and begin to put the thought to practice, others have benefited and so shall we. Someone who is a procrastinator (and who I have observed carefully over some years) shared with me that this is was what his experience was of it

IMG-20160412-WA0000.jpg

A let down, grumpy feeling that best describes his mood when he tries to complete a task ahead of time. A sense of dissatisfaction that permeates, niggling away at him letting him know that he hadn’t given it his best.

Meeting deadlines for him means skidding into the room at the very last moment with the task clutched in his hands. Now, he said, “I have no bones to pick with the pre-crastinators, who wear the look of condescension as I fall into the room all frazzled and rattled. Who am I kidding of course I enjoy the look of smugness wiped off their faces as the assignment delivered is always perfect and up to my exacting expectations. I do a mental high five and walk out with kickass confidence, my faith in me validated.” The need to be the first never motivates him, the need to be perfect, however does.

The reason procrastination works so well for some is not because they are geniuses (I’m just kidding, of course they are.) They are geniuses because they recognize what works for them. Do not mistake procrastination for evasion. A procrastinator is certainly not an evader, they are not trying to get away with not doing the task, in fact it is just the opposite and they are working constantly. Their life has been taken over by the task, they are constantly thinking, they are considering the possibilities, they are contemplating on how to approach it, they are pondering over the problem, they are deliberating the issues, they are meditating over the solution, they are reflecting over the difficulties and they are waiting for that eureka moment that will bring with it the light that will clear the fog and bring with it the clarity that will surprise you, shake you and make you reckon that there is something to be said for the habitual procrastinator. I have taken a leaf from the book of the procrastinator and hence the blog is coming in at the last possible moment (it is still 29th at the antipode to India.) Is it my best work? I don’t know. Yet, I’m satisfied.

 

 

 

 

X Marks the Spot

Born in the 70s and educated in the 20th century, I have some serious bones to pick with the systems that governed my education. In the memories of childhood academics, the one that I have no fondness for is the X in my answer sheets. I do not mean the ‘x’ of algebra (surprisingly I had bigger problems with Math than the elusive x.) What I am writing about is the red X or cross that the teachers would mark an incorrect answer with. Some teachers used small ones at the end of the answer as gentle reminders and some boldly crossed out entire answers to let you know how deeply you offended. Whatever the shape or size of the red X, it only ever shouted out WRONG or INCORRECT or MISTAKE!!

As I approached the learning process, discovering new lands and delving into the past, Math was fraught with anxiety yet the sciences took up my imagination. Literature and language become my greatest loves, the arts though neglected during early academic years became my sustenance in later times. Someone who considers herself a lifelong learner, I did not enjoy writing exams so much and getting back the answer sheets even less. There were some sheets that would not have a single X marring them, and then there were some that the Xs crossed, causing a lot of despair. Over the years the number of red Xs became fewer though they followed me everywhere, hoping to goad me into doing better. Did they succeed? No, they only caused resentment and did not hit their intended mark.

As an aspiring educator in the 21st Century, I was pleasantly surprised to discover during my training that we were expected not to mark a child’s answer with an X and especially not with red. There were studies, we were told, red used to denote danger, stop signs and warnings. It was a color that signified negativity to a child’s mind.

Finally someone had said what as a kid I had wondered about. Why the love for the red does a teacher prize, their vocation is to enlighten, and not to dishearten. There are so many colors in the spectrum why not a pleasant blue that calmly reminds? A sassy pink that with verve refines? A pale green that coolly propagates? A bright orange that hopefully energizes? A vibrant violet that disguises reproofs as prizes?

As for the X, does it not exclude creativity? Penicillin, the pacemaker and x-rays are discoveries that would not exist had it not been for someone making a mistake. So before you correct with a large X, stop and consider, let it not be a factor to curb innovation. Let it not continue to be a prophecy of inadequacy for a child who stops trying, due to the X’s intimidation. Reclaim it as a tool to fuel adventure, only on maps, for X marks the spot where treasure is to be found.

Walk the Walk and Talk the Talk

A firm believer in the adage that actions speak louder than words, sharing a few quotes that inspire me.

 

Fear not, my lord, we will not stand to prate;

Talkers are no good doers:

be assured We come to use our hands and not our tongues.

Shakespeare’s Richard III

It is a good divine that

follows his own instructions: I can easier teach

twenty what were good to be done, than be one of

the twenty to follow mine own teaching.

Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice

“It’s not bragging if you can back it up.” ~ Muhammad Ali

“You can preach a better sermon with your life than with your lips.” ~ Oliver Goldsmith

Vegetarian by Choice

Keep Calm 20130402174023

I’ve been itching and threatening to write this one for quite a while, so those that know me well, will not be surprised with today’s post.

I am a vegetarian!!

As soon as I drop this bomb, new acquaintances do a double take. “But, you don’t look like one,” pops out of their mouth before they realize. Out of politeness, now I nod and smile having heard this a million times. I have pondered over this statement many a times, what does a vegetarian face look like? The face I wear somehow does not suit that stereotype.

Is it a Buddha like serene countenance that is required? Or a look of profound piety, which I do not possess? So pray (I wonder) do I carry the look that is carnivorous? Or is it cannibalistic, the face that the creator furnished me with? Whatever the reason, I’m not yet enlightened. Since polite folk just laugh when I ask them back what a vegetarian looks like. “Not like you, certainly,” said one and another afraid probably of my cannibalistic looks hurriedly pacified, “No, no I didn’t mean to offend!”

Still with doubt in their mind, the next question that comes, “Is your family vegetarian? Were you forced to by your in-laws,” they ask with pity in their eyes. If they knew me well enough, they’d know how remote that possibility is, as my long suffering in-laws can testify, forcing me to do something against my will. Well, that just doesn’t happen. The doubting Thomas’ need to confirm, “Must have left it for religious reasons!”

Here I give up, my genuine, ‘I don’t relish the taste of non-veg,’ doesn’t suffice. For you see, I do not have the ‘looks’ to convince.

Grudgingly, they wonder what to feed this strange creature who does not fit the mould and upsets their well-planned menu. Now, they must add some vegetarian options to it. Sigh!! More work!! What to add is the next dilemma, what do vegetarians eat? Grass, we cannot serve, she is after all a guest. Salad, she’ll think we are commenting on her weight, she needs to shed but how can we be so obvious. Vegetables are sides, to be had with meat (that is the actual food.) Then they have their ‘aha moment’! They hit on just the right combination – aloo (potatoes) as appetizer and Paneer (cottage cheese) for mains. There, what a fancy menu, she’ll surely be glad we know what a vegetarian’s palate be fond of. As I eat their carefully selected choices and smile in wonder at another thoughtful meal of aloo and paneer. There and then I promise myself to get to the writing of my long overdue cook book, “Vegetarian Party Cooking – Not a single Aloo or Paneer Recipe!”

 

 

 

 

Uniqueness

e4c22bca8b57870d06c7bfe2329df03e

Another open letter to my seventeen year old and my almost teenager.

Dear Kids,

Today, both of you are at life’s important threshold, one is almost ready to walk out into the world, leaving behind the safety of home and the other steps into a phase where innocence begins to fade. As your Mum, I try to always do my best, don’t roll your eyes, you know what’s coming next. Read carefully and think clearly, I’ll try today, to expound on Uniqueness.

Peer pressure, a word you experience often enough to know its meaning and its implications. This is a word that will chase you all your life, it is not one that begins in your teenage years and gets left behind here. It is how you learn to deal with this fact of life that will set you apart making you the leader or the led. Whenever you are in a dilemma on whom to listen to, the temptations without or the conscience within, the desires of the heart or the brain that cautions, remember that the creator put the brain on top and the heart below it.

Though easier to follow, the footsteps of others, the path they carved was for them alone. It suited their purpose, it might not fit yours. Chart your own course, it might seem daunting but believe me when I say, it will be a lot less taunting. Does that mean you not learn from the achievements of others? No certainly, not.

“Lives of great men all remind us

We can make our lives sublime,

And, departing, leave behind us

Footprints on the sands of time;”

(-H. W. Longfellow)

You must understand that there is a difference in your own path and following another’s. The satisfaction to be gained from endeavors that are based on our own convictions rather than on those that others have influenced are easier to live with than those followed blindly.

Each of you have in you a certain something that is yours to own, for there is no one else in the world truly like you in any way. The universe gives you your individuality and that is your strength. So recognize it, embrace it and revel in it. Your uniqueness is what defines you, what separates you from the rest.

Love, Mama

 

 

The World of Children vs The World of Adults

Man's hands hold kid's handful

The world of children and the world of adults intersects on so many levels and yet is so disconnected. Reading Saki’s story ‘The Lumber Room’ with a student today I endeavored to bridge the chasm that separated these worlds. In the process I realized that certain conversations that I have with my children are to be questioned.

The story is simple enough on the surface of it. A child, Nicholas, is in ‘disgrace’ for having put a frog into his ‘wholesome bread-and-milk basin’ that constituted his daily breakfast. ‘His sin is enlarged on at great length’ by his aunt, while he wonders why he is being taken to task when the wiser adults have in fact been ‘proved to be profoundly in error.’ The aunt had insisted that a frog could not possibly have gotten into the bread-and-milk, while he knew it was there since he himself had put it into the basin. While I chuckled at the precocity of this child and admitted to my student that what Nicholas claimed was perfectly reasonable, we discussed what the aunt would have probably said scolding him. He laughed while he told me his own parents would say that people were starving in poor homes while he fussed about eating his vegetables and I shared that I would scold my children that there were millions starving and here you have wasted perfectly good food that is now not fit for eating. A child’s mind is not equipped to imagine the scenario that the adults are alluding to and so they cannot relate to the hunger suffered by others who are so far removed from their lives. Our words though stored away for future use somewhere in their minds fall on deaf ears. Does this mean we do not lecture them on the importance of empathy? Or is there another way?

Nicholas’ Aunt then devises an outing to the seaside for the other children to make his ‘disgrace’ more pronounced. He of course is unfazed, expected to be miserable as the others leave he couldn’t care less for the company of the children he finds so uninteresting, leaving her disappointed. She further tries to restrict him by banning him from exploring the ‘gooseberry gardens’ he, the smart cookie that he is strings her along and has her guarding the entryways to the garden while he goes exploring into the banned ‘lumber room’ so full of treasures that she has hidden away. There is a tapestry of a hunting scene, that excites his imagination, a teapot like a china duck far more interesting than the ‘dull and shapeless’ everyday one that was used in her kitchens and ‘little brass figures, hump-necked bulls, and peacocks and goblins, delightful to see and to handle.’ How many times as adults do we keep trinkets and decoratives that may be either fragile, dearly bought or even hold sentimental value to us away from the reach of younger children? We are afraid that they will break or be damaged. Reaching this bit of the story I was struck by the thought that while I guarded my ‘treasures’ did I limit the mind of my children? Were they not entitled to explore and let their imaginations find joy just as I did? Were these baubles more ‘dear’ than their ingenuities?

Nicholas had a few more lessons up his sleeve. He informs the ‘soi-disant aunt’ that though she’s sent the other children off on a fun expedition Bobby, wouldn’t enjoy as his new boots were too tight. The aunt perplexed wonders why Bobby did not tell her, Nicholas’ answer is a crime as a parent I am also oft accused of by my kids. “He told you twice, but you weren’t listening. You often don’t listen when we tell you important things.”

The end of the story had me laughing out loud, I’ll not spoil it for you. Do read this precocious story and appreciate this disconnect that makes the child’s mind such an amazing place to explore. What I will comment upon before I end is at the cleverness of the writer’s mind, set in Edwardian times children did not have the privilege of being understood. Children should be seen and not heard, an adage of yesteryears applying to them rather severely. Schooling and parenting is a lot different today, Nicholas would easily fit into the mould of today’s child and is a complete delight.