My Sunday got a new name – Rahagiriday

Raahgiri Day, Hyderabad

Have you ever danced in the middle of a busy city road, in front of more than 100 spectators, to lyrics you don’t even understand, and still enjoy every bit of it? Have you ever ran downhill holding hands with your children, singing songs and letting the breeze gently blow your hair and your worries away (again in the middle of the busy city road)? Have you ever seen a middle aged lady, dressed conservatively in a sari,  sway her hips to the choreography of a 20 year old boy, again in the middle of the road? Have you played cricket and roller skating and kite flying in the middle of the road, all on one day? Have you ever woken up at 6 AM on a Sunday, drove for more than 1 hour to reach such a kind of road?

I did all this today at the Rahagiri day! And it was so intoxicating that I plan to do this each Sunday. Here is the story of how this day came to happen.

We have a Saturday night ritual of loading our hair with oil. (I am yet to understand the reason behind this ritual, but my mom used to do it for us, and I do it for my kids without asking the question why.) As I oiled Toynas hair last night, she proposed that we go to Rahagiri tomorrow. “Rahagiri? But it is so far! And I am so tired! And it will be so hot! And tomorrow is the only day of the week that Mama gets to sleep late. Rahagiri? No, please not tomorrow! We will go another Sunday. Plus, we already have so much oil in our hair! What will people think of us if we go to Rahagiri in this state!” I could see she was not too happy with foregoing Rahagiri but then she cared for her Mom enough to let her get some sleep on Sunday Morning.

Come Sunday morning (today), my alarm clock (Yog, who has a body fitted with an alarm inside) woke up at sharp 6 AM. He wanted milk. As I held him in my arms, Toyna went to the kitchen to heat the milk. After drinking the milk, Yog happily rolled back to sleep. But by then, Toyna was wide awake and so was I. Toyna looked at me and said, “Rahagiri?”. I grumbled under my breath to show that Mama was doing this just for her and asked her to get ready. Honestly, I was excited myself, but why lose an opportunity to earn some brownie points! Head heavy with oil, plain T shirts and slacks and we were ready for the biggest public party at Hyderabad. Off we drove, in the crisp summer morning to the other side of the city where hundreds of city folks gather on the designated road.

Our first stop was Zumba. Toyna instantly jumped in to the alien dance form, but I was shy. There were so many people there. What would they think? But the music was so exciting, I couldn’t help but slowly join in. We swayed, jumped, laughed and probably made a big fool of myself. But who cares! There were at least 50 more middle aged women out there, not caring what the world thought! Well, if they could, then so can I! A few songs later, we slowly pulled ourselves out from the crowd and decided to check out what else was in store. For a while, we just walked hand in hand, singing along, cracking jokes and watching the other children cycle around, enjoying the peace of the beautiful morning. We stopped for water, then kite flying and then trying our hand at cricket.

As we drove back home, later in the morning, I couldn’t help but think that the whole trip to Rahagiri was much more rewarding than any movie, shopping mall, toy store, or even park that I have taken Toyna to. In my mind, I celebrated the fact that we defied the laws of city entertainment today. We didn’t spend a penny, didn’t eat any junk, and yet had a great time. Was it even possible in todays age?

In the modern day life of today, where systems, routines and values are pretty much flexible and based on convenience of the user, I constantly feel the need to establish some form of rituals for my children to follow – Oil every Saturday night, being one of them. I am hoping that given the benefits of something like Rahagiri for me and my children, I can include it as a part of my rituals. I am hoping to dance along with other middle aged women, like me, and not care what the rest of the world thinks about us. I am hoping to unwind completely as we go rolling down the road. I am hoping to feel fresh and energetic right at the start of the week. I am hoping to meet new folks and make new friends in the middle of the road. And above all, I am hoping to establish that connection with my family. After all, isn’t that what Sundays are for?

How much do you love me?

I Love You Mama

Have been thinking about calling a friend, but something stops me from dialing the number. I have been the one calling her the last three times, but she never seems to get enough time to call me. In fact, the last time I caller her, she said she was busy and she will call me back. It has been five days and she hasn’t called back still. Maybe she is no longer interested in me. Maybe I should also stop calling her up too.

Does this sound familiar!?! I can’t say about men, but there are a number of women that I know (including me) who go through this trauma in our day to day lives. We would like to be in a relationship, but are insecure about how much to give and how much to ask for. Insecurity breeds doubts and eventually creates distances between relationships. Consider another scenario:

My daughter goes to stay at a hostel.  I call her every morning, noon and night to check on her. Many times she doesn’t pick my call because she doesn’t have time; so I drop her a message. If she doesn’t respond to messages, I call her friend to find out if she is all right. If her friends tries to ignore me too, I catch the next flight to her college and knock at her door in the middle of night, “Why have you not answered my call? I am worried sick about you! At least you should have sent me a message… bla bla bla..”

In both scenarios the context is the same; someone I care about did not respond to my call. But the way I react to the situation is so different. When it comes to my daughter, I have no reason to be insecure. We love each other and we will continue to love each other for the next seven births as well. I don’t worry about what she will think and whether she is fed up of having a nosy mother. Whatever she might think, I have a right to know that she is fine, and I will assert my right till the end of the world.

However, when it comes to other relationships like friends, uncles, aunts, even boyfriends and husbands, our insecurities get the better of us. Unanswered phone calls start to mean something much more grim. We count the number of times I called vs they called. We track how much money we spent on their birthday gift vs. how much they spent. How many times they made us feel special vs. how many times we did the same for them.

Some days, I feel baffled about how we try to measure love in number of phone calls and materialistic gifts. When we love someone, is it because they love us too? What if they stop loving us one day, would our love end too? Do we need permission from anyone to express our love for them? I really don’t think so. The way I see it, there is only one thing in life that no one can have excess of. That one thing is love. And the best part is that love comes free and can be shared free of cost too. Then why do we keep ourselves devoid of it? Why do we ration it and give it to only those, who choose to give it back to us in some form? What can possibly go wrong if I continue to love someone, who for some reason has moved far from my life or is not in a position to express their love back for me?

To all my friends and family reading this, I sincerely hope that you get the message. If you think I am too nosy and you want me out of your life, you will have to really tell it to me on my face to get out of your life. Silence, ignored phone calls, cryptic messages, etc. will never give me the message.

For the friends, whom I don’t get around to call so often – I hope you get the message too. If I would rather choose not to be your friend, I will tell you bluntly to your face and request you to leave me alone. Silence, ignored phone calls, or cryptic messages, in no way mean that I don’t love you anymore. They just mean that I am kind of lost right now and would appreciate your support to sort out the mess. So please continue to call.

 

P.S. – The story about my daughter going to college is hypothetical right now. Toyna reads most of my blogs, but I will make sure she doesn’t get to read this one, right now.

Happy 10th

Happy Birthday

Toyna will celebrate her 10th Birthday tomorrow! Like all mothers, I am feeling happy, proud and a little bit bewildered. Where did the time fly? Is it really 10 years, or am I counting it wrong??

Sigh! 10 years it is! All though, I will admit that all of them were not equally glorious. The first 5-6 years after having Toyna, I was just another super paranoid mother constantly worried about providing a perfect childhood to my daughter. I used to constantly worry about her being too weak, too dark, too serious, too naughty, too fussy, too skinny, too small,…. About her watching too much TV, reading too few books, not coloring as much as she should, not playing with friends outdoor, ….. I used to measure how much she ate and how much she slept. I used to carefully observe how she spoke, and how she dressed.

Phew! I wanted to be in control of her life to ensure that she had the perfect life! As all mothers who have been through it, I learnt the hard way that I was ruining her life in the process. I learnt it the hard way, that Toyna was an absolutely beautiful normal child, and I ought to feel extremely proud of this fact. There is nothing extraordinary about her, and that makes her completely perfect.

In the last few years, we have come across so many children in our circle of friends and family who are for some reason or another “Not Normal”. Genetic abnormalities, complications during birth, injuries during early childhood have left them significantly different from our children. Their parents work day and night on them with the hope that, one day, they will be able to lead a normal life. This is the only thing that the parents pray for and live for. They would trade their million dollar fortunes or fancy jobs or even their own health, if any one could guarantee a normal life for their children in the future.

When I see the worries cross the brow of these parents, I can’t help but count my own blessings which include two happy, healthy children. Just the fact that they are both Normal, is such a magnificent gift from God. So what if they are naughty or temperamental or not so studious; all these signs indicate that they are super normal. I would not want to trade their normalcy for any extraordinary powers of the world. For the future, I pray that God blesses them with good health and a power to remain at peace within, no matter the chaos outside. Given these two elements, I am sure they will be able to figure out the rest of elements themselves.

Wishing you a very very Happy 10th Birthday Toyna! I pray that you stay Normal always!!

Taming the Ladybird

ZOO

Like most urban parents, we indulged Toyna, as a child, with all possible toys that our economic condition allowed. She had a walker even before she could stand and a cycle even before she could run. Over time, some toys got passed on to younger cousins and some piled up in our home. She was gifted a new Ladybird cycle by her grandmother for her 10th birthday. With that the count of children’s cycles in our house went upto four. Toynas grandmother and I conspired to skip one stage of cycle in between and ended up buying this last stage cycle for Toyna. I know Toyna would have been comfortable with the intermediate stage but I really don’t have the space to store one additional cycle in the process.

Though we have had a cycle for Toyna since she was 2 years old, she actually learnt how to cycle independently only during her last summer break. I remember holding her cycle from behind for weeks, as she tried to balance her way on the two wheels. I taught her to sit straight, look ahead and maintain speed. She was extremely frustrated for a long time, not being able to do something which the world around her achieved so effortlessly. She fell a number of times and cried; not because she was hurt but because she was really desperate to make it work.

One day, as I left for work, Toyna sneaked out with her cycle and tried practicing it on her own. She fell, stood up, started again and rode for a while on the hot summer road. She fell again, stood up again, determined to make it work. I believe this happened a few times before I got a call from her, informing me that she had learnt how to cycle on her own. She could even take a U-turn without getting down from the cycle. Hurray!!!

One year later as she unpacked her brand new cycle, I could see her excitement turn into fear. This cycle was too big. Her feet didn’t even touch the ground. What was the use of a cycle which she couldn’t even ride!! Nonetheless, we stepped out on the roads again trying to master this new beast. I taught her how to get on top and get down.. She tried my techniques but didn’t gain too much success. She fell, scratched the cycle, her knees and elbows, but promptly got up again. She cried and wiped out her tears with the back of her arm. She was frustrated. She already knew how to cycle, then how could this cycle refuse to be tamed!?! It wasn’t fair!

After two days of fighting with the cycle,  the Ladybird gave in and accepted Toyna as her mistress. Toyna had won another battle!! As she rode around on the street,  I could sense the pride in her eyes. She used my technique of getting on top but developed her own technique of getting down. I couldn’t care less. As long as she was comfortable with the cycle, it didn’t matter one bit on how she did it.

At the end of the successful evening, as we pulled the cycle into the basement for parking, Toyna said, “Mama, it took me a long time to learn the first cycle, but this time I learnt it very quickly. I think each new time it becomes easier!” My heart swelled with pride. She had not only learnt how to cycle like an adult but also learnt an important lesson in life. I stopped to give her a hug and say, “The biggest lesson that I have learnt today is that no matter how bad we are at something,  if we really want to make it work, we just have to keep trying and never give up!”

We parked the cycle. She left to play with friends and I started working on some extremely difficult problems I have been facing at work. I had given up on some of them, but Toyna taught me to keep trying. Wipe away your tears, forget the bruised ego, stand up and keep trying. It is bound to get easier each passing day.

Vendors are like your own Children

Negotiations

Handling unprofessional vendors is very similar to handling your kids. On a typical day, this is how the conversation between me and my kids go:

Child: Mama, I want to have a Yogurt now.

Mom: No, but it is almost lunch time. How about you have it after you have finished your complete lunch nicely.

Child: Nooo! But I want it right now.

Mom: But you know the rules; we don’t eat snacks before lunch. It will spoil our appetite for lunch.

Child: Nooooooo!!!!! You never listen to me!! You don’t even love me!!!!!

Mom (hands crossed, trying to hold back the rising frustration, taking deep breaths and waiting for the outbreak to subside)

Child (after two minutes of screaming and wailing): Please Mom!

Mom: Finish your lunch quickly! I am keeping your Yogurt out on the table, just for you. See you have your favorite curry in lunch.

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On a typical day, this is how my conversation goes with some of my vendors:

Vendor: Please release my payment urgently. I am in need of funds.

Director, KINDUZ: I understand your situation, but you are yet to complete your deliverable. As per the agreement, we cannot release the payment till you deliver it and KINDUZ has reviewed it and signed off on it.

Vendor: Noooo you cannot do this! The agreement is not above the trust that we have with each other. I have been working with you for so long. I have supported you in good times and bad times. How can you hold my payment!!

Director, KINDUZ: I am not holding your payment. We will process it as soon as we have received the deliverable.

Vendor: Noooooooooo! You are cheating me! You promised me you will release my payments on time.

Director, KINDUZ (Exasperated, Feeling like switching off my phone, and email and ears and eyes to this world; waiting for this wave to pass by)

Vendor (after couple of irrational mails, phone calls and messages): Ok, I agree to complete my deliverable quickly. Please release my payment thereafter.

Director, KINDUZ: Absolutely! You have my word on it! As soon as we have it signed off! Look forward to the deliverable!

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I feel blessed to have children who are assertive! Children are supposed to be like that. However, for some unknown reason, I don’t feel as blessed when working with vendors who behave like children. I don’t think vendors are supposed to be like that!

As a mom, I can still break the rules, once in a while. Take a break; skip the lunch; eat yogurt for lunch, dinner and breakfast. But I am not a Mom for my vendors. When leading an organization, I cannot break the contractual rules. I can lend money as a friend, but I cannot advance payments for deliverables that have not been delivered.

I hope they understand! It is nothing personal! It is all a part of business!!

Grow Up to Be

Toyna and me

“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy.’ They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.” -John Lennon

When asked what I wanted to become when I grew up, I used to say, “A Dad!”

I guess that is the reason Pavan​ gets to travel so much. Didn’t realize, God would grant my wish of being a Dad, while being a Mom at the same time!!!

I Believe I can Fly

Birds Nest

I was born in a small paradise in India. Clean, beautiful, small and self sufficient, it is a city which is the envy of most bustling capitals across the world. Chandigarh – one of the only two planned cities of the world is the capital city of both Haryana and Punjab. But that is not what makes it unique. That is not what I remember when I think of my days in Chandigarh. When I think of Chandigarh, I think of the long cycle tracks, hidden between thick, green, shady trees; running criss cross through the entire city. It is on these tracks that I have spent most of my teen evenings; cycling on an old dilapidated Mach-1 cycle.

Each evening, as the sun settled down, I used to take out the old machine and cycle around the whole city, whizzing past the traffic which was trying to head home. On roads which were devoid of traffic, I used to often let go of the handle bars, stretching my arms, palms turned out, and head lifted up towards the sky. I could see the green branches dancing in the breeze, the yellow flowers, the red leaves or just the open expanse of the sky floating around me. Yes! In those days I could fly! It was for this reason that I deliberately tried to stay on roads which had the minimum traffic.

Since I was a regular on the evening roads a lot of people expected to see me cycling around at a particular hour each evening. Needless to say, I used to be the object of attention sometimes, good and bad. I was young, brash, and couldn’t care less for either of them. My theory was pretty simple; most people would not be able to catch me in a cycle chase as I was simply faster than them. Those who were not on a cycle, but on a faster machine, could not catch me either. This was because I could anytime move to the other side of the road, by jumping a road divider, dragging my cycle behind me. They on the other hand could never do so on a scooter/bike/ or car. By the time they reached a U turn and crossed over, I would have long disappeared into another tree covered cycle lane. In my mind, I had the entire city mapped out. It was safe.

Once there was a typical teen Chandigarh boy, who approached me from behind, on his cycle. He gave me a toothy grin and said, “Hello there! Can I have your name please!?!” Usually, I would have sped off, leaving him to his name search, but some days, you just want to play along. I smiled back and said, “Sorry! I can’t give it to you! It is the only one I have!” With that I pushed off, switching tracks, getting lost at a traffic light.

Then, there was a day, when one friend decided to join me in my cycling expedition. She was soon tired and bored. I am sure she was wondering why I was so crazy about cycling, in the first place. She asked me but I couldn’t explain. I just loved it. I just loved flying through the streets with my feet balanced on the pedals of the cycle. There was nothing more to be said. Then she asked me another question, “Wasn’t I scared, riding through the entire city, ALONE in the evening. Hadn’t I heard what all can happen to girls my age, when we are alone?” Honestly speaking, I hadn’t thought about it. I had never felt scared on those roads. My only response was, “I never feel scared, when I know I am completely alone. I would be scared, only when I knew that there was someone around me.”

Till date, I maintain this philosophy to life. Cycling has been replaced with walking, owing to the terrain and traffic of the city that I live in. I never feel scared till I know there is no one around me. But the moment, I sense a vehicle or a person coming close to me, my body goes on self defense mode. I reduce the volume of the music in my headphones, move to the opposite side of the road, and be ready for attack, if someone tries something funny. As the vehicle passes on, and nothing happens, my breath evens out again and the music becomes louder.

How strange is the world that we live in! We being the most advanced of all species have conquered every other specie out there. We no longer live under fear from any other living form. What we need to fear now, is each other.  I smile at the dogs, who sniff at my ankles and feet on the road. But I loathe the boys, who dare to even catch my smell. How dare they!?!

Toyna got a new cycle for her 10th birthday. It is what she wanted as her gift. She is happy riding it in the confines of our lane till now. But how long, can I keep her caged? One day, she will want to step out. One day, she will want to fly too. How will I explain the rules to her? This city is not Chandigarh! And this time is not the right time for teen girls to be out alone. How will I cut her wings even before she has unfolded them? I once used to fly and I just hope someday I will be able to help her fly too.

Bees Saal Baad

Susterhood

I sat at the ophthalmologists center today, eyes burning with the sting of the eye drops. Tears flowed through my eyes, wetting my cheeks. I dabbed my eyes with the soft cotton balls that the assistant handed me. I figured, it was pretty natural to sit and cry at an Ophthalmologist. If only she knew, that the tears were not because of the drops in my eyes, but because of the memories in my mind. Somehow, the burning liquid had passed right through from my eyes into my brain, making it go into flash back mode.

Twenty years ago, my situation was pretty much the same, at least physically. A major eye surgery cured me of a critical eye defect, but left me at the mercy of ophthalmologists for the coming few months. I was still in my teens; full of fun, high spirits (not in the literal sense), and a strong passion for life. Above all, I had the best companion, with me, by my side. A companion who fought, laughed, cried, and even slept with me. Our bond went deeper than friendship; it was connected with blood. My sister, Heeral, elder to me by just 11.5 months was my closest ally. Both of us together, were lost in our own small world full of jokes, crazy art work, mango trees and unbridled laughter. We had little connection with the outer world; no qualms about the past and no fancy dreams about the future. We were just happy being together in our world.

As I recovered from the surgery, she ferried me to and fro to the hospital, on her blue color luna. As I was administered the eye drops and blinded for a couple of hours, she would sit by me and narrate the stories unfolding at the hospital. We could talk endlessly about anything. I think we never complained about how it took to get out turn or how crowded the hospital was. The more time it took, the more stories we had to share.

Twenty years on, she is happily settled in California. We probably speak to each other once in 4 months. We met each other four years later, last month in Delhi. We hugged, we talked, we laughed, we parted ways and we haven’t spoken again since. The time or the distance doesn’t matter between the both of us. Sitting so many thousands of miles away, I can still feel her close in my mind. As I closed my eyes at the Ophthalmologist today, I sometimes laughed thinking about her and sometimes cried at not having her close beside me. For those sitting around me, there was an excellent justifications for the tears rolling down, but how would I explain the laughter. Maybe, I could blame the eye drops that had effected my mind or the cricket match on the TV screen. Anyways, who cares what anyone thought, as long as I got to relive those beautiful memories in my mind, one more time.

Being a Woman

Happy Womens DayHalf the world considers a woman as an object to be used.

The other half of the world glorifies womanhood to the status of God.

I don’t think we are either.

We are just a different form of human specie.

We might be responsible for bringing life on this planet, but let’s be honest, we cannot do it on our own.

We might be more sensitive to emotions of others, but then we are not as tough when it comes to our exterior.

Urban women cook, clean, bring up the children, and go to work; but then so do most urban men these days.

The problems of the world today will not be solved by glorifying one side and degrading the other. The problems will be solved by achieving the balance; understanding that both sides are equal and that both need each other for survival and for fulfillment.

First Annual Day

Number 8

I remember Toynas first annual day at school. I think I was even more excited about her annual day than her. I dropped her at school at the appointed hour and then hanged around at school for the next couple of hours, just to make sure I got the front row seats. I coaxed my neighbor on the chairs to hold on to my seat, while I sneaked my way to her classroom to get some pictures of her in her dress and makeup. It seemed just the natural thing to do in those days.

6 years later, Yogs principal handed me the invitation to Yogs first annual day. I looked at her incredulously and asked, “Really!?! Annual Day for Yog? Do you think he …..” She smiled reassuringly and said, “He is the star dancer of his class! Please make sure he participates in the dance.” Well! What could I say? I was not so worried about Yog, but more worried about their whole act. If Yog, who was not even two years old, was supposed to be their star performer, then I could visualize the complete act in my mind.

Anyhow, I did my part. I made sure Yog attended school and participated in the dance practice. On the annual day, I dropped him to school at the appointed hour. I even managed to reach the venue just 30 minutes late. Years of attending annual days has taught me that the chief guest is always 30 minutes late. In this case, I was still early. The Chief Guest, a pediatrician with a childrens hospital somewhere in the city, casually walked in 1 hour late. He then proceeded to address the children, who had already been caged in their green rooms for the past 2 hours, for another 30 minutes. All the while, I kept searching his face, trying to see if he was real. How could he, being a pediatrician, not understand the plight of the little children (all of them less than 5 year old), waiting to come out of their green rooms. I could hear some of the children screaming their hearts out from behind the black curtains. My heart was racing and I was trying desperately to believe that Yog was not one of them. He would be happily playing or eating his snack. He would be brave through all of this. He would not cry.

As soon as the Chief Guest stepped down, the principal took charge and hurriedly finished her speech. She handed the stage for the first act – a dance from the playgroup children, a dance from Yogs class. As soon as the curtain lifted, I could see Yog crying, standing right in the center of the stage. His teacher was desperately trying to calm him down. I tried to get his attention, hoping that after seeing me in the crowd, he will calm down and focus on the act. I was wrong. I did manage to catch his attention but the reaction was quite the opposite. As soon as our eyes locked, his screams became even louder. He extracted himself from the hold of his teacher and ran towards me. For a moment, I was scared that he would run all the way and jump down from the stage, right at me. Thankfully the teacher caught up with him and pulled him back from the edge of the stage. All the parents in the audience, for some odd reason, found this very funny and started laughing. My heart, on the other hand, was about to burst. I ran backstage and got hold of Yog in my arms to pacify him. His teacher tried to reassure me that he was fine and he could still perform. I shook my head, clutched him close to my chest and got him out from from the backstage.

His head was soaked with sweat and his face drenched with tears. He had stopped screaming but his sobs were still racking his little body against my chest. At that moment, I couldn’t care less about the annual day or the dance or the chief guest. I picked up his bag, rested him in the car seat and drove back home. He was so exhausted by then, that he cried himself to sleep.

As his sobs quietened in the car, my mind started analyzing the situation more logically. Was I wrong in sending him to the annual day? Was I wrong in picking him back so early? Maybe this experience would have made him stronger? By sending him to school at such a tender age, was I exposing him to a little too much? Or by protecting him, as soon as he started crying, was I making him weak? As any mother, I wanted to do what was right for Yog. I wanted him to experience the world, but above all I wanted him to be happy and healthy. Today, I had failed.

Given the situation, it was obvious that my mind would end up drawing a parallel with Toynas first annual day. The excitement, the pictures, the fun was so intoxicating in those days. Was my heart becoming weaker with age? Or was Yog too young to cope with the strain? Or was it the poor organization on part of the school? Or was it the Pediatrician who didn’t know anything about children? To keep things simple, I chose to assign the blame squarely on the Chief Guest Pediatrician. Had he come on time and had he finished his speech quickly, none of this would have happened. It just felt right to make him the scapegoat.

I know, I protected Yog that day, but if another similar situation arises, a couple of months from now, I will not hesitate to send him again. Maybe he will cry again. Maybe he will be the star performer. Maybe I will be stronger the next time. Maybe the Chief Guest will come on time. Maybe the next annual day will have a different kind of story to tell….