Legacy- A Tribute

I dedicate this post to my brother, Mukund and his wife Latha, my mother’s siblings -Dr. Mohan, Viji, Chandra and Naga and their families- my cohorts on the journey where we witnessed a beautiful legacy unfold.

The past few years have been difficult for my family as we’ve watched my mother battle a series of illnesses. She has undergone a double angioplasty, fought pneumonia, been under the knife twice-first for a mastectomy and the second time for the removal of a goiter and very recently had been hospitalized for a stroke. Terrifying for any person to face such grave situations in a short span of time yet remarkable as she is, she has emerged each time stronger in spirit, greater faith in the Almighty. As a helpless bystander I have often questioned Him “Why her?” Why test the spirit of a person so lovely, so dear time and time again? He has only replied by bestowing His grace upon our family. Even though her path has been thorny and fiery, it’s almost as if He has enveloped her and us in His wings to shield us from the thorns and fire.

Each time the onset has been sudden, diagnosis serious, prognosis grim yet the outcome miraculous. One day she complained of a little breathlessness while walking my daughter to school and by the next day she was in the ER undergoing an angioplasty with 99% blockage in her arteries. It happened so fast that the whole thing is a blur in my mind. I do remember though that the team of doctors who attended to her was fantastic and that has been the case every time. A true blessing. With the cancer, a very tiny bump on the skin that she intuitively got checked out resulted in a biopsy a day later which revealed a very aggressive kind of cancer that could ravage her body in a matter of days. Within a week of her discovery of the bump she had undergone a mastectomy.  Each time she was wheeled into the OR the doctors have told us to be prepared for the worst yet each time the doctor or surgeon who attended to her has remarked on how smooth the surgeries have been and how lucky she has been to have been brought in at the right moment. Last week she was at a function and suddenly collapsed. Luckily there was a doctor present at the function who immediately advised dad and my brother to rush her to the ER and since she was treated within the golden hour of the stroke, the damage was reversible. A few years ago Mom was travelling when she had the pneumonia but she was fortunate to have her dear sister and a wonderful niece, a doctor, by her side who worked tirelessly to nurse her back to health. Somewhere in the midst of all this she had to undergo an unnerving four-hour surgery to remove a goiter and in another instance be hospitalized when painkillers administered to her after a freak fall, wreaked havoc on her body.

So much for a person to go through- I tire just thinking about it yet I can safely say this feisty woman’s joyful spirit has only blossomed. Her recovery has always been speedy and to the amazement of everyone around she has easily bounced back to her cheerful self. It is true that her unwavering faith in the Supreme has helped her tide through the turbulences. At every step He too has reciprocated by having sent his angels who have worked their miracles through the hands of the surgeon and all her near ones have sensed this grace that has made sure that the tornado at the doorstep safely alters course.

Yet my brother and I know, it is not just Faith that has bestowed the fighting spirit in her. A big part of her healing has been the love my Dad and she share as also the strong bond that exists between her and her siblings. My aunts and uncle have been our pillars of strength. Like the iron beams that hold up the structure of a house, they have helped us hold our positivity throughout.

Dad’s quiet, stoic presence beside my mom has been the balm that soothes her pain. He has accompanied her on every twist, every turn, every sudden jerk and every loop of the scary ride by gently holding her hand and not letting go. Soft spoken and always a man of few words my dad has never really showered my mom or us with bountiful displays of affection. He never brought home flowers or bought her diamonds. We just knew he loved her deeply. After all love is just a vibration that all our hearts sense. No grandiose exaggerated display of affection will touch your heart if it isn’t authentic. In Dad’s case, just his gentle presence was enough because his genuine love gave us the moral support we all so much need. Dad never tires when he has to help or take care of others. As far as I can remember I know his only prayer to the Lord has been the St. Francis hymn “Make me a channel of your peace” and that being his purpose he does cherish every opportunity to be of service to people.

Growing up, my brother and I did give my parents countless sleepless nights like all children do but Daddy never yelled or never used power the way most parents do by saying “Because I am your father and because I said so.” He won me over with his loving kindness. Daddy earned my everlasting respect by not demanding it.

They say when we are still souls in heaven, we choose our parents and our closest family to teach us valuable life lessons when we incarnate on this planet as earthly beings. Looking back, I cannot help but wonder what a wise choice I made. Because my mother and my father, my uncles and aunts-my angels on earth, have by living the lives the way they have, taught me the profound truth that Grace abounds where there is Faith and Love, that love has the power to make ordinary lives extraordinary. This is the legacy they have given us and one that I want to pass on to my cubs. For if I haven’t taught my cubs to live in love and faith then I haven’t taught them at all. After all no inheritance of material value can outweigh the lessons on how to live life to the fullest.

 

-Vidya.

 

 

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The Fire of Passion

 

I sat on a wooden bench outside the tiny classroom in the music school, my solemn despair amplified by the sad tune my daughter and her teacher played on their violins. Ah! That was the beauty of the violin. The sounds that arose from the confluence its strings, the bow and a musician’s touch certainly had a way of tugging at my heart strings. Tears filled my eyes as it dawned on me that this was going to be her last class. A couple of weeks earlier my child had decided to stop taking lessons. She just didn’t enjoy it anymore she said.

For years we had been regulars to this school. Every week rain or shine we would be there for her class-an eager child learning to navigate the world of music and an even more eager mom proud to watch her progress. How gratifying it had been to see the transformation from shrill notes to pure melody in the same time that she had blossomed from a little girl into a teen.

I was sad. Why did she have to quit? That too when she had come this far and in her junior year. How would the fact that she had stopped playing the violin reflect on her college applications? There were a few colleges that offered a great education in her dream career but most of them were so selective in their admissions. Recent college campus visits to their information sessions had made me realize that there was truly no algorithm to guarantee an admission. The only thing they all emphasized was they would admit students whom they thought stood out in a crowd. Didn’t that mean their resumes had to be crowded with achievements? Wouldn’t her resume look a little less embellished if she gave up the violin?

Earlier today I had shown my other child, my son, a list of summer camps ranging from STEM to rock climbing, camps that promised to stimulate him physically and mentally and teach him skills that would give him an edge over his peers. I was disappointed when he turned down all of them and instead picked a fun one that in my opinion did not really boost him on the learning curve. My little one was the happiest kid on the block but was that enough in an age of child geniuses? Every day there were stories of exemplary young kids who had achieved greatness-  six-seven year olds who played three instruments with ease, kids who were barely in their teens playing professional sports, middle school children who published books, high schoolers who invented apps. that made a difference in the world. It was an intense and competitive environment out there. Were my husband and I doing enough as parents to create a strong launch pad for our kids? Did we fall short in the “push” department? Maybe we were too laidback and relaxed in our approach.

Years ago at my son’s karate class I had taken a heartfelt decision to never force my kids into doing activities they didn’t enjoy. It had come to me one day while I was observing the little ninjas in pristine white kiap while learning a new kick-punch combination. There was one little boy who seemed to outshine the others every time. His kicks were exquisite, his punches strong. While most of the other kids struggled to maintain their balance after a jump kick, this child moved swift and steady. Yet after every move he made, the child would look longingly at his father, who sat across the room, for approval. Each time the dad would signal him to kick a tad bit higher or punch a tad bit stronger. That broke my heart. Of what use is talent if one needs another’s validation to enjoy it? It was such a strong display of martial art yet it was not for himself the child performed. It was to please his father. That just seemed so wrong. That’s when I decided if the kids chose to do an activity they would because they enjoyed it. Of course, since it was their own decision they would also have to take responsibility to make sure they made it to the classes on time and did their bit to practice at home.

It had all worked out well until now. As the time to send them off to college drew near, I found myself feeling anxious, ill equipped. It seemed like my ‘just stay happy and healthy’ mantra had failed to sharpen the killer instinct my kids needed to survive in a shark tank. Also as I sat on that wooden bench I could not help but wonder if all those evenings spent at the music school, all those trips to the music auditions, rehearsals and orchestra concerts had been a waste if they hadn’t added to anything substantial on her resume. Was it unfair on my part to have greater expectations of her? After all, when she chose to play the violin she must have dreamt of making it count too?

Just then that little voice, my constant companion whom I often write about, spoke. “Ahem-  You know when she picked up the violin, she just wanted to learn a new skill. You were the one who reached Carnegie hall in your dreams. When your son picked up the tennis racquet all he ever wanted was to hit the ball across the net. You were the one that reached the Grand Slam. They are still young and have just begun their journey in a rowboat to explore the sea of life. The waters ahead are choppy. Instead of being the oars that steer them ahead, you hopped onto a speedboat and reached a destination- an island of imagination that was probably not even on their course. It’s a good thing you let them decide what they liked to do but remember you also have to let them decide how much they like it. They will be fine. You need to focus on your own passion instead.”

 

Guilty as charged, I thought sheepishly. In fact, ‘the voice’ had been kinda gentle today. She didn’t admonish me about the time I reached ‘Broadway’ when my child landed a fairly meaty role in his elementary school play or the time I teleported to the Olympics when my daughter took her first archery lesson. Or the time that I dragged the poor baby for voice lessons for almost a year- lessons she hated. (that was prior to the karate kid lightbulb moment.)

Fortunately, the kids didn’t take up the offer of being coached for acting or archery. They knew what they wanted. I didn’t. Or else there would have been multiple islands of imagination in the Pacific.

The voice was right. Instead of whining about the trips to the music school coming to an end, I should be glad that I now had more time to write. A passion I had discovered fairly recently and what richness it had brought to my life! When I sat down to write, it was as if nothing else mattered. It was my sacred space where the words just flowed from my heart to the screen. There was no one or nothing in between. At those moments it really didn’t matter if a loved one had dug their fangs in my neck or a dear friend’s arrow had pierced my heart or a war ensued outside my realm. I still cared deeply about the world, yes but in those moments it didn’t matter if the world cared back. It was pure joy!

That’s probably how an artist feels when he paints, a sculptor feels when he sculpts, a dancer feels for rhythm… probably what my husband feels when he tees off at the golf course and exactly what my daughter should have felt when she played the violin. If she didn’t, then mastery over the skill would take a lot more effort and would yield a lot less joy. I had to salute her for having figured this out. All was well.

I sat on that speedboat one last time to imagine what it would feel like to compare this joy I felt when I wrote to the joy of a parent whose child had just won the Nobel prize for physics. Sadly, I realized that the happiness a parent felt when their child had achieved something great would always be tainted with pride. It would never be unadulterated bliss. How selfish of me then to dream for my kids or charter their course in life! As a parent I just had to gently remind them to steer their boat to follow their heart’s course, not mine so that they could create sacredness of their own.

That realization felt like a big load off my shoulders. Why did parents worry so much? We didn’t have to tailor our lives to look good on an application or a job resume or prove our children’s worthiness to the world. We had live our lives just for the joy of being, enjoy moment. of togetherness. Yet ever so often, parents in an attempt to mould their creations to perfection ended up squishing them.

Well, I would certainly try not to. Forget summer camps, what I needed was a puppy! To teach me to be in the moment and live, laugh and love.

-Vidya.

 

 

 

 

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