Election 2016

We are at the finish line of this historic race, my friends. With agonizing impatience I watch the gap narrow between the two front runners as they both gain momentum. It’s unreal I say yet ‘In Godspeed’ I wish for the one I hope will make a difference.  The sad truth is I root for one not because they embody every value I stand for but because they are a little less likely to destroy the vision of hope I have created for our children. In unison with the crowd, my heart cries ‘CHANGE’ though in the very same breath and in unison again with the throngs, my mind wonders ‘What have we come to?’

I stop cheering and glance at the young lady standing next to me. She smiles nervously and through the nervousness gives me a glimpse of the heaviness her heart carries. She is a young mother of three and for reasons beyond her control, she must abort her unborn fetus. Her heart knows this is what is best but she is afraid, in turmoil as she hears constant screams of ‘Murderer’ from people who do not live her life. She wishes they could just leave her be. I reach out my hand to hold hers.

To my other side, I see a frail old man. His eyes tell me the story of a hardworking man of color who has had to battle prejudice and racism in his young days. He is proud of the way he has built his life. The battles did not scar his integrity at all but fears for his future dent his pride. His integrity cannot pay off his medical bills. Rising premiums and deductibles have weakened this once strong man. I give him my other hand and he responds by tightly holding mine.

I watch as this respectable senior in turn offers his hand to the young boy next to him. A young spirited soul who cares deeply about the world. He struggles to his place here though because of his orientation.

‘Do not judge’ he pleads repeatedly. ‘I feel pain and joy just as everyone else. I am just like you.’

The strength of my hand gives the young woman next to me the courage to reach out to another- a war hero and seeker of the Islamic faith. ‘I love this country just as much as you do’ his convincing eyes say. ‘I have fought to keep its’ beautiful people safe and its’ ideals high. At the battlegrounds, I have prayed to Allah to infuse me with the strength to make this great country proud of me. My faith makes me a better soldier.’

As the human chain grows, the cheers fade. A realization dawns that in the warmth of another’s heart we have already found what we were looking for. It does not matter who wins the race. Change does not happen when the people we elect wish it. It only happens when each of our hearts make space to accept another very different from us. When we cease to blame and judge and choose to live and let live we choose cohesiveness over divisiveness. It truly does not matter whom we vote for unless we make the shift within. Tomorrow morning when we wake up dear friends, if we ignite the candle of acceptance in our hearts we have already chosen hope.

-Vidya.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Language of the Heart

Dedicated to a generation of moms whose babies know the letter ‘ i ‘ before they understand the alphabet.

 

Every heart speaks a language and the heart of every mother understands and speaks the language of every heart in the family. The needs of the heart- its language change in every stage in life yet a woman quickly adapts and becomes adept at what her loved ones seek. Her heart knows and provides. That is why a woman’s  heart feels joy and  pain even before her loved ones do. It beats in sync with theirs.Yet a woman’s journey is always lonely. None can understand the beautiful amalgamation of turmoil her heart carries.

 

The  Language of the Heart

A solitary tear glistened on the screen of the iPad Rumi held in her hands. She gently put the iPad away on her night stand for she knew the swollen clouds of sadness that swept her heart would not be easily quelled. It was a good thing she did for pretty soon, the torrent of tears that streamed down her cheek matched the heavy downpour of rain outside the window of her bedroom.

Rumi was tough, not one to be disheartened or ruffled easily. She was seasoned to handle stormy times. After all, she lived in a house where teenage, middle age and old age co existed.

‘Why do you weep, my heart?’, she searched for answers within. The response she received was muffled under a thick blanket of gloomy silence. Her mind embarrassed at this display of weakness went back to the proceedings of the evening. It was after dinner that she had begun to feel her spirit sag. Yet, she could not recall anything that anyone in her family- her children, husband or in-laws had said to hurt her.

In fact she had been quite pleased that every member of the family had been present for dinner that day, for a change.  All activities and games for the kids had been cancelled due to the storm, the cable TV service was disrupted and the internet was down. They even sat down for dinner at the dining table today instead of in front of the television. As Rumi eagerly chatted about the interesting facts she had learned on the online courses she was taking, she soon realized that neither her teenage children, nor the adults were interested. They seemed distant. They would much rather listen to iTunes, Cam Newton, Anderson Cooper or Penny she thought begrudgingly. Well, at least no one’s arguing she consoled herself. Though her heart knew this was not the way it was supposed to be. There was no connect, the togetherness seemed awkward, forced.

Rumi reflected on the times, not too long ago, when smart phones, Netflix and wireless technology had not yet made its way into their house. Dinner times were much more noisy and also much more work. She had to feed the kids, cut their rotis into little pieces, distract them into eating their veggies as she sung for them, clean up their spills and wipe down the little munchkins as sometimes they ate with all their limbs. It was then- when their questions never ended and with wide eyes and curious minds as they learnt their numbers while counting their peas or learnt the sounds that animals make as she mooed and bleated her way into making them eat their carrots – that her heart felt alive. Simply because they were present in the moment with her.

Rumi had always known these delightful baby days would not last, that their growing up years were bound to be a frenzy with school, sports, activities, homework and social commitments, that the teenage years were bound to be turbulent with the raging hormones. That she was prepared for. What she did not realize was how soon technology would consume their lives. She had always thought that dinner time would continue, maybe they would argue more and listen less yet they would always gather around the table where she would learn about their lives,their newfound dreams and their zest to make a mark in the world. Hopefully the children would clean up after themselves and in fact help clean up with her. What she didn’t realize was dinner time as she had imagined it to be, would be non existent. Between their homework schedule, prime time television, Pokemon, texting and Netflix members would eat as and when it suited them or even if they did eat together, their minds would be elsewhere. What they heard would be sounds of the television, not the voices of each other’s hearts.

These days her kids would rather ask google than ask her. Her husband  would probably be more aware of a friend’s emotions than hers because the friend chose to announce it on social media. Sadly though, that this was the state in every house. Wherever she went, restaurants, malls or airports people spent all the spare time checking their messages and emails. They were more in tune with people 5000 miles away rather than with the person next to them. How could there ever be togetherness when everyone was so distant and lost in their own smart phone worlds. Every one with a smart phone knew it the minute Hillary stumbled at the 9/11 ceremony that she had. What value did that mundane fact add to the quality of one’s life? Yet people continued to fill up their lives with these such frivolous details. How often did people these days notice their neighbors in the community stumble or take time out to find out how they were doing?  Why, her kids didn’t even know many of the neighbors around.  We have reached a time when free wi-fi is one of the most endearing features of a place. When dinner for two also includes the 572 friends on your Facebook profile. The only time one stepped out of this world of internet ‘Maya’ was when on a day like today the technology was totally down. And then when they did, they didn’t know how to enjoy it. For unfortunately, the human heart can connect and speak another’s language only when it is in the present moment. The language of technology has muted the language of the human heart.That is why in an ever so populous world people feel lonely, anxious and depressed.

That night  Rumi cried as the clouds of loneliness engulfed her heart. She realized her heart yearned to hear the familiar voice of a loved one’s heart yet in a house full of people, all it heard was deafening silence.

-Vidya.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dear Mr. Bachchan

Dear Mr.Bachchan,

On behalf of all the daughters in India- Thank you for your beautiful and inspirational message. Though I do deeply feel, Sir, our ability to empower our daughters would be incomplete unless we address the other side of the issue our society faces. Are we doing enough to raise our sons so that we can extend the privileges of following their heart to our daughter-in-laws’ too?

You see we have reached a delicate state of affairs at present. Most parents now do raise their daughters to be the powerful forces they were meant to be. That is why we find successful women in all walks of life even in arenas that until recently were dominated only by men. Yet do we teach our sons to accept these forces as equal partners in their life?

While we dream with our daughters and teach them to reach for the stars why is it that as soon as they are wives and mothers we tweak the rules. We then expect them to expertly balance the home with their careers single handed. We have great pride in our daughters who have broken barriers and reached great heights yet the image of a good daughter-in-law deeply ingrained in our mindsets is of one who serves her family. Do we teach our sons that they need to share the burden on the domestic front, that it is not right to drop their bags and lounge on the couch when they come home from work? That their children’s success also depends on their own involvement in the kids’ lives? It does not matter if she has made excruciatingly difficult decisions at work, as soon she’s home, a woman is usually the one who has to deal with the decision of what is for dinner. The heart of every single woman who works outside her home throbs with pangs of guilt because she wonders if she is doing enough to nurture her family and kids. At the same time stay at home mothers, do question themselves as to whether they contribute enough to the family. Either way they beat themselves up because though we have taught our daughters to walk in a world of men, we haven’t done enough to relieve the enormous pressure on our daughter-in-laws’ to be the perfect caregivers.

It’s time we also teach our sons to be nurturers, to be women. It’s time we teach them that if dinner is not ready on time they are responsible too. That a pile of dirty laundry lying around the house does not reflect on the woman’s incapability but on the incapability of every one at home who does not share the burden with her.

If our daughters have learnt that they need to make choices in the light of their own wisdom, then our sons need to learn to accept and respect these choices. Every woman has the innate wisdom to know what works best for her family, her situation so she deserves to be respected for her choice whether she chooses to work outside the home or stay home to be with her children.

Our sons need to know that to exert control over the people you love is not what makes a man but to loosen those reins of control and create a space where the family can express itself without fear is what makes a truly great man. If we teach our daughters to marry for love, then we need to teach our sons and daughters what is love. It is a shared space where each person can be who they truly want to be.

You are right Mr. Bachchan when you say that the length of the skirt does not define a person’s character. After all, clothes are just a covering for the beautiful temples that house our spirit. But as a mother I do worry that if the clothes my children wore had necklines that plunged too low, hems that rode up high or were low waisted rather no waisted pants that revealed a crack, then what society would see when they looked them would probably be just a size, a figure, a body type not the budding talents or gentle souls that they are. It would take away from the magnificence they hold within. Jab tak puri duniya apni soch nahi badalti ,“log kya kahenge” is easier said than done.

And lastly whether they are sons or daughters we need to teach them to each take responsibility of their own health, well-being and happiness. They need to know that their life is a creation of their own thoughts, that unless they are happy with themselves they will never be happy with another.

Maybe,Sir,  you could in your beautiful words write a letter to all the grand sons too.

Thank you,

Vidya.

 

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Trust

TRUST

 

Trust is a dwindling virtue these days, do you say my friends?

At a time where competition and greed run rampant we do each live like tiny islands isolated, carrying the burdensome baggage of loneliness, feeling we have to do what we need to on our own. A boss is overwhelmed because the duties he delegates do not bring in results fast enough, a mother is overwhelmed with the task of constantly monitoring her boys’ internet surfing, a young wife is overwhelmed with the idea of living up to the expectations of the people around her, a senior wonders if he will wither away alone, a teenage child would rather get advice from unreliable sources online than trust his parents or peers about his heartfelt turmoil, a husband would rather turn to alcohol than confide in his companion about his insecurities. So lost, so alone and so misunderstood we trust nobody, often not even ourselves.  It is an over populous world. Should not just our whispers be enough to cause a ripple effect and reach our voices to the other end? Yet we plague ourselves with the incessant need to stand on rooftops and scream out our worth and sadly find nobody listens, nobody understands us.

Maybe my friends, it’s because we are looking at the virtue of trust all wrong. What do we mean by saying we trust somebody? When a wife tells her husband she trusts him or a mother tells her son she trusts him she usually means that she knows what they do with their time when she is not around. When a boss tells his subordinates he trusts them he means they will deliver exactly what he expects of them. When a friend tells another she trusts her what she means is the matters they have discussed will not be a topic of conversation elsewhere. So you see in almost every scenario the trust we place in people is linked to our expectations of them. We conjure up images in our minds of what we think all the people in our lives should be like and if by chance they warp the picture we’ve created, well…then they have broken our trust and there is hurt and blame. Trust, as we see it, loosely translates to unmet expectations.

Instead my dear friends, how about we tweak our perspective a little? How about we fill ourselves with a little understanding that there is a gentle, powerful energy that permeates all our beings. An all knowing, ever loving dynamic force that resonates in all our hearts and knows what is best for each of us. Instead of sketching mental images of people yielding to our influence to build our basis of trust, sketch a picture of oneself placing our belief in this power within.

Then my friends, it will dawn on us that trust is a knowing that in the grandiose scheme of life, all is well, always. It is a knowing that there is never a perfect time, perfect place or perfect person. Everything is perfect as is. Trust is a knowing that our spouse, our kids, our friends and the all of the people in our world are souls on their own journey and truly cannot be controlled. That they each have their own destinies and purpose. It is a knowing that you cannot change anybody but yourself. Trust is surrender to the grace that will permeate our every pore if we let it.Trust is knowing you are enough yet never alone; we are always looked after, no matter what.

And the next time we tell somebody we trust them let us empower them with our love and faith in their ability to tune in to their own intuitive FMs and do what is right. Let us truly respect them by supporting their decisions even if it is not what we think it should be. Let us be little linked islands of hope, not tiny isolated islands of despair.

 

-vidya.

Inspired by a beautiful series of videos on relationships by BK Shivani. Truly eye opening.

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The Bombay in Me

I dedicate this post to my dear friends and neighbors in LIC,  MIGS,  Parle college, C U Shah college of Pharmacy. Thank you for the many moments spent singing, dancing ,wining and dining. Cheers!!

Bombay- a city with many faces. The glitz of Bollywood, the putrid smells of Dharavi, the undying faith of the devotees at Siddhi Vinayak, the familial thread that ties the million commuters of its local trains, the distinct delish taste of its street food, the beaches that line its coast, the Victorian architecture of South Mumbai, the concrete jungles of its cosmopolitan suburbs and the biggest of them all its rich welcoming diversity. A beautiful, bustling metropolis by the sea known for its Bond like attitude of “never say never”. A city that never sleeps, whose gates are thronged by millions of dreamers who believe this city is the Mecca of their dreams. The city I grew up in, that nurtured the seeds of a childhood I would not trade for anything in the world.
Looking back, I realize I learnt so much from simply being around people from diverse backgrounds. For years I sat on the wooden benches of my school’s classrooms with friends who spoke different languages, ate a different cuisine and had different skin tones. We were all Indians, yes but the culture in each of our homes was very different. While learning our fundamentals of trigonometry, geography, science and grammar, we also learnt the biggest life lesson of all without it being actually taught: at heart we are all one. Every evening when I gathered together to play with my friends, it really didn’t matter to us how big another’s house was or which religion they practiced at home. The only thing that mattered was that they brought a sense of light heartedness to the game so we could all have fun. There was no place for whiners.
Every festival in Mumbai was celebrated with equal fervor. Whether you were from the south, west, east or north of India, you were welcome to the new year’s eve bonfire on the building grounds to burn the old man and in doing so you also burnt your differences. It didn’t matter on the day of Holi- the festival of colors either. If you dared to be out and about you would be smeared with color and stung with water balloons irrespective of your age, caste or creed. Together, every year we welcomed the beautiful idol of Ganesha in our community and participated in all the rituals and cultural performances irrespective of whether we were Hindus or not. We all bowed in front of the elephant headed God and prayed with equal faith that our desires be met. The fireworks at Diwali, the dancing during the nine nights of Navratri, the visit at Christmas to the nativity scene at a chapel close by all brought a shared sense of celebration to the neighborhood. I guess it is at that tender age we learnt by observing that He is one though His forms and the paths toward Him are many.
There was also a shared sense of pain and anguish when terrorist acts and riots killed many over the years. What hurt one family hurt another too. People worried not just for the people they loved but for their neighbors as well. Whether the fury of nature unleashed itself on the city or it was a bomb blast unleashed by the fury of man, violence and suffering never discriminated amongst people. Why then do we discriminate when we love? After all, at a deeper level we are all connected.
L.I.C colony, the place I grew up in, was nestled amongst an orchard of mango plantations. What a delight for the little kids in mango season when they would climb huge trees to get ahold of the mangoes only to be chased by the stern looking ‘mali’ with his stick. He never wasted his time to single out kids to find out if they were Malayalis, Sindhis, Goans or Gujaratis. If you were caught, you were punished. A lesson he could definitely teach a certain Mr. T.
What a fun filled childhood it was. I would often hang out at a friend’s or neighbor’s place the choice being made was dependent on the food that was cooked there. Bhajiyas at Srilatha’s , hot gheed rotis at Nupur’s, neer dosa at Shilpa’s, sindhi kadhi at Anju’s, chole at Vaishu’s, rasogullas at Sudeshna’s, Dhoklas at Shirley’s, Pau bhaji at Anisha’s, Maharashtrian thali at Supru’s, Bengali lunch at Tuli’s, Christmas cake at Sharon’s are all aromatic memories that delight me to this day. And of course as I grew the list of homes to visit just got longer.
Bless all the moms who fed our bodies and souls with yummy food. To my mother’s chagrin I often remarked how tasty the food at my neighbor’s house was. Sorry Amma… I now know that you make the world’s best idli sambhar but then the grass was greener on the other side. Of course, its’ payback time! History repeats itself as now my daughter chooses to say the same thing.
Since dance is such an integral part of my life, I could not be more grateful for the opportunity, exposure and diverse platforms I got to perform in. From Malayalee samaj annual days to intercollegiate youth festivals, street plays and musical theatre where we performed various dance styles from Bharat Natyam to folk, where we got to learn beautiful songs in various languages from ‘Dhitang Dhitang bole’ to ‘He chal turu turu’ and developed an appreciation for various styles and genres of dance and music.
Of course, my happy bubble burst temporarily when I got married and realized the complexities of being a “Tam-Brahm” daughter-in-law. Until then I guess the only tam-brahm thing I did was eat idli-dosa, learn Bharat Natyam and take an oil bath in the wee hours of Diwali morning. But by then the realization that ‘every culture is beautiful’ was firmly imprinted in my heart. And when your heart is in the right place then it is always open to learning so I did from my new family that was happy to teach. Though I do sometimes regret the fact that I still do not understand the beauty and depth of Tamil literature or the abyss of Carnatic music, it is ok because really the learning hasn’t ended. Though I am a Mumbai born confused Tamilian (MBCT) , kind of like a Jack of all trades ,master of none….I know growing up the way I did has fostered a very healthy respect for others so unlike myself and a spirit of tolerance that helps me maintain beautiful friendships and enrich my life. The more different someone is, the more I can learn from them. How wonderful is that!
And just now as I sit on the steps and listen to my munchkins talk about foods from kimchi, tamales streusels and falafels, music from Eurovision, K pop, Bollywood and languages from Scandinavian to Chinese, my heart does a little jig and salutes the spirit of Bombay in them.
The spirit of tolerance just on a more global scale.

-Vidya.

Thank you to my beautiful friends in Pune and Charlotte who helped me continue my journey of learning and fun. I feel as Bengali as you all in Probasi and as Marathi as some of you in the Marathi mandal and of course eighteen years of marriage have taught me to be as Tamilian as can be.

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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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