28 February, 2008

Respect - Does it not have to be earned ?

Earlier this week, as I made my way towards the MTR, I saw and heard something that sent me rolling down memory lane and set me thinking.

Enroute to the MTR, I came across a mother/preteen daughter duo who were walking just behind me and they were deeply engrossed in an argument. Or rather, the daughter was at the receiving end. Apparently the whole thing had started because the mother had wanted her daughter to wear a green T-shirt and the daughter had quite apparently opted for a red one. Incidentally, they ended up waiting for the same train that Yours Truly was waiting for and they too headed for the last compartment as it is easier to find empty seats in the last compartment. The tirade continued. By the time they’d found seats on the train, the mom was in a totally “Fury Unleashed” mode.

The daughter was a total mixture of emotions – shame, embarrassment were written large on her face at the scene that was being created and the tears threatened to overflow anytime. At the same time, one could feel the anger that had built up in her, that feeling of resentment that was almost palpable. The last straw that broke the camel’s back was when the mom screamed “Could you not have listened to me ? Have you made up your mind never again to listen to what I say ? Can’t you respect my feelings ? I am your mother – never should you forget that. You are supposed to do as I say.”
To which the young girl hissed “How can you expect me to respect you when you don’t have even a little bit of idea as to how I feel most of the time. How I am feeling now when you are screaming at me in front of all these people. You don’t respect my feelings even a little bit. ?”. That led to another screaming session from the mom.

By then, I had reached my destination. My head was pounding – not because of all the noise that had been generated and the commotion created but because at that point of time I could so identify with that young girl. And I could understand perfectly well as to how that youngster felt, having myself lived through countless such scenes.

I certainly am not going to go about making any value judgements on the above scene but what kept coming back and haunting me was the only words that young girl had muttered.

During my growing up years parental command was a way of life and was unquestioningly accepted and followed. There was absolutely no questioning the chain of command, however, as that was always regarded as open mutiny and was dealt with very strictly. Arguments or voices of dissent were a long long way off. They were unimaginable. What my parents wanted me to do, I had to do. Period. No questions asked !!!

Which brings me to my present question ?

As parents, is it not necessary for us to earn our kids’ respect ? Or is it something that is taken for granted ?

During my growing up years, it was pretty much taken for granted and there was no specific concept of “earning your childs’ respect”. Just by virtue of being their childrens’ parents or elders of the family, it was assumed that being respected was one of their many perquisites.

I personally choose to disagree with this assumption.

Respect from another person is something that one earns – through ones actions, through ones character, through ones opinions, through the way one handles oneself and most importantly, by respecting the individuality of the other person.

Each person is unique, each personality distinct. And that element of individualism that makes a person who he or she is, has to be respected. And I personally believe that this is the case even with our children. Parents cannot expect children to look up to them just by virtue of being their biological parents.

I’ve said this before too and I’m saying it again. Conceiving a baby, carrying the baby around for nine months and giving birth to the baby does not complete the picture of parenthood. This is just the beginning. Parenthood is more like a journey – one which never really ends. It is a journey where one moves from one phase onto another and another. It is a journey which has its highs and lows, its thrills and trials, its joys and bittersweetness. Therefore, claiming the mantle of being a child’s biological parents does not give parents the right to stipulate or exact a child’s respect.

It has to come from the child – naturally.

Why is this concept so difficult to stomach ?

Why should one just assume that there is no need to “give” a child respect because he or she is chronologically younger than the parent ?

There was this incident that happened last year.

Aparna attends BalVihar classes conducted by the Chinmaya Mission in Hongkong. In their curriculum last year, they were doing the alphabets A to Z. As in teaching children good qualities that start with the letter A and teaching them to avoid bad ideas that start with the same alphabet and so on and so forth.

When they were about reaching the alphabet M, the Chinmaya Mission had drawn up plans to conduct “Matru Puja” on a worldwide basis. The basic idea being that children would worship their mothers, as the term “Matru Puja” indicates. It was going to be a very short affair. The mothers would be sitting right in front of their children and I believe the children would be sprinkling some water on their mothers feet, putting kumkum on their mothers feet and then doing aarti for their mothers.

When an email landed in my Inbox, I spent a lot of time introspecting on the issue. Simply because I was not at all comfortable with the idea. It was not a feeling of embarrassment but rather a question, a reservation about the necessity and validity of this whole venture. And after talking this over with Vic, both of us were of the same opinion – we did not want to be part of this. We spoke to Aparna about the whole thing and explained our point of view to her. We wanted to make sure that we were not putting her in a spot with airing our views and acting upon them. Eventually I spoke to Aparna’s BalVihar teacher about my misgivings and requested to be excluded from the proceedings.

Later, there were phone calls from the Head of the Chinmaya Ashram, asking me to reconsider my perspective and my attitude towards the whole Matru Puja program.

“Would you not touch an elder’s feet as a sign of respect ?” she asked.

“I would” was what I said. “Because that is what I’ve been trained to do. And even if my heart were not in it, I still would touch their feet just to avoid hurting anybody’s feelings.”

And added “At this point in my life, respect is something I would consider complete and pure when the physical act of touching a person’s feet or falling at a person’s feet is accompanied by an equally strong feeling of respect stemming from within my heart. I would not choose to disassociate the two. Just touching a person’s feet, in my opinion, does not construe respect. It could be “seen” as a mark of respect but is it reverence in its true form if it is not supplemented by a strong sentiment within the heart of hearts."

Even in the case of our children – we do not wish to have them worship us nor do they have to physically touch our feet or do a “puja’ for us in order for them to show that they respect us. Just because one touches another person’s feet does not necessarily mean that they respect them and vice versa.

What is more important is establishing that rapport which makes it possible for our children to approach us, as their parents, freely and without fear, be it to ask for our opinions on a particular issue or ask for our counsel. And in each and every action of ours, as parents, it is indeed imperative that we bear in mind that they are individuals in their own right.

When children are little, there are a lot of decisions that we, as parents, take, on their behalf. But that feeling of respecting them and their feelings manifests itself when we give them choices. It gives them a sense, an element of control on a particular situation and this sense of control is so very important in the development of their self-confidence and individual self-identity.

There may indeed be many occasions when a parent has to say No to the child. But this too can be accomplished in a more even manner. Isn’t it better if a answer in the negative is completed with an explanation as to why the request was turned down – rather than to just say “You cannot get that or you cannot do that. I’m telling you that and that’s it. You better do as I say or else …..”
Cee Kay wrote a very balanced post on this very topic a while ago. Read it here.

As parents, we do tell them how to handle situations or what to do or how to go about it to the best of our knowledge but if and when children choose to put forth questions about how we arrived at a particular conclusion or even if we do have to explain our actions, I would say it is better to take that approach rather than be forceful about the whole thing. Children and parents may not always see eye to eye on many issues but that just expands the equation rather than curb it. And indeed there may well be situations where children see different shades to a particular issue that we, as adults in all our infinite wisdom, might well have missed out on. All that is needed is to listen to them when they air their views or opinions or requests rather than a blunt “I know better than you so you listen to what I say and not the other way around.”
"The first duty of love is to listen" - Paul Tillich

Instead of forcing kids to see things our way just by virtue of being their parents, a dialogue is an infinitely better option. Through this constant interaction, exchange of opinions and out of the fact that their viewpoints too are being appreciated, there develops a feeling of mutual respect and warmth – things that were hitherto taken for granted.

When it is a done thing in society to say that respect given is respect earned when one talks about the mannerisms and behavior of adults towards adults, why not extend this courtesy to children too ? Why then, should parenthood be synonymous with dictatorship ? Why does parental autocracy need to rule when there is room for consent, compromise and harmony to thrive ?

Like I said in one of my earlier posts, a parent’s responsibility does not end by bringing a child into this world. On the contrary, that is when it begins. In bringing a child into this world, nature hands parents the job of sculpting another life – physically, mentally and emotionally. It is indeed a huge responsibility.

I remember coming across a Chinese proverb which goes

“Respect for ones parents is the highest duty of civil life.”

Would it not be so much better if respect were given willingly and meaningfully from the heart rather than just out of a sense of duty ?

And I found the answer to this question in an anonymous quote which resonates how I feel about this value and it goes

“Respect cannot be learned, purchased or acquired – it can only be earned.”

Edited to add :

Firstly, there seems to be a bit of confusion on the "feet touching" issue. When I wrote about the Matru Puja incident and about what touching a person's feet means to me - I was putting forth my opinion and mine alone. That said, we do touch elders' feet and like I said earlier, many a times it is because I don't want to end up hurting their feelings. Our kids too follow suit. It is perfectly fine. Just because I feel the way I do does not mean I tell my kids not to touch elders' feet. Nor do we explicitly ask them to touch the feet of each and every elder that they come across.

Dottie also brought up an interesting point in saying that there is a fair amount of confusion between common courtesies and respect. As far as my dictionary goes - it is something like this. If I do happen to meet a elderly person anywhere and start off a conversation with "Namaste Uncleji" or "Namaste Auntyji" - that is common courtesy. Touching their feet - definitely a sign of respect. :-)


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22 February, 2008

'Tis camp time once again

(*sigh*) She’s off again. On a weekend camp.

In October/November 2007, Aparna had been on a three day camp from school. Now, this weekend, it is a three day Balvihar camp organized by the Chinmaya Mission.

The first camp that she attended was in her Primary Three year at school. That was just a overnight camp. And even though the girls had a lot of fun at camp that year, the partying and the goofing around then was quite muted as compared to the escapades and anecdotes that she came back with after the Year Four camp from school.

This time around, the school, wanting to make sure that the kids did’t get up to too much of hanky panky, split the students from each class up into different groups. Basically, with eight children sleeping in each one of the dorm rooms, they ensured that there was a maximum of just two children from the same class. Despite all this, the girls were upto a lot of mischief.

A week before they were to go on camp, Aparna was found checking her email box on the school website many number of times everyday. The girls were busy exchanging emails about the camp and what have you. To say that they were excited would have been the understatement of the year !!

During the Year Four school camp, the girls made sure that they used the torches they had carried, very effectively. Once the lights were out, one torch would go on from under one quilt. Quite naturally, one of the teachers would come over to investigate. By then, the torch would have quite naturally been turned off and all the imps would be fast asleep, adorably hugging their soft cuddly toy or their comfort pillow or whatever. Off would go the teacher and a few minutes later, two torches would come on and once again, after the teacher had closed the door and left, the entire room of eight would dissolve into a spate of muted giggles.

And then off course, all those midnight snacks. Some kids had even packed their biscuits and chips in ziplock bags so as to avoid the noise that the normal bag of chips makes when being opened or dug into. My God !! Ingenious creatures, these !!

Remember those Mallory Tower series of books by Enid Blyton. I remember reading those during my childhood years and imagining the fun that the characters in the book had. God !! These girls are living the books :-)

Another thing they’d been on the lookout for during the Year Four camp was sleepwalkers. Mighty disappointment there. “Nobody even sleepwalked” remarked Aparna, once she got back from camp.

“How do the teachers ensure that kids don’t sleepwalk out of their rooms ?” I remember asking her, hypothetically. To which she’d said “They lay out big towels right outside the door of the room and pour water over the towels.” A sleepwalker walking on something wet and cold snaps out of the sleepwalking mode, is the theory behind this wet towel outside the door thingy.

There were also a lot of fun times in the shower stalls with someone forgetting their soap or someone not knowing how to turn the hot water tap on or off. There was this one instance where one girl had got only small towels in her bag and there was no way she could wrap that small towel around her and get to the bathroom and back.

Normally Mommy packs up a waterproof swimming cap for Aparna so that she can wear the cap while going for a shower. That way she does not end up getting her head drenched and chances of catching a cold are minimized. This time around too, carry the cap she did, wear it she did and once back said “I did wear that cap while going in for my shower and I looked ridiculous.”

There were quite a few activities for them to indulge in including wall climbing, rock climbing, roller blading and many more. And in the Year Four camp, Aparna tried her hand at most of the activities, irrespective of the fact that she could not scale the wall completely or that while rockclimbing she managed to get just halfway up the wall or that while roller blading she slipped and landed quite unceremoniously on her backside. She gave it a try and enjoyed the feel of having tried her hand at these new activities.

After the last BalVihar camp, Aparna came back with a Damroo and a Trishul – part of the artwork they’d done at camp as the topic then was Lord Shiva. Wonder what she’s going to come back with this year – the camp topic being Ramayan. Bows and Arrows, maybe ?? If she does come back with bows and arrows, albeit ones made of paper, the nutty siblings are going to create utter mayhem at home once she gets back from camp. But then again, talking of mayhem, what’s new ??!!

To say that we’re going to miss her while she’s away on camp is an understatement. From a quiet, shy person she’s quite a transformed soul nowadays. Has a lifesize sense of humor and she’s getting better and better at performing these standalone comedy shows. Add a poker face to her brand of standup comic performances and it is a killer all the way.
Thanks to Aparna, even the pillow fights that we have quite often before the kids get to bed, are terribly noisy and needless to say, lot more of fun. While she would be extremely conscious of goofing around and making a fool of herself while having pillow fights earlier on, nowadays she’s found hopping and prancing around like uttering rather illegible words. Her favorite is “Kumbaaalaaaya” which will invariably be followed by a “Hoooooo Haaaaaaa” or some such thing and the pillows would fly. The bedroom would soon be reduced to shambles – a mere shadow of the neat beds and pillows that had been laid out for the siblings to sleep on. Mommy did tell her the other day that she would make a good tribal chieftain, what with all the yelling and the Hooo Haaas !!!! The only thing we need to do to complete the picture is use facepaint and draw stripes all over her face.

All in all, she’s notoriously entertaining and a very noisy entertainer at that. The proverbial funny bone in her is definitely making its presence felt and those eyes which used to reflect her rather shy smile, now more often than not, gleam with mischief.

Yet, beneath this jovial exterior, another persona is making its presence felt, very distinctly. The last time I’d met with her teacher during a Parent-Teacher meeting session, she’d remarked that she’d split the class into groups of three and each group had been given a project to do – right from scratch. Aparna had been grouped with two other boys, of which, one was known for throwing a spanner in the works and being rather non-cooperative. Her teacher said she’d been amazed at the manner in which Aparna spearheaded the whole thing, gave the project a direction and made sure that all three of them worked together towards completing the project – all very nicely and softly done. No clashes, no walkouts, no threats – no nothing.

Independent thinking and the ability to delegate work and get it done are among other things that are now coming to the fore. So also the ability to notice even the slightest nuances of change in people. Be it a change in mood or a change in attitude or a change in one’s point of view – she notices. She is turning out to be a very astute observer and has a rather photographic memory. And she needs an explanation for anything she finds out of tack. Until she gets an explanation that makes sense to her logically, she just keeps going at the problem or the person in question.

A pretty volatile mix actually. Something tells us that we have a rebel on our hands, once the pre-teens and teen years hit and all those hormones start to zing in a fashion that can only be described as bizarre. Well, that remains to be seen. Like Vic once said, “We’ll just have to tape up the windows as best as we can when the storm hits.”

Whereas, previously, she would kind of tend to clam up with her troubles or problems, now she talks about it. Somewhere along the way, I did realize that I needed to spend more one-on-one time with Aparna. And invariably, at bedtime, after Abhay had gone off to sleep, we made it a point to talk – about just anything that came to mind. Sometimes it would be just goofy stuff that made us giggle and sometimes it would be rather serious stuff. This has become an "our time" thing now.
She started to get a lot of one-on-one time with Dad too, when they started going on hikes on Sunday mornings. And slowly, steadily realization started to sink in that we were there – for her to talk to whenever anything bothered her or irked her – however small or trivial the problem may seem. And it certainly has worked.

Yesterday night too, after Abhay had gone off to sleep, some doubts, little fears arose about how to deal with bullies, if she does come across any at camp. Or if she came across troublemakers at camp and the like. We spoke about it for a long time and by the end of it all, she had set her doubts aside and that impish look - goofy grin combination was back. :-)

We too, as parents, have realized that it is of utmost importance that channels of communication be built up and maintained and finetuned constantly, through the kids’ growing up years.

There still are reflections of the little child in her thoughts which just make her that much more endearing to one’s heart. A stuffy nose still sends her into a panic in the middle of the night and Mommy invariably has to go over to the other bedroom and get her to calm down and back to sleep. This thought surfaced a couple of days back as Mommy was putting the siblings to bed when she quipped “If my nose gets all stuffy at night while I’m at camp, who’s going to put Mentholatum for me and get me back to bed ? Who’s going to lie down with me until I fall asleep all over again ?”. This was immediately followed by “I’ll put Mentholatum and then go to bed. That way I won’t wake up. Right Mummy ?”.

And this little bundle, all of eight years, is headed off to camp this weekend. To say that she’s going to be missed while she’s away from home is an understatement – a gross underestimation :-).

Both siblings are exhibiting mixed reactions, needless to say. This time around, Abhay is pretty vocal about the fact that he does not want her to go running off to camp for a whole three days. I guess life does get pretty boring without anyone to have a tiff with.

Aparna, on the other hand, is all excited about the idea of going off to camp. She’s quite literally straining at the leash (a figurative leash – not a literal one) and is simply raring to go.

We do hope that this weekend, for Aparna, turns out to be a weekend of fun, knowledge and entertainment – all packed into one.

As I look at her today, one sentiment echoes loud and clear, one feeling, among many others, is extremely strong.

To put it very simply – it is to say
“You’ve come a long way, baby. You’ve come a long way.”

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19 February, 2008

Coca Cola Logic

Occasions are aplenty of late, when Abhay leaves us literally speechless. Some topic comes up and a discussion ensues or a question/answer session ensues and just as we get the feeling that we are gaining the upperhand or just as we start to rest easy that "he's been had", he comes out with a quip or a statement that leaves us - quite literally - speechless.

The other day, Mommy was ordering stuff online on the supermarket website. Abhay was standing right near Mommy looking at all the items and questions were generally flying around. "Where is Butter ?" "Why Butter is in the chilled section ?" "Why cannot Butter be in the Hot section ?" "Or the warm section ?" "Why is the honey bottle upside down ?" ..... and it went on and on and on :-)

Mommy all but gave up trying to finish what she had started and had to concede an "Abort Mission". Trying to get online shopping done with Abhay around is like trying to scale Mount Everest on stilts !!!

While Mommy was logging out, Abhay's attention was drawn to the huge ads of Coca Cola on the website. Now Coca Cola is something that draws Abhay like a bee to a flower. Basically, Coca Cola makes his synapses fire in a random and bizarre manner all over inside of his head. Once he consumes Coca Cola, he is generally found hopping, dancing, jumping around as if he has a trampoline fixed on his feet.

Needless to say, when he saw those ads for Coca Cola online, he wanted to know if Mommy was going to order for some too.

Mommy launched off into a long explanation about why Coca Cola is not good for children. There's no harm in trying one's luck, is there.

"Coca Cola has too much sugar in it. It is bad for health." said Mommy.

"It has got soooo much sugar ?" asked Abhay, his hands widespread, for emphasis.

"Errr.... it has a lot of sugar in it." said Mommy

"How much sugar ?" queried Abhay.

"Lots." said Mommy.

"How much Mummy ?" asked a very persistent Abhay.

In order not to get herself into bigger trouble (than she already was in) by quoting him figures from a can of Cola, Mommy decided to change tack.

"Abhay, Coca Cola is really bad for the teeth." said Mommy.

"Why Coca Cola is bad for the teeth ?" asked Abhay

"Because it has a lot of fizz in it." said Mommy.

"What's fizz ?" pat came the question.

"Well ... err ... the foam that appears when you pour out the Cola. That's fizz." said Mommy.

"Foam comes in soap Mummy." "There is soap in Coca Cola ?" "What is fizz ?" asked Abhay like a dog sinking his teeth into a bone and chewing on it continuously and contendedly.

"If Cola juice becomes soap, can we put on the body while taking shower ?" came the next question.

Mommy, sensing that the situation was getting hilariously out of hand, was contemplating a suitable reply when again came the query "But what is fizz Mummy ?"

"All that bzzzz bzzz thing that appears when you pour out Cola" said Mommy, sounding rather pathetic to her own ears.

"Bzzzz Bzzzz - like a bee ?" asked The Enlightened One.

"No. Bzzz Bzzz like a can of Cola" said Mommy who was quite sure that a few more silver strands had appeared on her crowning glory since this conversation began. The whole issue was getting hilariously complicated.

"What happens when bzzz bzzz come ?" asked Abhay

"See Abhay. All that bzzz bzzz makes your teeth very weak."

"My teeth are strong like McQueen. I brush with my toothbrush in the morning and night" said Abhay, not budging a millimeter over this.

"See" said Abhay, flashing a huge 100 watt grin at Mommy, who was besides herself with laughter by now.

"All that bzzz bzzz fizz and the sugar in the cola will make the bacteria settle on your teeth and then they will start to eat up your teeth." said Mommy, in an effort to simplify the entire "how does a cavity form" process for The Great One.

"Will I get holes in my teeth ?" asked Abhay, his eyes as wide as saucers.

"Ah Ahhhhaaaa - now I'm getting to him" thought Mommy.

"Yes" said Mommy in a long drawn protracted whisper (special effects help always)

And to press the advantage further, Mommy went one step ahead and said

"And that bzzz bzzz in the cola also makes teeth weak and they begin to crack up if you drink too much cola" said Mommy.

(To Mommy's credit - this piece of information had indeed been gleaned from a magazine that mommy had read up on recently. This was not a made up story.)

"Then all my teeth will fall out." asked Abhay, his eyes all ready to pop out of their sockets.

And before Mommy could say a word, there came a statement ......

"But if my teeth all fall away then Abhay will have no teeth. And if Abhay has no teeth then Abhay don't need to brush his teeth."

Then, along came this query with that gleam in his eyes brimming with mischief. "Are you going to order for Cola juice too, Mummy ?"

[To Abhay's credit Mommy does indeed have to say that since this discussion took place, the request for Cola juice has indeed waned big time :-). Even a trip to McDonalds does not elicit a request for the now infamous "cola juice".]

Of late, there are many a times when I wonder about our own childhood. As children, we too had our fair share of queries and questions. Not all of them evoked satisfactory answers. For the most part, a query as to "Why should this be like this ?" or "Why should this not be done this way ?" used to evoke a standard answer from our parents, which was

"Because I said so." End of story :-) No further discussions were warranted and no further answers would be forthcoming.

And many a times, at the end of many a discussion or a question/answer session with the kids, we do seriously feel that it is always better to give them proper explanations to things rather than just nip that curiosity (and that need to question things) in the bud by saying "Because I said so." :-)

In any situation when children ask questions, it is always better to take the scenic route while providing an explanation rather than resorting to shortcuts. :-)

Experience does seem to suggest that by taking the scenic route while giving children an explanation, there are two distinct possibilities

1. The kids get totally bored of the long drawn out explanation proferred and decide to leave you alone.

OR

2. The kids end up learning something from the explanation proferred.

If that is not a "Win-Win Situation", what is ?? !! ;-)


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15 February, 2008

Mommy is a ...........

Parents do name their children - and so did we. In fact, after having done away with the formal naming ceremony, Vic and me got around to giving the nutty siblings all kinds of nutty names. I had once done a post about it. Read more about it here.

Mommy has also been at the receiving end of many a naming ceremonies. Needless to say, unusual names. And as the days go by, both siblings are getting better and better at it.

For instance, when Mommy was in her last trimester of her second pregnancy, Aparna had lovingly christened a nickname for Mommy. She used to call Mommy a "Penguin". Explanation proferred was that Mommy used to waddle like a penguin. Quite true. Cannot refute that argument at all.

Admittedly Mommy used to waddle like a penguin but she used to feel more like a beached whale !!!

Since Abhay has been of an age when he could communicate effectively, both siblings had been referring to Mommy as "The Mummy Penguin".

One fine day, things changed.

Abhay once woke up in the wee hours of the morning - around 2 a.m actually - and opened the door and walked into the master bedroom - only to find Mommy perched on the chair merrily typing away on the computer.

This piece of information was quite apparently conveyed by the younger sibling to the elder one and the next morning Mommy did find them whispering about something for a while. They were gesticulating quite wildly and there were nods of the head - sometimes in the positive to say "yay" and sometimes in the negative to say "nay".

The mystery solved itself when Abhay walked up to Mommy and said "You are not a Penguin anymore. You are a Mummy Owl."

Explanation proferred was that Owls do not sleep at night and since he found me working on the PC in the wee hours of the morning, the siblings deemed it fit to turn Mommy into an Owl.

"Being called an Owl is much better than being referred to as a Penguin" thought Mommy.

Until Abhay suddenly asked "Can you roll your eyes like a owl ?"

Rolling your eyes every once in a while is quite OK. But when it has to be done constantly, one kind of begins to feel like a very dizzy owl whose eyeballs seem like a couple of discoballs in a constant state of dance.

Or better still, when Mommy caught Abhay doing something he should not have been doing and was told "But you are a Mummy Owl. You have to sleep in the day. You should not wake up in the day. If you don't wake up, Mummy cannot know what Abhay is doing".

Worse still, while getting the kids to bed, The Mummy Owl was told that she could not sleep at night because Owls don't sleep at night.

Oh !! Mommy was waiting with bated breath for this "Owl Phase" to end.

One fine day, Mommy was getting ready to take Abhay over to school. As Mommy was getting ready, she was found whistling merrily. Until she noticed the gleam in Abhay's eyes. He was sitting on the sofa, watching Mommy like a cat that had just swallowed the cream - looking all pleased with himself. Sure enough, there it was ....

"Mummy. You are not a mummy owl anymore. You are a Mummy Whale."

"Whale ?????!!!!!! Oh God !!!" thought Mommy. "Where in the name of God did that come from ?"

"Yeah. Whale. See you are wearing blue clothes and you are big and you are whistling. So Mummy is a Whale. "

Yeah Sure. Why ever not. He was doing wonderful things to Mommy's ego. The Mommy who works out religiously everyday in an effort to keep her weight under check was coolly and casually referred to as a Big Blue Whale !!!

But then again, as long as the siblings did not expect Mommy to swim and jump around in water like a whale, Mommy thanked her lucky stars.

Then again, a few days back, out of the blue, Abhay came over to Mommy and remarked

"Mummy. You are not Mummy Whale anymore. You are a Mummy Hippo. And there is not enough water in this house for Mummy Hippo to swim around."

Mommy did not dare ask Abhay for an explanation or a reasoning to that one !!!!!!!!!!!

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13 February, 2008

Links, Links and More Links - A Tag !!

I’ve been tagged with the “Link Tag” by Altoid, Boo, Inba and Preethi. Not one – mind you – four people !!!

People people - I am known to be notoriously erratic when dealing with tags. But then, as the saying goes, there is always room for improvement, is there not ? Especially when someone hands me a tag that screams I, Me, Myself from the rooftops, how can I but resist diving into it headfirst ??

Hmmm … the rules, before I forget them myself, are

Post 5 links to 5 of your previously written posts.
The posts have to relate to the 5 key words given : family, friend, yourself, your love, anything you like.
Tag 5 other friends to do this meme. Try to tag at least 2 new acquaintances (if not, your current blog buddies will do).

Boo very benevolently said “Go, Dig !!” whilst tagging me. I did go dig in the archives. And realized that I’ve not done any posts about my friends on the blog. Since this kind of disqualifies me, I had seriously thought about not doing the tag at all. I had a good loophole to exploit, you see. But then, the heart ruled over the head and here I am, doing the tag.

In order not to bend the rules of the tag, I just published a post on my childhood friends and am putting up a link here. Ingenious, ain’t I ?? But then, you know that, don’t you ?? !!

Exactly how much more narcissistic can I get. Read some more and you shall see.

Family

My family is what my world revolves around. To be very honest, life, for me, came together after marriage. I’ve never really written about Vic but he has been and still is a huge steadying force in my life. Ours was very much an arranged marriage – horrorscopes and what not – but if there is something called “growing in love”, I sure can stake a claim to it.

Then, of course, the nutty siblings. The joys of our life. They’ve changed our life in ways we would not even have imagined. The kids added a whole new panorama to our lives.

Vic and me have always loved to travel. We are both wanderlusts. Even within HK, there have been plenty of hikes and treks that we’d undertaken in the first few years of marriage, before the kids arrived on the scene. Treks up hills, hikes on the Tai Tam Reservoir and lots many more. We loved to commune with nature. And after the kids came along, we did visit a lot of places in HK but the circle seemed complete when we walked through a trail on The Victoria Peak a few months back, with the kids. And it was beautiful to hike a trail together, all of us together.

The peace, the serenity, the beauty, the stillness, the vast blue skies and the lush greenery, the first heady feeling that the children experienced in reveling in the beauty of nature – is something that will remain entrenched in memory for a long long time.

I wrote about it here.


Friends

I’d never really done a post on my friends, until earlier today. Read about it here.


Yourself

Oh !! This one is easy peasy. I’ve been described as the one with a quacky sense of humor, a very entertaining acquaintance :-) and many many more. There are – or should I say were – quite a few things about me that my friends in the blogging world were not aware of. Until one fine day when I was tagged by Maddie to reveal nine things about myself – eight facts and one fib. And then the skeletons started to come out of the closet. Read about it all here.

And then along came a tag calling upon me to list my quirks. Since I was erratic, as usual, in dealing with tags – the nutty siblings took it upon themselves to complete the tag on their quirky ole mom. Want to read about my quirks, my weird habits. Alrighty. Here you go.

Love

I’ve had a constant love affair with books ever since my childhood days. And I wrote about it here.

Another passion of mine during my childhood and teenage years was philately. And I’ll be posting about that shortly, having been tagged by Dottie.

Another thing I’ve always loved is “creating” things with little bits of just about anything and everything. A couple of times I started such activities during the school holidays and I ended up getting into big trouble. My mom was quite obsessive about keeping the whole house sparkling clean – furniture, floors, just about everything. And a bit of glue smeared on the floor or small eeny weeny bits of paper lying around (after a particularly crafty exercise), or small drops of paint on the floor – absolutely sent her into a frenzy of sorts. And after being at the receiving many a screaming session dripping with sarcasm and disdain, the whole creativity thingy kind of got entire repressed within myself. After that, I never really gave vent to this creativity during childhood or during my teen years.

My hands would itch to give in to the craving to get a piece of paper or cloth or sponge or even vegetables and “create” something but the inevitable raving and ranting session that would follow made me cringe inwardly. Fear would win and in the process, the creative urges started to gather cobwebs.

Until the time my own children grew up and invariably I’d find Aparna poring over a piece of paper with a scissor in her hand. She’d nip and snip at the paper and end up creating some design out of it. Sometimes I would find her with a book, tracing the outline of her own palms on the book and then drawing out elaborate mehendi designs on the outline that she’d just drawn.

And it all came back with a vengeance. That urge, that need to give vent to the creativity, to put the pictures forming in the mind into objects which were physical and tangible.

Among other things, the one thing I absolutely love to do is hunker down with the kids and use whatever is at hand – playdoh, magnetic shapes, just paper, stickers – whatever – to “create” something. Read about those here, here, here, here, here, here and here.


Anything I like

Hmmm. This is where the going gets slightly weird.

Like I said earlier, during my childhood and teen years, I used to want to carve up vegetables – to give them different shapes and see what I could make out of them. But I never really got around to trying that. Instead, all those energies got focused on being an expert vegetable cutter. Whatever was on the menu, the vegetables would be cut by me. And I used to love doing that. In fact, sometimes people have indeed remarked that when I got around to cutting the veggies, one could actually measure each piece with a scale and the sizes would invariably be the same.

During those days, attending social events like thread ceremonies or weddings took on a totally different connotation for me. I was not particularly interested in the ceremony that was taking place or for that matter who was getting married to whom. What really caught my attention was the hustle and bustle of activity in the huge kitchens. The way the cooks would deftly reduce a large huge pumpkin into small little pieces in a matter of minutes, the aroma of the many different spices that would go into the cooking process etc. So much so that I actually ended up doing a post on the traditional South Indian feast. Somehow this post still retains a very special place in my heart and memory. This was on my other blog – the one that I’ve been wanting to re-start but haven’t gotten around to.

There !! If any of you managed to get to the end of this post without giving up halfway, I have just one thing to say to you - Hats Off !!!

Now the fun part where I get to tag five others. I tag

Fuzzy [wakey wakey time Fuzzy. start posting soon].
Just Like That [see what happens JLT - when you say "*sigh* the working class" :-). You get more work.]
Sue [so that I can lurk on your blog some more]
Moppet Tales [who weaves humor effortlessly into every post of hers]
Orchid [who just finished doing one tag. Time for another tag Orchie].

Get to work folks !! Like Boo said - Go Dig !!!

Edited to Add : I had been tagged for this by the lovely Ano as well. Realised that when I visited her lovely blog today. And Ano, this is the first time ever in tag history that I have an opportunity to say - I've already done that tag ;-). Thank you for pouncing on this unsuspecting one :-).

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Childhood friends.

During my childhood days, we were a huge group of kids who used to hang out together, play together. We all went to the same school.

But through it all, there were three of us who forged a much deeper bond. R and J. They were my emotional siblings. They kind of made up for the fact that I did not have any biological siblings. We had our own wavelength and many a times we did not need to speak to each other to be understood. Such was the depth of friendship. Be it in terms of support, be it in terms of a good talking down, be it in terms of camaraderie – we were a syndicate.

In fact, during one of the Navratri festivals we decided to really get the mamis talking by singing Hindi movie songs instead of the usual traditional songs. Rebels of a kind, I guess. For many years after that, just the memory of the stricken look on the faces of the magnificent mamis had sent us into splits. In fact, this particular incident was part of this post.

Through school days and college days, our friendship thrived and grew stronger with each passing day. I still remember R sobbing her heart out when she could no longer deny the fact that I was going to be going away – far away from the little building in the suburbs of Bombay – to the far away land of Hongkong after my marriage. She was inconsolable.

J had always been the more calm, innocent one among the three of us. Always a sweet smile on her face, both me and R had always looked upon her as our younger sibling.

After I moved to HK, we still continued to very much keep in touch regularly. Then R got married. We were still in touch with each other – through letters, through phone calls.

She then went through a phase in her life which did bring about major changes in her. Incidents that completely changed her attitude towards life. When I met her next while I was in Bombay, the change in her was very palpable. It hit me like a ton of rocks. It took me a while to believe and accept that a person could change into such a cynic in such a short span of time. She’d erected barriers, walls all around herself. Walls so thick that every single attempt to scale them or break through them was met with immense resistance. The next two/three times I was in Bombay, even trying to meet up with her proved futile. And eventually I gave up too. Gave up trying to get her to talk, gave up trying to scale those walls.

The other day, Vic and me were going through some of the cartons that we’d been planning to sort through. That was when we opened the carton which contained all the letters, the notes, the cards that we’d exchanged over all these years. At the bottom of the same carton was a whole bunch of letters and cards – all of them from R and J. All of which I’d preserved carefully – right down to the smallest of stickers. Browsing through them brought back very vivid memories and also tinged me with sadness. It was a bond that had almost been magical in nature between the three of us. What had happened to it ? Why had it dwindled ? Where had it all gone ?

And then came a tag by Altoid which set me thinking and sent me down memory lane once again. And that was when I realized that this was not a relationship to just “let go” of. Not after all that we’ve shared with each other through our childhood and teenage years. There still has to be, absolutely has to be vestiges of the same bond still around. Submerged, maybe but existing and alive – I’m sure there is.

It is very true that time and events change people and attitudes. But what we’d done here – all three of us – was let the relationship and that bond rust. I would still not say “die” because I honestly believe that there is still plenty that can be salvaged.

And if what it takes to set the ball rolling is a first step from someone, I’m going to set the ball rolling.

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11 February, 2008

Kung Hei Fat Choi !!!

A Chinese proverb states that all creations are reborn on New Year’s day. The Chinese New Year is a celebration of change ... out with the old and in with the new!
The Chinese Lunar Calendar is based on the cycles of the moon, and is constructed in a different fashion than the Western solar calendar. In the Chinese calendar, the beginning of the year falls somewhere between late January and early February.

The Chinese animal signs are a 12-year cycle used for dating the years. They represent a cyclical concept of time, rather than the Western linear concept of time.

The Year of the Rat was ushered last week.

The first of the twelve years is the Year of the Rat. This is followed by the Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig.



According to Chinese legend, the twelve animals quarreled one day as to who was to head the cycle of years. The gods were asked to decide and they held a contest: whoever was to reach the opposite bank of the river would be first, and the rest of the animals would receive their years according to their finish.

All the twelve animals gathered at the river bank and jumped in. Unknown to the ox, the rat had jumped upon his back. As the ox was about to jump ashore, the rat jumped off the ox's back, and won the race. The pig, who was very lazy, ended up last. That is why the rat is the first year of the animal cycle, the ox second, and the pig last.

This is a time of the year when festivities abound and the whole of Hongkong is an absolute riot of colours. Flowers, festoons, traditional lion and dragon dances, little red packets of lai see ..... celebrations abound.

This year too, there were the traditional Lion and Dragon dances in our apartment complex - accompanied by the traditional Chinese drums and cymbals.

I'll leave it to the pictures to say the rest.
















Hongkong, during the past week, was indeed a celebration of vibrant, passionate colours.

Cheers to a new year !!!

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06 February, 2008

Just another day .........

The Chinese New Year break from school is on. And the nutty siblings are at home. The weather outside is really bad. Cold, Windy, Rainy ....... All in all not the sort of weather in which children can enjoy playing outdoors.

Which brings us to the situation on hand right now. Both siblings cooped up at home with a lot of energy they don’t really know how to spend. Perfect recipe for trouble in the making !!!

Like today morning, when the nutty siblings were brushing their teeth, there was lots of noises in the bathroom. The bathroom walls were quite literally reverberating with the “ooooo aaaaa eeeee” song. Our song. Our very own composition.

Just in case you ‘re wondering which year that song topped the Grammy charts in – let me enlighten you – it did not. Did not even get near any Grammy Chart. Nor is it a nursery rhyme. It is just one of those songs that dear ole Mommy devised when inspiration struck her one fine morning.

All because Mommy was of the opinion that the siblings were not doing the entire “teeth brushing” exercise enough justice. They were just not brushing their teeth properly enough. And out of the sheer necessity to get them to brush properly came the song “ooooo aaaaa eeeee”, the rendition of which is a mixture of tunes from Beethoven, Bach and Strauss. By the time they got the tune right (or thought they did) and by the time one repeated what the other had just hummed, the toothbrush and toothpaste had enough time to clean those pearlies.

Mommy’s quite ingenious, ain’t she ? Not quite, actually. She just has this knack of attracting trouble like an iron attracting magnets.

Because, of late, the “ooooo aaaaa eeeee” song sounds like it is being sung by Pavarotti with a terrible stomach ache. Imagine a dose of that early in the morning !!! To put a positive spin on things however, it does serve to completely wake up Mommy who tends to be walking around like a half asleep zombie in the mornings.

Today morning, after having brushed their teeth quite well, both siblings were admiring their teeth in the mirror. Abhay was heard saying “Hey Aparna – look – my teeth are shiny like McQueen.”

“Mine too” said Aparna with a huge grin. “My teeth are like McQueen too.” she said.

Abhay gave her a rather long and thoughtful look and then proceeded to look at his toothpaste which, incidentally, has pictures of McQueen and his gang on it. And said

“No Aparna. Your teeth are like Rusty’s teeth.”

There were a few seconds of absolutely mortified silence in the bathroom, during which time Mommy quietly slunk away from the “crime scene”. Mommy’s continued presence would surely have meant a host of complaints and a desperate request to arbitrate and defuse the situation.

“Why are you calling me Rusty ?” asked Aparna in that “How.can.you.say.that.to.me ?” tone in her voice.

“Because Aparna – you also have big big teeth like Rusty and you also have holes between your teeth like Rusty.”

“Mummy – what’s wrong with my teeth ? Abhay just called me Rusty” came her defiant, complaining voice followed by Aparna, who planted herself squarely in front of a rather tonguetied Mommy.

Mommy could not bring herself to tell Aparna that the explanation that Abhay had proferred was, well ….. not entirely off the mark. And the permanent teeth that have been sprouting are kind of growing wild. But Mommy just did not have the heart to tell Aparna that she was an Orthodontist’s dream. No. Not so early in the morning anyways.

The situation was eventually defused with Mommy explaining to Abhay that saying something like that can hurt Aparna's feelings. And he did go over and say "I'm sorreeeee Aparna" which visibly brightened her up.
And then he did come running back to Mommy in a few minutes to say "But Mummy Aparna's teeth are like Rusty's teeth." and then proceeded to drag Mommy around to the bathroom to show her Rusty on the toothpaste, in an effort to defend his explanation.

They cannot quarrel for a long span of time and eventually they were running around, boisterous as ever.

Sometimes, it is better to let them sort out the situation by themselves. For starters, they are the ones who got themselves into the “situation”, did they not ?? These are times when mommy just fades away from the scene, following what she now calls “The Erma Bombeck Principle”.

The Erma Bombeck Principle is a quote which goes

“When my kids get wild and unruly, I use a nice, safe playpen. When they are finished, I climb out.”

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05 February, 2008

Hot"VA" !!

Happened yesterday when Mommy was giving Abhay a shower.

It so happens that Hongkong is going through one of the most awful winters right now. I mean, being in Hongkong, we are going through one of the most dreadful, dreary, bitingly cold season. I did not mean to say that Hongkong is feeling cold - its the people who live here that are feeling cold.

Not to digress ..... back to the bathtub ......

Since the water was really warm, there was a lot of steam in the bathroom.

And suddenly, out of the blue .....

"Oooohhh see Mummy, the water is so hot." said Abhay

"Is the water too hot for you ?" asked Mommy, since he was behaving like a scalded cat.

"No No. It's OK for me. But see Mummy, there is so much steam that the water is like hotva"

"What "va" ?" asked Mommy, knowing fully well that it was indeed time. Time for some sleuthing and interpretations if Mommy was to know what "Hotva" meant.

"Hotva" said Abhay, looking pretty confident.

"Where does one find Hotva ?" asked Mommy

"In the big mountain." came the reply.

Ahhhh Ahhhhh !!! Now the picture was complete.

"Some big mountains are volcanes Mummy" said Abhay rather seriously.

"And on top of a volcano, there comes steam and then there comes Hotva".

And equally seriously, Mommy said "It's not called Hotva, Abhay. It is called Lava".

Replied Abhay, with a rather sheepish look,

"Ooopsie ...... I forgot. Hmmmm ........ the water is like Lava. Now I say it correct Mummy. It is like Lava."

All this talk about hotvas and lavas can be attributed to his current fascination with volcanoes.

Space still remains a fascination. In fact, this interest in volcanoes arose from the fact that he heard and saw a clipping of a space related programme on TV wherein the narrator mentioned that Planet Venus has more than a thousand volcanoes.

Thus began the questions

"What is a volcano ?" "What does it do ?" ....... and so on and so forth.

Long live the "Whats ?".

As long as the "Whats and Whys, Why Nots and Ifs" pour in, learning sure is going to be a much more interesting process.

Like Frank A. Clark once said

"There is nothing that can help you understand your beliefs more than trying to explain them to an inquisitive child."

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01 February, 2008

A Rather Unique Dictionary ....

A new edition of a rather unique English dictionary is being published in The Krishnans’ household.

Main contributors being none other than the nutty siblings.

I’ve been watching the many different ways in which language is evolving and it sure has been (and still is) interesting.

Commonplace words are being given a totally different and “attention-grabbing” connotation.

For just about any given thing, Aparna has fallen into the habit of saying “Oh RRRaaattssss”.

No No No.

In case you are trying to pronounce that – don’t just say the word “rats” like you normally would.

Twirl the “R” around with a lot of emphasis on the phonetics, drag the “A” around like Jerry drags Tom by the tail, thunk the “T” down like you would a saucepan on a head that you did not like and pull the “S” as long as you can till you sound like a hot dosa on a sizzling pan.

There !!

Now you said it. “Awwww Rrrraaattsssssss”.

Alrighty !!!

The other day when we were talking about something Aparna was about to respond with a “Oh Ss……….” But she kind of stopped at the 's'. I know not how the rest of the word was to go but she ended up saying “Awwww Shucks”.
As long as the word starting with S was not a four letter word and more importantly as long as the "S" in the “shucks” was not being replaced by a “F”, the earth did not tilt any further on its axis nor did it come to an ear shattering stop. Life went on.

And then there is the grudging note of “Awwwright” that Aparna seems to have perfected. Because in saying just that one word, so many muscles are brought into play. Along with the vocalisation of the word "Awwwright" there is a simultaneous roll of the eyes (heavenward, of course) and a slightly downward tilt of the mouth and clenched teeth and you have a combo that can beat McDonalds any day. That’s a killer combo, if ever you’ve seen one.

Yet again, why take the trouble of saying the entire word “because” when you can get your message across just by saying “cos”. Energy conservation, mind you, in full force here.

Both siblings have gotten into the habit of saying “cheeeesse and whiskers” as a substitute to the good old “Oh My God”.

Cheese and Whiskers ????!!!!

Where in the name of God did that come from ??

And there is yet another substitute for “Oh My God”. That being “Cinders and Ashes” !!

So whenever we hear either one of them saying “Cinders and Ashes” or “Cheese and Whiskers” our brains need to immediately compute and conclude that those are colourful ways of saying “Oh My God” !!

The other day saw the siblings arguing over something and I heard Aparna say “Now don’t go about acting all hoity poity – you hear me ?” . Hoity Poity !!!??

And then came Abhay’s reply “I not hoity poity because I not roly poly”.

Hoity Poity and Roly Poly !!!????

Would someone please translate ? What language is this ? And which part of outer space is it spoken in ?

Abhay, for instance, is going through a phase where he adds an “ed’ to just about every action word. As far as he is concerned, nowadays, any word that denotes “doing something” has to – simply has to end with an “ed” attached to it.

I drink”ed” my juice.
I eat”ed” my biscuit.
I bath”ed” already.
I fed”ed” the fishes.
I wear”ed” my shoes already.

I draw"ed" a picture.

He also seems to have borrowed a few verses from his elder sibling. When he feels the need to exclaim, excitedly or otherwise, over something, he invariably goes

"Awww Maannn" or "Awww Boy"

And of course, there is always the totally ubiquitous “Why” ?

Once the “why’s” start raining, it just pours tigers and elephants ?

Tigers and Elephants ??!!

Oh !! Now Mommy is beginning to sound like the siblings ….

"Cinders and Ashes !!!"

What was it I just said ??

"Awwww Shucks ..... I don't believe this !!!!!"

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