30 November, 2010

Happy Birthday, Aparna :-)

(Image Courtesy : zazzle.com via Google)

“Because time itself is like a spiral, something special happens on your birthday each year: The same energy that God invested in you at birth is present once again.”  — Menachem Mendel Schneerson

My dear Saggi dot, ;-)

As I drum up this post, there are just a few hours to midnight and never have I been more aware of the fact than at this very moment that you will soon turn twelve. Eleven years ago, you made your grand entrance into our lives and changed it totally – all beginning with that one loud, indignant, belligerent bawl. Eleven years somehow, at this moment, seems like a very short span of time :-).

Funnily enough, I now realize that as children grow up, the images that parents cling to are the ones from their baby days, their early childhood. I am no exception to that rule. Even now, at this given moment, I just have to close my eyes and images float as though they have a life of their own, as though they have a will of their own, as though they have a mind of their own.

Even though I’m only too aware of the fact that you stand almost as tall as me today (almost – you’re not there yet !!) the images in my head are of that little baby who used to chew on our shoes, that little baby who used to give us hell and leave us clinging on the edge of pure insanity before going off to sleep, that little baby who used to frighten the lives out of us by walking around the house at night believing that she was a TeleTubby, that little baby who used to revolve and swivel so gracefully to the tunes of Maine payal hai jhankayi, that little baby whose laugh used to sound like a whole chorus of tinkling stars. That is a sound I still hear when I close my eyes, that is a sound that never failed to lift my spirits then and that is a sound that never fails to lift my spirits now.

Twelve – does that officially make you a pre-teen ? :-))

I haven’t really told you this over the past few months but now is as good a time as any to tell you that I’m simply loving watching you change. When you hit your teens, I might, in all probability, use different adjectives to describe my feelings towards the changes in you but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Right now, I’m loving watching you change and metamorphose into a confident young lady. Yes, young lady !! :-)

We saw you take your first steps into secondary school just a few months back. Little did we know that it would make you evolve so quickly. The changes that were rather uncertain over the first few weeks are now so palpable, so blatantly visible. Those first hesitant steps into secondary school have now turned into sounds of confident footsteps – footsteps which speak volumes, footsteps which say they know where they are going.

I love that confidence you exhibit in yourself - that confidence, which had taken a beating in the last three years of primary school. You’ve seen shades of life, shades of pain rather early in life. I know that some of your friends hurt you in a multitude of ways and we hurt for you then. We also watched warily as you struggled to find your footing amidst what had turned into a very slippery slope. We watched it erode your self-confidence, your self-worth and your self-esteem. We did all we could to shore up your defences mentally and emotionally but end of the day, we knew within our heart of hearts that those final few steps had to be taken by you. You had to restore that faith in yourself, within your heart. You had to find the strength to believe in friendship again. I know that was how badly you had been left scarred by all that emotional and social bullying you endured.

And you did. In the process, we saw you grow, we saw you mature further in your thoughts and actions.

All along, many people have told us how lucky we are to have you as our daughter. I’ve had many people point out to me that you are such a sweet child, a very responsible child, a very caring child. Many people, many different people have pointed this out to me. There have been many instances where we’ve seen these and much more for ourselves. That ability which you have in you – that ability to empathise – is indeed very precious in the world of today. I don’t need to tell you to hold on to that quality in you – because I know you will. Simply put, that’s how you are, that’s who you are.

There’s been another thing I’ve been wanting to tell you all along. But I’ve always felt that the timing was not be right. Now, somehow, I know you can handle what I’m about to tell you. I know that you are sensible and mature enough to understand it in depth now. Through my growing years, I had never been a risk taker. Never ever. If my school years were quiet, my college years were dead silent. Now, looking back, I can recall numerous instances when I wanted to be a part of something but I never did actually take that one final step – simply because I was afraid to take risks, simply because I feared failure. I feared the pain that failure would bring alongwith it. Today, I regret not having had the gumption to take risks then. For, I have realized that failure brings with it pain that is brief whereas that feeling of regret, of not having taken that one final step, of not having gone that one extra mile, stays lifelong.

Don’t do that to yourself. Go ahead, take risks, be a risk taker. If you don’t take that bend around the corner, you will probably never know what awaits you beyond that bend. It could be a venture that brings success, it could be a venture that brings failure. But trust me when I say that even if taking a risk along the way brings you face to face with failure, that pain is short-lived, it is momentary. That feeling of lamenting over not having taken a chance then, lasts a long long time.

I know it is scary to step into the unknown. There will be a part of you that says “Go get that. The opportunity awaits” while there will be another part of you that says “Don’t chance it. You might get hurt”. But if there is one thing I have noticed in you over these past few years, if there is one quality in you that has made itself evident, it is tenacity, persistence, resolve. As of now, you need anger to spur you on in a project that evades you. Once that anger gets its grip on you, you push yourself to test your own limits and always come out on top. I admire that obstinacy in you, that streak of “I will not stop until I do this”. As is the case with anything new, you are bound to make mistakes. That is the way we learn. Making mistakes is perfectly normal. What is important is to try your hand at your dream.

I have told you this before but I do feel the need to say it again. I love the way you write. The way you play around with words, the way you build up your stories, your descriptive narratives. I know that there are a lot of other things which demand your time and attention, now that you’re in middle school. But, to be honest, I do hope that you will nurture that talent in yourself. If, at any point of time, your heart says “Write”, do indulge in your heart’s whims and fancies. I, for one, would love to read what you pen.

To be honest, it is so bittersweet to watch you grow up. At the same time, I am thankful for the fact that we are the only ones who are still privy to watch that little child in you, even now. I know those times when you indulge that inner child in you are becoming more and more infrequent. Where I used to see a little girl about a year back, I now see shades of a young lady. While part of me puffs with pride at what I see, a part of me does turn rather reflective. I know, that this is a part of the “growing up” process – for you, as well as for us, as parents.

I do see quite a bit of “attitude” in you now. I know it is a part and parcel of growing up. But it is that very attitude that tells my instincts time and again that we are probably going to see quite a few of those fireworks at home in the coming few years. You know what tickles me pink ?? The fact that nature possesses an awesome sense of humor. How else would you explain the fact that I am, in all probability, going to be hitting menopause around the same time that you hit your teens :-)))). Forget stepping on each others’ toes – we are, in all probability, going to be dancing on each others’ feet !!! The real fun part lies in the fact that the boys at home won’t know what hit them then. They won’t have a clue !!!! Did I not say that Mother Nature does have an awesome sense of humor ??

On that note, young lady, here’s to you, here’s to that laughter in you which livens up an entire room, here’s to the inner beauty which you possess in abundance, here’s to that streak of mental strength that runs through you, here’s to those “rabbit” smiles, here’s to your dreams, here’s to the faith that you have invested in us, here’s to a lifetime of experiences with you.

If you want to know exactly how and what I’m feeling right now .... here goes ....

You are a part of me, you are a part of me
And that you will always be, that you will always be.
As you grow up, just as your own life is about to start
No matter how old you get, you’ll always be a part of my heart

All of a sudden, Oh ! All of a sudden
You’re growing so fast that it almost seems brazen
The way I see the changes in you unfurl
Make me ask myself “Where’s my little girl ?”

Time will fly, years will pass by so quickly
For the next few years, growth will seemingly have no boundary
There will be lots of laughter and joy with your peers
And quite possibly a small measure of tears

As you step into life, as a young lady, there is something you should know
You will always be our core of pride, whatever you do, wherever you go
So hold your head up high, be proud of what you are
The future beckons, with its doors ajar

When in doubt, remember to turn to that light which guides the Universe
No matter how diverse, into The Creator, things always converge
With our love in your heart and God’s hand on your head
Take things as they come, give it your best, no matter what lies ahead.

Here’s wishing you a very Happy Birthday, precious and here’s to a lifetime of growing together.

Love, hugs and then some,


26 November, 2010

Yet another writing prompt ...

(Image courtesy : darton.edu via Google)

"Grampa, Grampa", floated the sweet little voices, dripping with mischief. Those voices could only belong to little ones, the mischief laced with innocence, both virtues blending into each other, creating a concoction from which there never is an escape. "Grampa, Grampa ... Look at us" squeal the little voices, dripping with delight at having discovered something.

I shake the stupor which had been dragging me down, lulling me into a nap. At my age, my limbs tired and heavy, a stupor settles over me rather too willingly, I muse. I cannot help but smile at the little ones as they delight in the strong breeze that is blowing across the plains.

I was so little too once, I tell myself. I cannot help but tumble down memory lane. I cannot help but think of the wonderful times we had together as a family. Memories which still bring hints of pain alongwith them. But memories, as I’ve learnt over the past few years, are to be treasured, memories are to be valued and cherished – for memories are all that I have left.

I roll back to my baby days. It brings a smile to my face. Babies are such tiny creatures, I think – resilient and supple. Tender, yet strong. I used to have a whole horde of cousins back then. We were natural playmates. It was such a carefree time, hours of basking in the sun, soaking up the bounty that that ball of fire in the sky had to offer. As little children, we always turned our faces up to the sun - to feel its warmth, to feel the flickers of its fiery tendrils play peek a boo with us. There is something so cheerful about the sun, something that lights up something within your heart and makes you want to sing out aloud. I remember dancing to my heart's content on sunny days when I was young. As you grow older, nature makes you stronger but at the same time makes you less supple. 

We used to love it too when the skies opened up and unleashed their might and fury upon all the beings on earth. I remember the way rain used to lash down and the way me and my cousins used to huddle together – giggling, happy and blithe. The rain used to pelt down on us and it would just be a matter of a few minutes before we got drenched. We soaked up the rain like thirsty desert travelers sighting an oasis. There was and still is something so cleansing about the rain, something so pure, something so magical. It starts out as tiny droplets which seem almost hesitant to start their journey from their mansions in the fluffy clouds all the way down to the hard, mud streaked planes. How must the raindrop feel, I wonder – as it comes crashing down towards earth like a meteor. Does it fear its dissipation as it hits ground or does the raindrop feel the burgeoning excitement – pretty much like a bungee jumper about to free fall into the Grand Canyon. I've always wondered, I've always dreamed.

My limbs feel heavy all at once. "Middle age shows on your middle" goes the saying. Well, it sure was true with me. Age was definitely making its presence felt around my middle. Yet, I felt strong. There is a lot of strength in the heart. The strength of a survivor. Yes, I have been through a holocaust of sorts rather early in life. It was a massacre that left me bereft, without family or friends. But survive, I did.
Little giggles, warm, cheerful spirals of delighted sounds float up to my old ears and warm my heart. I look down upon the little ones merrily indulging in some of their favourite childhood pastimes. "Grow, little ones, grow" says my heart.

My eyes have been used to the flat brown plain land for far too long. These old eyes now yearn to see the valleys bathed in the lush green of leaves. My feathered friends settle upon me and chirp merry tunes, the little saplings around me indulge in life like only children can - cheery, untroubled, with a happy-go-lucky attitude.

Life goes on for me, the old oak tree. Yes, I am a tree, the only one that withstood the might of the humans who came at us with axes, machetes and saws, to quench their greed.

"Grow, little ones, grow" says my heart as my limbs feel droopy and heavy with sleep. Even in stupor my heart floods with delight at the very thought of watching a carpet of lush green which is sure to embrace these valleys very soon.

Trees are poems that earth writes upon the sky,
We fell them down and turn them into paper,
That we may record our emptiness.
~Kahlil Gibran

P.S : This was, once again, a writing prompt which simply said "Write from the point of view of a lone tree in a huge deforested valley."

19 November, 2010

Moooooooooo Mooooooooooooo

Image courtesy : clipartof.com via Google

I’ve written a lot many times that I’m, of late, unable to keep pace with Pecan’s questions. The questions are no longer straight and simple.  For that matter, they are anything but simple. He has this tendency to get hooked by some subject or the other and he would then go in depth into that subject till he's all but wrung it dry.  

Also, until a few months back, his forays and explorations into a particular subject were pretty much limited to the realm of books and his unsuspecting parents.  Life was a lot simpler then.  Now, with the world wide web having opened its arms and welcomed Pecan in, he has discovered a whole new world.  A world which not only gives him the answers he seeks but also feeds that fertile mind with fresh questions.  For every answer he finds on the internet, he also comes back with a couple of fresh questions upon which he unleashes his skills of investigation.

All in all, Pecan’s jurisdiction is no longer restricted to one subject of interest.  He now believes in multiples.  His parents, whose grey cells can probably run a steeplechase before saying “OK – that’s it for the day” are now being made to run two or three marathons in a day.  At this rate, Pecan’s parents are soon going to develop rather muscular grey cells – what with all the exercise which Pecan makes their grey cells undertake !!

Pecan’s current sphere of interest includes geography/maps/atlas, World War II, Volcanoes and of late, much to my panic, if I may add, the vast world of human anatomy.  Why panic ?  Because this is Pecan we are talking about.  The questions that come our way are direct and rather pointed.  There is no question of side stepping the questions nor is there any possibility of working around the question and leading him nowhere.  It simply fetches me a rather impatient and weary look from him which speaks volumes – that is to say “Do you really think I’m going to buy that answer ?”or “Maybe you could fool a baby with that one.  Not me.”Pecan simply zips from one topic of interest to another with the ease of monkeys swinging from branches in the Amazonian jungle.  Keeping pace with this movement from one topic to another leaves me feeling dizzy at times.  Very often, I'm left wondering why I am still on the platform after the train has long left.

This interest in the human anatomy started with the fact that they had this as a Unit of Enquiry at school last year.  The interest really caught on after he saw that episode on America’s Funniest Videos one Saturday.  AFV does not know that they have unwittingly unleashed a Sherlock Holmes who currently seems to have decided that not enough survey has been done on that part of the human anatomy called the breasts.  By surveys, I do not mean staring or ogling.  A survey, in Pecanese, means scientific investigation, questions (on How and Why and When and of course, the Why nots), a research driven survey to determine statistics. Fortunately for us, he is, as yet, totally clinical in his approach towards the said survey.

A few days back, he had a lot of queries on breastfeeding.  As usual, there was a barrage of puzzled Why’s, mystified How’s – basically, the whole works !!  Being a good parent and all that, not wanting to sidestep the issue (gah ! it does not work with him), his mom had answered all his questions – looking all the while like a lamb being led to the slaughterhouse.

Today morning, while helping him shower before he headed off to school, I was, as always, facing a whole barrage of questions.  Suddenly he lapsed into silence while I could hear those wheels clanking and turning at full speed.  It reminded me of that scene from Titanic (ok – that was a pun so not intended) where the whole machinery is turning at full speed and then it stops and reverses.  You get the picture, right ?
“Mummy, you said that babies are breastfed, right ?” asked Pecan.  "Yes, not all.  But many are", I said, giving him a long answer, not wanting to disturb the database which he was sure to have collected.  If I'd simply said "Yes", I'm pretty sure he would have pounced on that little discrepancy.  "But how do the breasts know that they have to make milk ?" queried Pecan, looking totally befuddled.  "Nature takes care of it".  I said.  "Remember what happens to turtles when they hatch.  They somehow know that they have to get across the sand and into the water if they are to survive.  How do they know that ?  Simply because nature programs it into living beings.  This too, is similar." I said, not wanting to lead him into the convoluted world of hormones and the like.  That would have been akin to waving a red flag in front of an enraged bull.  Only difference being that Pecan would have been absolutely delighted to have a fresh hormonal topic to investigate.

Pecan fell silent for a few seconds as he mulled over something.  As clinical as ever, a few seconds later, his investigation apparently having been deemed complete and his conclusions drawn, Pecan declared "OK.  So that means when the babies are small,  the mummies are the cows."

A whole litany of Mooooooooooo Moooooooooooos sounding inside my head, I could not help but burst out laughing at that little face which was staring at me with mischief dancing in those eyes.

Did I not say he is clinical in his approach ?

A tad too much, me thinks !!

To be honest, I'm not sure whether women would find it funny to be called bovine.  I did, maybe because Pecan is my calf .... err .... child, I mean.

Do you hear any Moooooooooooooo Moooooooooooos or is it just me ??

04 November, 2010

Diwali Nostalgia ...

Most of the excitement lay in the preparation and the events leading up to the main occasion. Questions would be aplenty. Some questions would be answered, some not. As each day progressed, the excitement would mount, the air would fill with the fragrances of sugar, cloves, cardamom and saffron. The pans would sizzle with hot oil and goodies would appear from the pans, as though by magic. The buildup to Diwali, during my childhood days, used to be magical.

One could actually feel the festive air, so much so that the celebratory air was almost palpable. It was almost as if one could just reach out into thin air and touch that feeling of cheer and joy. It was everywhere. It surrounded things, it encapsulated feelings and encompassed one and all. People could be seen visibly caught up in the festive atmosphere as the cheer lay claim to minds – young and old alike.

One of the main highlights of Diwali during my childhood days used to be the Kandil. There was no string of lights then. It used to be a paper lantern which could be folded up once the Diwali festivities were over. Indian Origami at its best !! I remember waiting with bated breath for my dad to climb into the loft and take out the kandil. It would be taken out of the loft, safely encased in its plastic bag. Dust would still have managed to seep in through those layers of plastic onto the kandil. I would wait, ready with a cloth in hand, to restore the kandil to its pristine condition. Once the kandil – all nooks and crevices of it included – was dusted and fresh, my dad would climb up on a long stool and first attach the bulb holder to the nearest plug point. He would then attach the bulb to the holder the test it. Then came the piece de resistance – he would open the kandil and it would unfurl itself in a blizzard of colors. The strings tied, I would have the honor of switching on the light which would herald the beginning of the Diwali festivities.

It used to be the same kandil year after year. If I remember right, we used the same kandil for more than 9 years. But the beauty lay in the fact that no one ever tired of seeing the same kandil year after year. It was a star shaped kandil which used to twinkle rather merrily (or so I thought then) at its onlookers. Me and my friends used to walk around the building, taking note of the houses where the kandils had already been put up and wait impatiently for the other errant households (or so we thought then) to put up their kandils soon.

I distinctly remember the mouth watering aromas that would begin to filter and waft through home and fill the whole house with its fragrance – tantalizing the taste buds, teasing the olfactory senses, tempting and alluring those fingers into attempting a steal from the dishes before the whole dish even got done, tormenting those brain cells which would, by then, be firing away in a rather manic manner, knowing very well that a whole load of goodies lay in store.

Mom would be busy in the kitchen, her face all scrunched up in concentration so as to ensure the right consistency of the sugar syrup which would ensure absolutely delicious laddoos. Or she would be found stirring very systematically and analytically, that heavenly mixture of besan, sugar and ghee – which, under her careful ministration and nurture, would eventually turn into those wonderful “melt in the mouth” Mysore Pak. There would be the savories too. Those hands would twirl in merry abandon as they twisted and teased mounds of dough into crispy twirled murukkus. Those fingers would go “Pat a cake pat a cake bakers man” whilst flattening the spicy dough onto a piece of cloth, which would later ensure a whole dabba full of spicy thattais. A perfect complement to all those dabbas overflowing with sweets. The smell of rose essence would waft through the kitchen and find its way into my nostrils, thus signaling towards the fact that hot jalebis were imminent.

My mom, I’m sure, was blissfully unaware of the kind of provocation these culinary masterpieces evoked. It would send all five senses into a frenzy, the smells would cause a tumult while the almost palpable taste would drive one to the depths of despair until and unless one got a sampling of the goodies being made in the kitchen, right then and there.

I don’t remember a single Diwali day when the sky was not dark when I awoke. That customary ritual of an oil bath early in the morning would evoke none of the usual complaints from me as I would crane my neck as much as possible without twisting it into some weird angle, trying to peep at the new clothes which would be laid out in front of the prayer shelf. My dad would have a bucket of warm water ready in the bathroom for me to finish my oil bath. Maybe it was my imagination but that oil bath on Diwali day was like none other. It had that special something to it. Once the oil bath was done, my grandma would smear a little bit of turmeric powder onto the edges of my new Diwali clothes and with much elaboration and flourish, hand them to me.

New clothes donned, crackers in hand, I would rush out to meet my friends and from then on it would all be a flurry of sounds and colors. There were times when we would literally jump out of our skins when one of the cracker bombs went off but in no way would that dampen or hamper our little coterie of friends. By the end of it all, our hands would be smeared with gunpowder from the crackers and they would look as though we had been digging through a coal mine of sorts. Yet, it was all a part of that charm, that appeal and allure that the festival brought along with it. Diwali had its own charisma, it weaved its own magic and never failed to fascinate us kids, year after year after year after year. It was an enchantress of sorts, totally mesmerizing us kids and captivating us. In the very simplicity of the festival then, lay its appeal. In the very simplicity of the festival then, lay its pull, its attraction, its magnetism that drew one and all into a cosy embrace of love, oneness, friendship and camaraderie.

As I grew older, that penchant for crackers slowly gave way to the more sedate aspects of Diwali. Soaking the clay diyas in water a few days before Diwali and laying them out to dry would be the beginning. Then would begin a creative frenzy as I would paint the diyas with poster colors. Each one would have a pattern, a certain design to it. Very soon those colors and their tints and hues would spiral me out into a totally different world as those brushes produced miniature swirls and twirls on the diyas which would eddy my senses into a vortex filled with blues and greens and golds, bringing along with them a deep sense of satisfaction and contentment.

I remember those days when I would spread the earthy base onto the verandah at home. A square or a rectangle or a circle, as my imagination deemed fit right then. Onto it my fingers would automatically weave thin patterns with white rangoli powder. Once the basic design was done, would begin the absolutely delightful task of filling the rangoli colors in. It was an enchanting process, one that I hold very dear and close to my heart even today.

(Image Courtesy : shreeyoginfo.com via Google)

Asato Ma Sadgamayah
Tamaso Ma Jyotirgamayah
Mrutyor Ma Amrutamgamayah

So this Diwali, dear readers, as nostalgia takes me rolling down memory lanes, the entire nutty family at Tiny Tidbits wishes you and yours a very Happy, Peaceful, Prosperous Diwali filled with cheer, good health, love and happiness.

03 November, 2010

It's that time of the morning .....

 (Picture Courtesy : clipartof.com via Google)

It's that time of the morning.

That time of the morning when the rays of the sun are yet to break through the thick blanket of fluffy white clouds in the sky.

That time of the morning when even the birds seem reluctant to break out of their slumber, fluff their wings and chirp away, heralding a rather energetic beginning of a new day.

That time of the morning when stupor seems supreme, the dreams seem never ending and that wonderful state of being in a daze and trance seem unrivaled, absolutely beyond compare .

That time of the morning when there seem to be a lot of unseen shackles which prevent one from flinging back the covers and springing out of bed.

That time of the morning when one longs to snuggle under the cosy warmth of the quilt for "just another two minutes".

That time of the morning when one feels terribly optimistic in longing for “those two minutes” to stretch out into a time span of around two hours.

That time of the morning when one feels the need to ask exactly who in their right senses invented that blessed contraption called the alarm clock.

That time of the morning when sleep unfurls itself and threatens to take over every time one has enough will power to drag ones eyelids open.

That time of the morning when sleep coats and drapes itself on one with a rather feline, catlike grace, leaving one feeling totally languorous and indolent, lazy and lethargic. A lethargy that has an elegant grace to it unlike other times when laziness seems clumsy and ungainly.

That time of the morning when one envies animals who have a program called hibernation programmed into their genes by Mother Nature.

That time of the morning when the sun rays have just about begun to play peek a boo with the fluffy white clouds in the sky.

That time of the morning when the sun rays paint the whole horizon in that beautiful shade of orange pink which an artist finds virtually impossible to duplicate on a canvass.

That time of the morning when, in apparent desperation, two alarm clocks start going off intermittently, knowing fully well that they have an uphill task ahead of them.

That time of the morning when the resident terrapin with an attitude seems more irritated by the alarm clock than oneself.

That time of the morning when one drags oneself out of bed and is confronted with the sight of the rest of the household (pets included) comfortably and cozily tucked under their respective quilts, snoring away into oblivion with what, right then, sounds very much like contended sighs.

That time of the morning when one is still in the clutches of sleep as one trudges over to brush ones teeth and finds that one has put handcream on the toothbrush instead of the predictable toothpaste.

'Twas indeed that kind of a morning for Yours Truly today. ‘Tis indeed that kind of a morning for Yours Truly all throughout winter.

I simply don’t feel like waking up so early in the morning during winter.

That’s all I was trying to say, actually.

02 November, 2010

The teaching chronicles - Part I

(Image courtesy : hccteachers/wikispace via Google) 

Sue of Sunny Days fame set the ball rolling (like she pretty much always does) the other day when she commented on a picture of mine on Facebook. A picture, which, if I may add, is more than 3 years old. She wanted to know if the kids I teach listen to me because I looked cute and like a total pushover in that picture.

Usha of Ageless Bonding also asked the other day if I had chronicled my “teaching experiences”.

The Mad Momma has asked me a couple of times as to how life as a full time working mom is treating me. Shameless me has not yet had the time to reply.

All in all, this post has been long overdue.

No clichés yet again, but fact remains that time does fly. As I drum up this blog post, I am rather acutely aware of the fact that it has been close to two months since I started working full time. It does not feel that long because time has simply been zipping past.

My teaching experience, before I took up this full time opportunity, had been restricted to the local primary and secondary schools. Once I started working full time for a language centre, I did realize that it required a whole different set of skills altogether. Like the saying goes, at every step of the way, there sure is something for each and every one of us to learn, no matter how old we get.

Teaching kindergartners, for instance, takes a lot more out of a teacher physically than does teaching Primary or Secondary students. Teaching Primary students takes a good mix of fun and focus with a healthy amount of disciplining thrown in. Striking a balance between all these factors is of primary importance. With the Secondary students, one has to be on top of the grammatical components that are being taught – because at any given point during the class, questions can be thrown at you. All in all, like I said, it has been a good mix.

When I first started teaching at the language centre, there were quite a few children who were hell bent on testing the waters. Exactly how far can we go with this new teacher ? Exactly how much indiscipline is she going to tolerate ? Exactly how much can we get away with ?. These are “The Three Tenets of New Students”. In any given teaching situation, a teacher is bound to come across students who are really keen on experimenting with these three questions and arriving at their own answers and conclusions. That is a given, irrespective of the age group.

Over the past couple of months, I’ve come across kids who have tried swearing loudly in class, kids who have (on purpose) left their cell phone ringers on, kids who have been outright belligerent, kids who have insisted on speaking in their mother tongue during an English lesson, kids who have insisted on coloring with normal lead pencils, kids who took it upon themselves to decide when a lesson begins and when a lesson ends, kids who howled their heads off, kids who smirked with that “I know it all. So I don’t need to listen to you” expression, kids who have been nothing but well behaved, kids who have shown a lot of focus and dedication towards learning English, kids who are extremely polite and well-behaved.

Like I said before, it has indeed been a very good mix.

During the early few days, as I worked at striking a balance in the classroom, situations did go slightly askew at times. But then again, everything has a phase of adjustment. Likewise, so did we. A teacher – student relationship is never a ready made one. It has to be built and yet again, with passage of time, it has to be consistently moulded and adjusted. Those wavelengths have to be primed to each other.

When I look at the very same classes now, I can see the difference. I can comfortably say now that I know what to expect of each class and the children in each class, definitely know what to expect of me.

Over the past month, there has been a definite shift in a number of children. Children, who, at the beginning of the term in September, came in dragging their faces along the floor are now enthusiastic members of the class. It is indeed a pleasure to see them change, to see them grow and adapt and to see them learning because they want to learn and not because they have to learn.

Over the past two months, I’ve seen a close quarters what a learning disability can do to a child. I’ve seen the erosion of self-confidence, I’ve seen the absolute inability on the part of the parents to come to terms with the fact that a child could have a learning disability. I’ve seen the sheer desperation on the faces of the parents as they cross their fingers, hope and pray that something somewhere will give and that their child will be able to adapt better to the demands of the world. I’ve seen what all of this does to children. It is very painful to watch a child going through something like this. More so, because you know you can work things, work around things for them to the best of your ability, you can give them your all and then some – but sometimes, even that falls a bit short. It simply isn’t enough. You ask yourself, you wonder, you question yourself as to whether there was something else that you could have done, whether there is something else that can be done to help the child. Trust me when I say this, nothing is more painful than a look of sheer anguish in those little eyes. I’ve learnt this only too well in the space of the past two months.

There are, even as of date, some children who treat these classes as some sort of an imposition on them. They did not want to enroll for these classes, their parents simply did it for them. They have reached a stage where they see the enthusiasm building among other kids in the class. Their ego still refuses to give in and they feign indifference, they yawn, they sit around with a defeated look on their faces. But I know it is just a matter of time and I’m prepared to wait.

One such girl in her pre teens was a fine example of the above. She refused to even acknowledge my presence in class initially. I used to have a tough time stifling a little smile. That battle inside her head was quite plain and evident. Over the past three weeks, I’ve seen the ice thaw – literally thaw and the icing on the cake was a couple of weeks bac, when, instead of just walking out of the class like she normally used to before, she waited, fidgeted, adjusted and re-adjusted the books in her bag, opened and closed her water bottle about 6 times and at the end of it all, gave me a rather shy smile, waved and said “Bye”. Last week, I had some paperwork to finish after class and she just sat down to chat after class. Yes !!! One more among the last few polar ice caps had just melted. And at the fag end of the day, it made my day.

Yet again, I would be lying if I did not mention here that there are indeed some days when, due to a wide variety of reasons and factors, I feel compelled to write to dictionary publishers and complain about the fact that the term "head banging" does not appear in the dictionary.  It is an extremely pertinent string of words actually "banging your head on the wall" - one that makes the literal "banging of ones head on the nearest concrete wall" seem painless !!

The past two months have brought me face to face with a myriad of situations which have only served to make me so acutely aware of the fact that we have two little gems at home, in Macadamia and Pecan. In a lot of ways, I guess I’ve begun to appreciate them more for what they are, positives and negatives included.

I've said a lot many times that Pecan's questions on a wide range of topics, are getting more and more complicated by the day. They are. But being in the midst of kids day in and day out, I have realized that curiosity is one factor that is fast declining among the present generation. It probably has a lot to do with the pressures and stress of the local schooling system in HK's public schools. Now, everytime Pecan throws a question at me, I am genuinely thrilled instead of flailing around like a fish out of water. I do, many a times, admit to Pecan that the answer to his question is beyond me and that we could check it out on the internet. Curiosity is indeed something that should be treasured in children and in all possible ways, kindled. I do send many silent "Thank You" notes to God Almighty for having blessed us with a child who is forever curious. For, I now realize that curiosity, as a feeling that is appreciated, is fast becoming extinct.

I've said many a times that Macadamia is a very loving and an extremely responsible child and that her mental maturity goes far beyond her chronological age. She cares. Period !! She cares deeply about her family, she cares about the pets at home, she cares about her friends, she cares about the world in general. Caring, yet again, seems to be on the decline. I come across plenty of children nowadays who simply do not care for anything or anybody. Nothing seems to matter, nothing has any effect and there is a visible sense of apathy in many children. Yet again, this has a lot to do with the public schooling system. Everytime I see Macadamia in her "I care about you" mode, it genuinely makes me happy. I used to wonder earlier on, if this very virtue in her would make her more susceptible to hurt later in life. But over the past two months, I've realized what a blessing it is to have a child as caring as Macadamia.

Teaching, as I've realized over the past eleven months or so, is not easy. It probably never has been, but then again, reality hits when one is actually in the teachers' shoes. It is very challenging, but then again, would things not be boring without challenges around ?

To specifically answer Sue's question as to whether I am a pushover in class - the answer is quite simply "No". But then again, neither am I a disciplinarian. To cut a long story short, there are a few quotes which are stuck to the back of my mind whenever I walk into a classroom. These quotes are golden rules for me because I do honestly believe that creating an environment conducive to learning is much more important than the actual learning itself.

All learning begins with the simple phrase "I don't know".

They may forget what you said. But they will never forget how you made them feel.

Treat your students the way you would want to be treated.

And the most important rule :

"Challenge of the day : Find something good in everyone."