Friday, August 31, 2012

The wonder is that they started

When it comes to trying something new, most of us can think of a dozen reasons not to. When things get difficult, we often choose to give up, instead of seeing it through to the finish. It doesn’t make us lesser people- there is only so much energy we have, and often there isn’t enough left over for non-essentials.
Which is why it is so inspirational to read about the people participating in the Paralympic Games. The wonder is not that many of them perform better than able bodied people like you and me; the wonder is that they started.
London 2012 Paralympics
August 29 to September 9, 2012

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Real courage

“But what’s so great about it”, my son asked when he heard me talking about a lady who single-handedly faced up to a mob, and got them to calm down before they had a chance to turn violent. “If she was a hero, she would have beaten up those people, wouldn’t she?”
Like so many others, she could have chosen to distance herself from the scene. Instead, she did what she knew was right. But how do you explain to a child that standing up for what you believe in sometimes takes far more courage than bashing up villans does.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Man on the Moon

On Sunday, I took my kids to the terrace, made them hold up their tiny thumbs, shut one eye, and blot the crescent moon out. “But if the moon is so small, how did Neil Armstrong walk on the moon?”, they asked.
“Don’t things look smaller when they are far away? The moon is actually very big- it seems so small because it is so very far away.” When they had digested that, we spoke about the stars, and of how very big the Universe was.
“So big?” they asked in wonder. Yes, and we are a part of it.
"Science has not yet mastered prophecy. We predict too much for the next year 
and yet far too little for the next 10."

Neil Armstrong
(August 5, 1930 – August 25, 2012 )
Requiescat in pace

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Less bigotry, please

Unlike countries in Europe and the Americas, India is almost homogeneous ethnically. An Indian can always identifying another; we all “look alike”. Which is why the people from the North-Eastern states stand-out- they look “Chinese”, not “Indian”, and are often asked to produce their passports. That the eight states are also physically isolated doesn’t help- we often forget they are a part of India.

But ignorance is one thing, discrimination is quite another. How can people originally from the North-East, but studying or working in other parts of their own country be asked to leave? Can’t there be less bigotry?

Monday, August 27, 2012

A part of his DNA

It is hard for me to write about Lance Armstrong, but I must.

Isn’t it amazing that even after thirteen years and hundreds of tests, nobody has been able to find any trace of that cocktail of drugs that Lance Armstrong took? Yet, the drugs must be there, because isn’t it impossible to win seven Tour de France titles on sheer hard work, guts and talent? And since everyone knows those drugs are there, if he is tested often enough some trace will eventually show up, wouldn’t it?
Unless, Lance Armstrong acquired his almost superhuman powers after being bitten by a rare spider. The drugs would be a part of his DNA then.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Pamper yourself!

My morning and afternoon was for hubby and the kids. Stayed in bed till late talking about this that and the other. Cooked a Sunday lunch they enjoy much more than I do. Played a game with the older one, read awhile with the younger, and made paper swords for them to practice fencing with.

Then I packed his overnight bag and waved the hubby goodbye. Helped the kids into their raincoats and sent them down to play. And I baked myself a brownie-in-a-mug and curled-up inside my quilt with a whodunit who company. Sometimes, you need to pamper yourself.

Friday, August 24, 2012

To Walk Away

When was the last time you had an argument with someone who’s sole intention was to contradict you? Someone who picked a point here and a point there and ended up entangling themselves in a bundle of contradictions? Someone who, with yet another misrepresentation of what you said, called you back every time you tried to walk away? Someone who refused to see that he was making a total fool of himself, and in public too?
I encountered such a person today. And I am proud to say that I finally managed to walk away with my head held high.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

"Labels are for clothes, not people."

This is for a very dear friend of mine who sometimes stops by, and to tell her that regardless of what the counselor says, her child is just a intelligent and sensitive child, who is curious about things that don't interest others.

A month back, we got a report from the school counsellor. My second-grader couldn’t read, write, spell, compute or follow instructions; in short, he was leaning impaired and needed remedial education.

Yes, my second grader’s reading level was that of a kindergarten student, because of which he couldn’t write or spell either. But that’s all that is wrong with him- in fact, he’s way above his age in maths. A well-informed mother, I could challenge the counsellor and prove his assessment was worthless.

But how many others have been as lucky? How many kids have been labelled dumb, or worse.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Because we want them to be so?

“But what makes a flower beautiful?”, my younger one asked.

‘What’, he had said, not ‘why’, and that got me thinking. Everybody agrees that flowers are beautiful but what makes them so? It can’t be the colour- because I think many orange flowers are beautiful, though I can’t stand the colour. The shape of the petals are attractive, but aren’t many petals shaped no different from leaves? It could be the placement of the whorls, but isn’t it the economy of lines that gives an anthurium its unique beauty?

Maybe flowers are beautiful because we want them to be so?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Setting a goal

“But I can’t read”, my six year old said two months back when I told him I was buying him a book without colourful pictures.
“So what, we can learn”, I told him, before adding, “Why, Are you afraid to try?”
His competitive nature couldn’t resist the challenge. It was a tedious task, but he persevered. The fact that the English language is not predictable only made it more complicated. But by the end of the month, I know he’ll be able to read that book.
When you set yourself a goal- a tangible, non-negotiable goal, you do often succeed.

Monday, August 20, 2012

No words to describe it

Normally, I do not blog about current affairs, believing instead that what we need is long-term systemic change. But after telling my mother (and harshest/ best critic) that I would not blog about what's happening in my country today, I realized it is a part of the larger picture.

Conflict over land is the oldest reason for people to go to war. When the local tribal population in Assam targets illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, religion doesn’t enter the picture- they are merely protecting their land.
But since the tribals are Hindu and the immigrants Muslim, in the holy month of Ramzan, it can be projected as a religious war. People who cannot locate Assam on the map can be incited into joining the ‘jihad’. People originally from the region can be made to fear for their lives, and rush back home to safety.
Deplorable. Shameful. Words cannot describe it.
Disclaimer- The photograph is not meant to imply I blame these ladies in any way. I use the picture, because I know that in their emancipation lies a part of the solution

Friday, August 17, 2012

Spot the Difference

While we were waiting for the bill after lunch at our favourite restaurant, the younger one trotted off with his brother’s camera and returned a few minutes later with a satisfied smile on his face. Not to be outdone, his brother claimed the camera that is rightfully his, and disappeared on a photoshoot. After signing the charge-slip, I paused for a moment at the door, took out the camera and snapped a quick photograph.

It was only while downloading the photographs that I noticed that the same scene had captured all our imaginations. Can you guess who took which one?

See how you fared:
I - Thing One - the (nearly) nine year old
II - Thing Two - the six and a half year old
III - Biggest One - the mother

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Follow your passion

When I look at some of the people around me, I am amazed. The banker who’s taking her passion for food to a new level by starting a gourmet food catering business. The full-time mommy (and runner) who’s just qualified as a sports nutritionist. The engineer who is a full-time fitness instructor. The software engineer who makes and sells jewellery.

A bunch of women who apparently have nothing in common except the fact that they all chose to move away from conventional career paths and explore unchartered trails. You don’t have to wait till you retire before following your passion.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Is this Independence?

Sixty-five years ago, the tricolour flag was unfurled for the first time in Independent India. The nation will be truly free”, Mahatma Gandhi said, “only when its women are free.” 

There were women doctors in the army, and a woman represented the nation in the United Nations- one hoped women would take their position as equal partners in the newly independent India.

Decades later, that dream is still a dream. Men outnumber women ten for nine. Women have no say in shaping their lives. Society dictates how women should dress; women are raped if they don’t comply.
Is this Independence?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

My child just doesn't read

“My child just doesn’t read”, I hear parents complain. “I buy so many books, but she’s just not interested.”

I used to feel almost guilty about my son’s voracious appetite for books, till I realised he hadn’t been miraculously ‘blessed’ with the love for reading- he had merely inherited it from his mother.

“Which was the last book you read?”, I’ve now started asking. If they can remember that far back, it is usually the name of a potboiler or a self-help book they give me.

How can you teach kids to love books if you don’t love them yourself?

Monday, August 13, 2012

All I couldn't do....

All the things I couldn’t do, I wanted my son to do. Tone-deaf myself, I signed him up for keyboard lessons; only to find that the teacher could not cope with his left-handedness. Basketball lessons were dropped because he just didn’t like them. He refused dance lessons even before they started.
Don’t live your life through your son, I told myself. And let him do whatever he wanted to do. He reads, writes, takes photographs, and day-dreams.
When I let him be himself, he turns out to be a replica of me. Should I be happy? Yes, I am. Very!

Friday, August 10, 2012

It needs to change

“What would you like to change about woman’s boxing?”, an Indian boxer was asked.
“Nothing”, she replied. “It is society that I would like to change.” Her comment was as spot on as her punches.
An organization puts up posters threatening to throw acid on the face of women who dare wear jeans, and the police doesn’t take any action against them. A woman is raped in board daylight on a busy street- a cameraman shoots it live and broadcasts it on TV, but does nothing to prevent the crime.

Any society that treats women so, does need to change.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Which Animal are You?

“But I thought you would choose a cheetah”, my son exclaimed.

Ignoring the fact that he was probably trying to tell me I spend too much time running, I said, “But I’m not as fast as a cheetah. I run like an elephant- I’m slow, but I always get where I want to go.”

That’s not the only reason I think I’m an elephant. I’m intelligent, and helpful. I don’t mind company, but like being on my own too. I can figure things out fast, and rarely forget, unless I want to.

Yes, I am an elephant, through and through.
And which animal are you?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Discovering cooking

I am a strictly utilitarian cook- I enter the kitchen only when I absolutely have to. Not for me hours spent pouring over recipe books; experimenting with flavours; playing with textures. I’d eat the same boring stuff at home, and indulge when we went out.

Till I discovered an on-line community of enthusiastic cooks. Suddenly, good food became accessible. Boring vegetables could be cooked in new ways. Cereals I never knew existed turned out to be as delicious as they were healthy. My spice rack expanded, I bought new implements.

Suddenly, cooking has become almost as much fun as eating!
Bajra/ pearl millet was a name I'd only encountered in geography texts, 
till I found this recipe that seemed easy enough even for me to attempt. 
Verdict- yummy!!!!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Orders of magnitude

“It’s so easy. I can easily lift that”, boasted my son while watching weightlifting on TV.
While I loved his optimism, I wanted him to appreciate the magnitude of what the athletes were actually doing. “Do you know how heavy 150 kilograms is?”, I asked him. “Your little brother weights a little over 16 kilograms. Nine of him will just about make up 150 kilograms.”
“But I can easily lift my brother.”
“One of him, yes. But can you lift nine of him at the same time?”
He agreed that he couldn’t. But his imagination could capture it for posterity.

Monday, August 6, 2012

And be Inspired

Citius, Altius, Fortius.

Men and women who go beyond the realm of imagination. Who push themselves to the limit. Who prove that impossible is only just a word.
Talent yes. But years of hard-work. Of persistence. Of single minded dedication. Of dreaming a dream, and making it come true- or not.
Whether they win medals or our hearts, or both, the Olympians are a special breed. They are heros, and teach us that we can be too.

I no longer let my kids watch television, but the Olympics is another thing. They can watch all they want. And be inspired.

Friday, August 3, 2012

We'll do fine

I was expecting it, but when my younger one told me his class was going on an overnight camp, I was totally unprepared.
How would my little baby cope? Who would tuck him in at night; give him a kiss to keep the monsters away? How would he spend his first night away from home?
He had no such fears. He was excited. I hid my emotions from him.

On the way, his bravado collapsed. “But how will I sleep without you?”, he asked.
“My love will always be with you”, I reassured him.

He’ll do fine. We’ll do fine.
The photograph is of Plop- the owl I made for my son to take to school with him.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The tool-box of a champion

Every-time we Indians sit down to analyse yet our dismal showing in the Olympics, we conclude by saying that Indians lack the “killer instinct”. Why else do our athletes “choke” in tight situations? Why else are they never able to put in that final race-winning effort?

But could an athlete who has fought an apathetic sports system, limited access to professional coaching, lack of equipment and nutrition, to make it to the world stage, have done it if they were mentally fragile?

It is their spirit that’s got them this far. What they lack is the tool-box of a champion.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The greatest gift

“But I can’t do it”, my son told me.
“Of course you can.” I didn’t particularly want him to jump off branch, but even less did I want him to walk away from a challenge he set for himself.
“Are you sure?”
He closed his eyes, pushed himself off, and landed perfectly on his feet.
“How did you know I could do it?”, he asked me much later.
“Because my parents taught me that if you believe you can do something, you can do it”, I told him.
The greatest gift a parent can give a child is self-belief.


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