Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Power of love

There are seven stages of grief, the first being denial and the last being acceptance. How quickly one moves from the first to the last stage determines the person's will to fight and survive. Most get stuck at 'denial' - sad but true.

As part of a series on women with grit, I dedicate this piece to a lady who has not only come to terms with her personal challenge, but has gone a step beyond. She has opened a school for children with learning disabilities. With every step that she takes in this direction there are many like me who gain courage and inspiration. When most of us get dumbfounded by our personal demons, this lady goes ahead and brings hope to the life of others, similarly affected like her only son.

“If there is one thing I learned about friendship after my son was diagnosed as a special kid, it is that it can be very fragile. Being a friend during good times is easy. Yet it is during the difficult times that we learn who our real friends are. I am forever grateful to those friends and family members who supported our family after the diagnosis. They made a choice to accept my son for who he is and help us in any way they could. Making the choice to support a family affected by their child having a learning disorder is one of the greatest gifts you can give. It is also very likely that your act of kindness may turn out to be one of the greatest gifts you receive back as well,” says a mother of a 12 year old autistic child.

In your lifetime, you will probably know more people and families affected by some or the other disability. You can choose to be part of the solution by helping support a friend, family member or neighbour. Take the time to learn not just about the disability, but the individual child. Make the decision to accept children with disabilities and teach your children how they can help by being a friend too.

When a child is first diagnosed as not socially ‘normal’, parents often scramble to find appropriate services, doctors, schools and therapists. What we don't always anticipate is that relationships with friends, family and neighbours often change. Some will stand by our side, doing what they can to help and embrace our child no matter the diagnosis. However, some people will either sit quietly on the sidelines or abandon the relationship altogether.

So what happens when you find out that your friend, family member or neighbour has a child who has been diagnosed with a learning disability? How can you help your friend? How can you help their child?  There are many ways you can assist, from talking to offering a play date.

Be there; spare a few hours every week to reach out to families who are facing this challenge. It sounds easy enough, but parents of such children need someone to listen and ask how they are doing. As a friend, you may not understand all the jargon, but you can lend an ear and also learn in the process. Offering to come over for a cup of coffee or to get together just to talk can be one of the best ways to help your friend get out of his/her bubble and combat the isolation. If not a friend, you can also contribute your time to non-profit schools and organisations that are catering to these children. The schools need more than trained staff, they need people to paint their benches and mow the lawn. These schools are doing a great job and you can be a part of it by just being open to the idea.

Bring forth a smile, have a play date. Play dates with special children might not be like a typical play date. Even if the play date is a little out of the ordinary, it will offer the kids an opportunity to learn typical social behaviours/skills from other children. For the typical kids, the play date may provide a lesson in acceptance and tolerance of people who are different from them. Acceptance is a lesson that is learned best by doing, so your children will benefit as well. It can be of great experience for both families. As neighbours to affected families go a little beyond sharing a cup of sugar. Invite them over with their child and be open and accepting of the family and the related issues.

Offer respite, it is the best help you can give. Whether the child is a toddler, adolescent or adult, respite is often a complicated issue for parents. Many parents who have children with disabilities are overwhelmed with the day to day responsibilities. Some children on the spectrum do not sleep well during the night and that further adds to the exhaustion. However, when you have a child with special needs; it can be difficult to find someone you trust to watch your child. An offer to provide brief respite from a trusted friend or family member who knows how to appropriately interact with the child with special needs is a great gift. Whether it be one hour or a night, any offer would be a gift for a friend in need. It seems like a simple favour, but it can mean everything to an overwhelmed parent to have a few hours to go grocery shopping or to just spend some alone time with their spouse.
The gift of money is as important as the gift of time. Not all afflicted families can afford the best schools and the best teaching techniques. Does that mean that they have to forgo the latest tools available to help their child? No, they won’t have to, if you step in. As a non-profit organisation, many of the schools for children with special needs rely on the support of community volunteer to help accomplish their goals. If you get in touch with the schools near your community, you will be aware of the ways you can help fund a child or a tool, or even help in raising funds for the school. Donations need not always mean truckloads of money, your change that adds to the weight of your wallet can also go a long way in bringing simple joys to the children whose parents are finding it tough.  There are various opportunities to offer your aid, you just need to be aware and willing.

Joy is a simple thing. The quantity you spread is almost always proportional to the quantity you feel. Light up a smile today, extend your hand, embrace joy.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Mom's the word

At the age of 35, how many of you would like to start school all over again from kindergarten? Not many, I presume. There is so much to do at that age. There is a husband and a house to take care of, parties, night-outs, romantic holidays, shopping and of course the self-defining career. To start school again is not something that would feature on the list of priorities of a modern 35 year old woman.

But I know a lady who did this. As a mother of a five year old son, diagnosed with autism, she decided to join school again. No school was willing to admit the boy. "There are schools for children with special needs, please take him there," they said. The special schools were quite a dampener. They did nothing more than babysit the child. This was unacceptable to the mother, who was neither in denial of her situation, nor willing to give up on her son. One reputed school following the international curriculum accepted the kid on the condition that the mother was willing to take all the classes with him. And so she did. giving up on her career, her personal joys, her 'me-time' she started school again with her son.

Autism is viewed as a tragedy. As a disorder that robs children of their lives and parents of their children. It took a lot of courage and tenacity for her to grapple with her son's development, autistic diagnosis and finding the right help.School in the morning, followed by some recreational activity and then therapy in the evening. Life revolved around this routine. She must have missed movies, she must have had to forgo reading the latest bestseller, she would not have had time for beauty sessions and dress trials. The things that we take for granted had stopped for her. But she had the joy of being useful to her son, of being able to help create a future for him. To start him off on a path that would eventually make him self-reliant in her absence. I think she saw that as a better trade-off.

"A happy and expressive child, becomes visibly confused and uncomfortable, while therapists curiously look on and continue prodding him," she wrote in her diary, during the early years of therapy. I can only imagine the frustration and stress of wanting to help her child while protecting him and letting him be a kid. She continuously felt torn between listening to her maternal instincts of wanting a happy, relaxed childhood for her son and listening to the professionals who advocate for stringent treatments. She must have felt  helpless not knowing what her son needs and wants; never truly knowing what he is thinking. While he made great progress some days, other days, it would have felt like taking several steps back. The school was always encouraging, she said, the therapists rarely so.

When the focus of a woman shifts from the husband to the child, it takes effort from the husband to keep the marriage alive. In this case, the focus was centred on the little boy, everything else seemed hazy. The relationship between the couple suffered and grew distant. A lot of things had to be forgone, like moving to a new city for a better job, social interactions were not easy, couple-time was less as the mind was occupied and the body, tired. The result was a woman who did not want to see this gap and a man who delved deeper into his work. As parents, however, they continued to be the band on which the little boy could always hop and play.

She was jealous of the little worries that the other mothers at school had.  She, at times, resented other mothers who eased through decisions for their children and worried over whether the birthday gifts would be liked by the child, or whether it’s time to move out of the crib and into a big-boy bed. She did not have the luxury of such indulgences. When she was done with the day's study with her son, she worried about supplements and approaches to try and encourage him to eat food. She lay in bed and wondered how her son would ever be okay in the world, how she could help him love who he is and have his needs met. She could never be easy. She could never be still. Always, she was running, moving, searching, finding. Always, she was fighting against the unbearable default of failing her son.

Years passed, some were filled with angst, but mostly they were years of learning and being happy in small joys. Last year she graduated with her son from school. As they shared the stage with their degrees, a woman of 53 and a boy of 23, the entire crowd erupted in applause, and why not! This was a journey that tells the story of an exuberant boy, who loves art, reads music, sings “Bohemian Rhapsody” in its entirety, makes videos on his computer, hugs and cuddles his parents, and is much more than his diagnosis; and it is also the story of a mother who believed that she could help her son.

As we celebrate Durga Puja in all its fervour and gaiety, and especially today, Maha Shashti, which is a day that is dedicated to the well being of the children, I dedicate this post to the mothers of children with special needs. The power, the energy, the fighting spirit is not always found in myths and legends. They are, in fact, a depiction of mothers like these who never say never and strive continuously to make life better for their children. "There is no tragedy if you don't choose to see one..", she says, and I believe.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Faith holds

There was a rickety, wooden chair in my house. As a child I sat on it while my mother plaited my hair each day before school. It was a ritual. Unruly tangles giving in to the firm strokes. There was a wince now and then followed by a tap on the head with the back of the comb. The result was two neat plaits, ready just in time for school. I did not have a mental alarm those days, maybe my mother did. What I had was faith that I would be ready in time for the bus. I sat without a worry in my head on that chair each morning.

Many summers passed and I got married. Not to a boy I had known since high school, or a guy I met at a pub, Nor a colleague, neither a client. I married a stranger. No courtship apart from a few formally arranged dinners with older chaperones. Suitable age, suitable boy, a good education and a steady job were benchmarks on which I put my faith. To face the seasons together, come what may, was the faith and it is running it's course.

Kids came and so did worries and mental alarms. Faith might have faltered in the small battles, but we keep moving forward each day because we trust, because we have faith.

It is festival time again. The time to celebrate our faith with family and friends.  To spread cheer through new clothes, new shoes, chants and hymns, frankincense and sweets, good food and fresh garlands. To hold a promise, to keep faith that this year too shall bring us joy and hold us together like all the years that have gone by.

The idol, though beautiful, is but an excuse, a face, to all that is good in the human spirit. More than the idol, I put my faith in the potter's loving hand. Faith that generations will continue to create this beautiful symbol of goodness on earth.

If God creates man, some men do return the favour with love

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Something fishy

Soumya and Max
For the past few days my son comes home with his uniform soiled. He stays silent on asking. Even when his sister jeers, "Did you piss your pants?", he stays quiet. Very unlike him, to stay quiet, that is. I crib about having to wash his uniform on a daily basis. He says, "Mom, give it to me, I will wash when I take my shower." Not that he never offers to help around the house, but this is a bit over the top, even for him.

My children commute to school in the school bus. The bus does not pick them up from the school gate though. The kids have to walk a distance and wait for the bus. It is not an uncommon practice, the roads here are fairly empty and the children are not tiny anymore, however, this is the first thing that creeps up my mind whenever I worry about them being late from school or for that matter, soiled uniforms.

"What does he do  after school? Does he not wait for the bus with you?", I asked my daughter. "No, he has his own group of friends and they are on their own.", she answers with a shrug. I tell her to keep an eye on him, she shrugs again. I go to his room and see that he is cleaning an old Horlicks jar. I ask,"What happens to your pants everyday? Do you play rough, there is so much mud on it, where does it come from?" He makes the face that is known to melt my heart, the face that my daughter hates and my husband perceives as 'trying to get his way around with mamma look'. He puts aside the jar, takes my hand and makes me sit on his bed.

"There is a wadi (wadi is the Arabic for a dry river bed that fills up during flash floods. This term is also commonly used for murky water ponds in low lying areas) near the place where we wait for the bus. One day when I and my friends were playing cricket there, the ball fell in it and while we were taking the ball out I noticed that it is full of fishes. Mamma the wadi has so many fish in it." His eyes dance with glee as he narrates this tale. I can imagine the dull, grey fishes that he would have seen there, but to a person without any knowledge of murky pond habitation, he could well be spinning a tale of rainbow hued fishes with golden spurs. "Have you been getting into that wadi to look at fish?", I asked. "Even better mom, I go everyday to that wadi to catch a fish. I am this close to catching one.", pointing at the jar drying on his window seat he adds, "I am going to prepare a home for the fish I catch, I have also decided on a name, I will call him Lucky."

There was no point in talking about the pitfalls of a wadi to him, that day. No point also in talking about the germs and the diseases he could catch from that place. He was in love with a fish in a pond and you cannot show logic to love. As a mother I could not stop myself from saying,"Watch your step and make sure you are not alone." He nods and I go out of his room, and his world of fishes and ponds.

The following day he is successful and as I open the door to the kids from school, I see him in his dirty uniform, holding a poly-bag filled with water in his hand. He raises it jubilantly on seeing me. Toshali just says "Eeeeow stay away from me," and runs inside. He chases her up the steps and both of them in turn are chased by Max. Lucky is the sole survivor of the three that he caught. Talks of setting him free are not taken well and the response usually is,"He likes me mom, that's why he swam to me, cant you see he is lucky and so am I. We found each other." I smile, Toshali says,"Ohh pleeease...." and S! He went out to the pet-shop and bought fish-food. The plan is to model a tiny fish tank and add a few more friends.
The three tiny fish that were caught and brought home a few days back


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Balls and more...

The summer holidays are at their fag end. I am looking forward to the schools starting. It has been a long two months of sweltering heat, a rowdy boy, a passive-aggressive girl and almost no 'me-time'. 

I am sharing a scene that needed to be captured. Yesterday morning after breakfast, when the kids were being assigned their chores for the day and Max was waiting eagerly for his set of instructions, there broke out a fight between my kids. They do not need an excuse. A look from my son, can cause a wave of emotions in my daughter, all negative, mind you. The look is then retaliated by words, which are seen as blows and felt by my son with almost Tsunami like strength. There is now a motivation and a license to hit, he feels, and before I can say "S-T-O-P" a full blown battle is on. These battles have found a great cheerleader in Max now. Nothing out of the ordinary, what I so far described. But then it happened.. amidst the blows, Bond (now nine, to be ten this October) tells Toshali, "I will kick you where it hurts real bad!" ...

T: "And where do you think that is? Huh? Where?"
Bond: "Your balls, of course!"
T looks at him, looks at me and says: "You should talk to him, he doesn't know anything, he is so dumb, I just don't believe it!"
Me: "Mind your language when you talk to your sister. Also for your knowledge, girls don't have "balls" though that is not the correct word and should not be used."
Bond (incredulously): "What are you saying? Everybody has balls. Me, you, Baba, Didi, even Max. The most important part of the body is the balls, it is more important than the brain or the heart. Everybody has it."
T: "I am out of this place, and Ma dont laugh, it is not at all funny."

I don't know what came over me, but I could not stop myself from laughing, I knew that I had to explain to Bond the facts of life, and also tell him that saying the B-word out like that is not allowed. But for the moment all I could do was roll on the floor holding my tummy. Toshali was livid and Bond thought I was in some kind of pain, because he could not comprehend that what he had said in such earnest was remotely funny.

I gathered my wits and made him sit next to me.

Me (Starting again): "Girls dont have testicles, that is the word to be used, if you want to refer to balls."
Bond: "Of course they do, everybody has them, Max just has one, I even know what the Vet said. She said she will operate and bring out the other one."
Me: "Max is a male, so his organs are like yours. T is a female and her body parts are different."
Bond: " She has it Ma, just doesn't know where it is. She is dumb."
Me: "I am not dumb, if I had them, I would know exactly where they were in my body, but, just like I said before, females don't have them. We have something similar called ovaries and they are inside our bodies."
Bond: " You are just giving fancy names that I cannot pronounce. It is all the same. Didi's are inside? Ma, you know what, that is why she is so stupid, her balls are inside." Take her to a doctor, they need to bring it out."

I knew by then that Bond understood that he was wrong about the human anatomy, but he was enjoying irritating his sister and so continued. It might seem stretched out here, but all of this happened within a framework of 15 minutes or so. The fight continued and then lost steam and topics were changed and the day flowed on.

Maybe I should have taped this, to be used on a later date when either of them is being gutless about life issues. By then they would also know that 'Balls' has a literary meaning too. And in the literary sense women have as many balls as the men and yes, they are not covered up either.

T and Bond as in 2006

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

What is the purpose?

S is going to China for a week. It is the start of the Eid holidays here in Muscat. Everything will remain closed for the week. This is a personal trip. He is going alone. These are facts simply stated. Another detail, S is my husband.

It is independence day today. The country celebrates its 66th year of independence. We are no longer ruled by others, we are free to make our own choices and be responsible for the consequences that arise from them. But even today, within the society to which you and I belong, the minds are enslaved to years of cognitive behaviour. A fact, as the above, still does not gel with society. "Official trip?" people ask. "No, personal," says S. "With a group? College friends?", they continue. "No, alone," replies he. A crooked smile follows, looks get directed towards me, waiting for an opinion, even an explanation perhaps. I give none. "Let me know if you want massage parlour numbers." say some with a suggestive laugh. S smiles. I do too. Women ask me how I allowed this. "How could you? He should have chosen some other place if you were not interested in China? The kids have their holidays as well. What do you think is the purpose of this trip?" I have nothing to satisfy their query and anything I say will only further contaminate the narrow alleyways of their mind or so I feel. I choose to remain quiet.

His parents, who are staying with us for the time, ask me everyday if I am staying back because of them. I say no. They quiz me individually on the places that he is going to visit, if he has friends there, what is the current weather condition in China. Normal questions any parent would have and I reply to these as best as I can. Then comes a stinging shot out of the blue from my mother-in-law. "You sleep very early, I have noticed. Much before my son goes to bed. Hope you are not pushing him away. Maybe he does not get what he needs from you and so...," My reactions would have made a series of 'never-before-seen' emoticons had they been captured on lens, but unfortunately there was just the two of us in the kitchen then. How much can a mother care about her son, the extent in this case was unbelievable. I could not let this one pass, this was not an acquaintance asking me questions to feed the society gossip. This was my mother-in-law telling me in so many words that her son was going on a solo trip to China because I did not give him as much sex, as she presumed, he would like. No way could I let this one pass. "Let us be direct here, are you saying S is going to China for sex? And if, for the sake of discussion, I assume that you are correct, then what would you want me to do?" She retreats and mellows. Says in a pacifying tone, "I don't know what is the purpose of this trip?" "Ask him," I say to which she says she is more comfortable talking to me than to him and a whole lot of other crap which basically does not mean anything.

I conveyed this conversation to S. I was upset by the lack of privacy I have in my own house. I felt violated. He said, "Why doesn't she talk to me directly?" But this and many other such questions had sown the seeds of guilt. So far S had been factual about the trip. Conversations had been on a need-to-know basis. But suddenly he was making plans to take me to Jordan for the next Eid, which falls during October this year. He was mailing me ticket receipts and hotel bookings. He was planting seeds of suspicion in my head and I hated the feeling. The trip that he had looked forward to was slowly getting soiled. The idea of such a trip, the romance of it, the freedom that it embodied was getting murky in my head. I fought against it, tried not to change my perspective. It was still a trip to China that he was taking alone. It had a purpose for him, which validated the cost and that was a good enough reason for me. I fought to keep it simple. I fought with myself to accept his need to be away from us on a holiday.

And today as I wished my friends on the occasion of our Independence Day, I realised the irony. How are we free, if even today we get pressured by negativity? Why should we celebrate the country's freedom when we are not free from stereotypes? I will drop S off to the airport tonight. I hope he enjoys himself to the core. I will also hope that people realise that everything need not have a purpose that fits. The actual and most important purpose is to be free to make a choice and live with it. Let us be free!

S and I as taken in December 2011

Monday, August 6, 2012

Growing up is never easy....

"All my friends think you look very young and cute, not your age at all!" said Toshali, in her now famous grumpy look. It was a regular post-school-hour afternoon and I was folding clothes. I turned and smiled. She shrugged and said, "You don't, I dunno why they say that? You have wrinkles around your eyes and laugh lines and quite a few of your hair has turned grey." My grin turned from happy to amused as I turned back to folding clothes.

You all must have gathered that I am speaking of my daughter who is a teenager now and conscious of every detail that she was just a few months back oblivious to. Topping her chart of annoyance is 'Moi'. It used to be her brother but now I reign supreme. "You behave like a teen Maa and that is why you are so popular!!" She was not done yet, I realised. Usually I just let her speak till she has said it all and then I say my part, if there is scope to say anything in my defense. Today I was stumped.

I sat down on the bed and looked at her. "What is it that has put you off?" I asked. "I don't like the fact that people think we are sisters. You must look your age Maa. The other mums all look their age." I seriously did not like the way this conversation was going. I explained to her that most of the 'other mums' that she was referring to had older children and hence were years older than me. She refused to listen. Turning her head away resentfully she said, "When we walk into a room together people want to talk to you, not me." My fuse started to tick. A dull throbbing ache starts at the back of my head and spreads willfully towards a full blown out migraine. There is a sense of helplessness. I know what she is feeling, I can empathise on one level. Yet I feel ill-equipped to cope with her.

The words that want to spring out of my mouth are reactive. They hang on the tip of my tongue begging to be let loose. She wants a fight, I will give her one, my reflex churns choppy signals to my brain. It takes immense will to keep a reign on my words. The migraine will go away, but the words once uttered will not return unscathed. I suddenly wish there were more clothes to fold. But the pile is done. All sorted, nothing left for me to do apart from facing her, talking to her and dealing with my fuse.

I tell her then of my adolescence, "I grew up in the presence of a woman whose beauty is admired even today. I grew up hearing people say, 'You have nothing of your mum's looks.' It must have hurt then. I was your age, my face was full of acne, I was not slim, neither fair compared to the friends I had. I had to smile. I have never confronted my mother about this. I don't remember holding a grudge against her, maybe I did sub consciously, but those times were different and parents were 'parents', not 'friends' with whom you could pick a fight." Toshali gets restless and I know it is time to change my track as it must sound 'preachy' to her. So I change gears and start again, "To begin with I am happy that you are honest and vocal about your feelings. I think that is praiseworthy." She looks stumped now. But she says that I am digressing from the subject and I allow myself a hint of a smile that promises ultimately to alleviate my migraine. So I let the smile linger.

I tell her that what she perceives as young is actually agelessness. It is a period in a woman's life when she is sure of herself, knows her strengths and accepts her weaknesses. When she has travelled equally, inwards than outwards. Her experiences glints from her eyes and smile through her lips. "What you call beauty is actually maturity, a face that is calm in its understanding of the world and poised in its knowledge.", I tell her also, "The only way to reach this ageless quality is to live life. Enrich yourself with as many experiences as possible. Even this talk that we are having today will reflect from your face tomorrow and give it a desirable quality." A part of me tells me she is too young to understand all this, and the other part says,"Try her." I speak as she continues to listen.

"I have to wait it out, you mean?", she finally asks. My smile widens. She did get the jist of it. "You can say wait it out, I would say live it, feel the joy, the pain, the love and the bitterness and one day when you are on your own, your face will be transformed. What is a face, but a mirror of your experiences!! What is it that holds a gaze and makes people want to talk to you... it is nothing but your willingness to talk back. I do look my age, it is age alone that transforms a precocious girl to an ageless woman." She smiles, plucks a grey hair from my temple and laughs. "You are old.", she says and winks as she leaves the room. Well well... what can I say? I let her have the last laugh.

My migraine didn't bother me. That was good enough for the day.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Brimming with...

I peep inwards
Doodle with  a child's crayon
Make pictures of times gone by
No oil, no canvas
No painter am I
Yet the pictures come out fine

I peep again
travel a few more years
lifting the sepia shrouds of
misty, foggy days
A conversation here
A little note there
A smile, a cuddle
Chuckles et al;
Soars my spirit today
As I lay on my bed
Parched today with a brimming past.

Memories revived,
I walk down the stairs
To my daily grind
Have to pack tiffins,
Ready breakfast.
Sudden flurry, a ball of fur
A forceful stop
A hug and banter
Endless licks and eyes! Those liquid pools..
There is someone
Today, with endless love
I am not alone
In the chores of a middle aged wife.
I am with Max

Yeah Balan, why didnt I have him before? But maybe this is the right time for me... :):)

I am drenched again
Max after his weekly shampoo
Filled to the brim
With a love
Unlike any other

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Max is home

There is no rush like that of being in love. And all of us are in love with the six month old  pup we brought home last Thursday. It has been a week of wide grins and 'Awwwws' and cuddles and poop cleaning. Its like having a baby again.

Son: I really hope he likes me.
Daughter: I cannot believe I used to be scared of dogs
Me: Men are definitely not dogs! or rather Dogs are definitely not men. Can a man love like this? Ever?
Hubby: the family expands again.

And yes, with our first pup it does feel that after a gap of ten years our family is expanded with a gooey, warm feeling of love and being loved hundred times more. This is Max unwilling to move away from my bathroom door as I take my shower. Man? Really?? :)

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Drench me

A woman of divine beauty
Hair, the colour of ravens
Eyes, an ocean blue
Showering on me like a tempest
Rain - is that you?

Beloved of the mountains
Mourning of the clouds
Lullaby of a young mother
Ringing through the house
Rain - of course that is you

Bathing the villages
Gleaming through the paddy
Adorning your lover
In hues of green
Rain - in the laugh of the farmer do I see you?

In the joyous rapture of children
In the puddles on the street
In the hurried steps
Of a beguiling teen
A shared umbrella
and a cup of tea
Yes indeed Rain that is you!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Update on the pet post

We have finally decided to bring home a Labrador Retriever pup from a breeder here. The pup is one of six delivered a week back. We will have to wait another six weeks before the pup can call our home its own.

The kids have decided to call it Bolt. Shadow as suggested by my son was vetoed by my girl. My husband  probably would have been happier with an Indian name, I am okay with Bolt.

Please write in tips for training and making the pup feel at home without over doing it. This will be my first time living with any other species than a human (apart from fish who live in tanks).

At times I still feel a bit scared of living in the same house with a pet dog and not knowing what it is trying to communicate. Any suggestions are welcome. Balan please help. I have time till August.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The pet-shop story

My son loves animals. His love does not discriminate between species. Equally fond of birds, cats, fishes and dogs, he attracts the stray ones like a magnet and they follow him around till it is time for him to come home.

He always nagged me about buying a dog for him, I resisted not only because I am scared of dogs and so is my daughter, but also because so far we lived in an apartment and I did not want to share that space with a pet. I see raised eyebrows don't I? Especially Balan!

Finally when we moved to this villa and had space enough inside and outside to have the much desired dog, there was no stopping my son. Kids can be quite tenacious as we all know. So is my son...

He: "Mom, so are we buying the dog today?"
Me offhandedly: "Soon"
He comes around and stands in front of me: "How soon?"
Me: "Are you sure you can take care of a dog? I really do not know anything about dogs."
He: "Of course I can, I know everything, I have to take him for a walk twice and play with him and give him his food and clean his poop and pee. I will also teach him to do his 'business' outside the house, but that might take some time and of course you must be accepting of accidents once in a while."
Me thinking 'wow where did he get all that stuff from, and why can't he get his school project information from the same source that he got this stuff from?': "Hmm, seems you did your homework on pets. So what breed do you want?"
He: "A Golden Retriever not older than four months."
Me: "Okay so we have to find out how to go about getting a dog here, it might not be easy."
He: "I know all the pet-shops in Muscat, let us go and check them out."
Me: "We will and now please go and do your homework."
He: "I have thought of a name, I will call him Shadow"
Me: " Do you want a male dog?"
He: "Yes of course, a she-dog won't play with me. She will always sit and watch TV like didi. It has to be a male dog."
Me: "Hmm. Homework"

Conversations like this happen more than twice in my house, always initiated by my son and contradicted by my daughter. Amidst this, I started to shed my inhibition to dogs. Probably it was the mother winning over the woman. My husband who likes animals as well but has never had a pet except fishes in a tank was roped in. He looked at my daughter incredulously.

She: "I don't want a dog, He will bite me."
He: "It does not hurt that much, I was bitten once by a stray dog and had to take quite a few injections. A pet dog will be vaccinated so you do not have to worry about needles poking you."
She: "You gotta be kidding me! Why do we have to buy a dog, why cant we just have plants and fishes?"
He: "We have to get a dog so that you get rid of your fear, now that is a good reason, if any."
She: "Will it be a big dog? I am ok with a tiny pup, by the time he grows up he will know me and won't bite me."
He: "Lets see."
She: "I will not clean up after him, I am making it very clear right now."

Finally after a somewhat mixed consensus on the issue the research started. Research for anything is my husband's forte. He got in touch with expats leaving and wanting to re-home their dogs, with breeders, with pet-shops and pet-clinics. Responses were quick to come and as quickly discarded by him much to my son's angst.

Son: "This way we will never be able to have a dog."
Dad: "For you buying the dog is the end but for me buying the dog is the beginning."
Son: "I don't care, beginning or end or anything in between I want my dog."
Dad opens a link and shows him a site: "Read this and tell me what you feel?"

This is the link that we visited,

If you have trouble opening the link from here please copy paste 

on your browser to read

An eye-opener to people like me and my children, but not so to many others who own and love their dogs in this country. The pet-shop mentioned in the above link is a very reputed shop here. However, this is not just the case with this pet-shop. This seems to be true for most such outfits in Muscat. Now that the research has crossed the ornamental stage of cleaning the poop and naming the dog, my son has realised that a dog up for adoption is a much better choice than ordering a pup from a fancy pet-shop. However much scared my daughter maybe of dogs, she has also realised that if we finally own a dog, it will be very hard to see it suffer and die.

We are still looking for a young pup who wants a loving home. When matters get serious, it's funny how prejudices melt away.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Charity is funded

The right balance

I have not vanished again, just been busy and therefore away.

We moved house. There was the whole gamut of packing, sorting, discarding followed by unpacking, sorting and hmmmmphs saying, " Shit, I shudn't have thrown all those dusters aways, they could have been handy here. What was I thinking?" 

Well thats one thing that happened and then I fell ill which was the other thing that happened. Probably because the kids have never seen me lying down during the day with a grimace, my son thought I was going to die and he made a bunch of promises to me about doing his chores, homework and stuff on time everyday. he also said that he would not fight with his sister. On being told that I am just a bit ill and will be up and about in a couple of days his reaction was, " Oh,so its not cancer huh?" The C-word scare has passed on from me to him, not that I am free of it, but he has it too, the all pervasive fear of C-strike.

Then there was the job that I loved and was so happy doing for the first two years and in the last year it had become progressively hard to digest. I finally convinced myself to leave. I chose to be happy and bored over being agitated and argumentative over issues that could not be resolved. here is the low down.

My last three months working for the company I joined when it was just conceived was a whirlwind of desperation, trying in vain to get my passion back. I was and always will be passionate about writing and hence about my readers. I joined a company that focussed on readers and left the company that had turned into an advert-based catalouge churner. Every company needs money, and in publishing, advertisement brings in the dough, there is no denying that, technically I suppose the company has always been an advertising company, but for the better part of the last three years, it didn’t feel like one. It was an ad company only in the sense that a good TV show is an ad company: having great content attracts advertisers. But then the focus shifted. I could not accept editorial being sold. Fights ensued and we stopped seeing eye to eye.

In one of the bitter fights with my GM he said a line that will stay with me. The fight was actually between me and the AGM - Sales, and we had to rope in the GM as neither of us was budging. It was the usual war between a piece that I felt we needed to carry and the sales team head wanted dropped and replaced by an interview of the CEO of an advertising company. After an hour of heated words my GM said, " Sujata don't be naive, I think it is high time you realise that even charity is funded. Nothing comes free." Well, I agreed to that line but could not accept to live with that ideology and hence decided to leave.

It is more than 15 days now that I have left my job as Head - Editorial. It feels good so far and I am happy to be writing what I want rather than writing what the advertiser wants. Charity is definitely funded and I am lucky to have a husband who is paying my bills unconditionally. :):)

Please write in your comments on how far we should allow advertisers to rule publishing.

Friday, May 11, 2012


Yesterday needs to be blogged about. 9th of May 2012 has one more importance in my life apart from it being 'yesterday', but will come to that bit later in the post.

I was scheduled to attend a Defensive driving course yesterday. This is a full day course. the first half is theory followed by practical sessions in the afternoon. I expected to be back home not earlier than 4 pm. It needs to be said here that I was doing this course after a lot of prodding by my husband. There were numerous arguments that began innocently and ended in one of us walking out of the room. This was promptly followed by another argument the next day till finally he booked the course for 09/05/2012.

01.05.2012 sample argument

He: "You should do this course. It makes a lot of sense. the roads here are unsafe you know"
Me: "I don't think so. It is going to be a waste of time. What will they tell me that I do not already know."
He: "You have a lot to know. You drive fast, you do not check for blind spots while changing lanes, you get angry all the time and in the process lose concentration on the road..."
Me: "Wow, you are on a roll are you not? So what happens if I flunk the test after the course?"
He (A wide smile, likes of which I have not seen in a while): "I passed mine and was given a defensive driver's license for two years. Many failed, some got the license for six months, some for a year and so on. We will see how you fare."
Me: "HAH! Now you are talking. We will see won't we."

And so the day dawned.

I woke up at 5am, made the school lunch packs, took my shower, woke the kids, gave them their breakfast. Husband woke promptly without a nudge from me. His first utterance of the day, "If you do not report at the centre by 7am sharp, they will consider it a no show." He has told me this every day since he booked the test, so I mimic him as he says it again. He smiles which reads 'You are so gonna get your ass whipped today.' I get angry with the sheets and the laundry. The kids leave for school. My boy says, "Mom you gotta pass this one." My girls says, "Huh?" shrugs and leaves.

It is 6:20 am now and Hubby is having his breakfast and I am checking my hand bag.

HE: "License there?"
ME:"Why wouldn't it be, isn't it always there?"
HE: "Just checking, don't want them to send you back for not carrying your license."
ME: "Hey listen I have a few things for you to keep in mind as well. Get home before the kids arrive. They reach home at 2:30 pm. If you are not home by then, they will be locked outside."  I have been telling him this ever since he booked the date. I check to see if he is mimicking, he is not.
HE: "I will try."
ME: wishing that looks could really kill, or at least burn, or punch or do something physical. Because I am LOOKING my furious best and he is not looking at all.

The washing machine is whirring and he says as he puts on his shoes, "Hope you are not going to put the clothes on the line before you leave, as you should already be in your car now." I tell him very clearly and loudly that I am not making any such domestic plans at the moment. He does not wish me luck, just gives me a smile that reiterates the fact that he got this damn license for two years and today is my day. That actually works better than any mushy 'All the best darling, do well.' line. I get all the adrenaline required, gushing through my system. He leaves, so do I.

My day goes quite well actually. They kept saying things I knew but had most of the times over looked. I realised again how simple things like being conscious on road can save my innocent kids who are buckled up in the back seat and have trusted me with their innocent lives. If you think the last line was sarcastic, well it was! Why would I be anything but conscious on road. But at moments like this, I conjured up the image of my hubby's winning grin and concentrated harder. I sat through theory, remembered every little detail the instructor said and sailed through the practical session. It was not difficult, as the GSM was turned off and mom could not reach me with one of her lectures. The kids were not occupying the back seat and fighting over what music they preferred. I was obviously not speeding or taking sharp turns or cursing fellow roadies. Why would I? I had my assessor sitting next to me. So I kept safe following and stopping distance, I ignored honks, I smiled when I saw the frustrated driver behind my car show me his finger. Heck man, of course I know the usual speed at which we take this road is 100kmh, but the limit here says 80kmh and today I am going by the book dear. So I cruised along the highways and by-lanes with even tailgaters giving up on me.

By 3:00 pm I reach the centre and the trainer says,"Hmm, not bad. But I hope what you did today is not a one of thing, but something you will practice every time you are behind the wheel." I smile and say, "How many years did I get it for?" The trainer laughs out loud and says, "Go back to your class room and wait with others."

4:00 pm I get my license for two years. I punch the mobile keys with vindicated joy. Hubby replies,"I knew it." Huh!! He still wants the bloody last word.

Anyways I decide that anything that happens for the rest of today, is too less for me to fight over. So saying some Buddhist chants I go to my parked car and drive like I don't have a clue what defensive driving means. I flout speed limits, text my boss and a friend giving them the news. Reach home without a single honk and a big smile. Only thing on my mind is food. I am hungry and need to eat.

I ring the bell, kids rush and I can hear them both scuffling at the door, fighting over who will open it. I am hungry (tick tock tick tock), I just want some hot food and a bed to lie down. Excited kids can wait, I did the whole exercise for them didn't I? Finally I am inside and telling them that yeah I got the license for exactly the same number of years as their dad. There are yippies and whooping sounds. But my mind is getting distracted as I see strewn school clothes, bags, shoes, and the table so clean that there is no way the children have had their lunch here. Mind has taken in the scene, not seen the adult, who should have been visible by now, and the fuse blows. I march to the bedroom to see hubby snoring inside the comforter. My anger is not getting its outlet. Where is a course for this? Who teaches how to fight with snoring husbands? I march to the kitchen where the kids are fighting over whose lunch plate to heat first. I cannot imagine the kids have not had their lunch till this late. I march again to my bedroom and yank away the comforter. He stirs, purrs, blinks and smiles. Obviously my look is not registering in his sleep induced brain. But my roar will. "Why did you not feed the kids till now? What are you sleeping for in the middle of the day when the children are unfed? Do you have no parenting skills at all?" He rubs his eyes and says,"You asked me to be home so that the kids are not locked out, I did that. So whats this about?" I cannot react to this. This is obviously how a man thinks. He adds,"They are not infants, one is 12 the other 9. They can feed themselves you know, or have you not taught them how to?" I know he is doing this deliberately, and yet I take the bait and yell like a woman possessed and he laughs, goes to the kitchen and fixes me a meal. "When hungry your brain along with your tummy needs food, else this is how you behave, kids take a mental picture of mom when she is hungry.", says the man.

The kids are eating in peace and so am I. He puts on music and everything seems normal again. I am told that kids can remain hungry for a couple of hours, they do not wither or perish. But fatality, on the contrary, can be caused when their mom is driving hungry and so raving angry. Moral of the story, the kids are told, is that mom should eat on time always. I feel a bit like a fool, but I don't mind. I got the license for two years did I not!!

After lunch I go to the washing machine to put the washed clothes on the line. Not only the kids but also their dad have topped the washed load with their soiled clothes of the day. Now that is reason for ANGER if there is any. Does the man have no memory of a whirring machine today morning and the conversation that ensued? Do the kids point and shoot their clothes in the washer?Defensive driving indeed! Gotta be careful on road, these guys wont survive a day without me.

Oh and the other thing that was yesterday, 15 years ago I got married on this day. Well the man still makes me roar, need I say more!!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Scribbles from 'Away Land'


Blows are defeated on weathered shoulders
Yet a look can kill;
When you have always roughed the sea
Does sighting of a shore heal?

Plight and penury often go unnoticed
It is fortitude that steals-
My heart that is wounded so often
Just takes a moment to heal.


Some bonds break with the lash of a whip
Some with clangs of  metallic chains
Some, on the other hand, give away
like silken threads
But what of the pain..
Isn't it always the same?

Hey all,

A long break, a sudden return, two 'definitely not-happy-poems'.. Can I predict where your mind is going?

Nothing drastic has happened this side of the world dear friends, apart from the once-in-a-while-kicks from Aparna. I am still the same woman married to the same guy and mothering the same two kids. No additions and no deletions in the family side of things, apart from those 'kicks', that is.

The mind... well that has always been another ball game!

In case any of you wondered, the header image is from a beautiful island in Oman called Musandam. The birds go by the name of Cormorants.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

A winter break finally getting over...

Was it procrastination? growing kids? job? or just ME being me:)?

Whatever it was, it's finally over and I am glad to be back. Hope you all are too, at least the ones who still visit from time to time.

The ones who have given up, I am here to get you back on my page and into my world :)