Monday, June 12, 2017

My Baba's watch

One of my most treasured possessions happens to be my Baba’s watch. It was a wedding band of sorts. My mum’s family gifted him this Seiko at the time of their wedding. And it’s the only watch he ever had (barring one he got from his colleagues at his farewell, which never left its box).

Back in those days, a watch was a watch. It wasn’t a fashion statement. Nor was it expected to beep and glow to remind you of special occasions/events. It did not buzz when you have been inactive for more than 30 mins. And no, it did not give you your heart rate or sleep data. But surprisingly, most people still managed to keep active, sleep better and remember special dates. And a watch was just a watch. It gave you the time and date. And nothing more.

Yet, my Baba, like many of his generation, was more loyal to his watch than I ever was to mine. For how could I, when I had more than half a dozen of them at any given time? Baba had just one. For life. When it stopped, its batteries were replaced. When its glass cracked on being dropped, it was repaired. When Baba lost weight, its band was adjusted. It accompanied him to work, social events, holidays and even to the hospital when he had his heart attack. There wasn’t a different one for every occasion. There was only one.

To me, this watch is a symbol of loyalty and simplicity. It’s a reflection of those days when relationships and things were valued and looked after. It’s a reminder of the times when people were happy and grateful for what they had. Every time I hold it, I think of Baba. Of how he wore it on this right wrist. Of how he kept it on his little bedside table, next to his glasses. Of how he never considered changing it or having another one. Of how it grew old with Baba.

Turns out, the watch was more than a watch after all.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Unconditional Pride

I am often asked (and I think many parents are), what I’d like my child to become when she grows up. While the question itself is flawed, most educated parents of my generation seem to answer it with this:
I want her to be whatever she wants to be. I want her to be happy. 

This response has become a modern day cliché. Whether young parents actually believe it, or say it just so that they are not perceived as “last century”, is another matter. For all we know, the very limited list of “doctor, engineer, lawyer (and subsequently MBA)” as preferred career options are so deep-seated in the Indian psyche, that even the most liberal of us may not know how these still subconsciously affect us. But the fact that we are trying to expand our horizon….and at least “say” that we will be happy/proud parents irrespective of the career paths our children choose, is a step forward.

One of the few (for me, it’s a “few”, as opposed to “several”) reasons why I chose a foreign land as “home”, is the mindset that respects every kind of profession. The mindset that does not associate success with academic brilliance only. All good in theory, and still very cliché. The real test will be if my child grows up and actually takes up something totally unconventional (unconventional for middle-class Indians, that is) as her profession. An even bigger test would be if she is not "extraordinary" (as per the conventional definition of the term).

I have a feeling that most people who say, “Yes, I’ll be happy if my child becomes a dancer…or an artist…or a musician….or an athlete”, somehow believe that their kids would excel at these non-academic professions. They somehow see their children travelling the world, performing/playing in front of packed auditoriums, signing autographs and endorsements. But what if that isn't the case? The intention is not to belittle any profession. The intention is to really dig deep, think and find honest answers. And if the answer is “No, I would not be truly proud/happy”, then it’s time to train our minds to think differently. Because our children deserve nothing less from us. They need to know that we will be proud of them, unconditionally.

A major part of parenting involves helping our children be “the best version of themselves”.  To support them in their journey to reach their own potential. “Their own potential” is the key here, and that’s where things often get blurry. Not our unreal idea of their potential…not our hopes of living our unfulfilled ambitions through them…and definitely not our desires to make them smarter/better/more accomplished than every other kid we know.

Parenting is the art/science of nurturing. Finding our children’s interests and strengths, and nurturing them with care, thoughtfulness and respect. Ferrying them around to sports/music/art classes is part of this discovery. What excites them? What challenges them? What makes them happy? What are they really good at? And even if they are not seemingly extraordinary at anything, but can utilise their own potential to the fullest, they are all achievers. They are enough. They are more than enough.

So from the very beginning of our parenting journey, the focus shouldn’t have been on trying to raise accomplished children. Compassionate, honest, responsible, well-behaved children – yes. But not “accomplished”, as we commonly define/understand the word. Because that is beyond our control.  The focus should have been on becoming better parents.

Of the many promises I make to my little girl, one is to be a better, more open-mind human being. For she deserves no less. So while she grows up, I will have my own growing up to do… learning and unlearning…facing my biggest fears…criticizing my own thoughts/beliefs….reshaping my mind until I am more capable of appreciating the nuances of parenthood. I promise to let her be my guide. When she shows a clear interest in something, I will know it’s time to explore it a bit more.

That’s exactly how we ended up in the local ballet school. She clearly enjoys dancing. But be it her age or her over-active mind, she quickly loses interest in things. So we now find her running in circles on her own, unwilling to listen to instructions or follow the teacher. Is that her telling me that she’s had enough? Is that her way of saying “Mummy, dancing is not for me. Let’s find something else to do?” If I give in, I’ll probably find something else that would keep her engaged for a few weeks. But what if I am giving up too early on something that could become her true passion? What if I am meant to keep at it, until she overcomes her momentary boredom? The dilemma continues. And so does my exploration of my little girl’s mind.

So, while I have no preferred career paths for her, if there are two things I wish for her, they would be curiosity and initiative. The first would hopefully lead her to her passion, and the second, to a life that she finds truly fulfilling. As for me, may I have the strength and wisdom to be proud of her, unconditionally.


I am the power in a singer's voice
That echoes in packed auditoriums

I am the mother's shrieks
Who cries over her child's corpse

I am the glimpses of eerie things, hours after watching a thriller

I am the cold shower on a winter day
And the warm touch of passion, they say

I am in a story well told
In a mystery unfold.

I am often called "the chill"
As I come and go at will.

I am the sign of being alive
I am both adult and naive.


(written on 26 August 2016; posted much later)

Every time I’ve been happy…
I’ve wanted wings.
To flutter away to the beach at sunset.

Every time I’ve been sad…
I’ve wanted wings.
To drown my sorrow in a drink or perhaps walk on the sand.

Every time I’ve been angry…
I’ve wanted wings.
To slam the door behind me and zoom out of the house, leaving the world behind.

I finally have wings. I finally have a driver’s licence.