Category Archives: Books

Change begins at home and it begins now

Standard

Image result for teach our boys to respect women

One balmy winter morning when Father had been in one of his relaxed moods willing to listen and tell his two little children stories while my brother and I seized the moment asking away everything we knew would otherwise be met with a stern look of disapproval, I had asked him whom he loved more – my brother or me?

“You both are like my two eyes. How can I favour one eye over the other,” he had answered lovingly as I beamed with joy, gleefully throwing my arms around him.

For me, even as a child, his words were an assurance that he did not see me any differently than he saw my brother.

When our son, Sid, was born, as first-time parents, our world unconsciously condensed into our little bundle of joy. During the months that had led to his birth, we built tall dreams, made unreasonable promises and vowed to soak up in every moment with our precious bundle.

Within a week into the soak-up-in-every-moment phase, I had wised up to those lines. Motherhood was beyond what I had envisaged – it was extremely rewarding and absolutely draining, immensely exciting but equally terrifying and often felt so easy yet totally confusing.

We pampered him with the finest toys but Sid was smitten with playing a noisy game of clanging pots and pans from the kitchen cabinet and the toys remained untouched.

A few years later, when we thought that we had seen it all, Little Princess made her arrival. That moment when we first laid our eyes on her was as extraordinary as it had been with my son. Our experience did not deter us from building tall dreams; making unreasonable promises and vowing to soak up every moment – only that we hoped to do it better.

Luckily the experience and the exercise in patience with our first born came in handy with our second. The miniature superheroes and cars that had remained untouched took to her fancy while the perfectly pretty dolls that she received as gifts failed to get her attention.

If one preferred to devour books, the other enjoyed shredding them.

They were born five days apart on different years yet are as different as chalk and cheese. It has been easy for me to accept them as two individuals as my brother and I have very little in common too.

Today, two children later, the weight of Father’s words resonates better and reinforces the fact that we can never see our children differently.

If I expect my daughter to undertake a responsibility in our home, I would expect my son to do the same as they both will need to be able to shoulder bigger responsibilities in the future.

If my son has a dream which he wishes to fulfil, my daughter is bound to have one too!

It is not about flexing muscles with the other gender or competing to be better than the other but about respecting the other and their choices as much as we would expect to be respected. Beauty lies in the fact that men and women are equally complex and made very different from one another, but it takes them both to complete the circle of life.

Here is a reminder to me as much as it is to you – if we wish to see the change in the generations to come, we must become the change by teaching our sons to respect women as much as we would teach our daughters to respect themselves as they would the men around them.

It all begins at home and it begins now!

Hello, WP World, it is so good to get back here. Will reach out to all of you soon!

This piece was first published in the Off the Cuff section of the Gulf News. Please click here for the link.

Advertisements

Love yourself enough to get up and take the fitness challenge

Standard

download (4)

I enjoy sport — cricket, badminton, tennis or auto racing, if sitting in the comforts of my sofa while cheering on my favourite sport stars’ moments count.

It is difficult not to love sport when the television is perpetually tuned on to one or the other sports channels where experts are delineating the technical details of a match with a discussion of the same by the in-house experts — the husband and Sid leaving me  tongue-tied.

It is not entirely my fault for you see I can rattle off about ten names of engineers under one minute that only the maternal side of my family has contributed to the world, but I would be left jogging my memory for hours to pick up at least one blood relative who has attempted any sort of sport, let alone excel in one.

Let’s just say that we chose a book over a cricket bat or a racket!

I am not much of a talker, but not one to be left tongue-tied either, so I have sat through Sid’s tennis classes and the husband’s badminton tournaments with my most trusted mate — Google, who has been throwing light on facts like the tennis court measures 36 by 78 feet while the badminton court is smaller measuring 20 by 44 feet.

I am yet to put a racket to a ball or a shuttlecock but at least I know the technical difference.

I have understood that sport is not all about the scores and strategies for it teaches you character. Sport teaches you to play by the rules, to accept your defeat and move on after you have learnt from your mistakes and stay grounded as you enjoy basking in the glory of victory.

Sport is a life teacher!

I must admit that it took me a couple of days to appreciate the goodness of exercise for during the first few days even the endorphins didn’t help.

"Wow, all the way from the couch. Have the endorphins kicked in?"

The children were both delighted and mildly traumatised watching me limping about and attempting to lift a painfully sore arm to toss food in the general direction of my mouth.

It took all of a week’s persistence in keeping it up to enjoy the benefits of an exercise routine and be treated to a good dose of endorphins that cleared away cobwebs that had strayed in through the day.

Love yourself enough to pull up your socks and take up the challenge. Together we can turn fitness into a way of life, one step at a time!

toon_6

Good morning!

This is an extract from the publication in the ‘Off the Cuff’ section of the Gulf News For the full write-up please click here. This was written for the Dubai Fitness Challenge that runs from October 19, 2018 to November 17, 2018, that challenges every Dubai resident to engage in physical activity of their choice for 30 minutes of in a day for 30 days.

DnSTPq5W0AIZ6Jp

 Have a wonderful Sunday!

 

Lessons from a Parking Ticket

Standard

"Do you realise who I AM?"

It was a fun Saturday — the afternoon of our much-awaited family day out spent at the cinema.

The husband and Sid munched on popcorn trying hard to encipher the storyline while Little Princess and I played a game of catch. Since the only occupants inside the plush darkened interiors were just another couple, we were a welcome treat to the bored couple.

Luckily, the movie was the husband’s choice so he took it upon himself to enlighten us on its positive aspects. The positivity came in handy for post lunch at a restaurant that promised an authentic Delhi cuisine but served us limp bread, bland curry and rubbery kebabs — we were still a happy family.

Just to ensure a better end to our day, I suggested visiting a friend’s home.

We reached our destination and even found a parking spot without much ado. While the husband parked, I made a virtual parking payment.

Zone entry — Check.

Message confirmation receipt — Check.

We were good to go for a full hour.

At the friend’s place, I ensured that the phone sat beside me so that I would not miss out on the reminder SMS to make an extension on the ticket.

It is not in my nature to boast, but I try to ensure that any job I undertake is done to the best of my ability. Or so I thought until we caught sight of a parking ticket slapped on the windscreen of our car.

download (3)

We checked the message and the confirmation. A closer scrutiny of the numbers revealed that there sure was an error —the last digit of the car’s number plate typed in was incorrect.

As we weaved our way back through the traffic, I stared ahead annoyed at my oversight.

My oversight had hurt our pocket, but his sneer on catching me in this precarious position (that was usually his) was not lost on me. It was my turn to eat humble pie.

parking-fine_o_1235452

When the real world is robbed of inspiration, we can always plunge into the virtual world that is in overabundance with happy toddlers and sunsets along with cheery inspirational thoughts that come free with ‘Good Morning’ messages.

Freezing smartphones and running out of phone memory have not deterred Indians  with cheery ‘Good Morning’ messages fired off nineteen to the dozen, driving WhatsApp to near exhaustion and leaving Google researchers at Silicon Valley baffled.

Being an inactive member in many family and friends’ groups, it only took a single click to be hit by a sea of cheery messages and waves of inspiration for my not-so-happy mind to assimilate.

One message from a friend caught my attention. She explained that for every negative thought, we just need to look around us and think of five positive ones.

To start with, I look up at the husband who is still beaming at his ‘we all make mistakes’ remark — but at least he was still smiling.

I look around me and see my family tired and happy after an enjoyable day and feel the first warmth of gratefulness fill my insides.

There was so much to be thankful for.

While I made a mental note to take heed of my oversight and take care to avoid another fine in the future, I use my new-found inspiration to ensure a happy end to our day out.

I wonder if researchers at Silicon Valley too had used inspiration from the sea of cheery Good Morning messages to come up with the Files Go application that that is capable of weeding out ‘good-morning messages’ and has cleared up more than 1 gigabyte of data per user on an average.

f74bcdc3749ab484672304960ccffecd

This is an extract from my article in the Off the Cuff section of the Gulf News. Click here for the full article.

A stitch in time that would have saved a ‘Messi’ day

Standard

Image result for sewing cartoons

Needle work and me — we have a very complicated history.

I wish it was a beautiful complication like Sleeping Beauty that culminated in a happily-ever-after.

Mine always wound up in a tangled disaster. The school deemed it compulsory to take up ‘Needle Art’ as part of the ‘Art’ curriculum. We girls did not take up this cause and wish to make a choice between ‘Innovation’ or ‘Robotics’ as my children can on this day as this was a time when a sewing machine, not a computer, held a pride of place in every household.

Grandmother had a flair for creating magic with a needle. Mother inherited grandmother’s culinary skills, but not her dainty fingers that worked its magic on pillowcases that still adorn some of the beds in our ancestral home.

It makes me wonder where I stand with respect to inheritance.

Mrs Sharma, our art teacher, had explained that needle work only required choosing the right needle from the kit and then developing an endearing friendship with it. Together, you and your needle, she had said, can sew wonders.

I became friends with the scissor. It was an easier friendship — one that did not require choosing from a box full of them and cutting was easier than stitching.

After weeks of creating absurd patterns, I once happened to embroider a single perfect red flower — so much so, that my handiwork brought tears to my eyes. After all a teeny-weeny part of grandmother’s gene had seeped in and had finally been rendered awake.

When I excitedly showed it off to the teacher, she turned it over and shook her head in dismay. Her eyes only saw the tangled mess on the behind. Needle art had to be perfect on both sides, she had said sighing. On that day I understood that it was impossible to make a grown-up happy as in their search for absolute perfection, the beauty of imperfection was lost.

I spent the rest of Mrs Sharma’s classes with my dear friend — the scissor.

When the Fifa World Cup fever gripped the world and our household, Sid pulled out his lucky Messi 10 jersey from the depths of his cupboard. That day, I noticed a single stitch by the shoulder that screamed red. ‘A stitch in time’, I heard Mrs Sharma’s warning, but chose not to take heed and did what I usually do — pretend that my eyes had not seen it.

Day after day, my eyes unintentionally caught sight of that single stitch, but I quickly averted my line of sight and continued the exercise in pretence even when one stitch ran into three.

On the day of Argentina vs Iceland match, the jersey ripped open at the shoulder. That evening, as I faltered with a needle and a thread, Lionel Messi missed a penalty kick and his team settled for a draw. By now, Mrs Sharma’s finger-wagging look had rented a permanent space in my head.

Even in sport, there are some aspects that can be logically or scientifically explained — like Pele’s famed banana kick (an off-centre kick that causes the ball to change direction midair before dropping to the ground) that works under the Bernoulli effect while there are others that have no logic at all — like a torn ‘lucky’ jersey, that could not be worn by a little Messi fan sitting half a world away, that is believed to have stood between Messi and his missed penalty.

As Sid sulked, I gingerly requested the tailor down the road if he would undertake the trivial task of sewing the jersey. The kind gentleman took less than a minute to complete the task and even refused to charge me. I stood there embarrassed coaxing him to accept something.

“It was a breather, a minute away from monotony,” he said smilingly.

I thanked him wondering if I could ever say that for myself.

 

Dear Friends, this has been published in the Gulf News. To read the article click here.

Wishing you a wonderful Sunday!

 

 

A Walk to the Post Office Down Memory Lane

Standard

'They're extinct now but when I was young you'd find these everywhere...let's go to the next gallery they've got a 'bobby on the bear' and a 'postman' there.'

As I go about like clockwork with the very boring but constant sequence of actions in life that calls itself routine, I hear the familiar ‘ping’ on the phone.

This should be Mother sending in her good morning message with one question that when answered will quickly be followed by a series of ten or more questions that usually revolve about the general well being of my family here and me.

This ‘ping’ could also be a message from a friend or one more to add to the endless stream of messages from the seemingly polite but consistent banking or business sectors who have shown keen interest in my welfare and prosperity.

In the days of yore, the midday cycle bell that announced the arrival of the postman was one Mother looked forward to and got us children racing one another to bring home heartfelt stories and messages transcribed in flowery handwriting that had travelled far inside sealed inlands and envelopes.

If our postman was the bearer of the dreaded telegram, he waited until the seal was opened to unveil its brief contents. He offered his condolences if the news was bad, but good news ensured a cup of tea or a sweet and a tip.

This was a time when red post boxes dotted every street. A time when we poured our heart, vented our sorrows and shared our joys and woes on paper and when securing a government job was the final destination in every job seeker’s journey.

In a shrinking world where we are under the spell of technology locking our eyes with screens rather than humans and establishing firm relationships with devices rather than people, are we tunnelling our lives into the confines of our digital caves?

Even as we embrace the ease of the technological revolution and social networking, should not we exercise prudence in its use driving home the same to the generation that will follow us? Will robots be the most valuable companions of our future when we wake up from our digitally-induced dream? Will I, like my mother, wait hours to receive a single line of hope from my busy daughter?

Another ‘ping’ and I pick up the phone and smile at Mother’s messages, quickly typing in a sweet response. I know that my answer to one of her queries will balloon into a full-fledged conversation.

But that is what makes a conversation with Mother so special.

 

Good Morning dear Friends, hope you are all having a wonderful Sunday. This is an extract from my publication in the ‘Off the Cuff’ section of the Gulf News. For the full article please click here.

Off the Grid

Standard

'I lost my homework on the cloud.'

The children had been invited to a birthday party.

A minute after the husband dropped us off after agreeing to meet at the same point after the party, catastrophe struck.

It came in the form of an Earth shattering realization that I had left the better part of my brains, my eyes, timepiece, GPS, camera, my Swiss Army knife, my digital toy all rolled into one – the smart phone, back at home.

I had to solely rely on my brains – or whatever little that I had brought along – to weave my way to the venue as the e-invite and the host’s contact numbers were safely tucked away in the digital confines of my absent phone.

Even as I tried hard to shake the free-floating anxiety that kicked my imagination to life and conjure up a few dozen disasters, I was pleasantly surprised that my memory of the place along with the old fashioned method of asking directions when in doubt was all it took to get my excited children to their destination.

I watched the children do funny dance moves, jump trampolines, shoot zombies unobstructed by the lens of a camera. And I must admit, it felt unhurried and carefree.

Out of habit, my hands habitually dug into the handbag for the phone but stopped midway when I heard my finger tips – enjoying an unanticipated holiday – singing my praise.

By the end of that day, I had real memories and a bunch of new ‘real’ friends.

I am no smart phone addict but it felt intimidating to be left out of the loop, but strangely liberating to make real conversation with children or another device-free Mommy without the interruption of the beep of a message or a phone call.

This leaves me thinking back in wonder about my younger, pre-mobile days when I walked the streets, lost my way, boarded the wrong bus but got home safe and sound.

My children might never have the privilege of getting lost in this well-connected world or feel liberated from the shackles of the grid unless they, like me, are forced to spend a phone-free, live-in-the moment day with only anxiety and real humans for company. 

 

29b75a9d3a602e8815408ff46c25c8fb

Dear friends, hope you all are having a wonderful Sunday.

Research has it that an average human swipes his phone 80 times a day. As much as our phones are a smarter extension of ourselves, it is time we ask ourselves if the digital grid is enticing us into a digital fantasy that is robbing us off reality.

What do you think?

 

 

A Competition Called Life

Standard

Classroom

“Seize every minute of this day”

“Don’t watch the clock; do what it does. Keep going”

There is no dearth for motivation on social media. Reminder in 50s and 100s every morning is a good thing so that we put on our running shoes and throw ourselves into the breathless crowd that is racing against time to achieve set goals and targets.

On a weekend morning, we decided to seize the day treating ourselves to an early lunch followed by a visit to the shopping mall.

After clicking pictures with a robot that walked, talked, sang songs and did all that was expected of it, we took a cue from Sid and made our way to a bookstore to get our dose of food for the brain (while we seize the rest of the day).

Little Princess settles in the seating area with an improvised Peppa Pig storybook that appeared to be bigger than her and did a snort with every page turn.

Sid already had his nose in a fact finder.

It was then that we bumped into a friend who was leaving the store balancing a bag full of books. After the pleasantries, I enquired about his wife and son.

“They are at home preparing for his Olympiads” he said, “I am here to pick up some additional reference material for the KenDoku competition that is soon to follow.”

“Some books on logical thinking and the public speaking course that he takes,” he explained, “we let him play chess during his free time so a book to perfect the game too,” he finished.

I was reminded of the robot that we clicked pictures with as it had gone about perfecting all that was expected of it as the proud father gave us an account of the rigorous effort that went into preparing their son to keep pace with the pell-mell rush to stand out in the rising competition.

I looked at the husband hopelessly.

Sid spent his evening reading books, playing with friends, attempting hard to get a tennis ball across a net with a racquet – none of which qualified as academically enlightening.

Even his weekly swimming classes were not geared on getting him to swim the English Channel but to be able to save his life or another if a situation may arise.

Disappointed at being unable to exercise our bragging rights in this area of parenting, we bid him adieu after managing to lend our ear with a smiles and nods.

On our way back, I find myself questioning my ‘unambitious’ parenting ways.

Little Princess has learnt to snort.

Sid rants on about his new find – ‘Monday with the Mad Genius’ – a fact finder about Leonardo da Vinci. The ‘Salvator Mundi’ that was sold for $450.3 million has piqued his interest.

Questions and doubts that build up into a full-fledged quiz about his newly acquired knowledge ensues, leaving me fumbling and scrabbling at Google’s doorstep.

My son may be far from the mad rush of competition where children are dragged from pillar to post perfecting every task among the endless ones on offer, but I am glad that I find myself in this blissful scrabbling mess as Sid embraces childhood at his own pace – one fact finder at a time.

 

 

For the love of Reading

Standard

book-759873_960_720.jpg

 

 

Books are windows into a vast world

My seven-year-old came home from school the other day with a report card, and he told me that he had been awarded prizes for the year. I eagerly opened the envelope, my chest heaving with pride, to check the number of subjects that my son had excelled in. I was puzzled when I saw the word ‘reading’ beside his name. Upon further enquiry, I understood that he, indeed, had won a prize for reading.

It is not unknown to me that my son takes pride in his little library, with its collection of encyclopedias and story books. He makes it a point to take some of them to school, to share a few interesting topics with his friends in class, but the idea of applauding and encouraging him by rewarding his efforts and those of many others who have won, too, is a great initiative by schools. Teachers and schools have indeed taken up the UAE authorities’ Year of Reading campaign a step further, by keeping aside time for its students to read out topics of general interest to the class, write reviews of books they pick up from the library and write short stories that are published and displayed on common boards. All of this is done, apart from the usual academic portions that are required to be covered for the year. Books are windows into the vast world outside the confines of the little, closed community we live in. They give insight, knowledge and wisdom to the reader. Encouraging children to read is encouraging and educating tomorrow’s citizens and the many generations to come.

Kudos to UAE’s declaration of 2016 as the Year of Reading .

Happy Reading!!!!