And that’s all there should be!

March 2017 – Two 11-year-old boys met by the poolside in a  Dominican Republic resort. The following three days were spent in one another’s company – breakfast, lunch, dinner, table tennis, beach volleyball and more.  The parents met briefly to say hello to one another and the conversation was courteous and minimal.  The families came from different continents – Europe and North America, spoke different languages, had different food habits and yet the boys got along like a house on fire.  One family left on the fourth day. A tearful farewell was an understatement.  The boys exchanged phone numbers.

Upon coming home, the North American family decided to be courteous and send a text thanking the other family for the wonderful time the boys had together and also inviting them to come visit, should they ever felt like seeing North America.  The response to that text, from the father of the European boy read, “Sure, our son will visit you in the summer”. What followed was a series of family room discussions about the possibility of the visit.  There were a lot of apprehensions about how the child would adjust to food habits because the North American family is predominantly vegetarian.  The father of the European boy was reasonably sure that his son was easy going with food and would adjust well.  The boys spoke to one another a few times a week in preparation for the trip, also exchanging their interests and likes and dislikes.

July 2017 : Summer arrived and so did the boy from Europe (alone, may I add!).  It was a jam-packed three weeks of camping and sightseeing and eating out and fun.  It was about meeting more North American families and sharing stories and also having a lot of them asking, “Wait, what? He came alone? You just met in Dominican Republic for four days? Do you know the family?”

This is no fable.  This is real life. This is the story of our family and a European family, one of immense trust and friendship.  I don’t know what came upon the European family to trust us in the little time that the boys spent with one another in Dominican Republic.  They took a leap of faith and sent their son to us for three weeks.  To me, this is what real world should be.  This is what we as human beings need to believe in more.  The family didn’t see us differently. They knew their son would be safe and loved and cared for.  In a world of mistrust and chaos and hatred, this friendship comes as a breath of fresh air.  It comes as hope and it reaffirms my faith in mankind. .  The experience humbled us as a family.  It was one of the best summers we have had.  We look forward to a life-long friendship.

Discussing the undiscussable

Yeah, I know… Gramatically “undiscussable” is incorrect.  Just couldn’t come up with the right term for it.  Plus it just sounds exactly what it is supposed to mean.  For all I know, it will find its way into the dictionary in a few years from now.

I have toiled with the concept of death for a while. Hailing from the east, I have read and pretended to comprehend the concept of body and soul – body dies, soul is eternal.  Conceptually this sounded fine, but I just couldn’t come to terms when some unexpected passing happened within the family.  It got me thinking a few years ago when I listened to a living eulogy on the radio.  The concept fascinated me.  This is no living eulogy.  But, this thought process began from that moment.  This blog has more to do with genuine affection for people that will live to see my death.  You may not remember me for long, however, when you do remember me, this is what I would like you to remember of me.  (It is also my way of saying, here is a list of things to do and not do, in order not to be haunted by me :D)

Flowers : If you have known me long enough, you will know that I believe flowers are meant to embellish the plant/shrub, not die decorating the corners of a funeral home.  Please do not bring  flowers, for there will be no viewing.  Should my family want, they will have a memorial service and you are welcome to come by and offer words of comfort.

Education : The money you would put towards a bouquet of flowers could go towards education projects either in your own neighbourhood or in a neighbourhood that needs the money.  Support education.  Education empowers children.  Children are the future of this world and that is the best thing you can do in my memory. Donate wisely – not to some large organization.  If you have known me I believe in supporting people at grassroot level.  Every penny you donate needs to count.  That will only happen if you reach people directly, not through an organization. You will also see the impact you make on them and that joy will multiply in your own lives.

Colours : If you do choose to come for my memorial service, please dress in vibrant colours of yellow, pink, red, burgundy, blue, purple and the like.  Do not dress in black and white.  My memorial service has to be one where you remember me joyfully and the times we have giggled and been up to nonsense. Black and white are serious colours.  They don’t go with me or our memory together.

Dance party : As you walk into the memorial service, you are likely to meet some familiar faces.  Please organize a bollywood themed dance party or a zumba party on my name and dance it off. Dance off the grief.  The first person to host the event with the loudest music ever, will be least haunted by me.  😀

Random act of kindness : If you cannot make it to the memorial service, because you have got a life, and the fact is everyone does, don’t feel bad about it.  However close we have been, your life is the most important thing at any point in time.  Just think of me and perform a random act of kindness.  You would be honouring my life much more by such acts, than having to cancel something important to show up at my memorial service.

Last, but not the least, Food : People, food! Really good food!!  Go eat at a favourite restaurant of yours or order take out from a really good joint.  Put your feet up, watch Netflix and eat away guilt free, while you reminisce.  Bring food to the people that have outlived me and make sure its spicy and fresh and home-cooked.

And for all those of you that are wondering why I am writing this now, the answer is – no apparent reason.  I am hale and healthy and happy and rambunctious and crazy as ever. All of the above, I shall be doing for myself while I am still living. I have no intentions of leaving this body anytime soon by my own will.  You shall all have the pleasure of my pain for years to come.

 

The science behind those cultural blah blahs?

“Look at the moon. She is so beautiful isn’t she? She is watching over you, my little girl”, says my aunt to her one year old daughter, that she holds on her waist as she walks the perimeter of our front yard, feeding her dinner.  Years later while I will be sitting here in North America as an educator, speaking with multiple people on the subject of child development, and I will realise the importance of simple acts like that. It was an introduction to nature and creating love for it.  This could be one reason why the moon has so much significance to me to this very day, because I grew up with fables of the moon.  Culturally there was no significance to sitting at a table and using cutlery, yet that little girl will one day grow up to be a fine young woman who is well-versed in her table manners.

A 7-month old tries to crawl on the newly mopped floor to grab puffed rice flakes.  While on the floor, the baby sees its target at an achievable distance.  The drool is the impetus to reach it and hence strive for it.  He makes what seems to him as a herculean effort, to move his body weight towards the puffed rice.  With each move he reaches closer and his eyes fixate on one, while his fingers land on one. He grabs it and barely manages to put it in his mouth.  In a simple act like that lies concentration, fine motor skill development, self-direction and a few moments for the mother to take a breather from her little busy-body.

My sister sings as she holds my 8 month old on her lap.  She is sitting on the floor, cross legged, as she puts him on her lap facing him.  He wiggles resisting her attempts at getting him to nap.  She gently puts up a power struggle, one he is not likely to win. She taps his back and his bum simultaneously, rhythmically to her own tune.  He slowly drifts into deep sleep, as she picks him up and puts him in a swing that is made from old muslin cloth (typically the mom’s saree that carries her unique scent) that hangs from the ceiling of our bed room.  The soft, breathable cloth snuggles the baby in a swaddle.  Significance ? Introduction to music, rhythmic beats, smell of a familiar body, being swaddled like in the womb, bonding with family members.

My mom feeds lunch to my children.  They begin to feel full and protest as she excitedly narrates yet another cultural story.  Both of them finally realize her efforts are for them to finish their meal and simultaneously put up a strong “no”. And she says to them, “The strength of the entire meal is in the last bit on your plate – koopi.”  I was raised to finish every last bit of food on my plate and as I had children I taught them similarly and for whatever reason, that Koopi story stuck to me and I passed it along.  A silly belief, yet such a powerful message about the importance of food and its wastage.

My dad tells me a story from his understanding of mythology. It is the same story I have heard a million times before, that he has narrated at my behest.  Yet every character has a different feel, a different adjective attached to the very same incident, just to give it a different angle.  And in the end, the message is always the same – it is one of goodness. Lesson : Go to bed with a healthy thought and you will sleep peacefully.

Cultures follow what is a norm  without questioning it.  However, they perhaps were born from a certain significance that was innate to humans – respect for nature, following the natural development of children, creating a love for music, respect for food and so much more. I am so blessed that I was born in a culture and was given an analytical mind to question what I was raised with, only to realize it is that I was raised with such values that reinforce what is so organic to human nature.

Oh those midnight rendezvous!

“Never say never”, is a phrase that has a much deeper meaning in my life than ever before.  A few years ago I met my spouse, fell in love, got married, had children and swore, “Never again will I seek anything in my life ever”.  Boy, was I wrong! Through the years, life rolled on with ups and downs and I began to feel a void.  I began to search.  Search for answers and often, the intensity of such a search will yield some pretty quick results.  And it happened to me.

We met two years ago. It was brief.  It happened in a hotel. We were together for four days.  It was my first experience with that kind of joy.  And life changed.  Dramatically changed.  I knew in my heart there was a shift.  And then I came back to my real life – work, home, children, challenges etc.  But those four days were memorable.  I yearned for more.  A few months later it happened again and then a year later again. The sporadic meetings intensified in between.  Daytime was spent dreaming of midnight rendezvous.  Typically it was around the 2 – 3 am that we would connect. There was a lot of deep breathing that would happen.  The house was silent.  Everyone was in a slumber. And no one suspected anything.  The meetings over a period in time became regular and now are a daily occurrence and much of the family, friends and colleagues are seeing that shift – loads of laughter and giggles, conscious efforts at spending time with family,  a glow on the face, a sudden appreciation for littlest things and a very different outlook to life.  Very YOLO attitude.  A spousal confrontation is right around the corner.  My love for sleep has diminished dramatically. On the contrary, an inner alarm wakes me up around 2-3 am.

From whatever is happening on a daily basis, I know this is going to intensify.  I am consumed by it already.  And I have friends who have begun asking me questions specific to the issue.  The ones that know me well get a decent daily download of my post midnight experience and the others on the periphery are watching to see where this will lead.  History has it that anyone who has gone down this path has never really returned to their original life.  And yes, he has a name.  A powerful one.  I know that he is the only one that can make my dreams come true and they have been coming true too.  His name is “pineal gland”. :).  I meet him in my everyday meditations during the beautiful wee hours of the morning. Life is bliss.

My first experience with the pineal gland happened when I went for a meditation conference two years ago.  Although I loved it, I wasn’t regular at it.  But the subsequent two conferences put me in a very different frame of mind and now my post midnight rendezvous with the pineal gland is the highlight of any given night. 🙂

Image courtesy : http://www.wakingtimes.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/yin-yang-final.jpg

Inward journey, interesting results

A recent three day retreat of inward journey was exhilarating, joyful, calming and exhausting, all at once.  The physical body  rebelled at the 2:45 am wake up calls.  Monkey mind tortured the body, as the body chose to sit still.  There were intense moments of energy surges. A ton of pent up emotions flowed in the name of tears and energies were exchanged through hugs.  The room reverberated with deafening silence.  The sounds of sobs became a common occurrence in a room filled with almost 450 people.  After three days of listening to profoundly wonderful and transforming lectures, combined with long periods of sitting still, I emerged, a somewhat transformed human being (or so it seems). What surprised me was the inner chaotic voice settled and surprised my outer experience in my everyday world.  And I seem to be experiencing some interesting results.

The seeming disappearance (temporary ?) of the sock thief : In the physical world, I know for a fact that I have only two children, however, I am reasonably sure that as I delivered them, I also delivered an invisible sock thief, for it is only after their birth that single socks have begun to disappear.  Regardless of how few loads of laundry I do, I have always land up with single socks.  I commend my two children who, instead of cringing at my parental sock-neglectfulness, have now become proud wearers of different socks.  Since my return from my retreat, I have found all pairs of matching socks.  The sock thief has perhaps ended his sojourn with us. Amen!

Order in a chaotic home : As I trotted back into my home, I was welcomed to a rather regular sight, that surprisingly did not perturb me. Piled up loads of laundry in every nook that I could see.  Household chores, grocery shopping, dirty car, work-related issues and much more.  I could barely believe myself when I smiled my way through washing and folding, what seemed like 40 loads of laundry.  I hopped over toys like a joyous bunny in the spring time.  A trip to the grocery store on a grey day seemed like a picnic on a bright summer day.  Work-related emails seemed to take quarter of the time that it would before.  And I know that what has distinctly changed is indeed my attitude towards the issues that once used to be irritants.

The idiot box takes the brunt : Since my return from the retreat, the need to engage in my inner world is so powerful that my favourite sitcoms have suffered a major blow.  Some of the characters must feel bereft of an ardent fan.  My family has lost a sitcom companion and the TRP has dropped by one and thus having a domino effect on all the missed opportunities for commercials selling products that were seemingly important to buy and hoard.  I have been robbed of the “knowledge” that I could have gained by watching commercials about those pharmaceutical products that cause distress in the undistressed.

Sedated monkey mind : It has been over a week since I have returned from the trip.  What surprised me was the sense of calmness that prevails since – a true appreciation for life, joy in the littlest of things,  non-judgmental peaceful days, a heartfelt gratitude for all setbacks, a deeper sense of community, a profound sense of compassion, a rather wonderful understanding of the macro and the dissipating importance of the micro. It most definitely seems like the a powerful sedation of the monkey mind. And a passionate desire to continue to do what was once seemingly difficult to do – practicing silence every single day.

 

 

PS : Thank you Google images for the image.

The warmth of food…

I took for granted a great number of things including home-cooked meals.  I belong to a family  where cooking from scratch is a way of life, not a conscious choice.  Hence, it is embedded in me too.  To this day, when my mom wants me to taste something, she will not give it to me on a spoon, she will pick it up with her bare hands and put it in my mouth.  My mom is a clean freak. She has never once eaten our leftovers.  Having said that I must mention when she fed (hand-fed) us, there were no leftovers. She knew exactly how much we ate and she mixed exactly that amount of food.

When she had grandchildren, I would see her patiently mix the food with her bare hands.  Agreed, it is very cultural.  Needless to say, it was so much later in life that I learned about the transference of energy through the hands.  As she mixed the rice and the lentils and vegetables, with her bare hands, she had conscious good thoughts – thoughts of good health, happiness and peace.  For most people, this is a very foreign concept – mixing food with bare hands and I wouldn’t have thought about it as much had it not been for my moving to North America.  We just didn’t know any differently. When she fed her grandchildren, she fed them with her bare hands, not using spoons or forks.  And I would watch in awe how she never made it messy.  Eventually as the grandchildren grew older, I heard them say to her how much the food tasted better.  They could actually tell the difference in the quality of food.

This very concept fascinates me. In this day and age of mass production of food, what would be the energy in a packaged product? Would there be transference of love? Would there be warmth? Is something like this significant to the development of children and society in general? Am I ignorant about any research that has been done in this field of energy? Is it just cultural to be so particular about a home-cooked meal?

I honestly don’t know the answer to these questions.  But I know that I am very aware when I cook that my thoughts have to be clean, healthy and peaceful, for it is being ingested by others. And the only reason I do that is because I am grateful for having been provided the opportunity to have had home-cooked-mom/grandmom-fed meals.

 

And the choices we make….

My upbringing was one of respect, love and discipline. I am one of the blessed ones to have been raised that way.  With age, times and my current geographical location, coupled with my work with children, I found the word respect and choices to have a new-found meaning.

I have realized that the biggest of form of respect one can offer another, is by being respectfully accepting of the choices another makes, regardless of personal opinion.  Religion, sexual preference, lifestyle choices, clothing choices and such.  By saying respectfully accepting, I don’t mean following suit. I just mean accepting that it is someone’s choice to do what they do, as much as it is mine to do what I do.  I had to catch myself many a time when I would think, “Why would he/she do that?”, because that is a judgment. It doesn’t make a person good or bad just because they make a certain choice. (I am certainly not referring to fundamentalists and fanatics here. That goes into a separate genre all together).

A recent discussion on organ donation after death, sparked a small debate at home. Personally I am for donating organs, just not for research purposes.  It is just a personal choice and when my spouse decided it would be for research as well, my instinct was to jump and ask why that would be a choice.  It took me a few minutes to take a step back and realize it is less of a choice issue and more of a respect issue.  I had to be respectful of that choice, although it wouldn’t be mine.  I had to say to myself, “well it is not my body and hence not my choice”. I have to say it was a hard moment.  I find, especially, in a spousal relationship, that the word respect is key.

Working with children, I have had to take multiple steps back to always ask myself the critical question, “Am I doing is for the child or because I was raised to do it a certain way?”. How do I allow a child to make a decision that is right for  him/her? How do I not thrust my opinions upon the child and allow the child to make a decision?.  My profession seems to have added to my long list of internal conflicts. The only way I seem to be able to find some peace seems to be moulding my thoughts :

  • Just because I do or don’t do, does not make it right or wrong.  It is just a matter of choice.
  • Just because someone else does it or doesn’t do it, does not make it right or wrong either.  It is also just a matter of choice.
  • There is only that much one can blame it on upbringing. After a certain point it is only a matter of personal choice.
  • There is only one key word to any success, respect!