Thursday, November 21, 2013

Child's Play? Not so easy......

“Child’s play” – the  dictionary says that the idiom means ‘a task which is easily accomplished’. Really? Well, let’s take a look at a child’s life shall we?
'You thought it's easy?'

  • 6.00 am (or earlier, if it is close to exam time!!):  Wake-up call by a hassled mom or a screeching alarm clock (sometimes both)  
  • 6.15 am (while snoozing with the toothbrush / in the toilet / with the milk glass) Get screamed at by Mom / Dad / Grandparents / every other member of the house - for being late
  • 7.00 am: Pick up a 10 kg bag, and sprint into the school bus, jostle with other kids and find a seat. Then travel through a pollution laden city to reach school 
  • 8.00 am to 2.00 pm: Cram the little head with logarithms, chemical formulae and history dates. If really lucky, add a dash of peer pressure and sibling rivalry. Then back home through maddening city traffic and obnoxious levels of carbon monoxide in the air. 
  • 3.00 pm to 6.00 pm: Continue with the cramming, but with the tuition teacher, the dance teacher and the Kung-Fu instructor. (Oh! I forgot – if the parents are ambitious, add a few more classes like horse-riding, ballet, advanced trigonometry and not to forget the most important – entrance coaching!!) 
  • 6.00 pm:  Math homework, Science projects, and English assignments. Not to mention the discussion with Mom and Dad why Rahul scored more than Divya, or why Sakshi could get that sum right and David couldn’t. 
  • 10.00 pm:  Dinner, and set the 10 kg backpack for tomorrow’s battle.  (Sometimes, crash out on the couch before dinner out of sheer exhaustion.)
 
 

Sigh!!!! Now exactly which part of this punishing ritual seems easy

Needless to say, once a human being becomes a parent, their entire world starts to revolve around the little divine beings called children. Rightly so too, because children are, after all, the future of the world.As parents, things that did not seem to matter a few years ago suddenly seem to be the most important things : whether almonds help in memory, or whether the cartoon show has too much violence in it when the cat gets hit by the mouse, or the most common – whether the child is healthy.

Health of their children is on every parent’s worry list, and so it is in mine. From the moment I knew there was a little heart beating inside of my body, I had started worrying about my baby.  And once she was born, every little yawn, every little sneeze and every tearful cry brought out the worst thoughts in my head.

Gradually, I learnt, along with the equally astonished father, that immunity was the key to ensuring the little one lived a normal, healthy life. The first lesson we learnt was that health was NOT equal to just proportional height and weight.

Surprised? Well, yes, growth of the body was a definite indication, but that was not all. What also contributed, was the healthy growth of the body and mind.

The second lesson was that you can’t control everything in the life of the little one – such as allergies, or little bumps on the head from the trying-to-crawl days. So yes, there were external factors and internal factors that affected the immunity of my precious one. I could, for example, ensure that my little one wore her snug winter clothes, but she would still sneeze when we stepped out into the cold. The only solution to combat the external factors was to ensure that her little body was strong and her little mind was agile – by working on her integral immunity by ensuring a few basics

  1. Natural Nutrition : This is first in my list, because it is something that is strongly influenced by the parents. Conscientious parents work towards a balanced diet, ensuring all the necessary minerals and vitamins are available to the growing body. Natural foods, with minimal processing, is the best source. This, along with any supplements (such as this) for rare vitamins and minerals forms the best shield against ailments. We Indians, have a rich heritage of Ayurveda to aid in this front. 
  2. Activity : Play in an open green area is not only a healthy choice for exercising the muscles. It also helps increase metabolism, oxygen intake, and a holistic development of a child – the laughter that fills your life with joy is bonus. We had ensured that the children had access to gardens, swings and trees – TV, computer games and I pads were only when it was raining outside. And guess what – they never complained!
    The best form of Vitamin D - and laughter!!
3. Education : Let me reiterate – not literacy, but education. This meant we had to educate them of each and every practice that made them a better human being, and created a happier environment around them. Ofcourse, this was easier said than done. We had to change so many of our own habits to ensure that the children had the right example.

4.      4. Conviction and hope : This is perhaps, the toughest ingredient. In a time when the whole world is trying to outdo each other, staying true to oneself is something that determines one’s mental health. Similarly, optimism and hope adds to their well-being. 

The underlying prerequisite is that growing children need to be immune to the stress, the various illnesses and the exhaustion that they are constantly handling. Only once this is ensured, can proper development of their mental and their social skills occur. This in turn, ensures a stronger, healthier nation.

This post is an entry for the "Immune India" contest by Indiblogger and Dabur India.


Sunday, November 17, 2013

When a Parent is Born.......



When a baby is born, the parents are also born with her. Not only the mother, but also the father evolves infinitely more as a human being (even though most depictions of parenting would have us believe that only the mother is overwhelmed by the baby, I can vouch for all the men I know personally, that they cried a wee bit too). 

The first time we set eyes on little G's face, her eyes screwed shut, we knew we were captured – lock stock and barrel. Little G now held firmly in her little fists, both our hearts tightly clasped – for life. It is natural then, that we would do everything in our capacity to ensure that she was growing well. 

This entailed various forms of research – reading all the books on parenting we could lay our hands on, talking to all the ‘been there done that’ parents (including our own) while risking the smirk on their faces when they narrated what was in store; going berserk with Google searches  - Everything!

The first few days, we were even scared of burping baby G, for fear of hurting her while doing so. But gradually, we learnt how much little G loved to be touched - she slept contentedly in our arms, wailing as soon as she was laid down in her crib. 

I finally overcame the paranoia of inadvertently hurting her, and started giving her massages. (A little prelude here: I come from the land of massages – Kerala, where we use massages to solve everything from aching muscles to treating depressions. Hence, while I was briefly influenced by advocates of ‘no-massage-for-babies’, my entire family of extended relatives would have disowned me if I followed that route. Their argument? Well, they say there are years of scientific Ayurvedic research - such as this research - in support of the practice.)

During earlier days, the mothers and the grandmothers concocted massage oils with the purest of ingredients; but today that option seems to be drying out with nuclear families. Fortunately, there are companies that spend years researching and developing the same today, making things slightly easier for us city dwellers.

This was when I discovered the joy of touch. Science has proven that the loving touch of the caregiver is one of the most important contributors, next only to breast milk, perhaps, for the natural growth of a baby in the first few months. As a first-hand recipient of the rewards, I have now become a strong advocate of baby massages – when done correctly.

What were the rewards, you ask? Well, let me begin with the glowing skin of little G. When babies are born, they have skin that is so tender; it is scary to even touch them. Gradually the skin toughens up, but gets drier and needs moisturizing. Options range from various kinds of oils, to lotions and creams that are formulated specially for baby skin. 

But the best option is a pre bath massage - it has much more than healthy skin to contribute. A few months later, the massage had helped increase little G’s appetite. She seemed to be calmer after her afternoon massages and slept well. The massage was also our precious time with each other – a time when I would sing to her, and she would gaze into my eyes while making baby sounds. When she learnt how to smile, she would give me dazzling smiles every time I would talk to her during the massages. 

The style and frequency of little G’s massage changed a little when she started trying to crawl. My mother would now use slightly more pressure with a slight twisting motion, on her pudgy little legs and arms, since her muscles needed more nourishment now that she was ready to crawl. And sure enough, she was crawling almost as fast as I could run!The crawling soon progressed to running without any brakes, which was another reward of her massages (while her proud grandmother gave me a proud "I-told-you-so" look).

Along with these massages, another lesson I learnt in parenting is that natural foods are a far better option than any of the packaged ‘convenience’ foods that is aplenty in the market today. My little one was served pureed bananas, pureed apples and mashed potatoes as her first experience of food. She relished them, and much to my relief, her tiny stomach could easily digest the natural fibers in the foods. I thus learnt that while packaged baby foods are sometimes unavoidable (such as when traveling), clean, natural foods are the best.

Our ancestors knew the bounty of nature, and lived in harmony with it. Science and technology, while making life easier for all of us, have in some way, taken us away from all that was life-giving. Remember all the home remedies that our grannies subjected us to? Many of them were deeply studied and hence, scientific in nature (this, ofcourse is not true of blind superstitions – hence Authenticity must be the key here).

While my children were growing up, I had the good fortune of having my elder relatives a phone call away. Thus, much of their knowledge got transferred into my life as a new, nervous mother. Some things I had scoffed at earlier showed me instant results, forcing me to look at traditional knowledge with renewed respect. Some of them, I list here -


  • My mother would insist that a simple cough could be treated with of juice of fresh ginger and tulsi leaf, mixed with honey – safe and effective. No side effects, no worry of any chemical. This, according to me is what Ayurveda was all about - natural, no side effects, and effective. 
  •  There were some simple kitchen herbs that were an absolute essential in foods for little G – ajwain (carom seeds) in her paranthas and heeng (asafetida) in her dal – these helped in digestion 
  • As little G grew into a naughty preschooler, her mother (yup... that's me !) was subjected to long lectures (this time, by the doting grandfather) on the importance of traditionally used natural foods for mental and physical growth. Thus, little G snacked on almonds and raisins instead of chips and biscuits. No doubt, this food group contributed greatly to her ability to discover innovative ways of getting in and out of mischief :-)

Today, with our second baby, we are more confident as parents; but my husband and I are still learning, wide-eyed, the wonders that nature and traditional wisdom has in store for us. Our experience has taught us that used regularly, and with the right kind of researched natural ayurvedic products, nature has every solution to the nutrition and growth for her children. 

This is a post written for the "Traditional Knowledge, Natural Growth" contest by Dabur and Indiblogger

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Pure...Rare...Eternal - Is it Love?


This post is an entry to the Platinum Day of Love competition on Indiblogger...... 

True love …… Precious……. Eternal…… Rare, isn’t it?

But is it even possible to pinpoint a specific moment, or  a day when I first felt that unmistakable tug in my heart? One can only attempt to try and put together the pieces of an exquisite puzzle called Love.... so here goes.

Perhaps the first seeds were sown when I made a dramatic entry into your office? (A little preamble here: I had just stepped into your room full of executives, and had landed flat on my face, my folder and spectacles making a beeline for the presentation table – without me ofcourse.) 

You had walked right up to me, ignoring the smirks on the cold, professional faces, and had offered a hand to help while saying, "I hope you liked the flooring. Now do check out the conference table too." I took your firm, warm hand, and I knew you were one of those rare men who stepped up to help.

As rare perhaps, as the occurrence of platinum – the rarest metal on earth.

 

It was not love at first sight, was it? You and I, we were competitors pitted against each other at work, and even more so when it came to matters of the heart. Our paths crossed, sometimes accompanied by an explosion of emotions – not always in the good sense of the word.  Then when was it that I discovered you were precious?

 

As precious perhaps, as the exclusive and much coveted platinum.

 

 Maybe it was the time you helped restore my self-esteem? Let me remind you. We were on a ‘working’ lunch at a pricey restaurant. I had fought tooth and nail to pay for ‘my share’ of the food. You finally mumbled something about “Frustrating women” and relented. 

I fished around for my wallet in my purse, burgeoning with odd items, while you waited patiently. I am sure you saw the horrific expression on my face when I couldn’t find it. I assumed I had left it in the car, so I excused myself and ran to the car to hunt out that elusive wallet.

Nope! Lady Luck had decided to play traitor – the wallet was not in the car. Oh! The very thought of sheepishly asking you to pay, after having nearly clawed your eyes out to do otherwise! I came back into the restaurant and slipped into my seat, thinking of  a plan B. 

That’s when I saw my purse was still open, but with a small modification – there were a couple of crisp currency notes in it! And there you were, completely unassuming, engrossed in the newspaper. Our eyes met for only a fleeting moment – a precious moment when I almost lost myself to you.

We became friends; but more importantly, we became each others' strengths in dealing with everything – from mundane work, to exceptionally challenging personal problems. You were even part of my adventures with the ‘arranged’ marriage route that my family was trying to close around me!

But do you know when I felt the pure love that I bask in, even today? You loved me enough to let me go – only pure love can do that!

 

Nearly as pure, perhaps, as Platinum jewelry. (for you see, Platinum is the only precious metal that can be used at 95% purity in jewelry – even gold at 91.6% and silver at 92.5% purity need more alloys to create strength to make jewelry)


We had never spoken of matters of the heart; we were happy to be the most important people in each others' lives, but we were not in love – yet. Till that day I discovered that a fluttering heart and a stuttering tongue could mean so much…….

I had just been transferred - a career option that would let me grow; the only flip side to it being that it would take me to a different city – away from you. I came to your place to tell you the mixed news, not knowing what to expect from you. You listened with a smile, only your eyes giving away the disappointment of our imminent separation.

Finally with a hug smelling of aftershave and freshly washed linen, you said, “Congrats M! You’ll be great …. You will absolutely love Bangalore!” 

We quickly moved into the excitement of my relocation, the packing and the ticking off from the lists (you were always a ‘list’ man, remember? You had a list for everything!). And ever so quickly, it was time to board that difficult train journey; the journey that would take me closer to my dreams, and yet, further away from the man of my dreams. 

As you held my hands in the same firm, warm grip that was so dear to me, you told me that you would always be there for me. Eternal – that’s what our friendship was, you said. 

 

Much like platinum is, with its durability and resistance, making exquisite jewelry last a lifetime of wear, holding precious stones securely, reliably.


And when the train pulled out reluctantly out of the platform, my heart willed for one more precious moment with you, one more hug maybe. But Alas! The Railways had decided to outdo itself this one time - it was on time! 

The train gathered speed, as did the tears from my eyes. For I had realized much too late, that I was in love. And that I had just lost the chance to ask you if the feeling was mutual. My face to the window, but my eyes shut, I tried to freeze your smile, your touch and your scent in my memory – that, after all, was what eternal meant, right? 

After what seemed like a lifetime of keeping my senses closed to the world, I finally opened my eyes.

Yup! I was officially going insane, I had decided; for I could see you, sitting right there, in front of me, trying to keep an impassive face. You smiled again, and this time you had tears too.

“What are you doing?” I had almost screamed. “The train is going to Bangalore! You don’t have a ticket. The TT’s going to be here……..” And that’s when we kissed.

You didn’t have a ticket. But you did have a plastic wire (from the seal of a mineral water bottle cap) twisted into a ring. “I know you can be stubborn, immature and frustrating. But my heart seems to have trouble focusing on those things. I seem to remember only the elation, that wonderful feeling when you are around” you had said. 

“I have to get off at the next station. But we will make this work, M. This is just to let you know what you mean to me.” You said, slipping the bright blue plastic ring onto my finger. “Next time, it will not be plastic. I promise.”

Eternal……. It hardly seems fifteen years have already passed from that day. Geographical distances, mundane practical logic, and our stubbornness have all tried to create thunderstorms in our life.

But then, Husband, we are in love, aren’t we?  Rare….. Precious…… and yes, Eternal.  

Oh! And happy thirteenth wedding anniversary, G. This time lets move away from the plastic, shall we? Platinum, perhaps?


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Back!!!

Well folks....It's official now. I have diagnosed myself with a serious case of Writers' block (yes, I insist that I be called a writer.... so what if only two measly stories are out in print?).

Also add a dash of pessimism and ladles full of self-pity. Serve same garnished with generous helping of sarcasm, and voila!!! You have a blogger with no blog posts for months!!

And then that got me thinking.... wasn't blogging the very fruit of these symptoms? I mean, I started blogging because I had so much going on in my head that I possibly couldn't share it with any other sane person without running the risk of a cardiac arrest (mine, or theirs). And thus, my blog was created for me, by me and from me (wokay.... that last bit kinda sounds creepy to me too, but what the hell!)

Then somewhere down the line, I began getting recognition, a few of the crazy stuff I wrote actually got noticed and some stuff even found their way into the epitome of writing success - the PRINT *revered silence here*

I began writing, not what I wanted to write, but what I thought people wanted to read. That left me with the same problem I have with the non-blogging world - expectations! And me and Mr. Expectations go back a loooooong way.... we absolutely hate each other.

So for all my friends out there (the blogger world is very unique. I have indeed, friends, who I have not met, but I can relate to completely) ............. I am back! And this time, I'm here to stay. (this, as I try damn hard to keep my toothbrush stationary in my mouth and try to wish the "Working Mom" syndrome away! Sigh!!)

Goooooood Morning all!!