Posts from meotherwise.com
The Day Grandmother DiedPaati* died on a Friday. In the wee hours of a cold December morning in Bangalore, she breathed her last at the age of 97. As the first rays of the sun brought in the much needed warmth, we heaved a sigh of relief amidst the coldness of death. Now, don’t get me wrong here. I loved Paati, in fact all of us did. She was the back bone of the family. Yet, standing by the bedside that morning and looking at her still face, I was glad it was all over. It was a long drawn battle with Alzheimer’s. Days passed into weeks and weeks into years, until she was reduced to a mere frame. It was a painful sight. Unable to move she would have pipes to feed her and an attender who would take care of the body and its needs. Lying still on her bed, Paati slowly failed to recognize any one of us. But for some strange reason her life clung on to her body, refusing to let go. She was the kindest of souls in my life. I still remember my childhood days spent in her lovely little home in Chennai. The kitchen would be stocked up with the most yummy savories and sweets and every meal would be a surprise. She did belong to a generation that was far healthier. No wonder Paati outlived many family members who were younger than her. One person’s belief is absurdity to another Paati believed that there was more to life than eye can see. She would tell me tales of angels & demons, and that it is only good deeds that would land you a place in heaven. Stirring the demons inside would warrant a place in hell. She had once sat me down and expressed her deep down desire to leave the mortal world on “Vaikunta Ekadasi” day. An extremely auspicious days for Hindus, dedicated to Lord Vishnu, it is believed that dying on this day could liberate the soul from the cycle of birth and death. To me this seemed to be an absurd thought. I would spend hours arguing with her with all my scientific practicality that we humans are just a complex structure of energy blocks. The existence of hell & heaven and soul liberation is just religious folklore. During the days leading to her end, I would spend a great deal of time by her side holding her hand and staring at its great detail. The bulging nerves, the pale skin,the shriveled up palm and it’s hardened lines, it spoke volumes of who we actually are. That Friday morning as we sat preparing for her journey to the other side of life, my eyes casually fell on the Tamil calendar hanging by her bedside. It was Vaikunta Ekadasi day! Did the soul deliberately hang on? Was it paranormal or, just a mere co-incidence? I didn’t have an answer. But I heaved a bigger sigh of relief that her deepest desire of liberation from birth and death had been fulfilled. It didn’t matter any more if it sounded absurd. It just was her belief. How far do we need to go? Death begins when life ceases. And life ceases when we lose the ability to be an active part of our home, society and world; when we are robbed of our creativity and who we actually are. Paati had already died when she began her energy-sapping battle with Alzheimer’s. Just that her soul thought otherwise, and preferred to cling on to her body. Advancements in modern medicine present us with opportunities to live longer lives and fight life threatening diseases at a chronic stage for longer periods of time. But living too long with a declining state of health is worse than death in itself. Much as we all want our loved ones to live life for eternity- life that is just hanging on by a thin string is pain that only death can cure. A tear drop and a smile, life goes on It is said that the brain stays active for a few moments after that last breath. In those wee hours of morning, as Paati finally let go, a single tear drop fell from her eye. A faint smile froze on her face; it seemed she was at peace finally. Life sure did move on. Her rocking chair, the prayer beads and her memories became prized possessions. *Paati- Grandmother in Tamil| Featured Image : Pixabay Spread the love2  4      6Shares
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Lessons from a Tenth BirthdayMy first born turned ten over the weekend, which means it’s a decade since I’ve become a parent. Ten years ago I breathed through all my contractions and saw that tiny bundle of flesh in my hands for the first time. And as cliché as it may sound, at that moment, I remember making that promise like all parents that I’d try and be the best one. But it is only after a decade that I realize that there is no such thing as a “best” parent. So like all other occasions, celebrating her tenth birthday seemed important. For, one surely needs to create warm memories for the child to carry for a long time to come. As the day passed with celebrations, party poppers, games, squeals and return gifts, I found my mind traversing back across years to my childhood- to my very own tenth birthday. Wondering why? I unabashedly admit that I am a product of the eighties and nineties It is something I am proud of and cherish dearly. No wonder nostalgia picks me up quite easily. My tenth birthday was special, but not in a manner most would deem fit in today’s Instagram times. Until the morning of my tenth, there weren’t any discussions of an approaching one in the household. Growing up in a traditional “Tambrahm” home, the concept of birthdays and celebrations were way different from the rest. Birthdays were celebrated on the day one’s Nakshatram appeared as per the Tamil calendar month (the star appearing on the sky as per the traditional lunar calendar). In fact in all innocence, we kids in the household believed that each person had two birthdates to celebrate in a year- a Tamil and an English one. Getting back to my tenth birthday (as per the calendar date), after a considerable amount of nagging (which was termed as a stubborn fit by my parents), in the morning hours before school my father decides to get me a packet of toffees from the local baker. I had them stuffed into a blue round tin biscuit box that was otherwise used by my mother to store her sewing accessories. I was ready to distribute them to my friends at school, not in the prettiest of frocks, but in the regular school uniform. However, it just did not matter, for clutching that blue box tight at my heart; I was the happiest child that day. How I loved the horde of children who swarmed around me trying to lay their hands on an extra toffee or two. My day was made. There was a more elaborate celebration on the day my Nakshtram came up on the Tamil calendar, with a feast of paal payasam (rice kheer) and a visit to the nearby temple in the evening. A tenth birthday was celebrated. Looking back, I am convinced that my heart must have been content. No wonder, even after almost thirty years these thoughts are still fresh in my mind. Sans a fancy party, clothes or a pile of gifts, memories had been made. Life was that simple!!! Reflections as a parent As I reflected on these thoughts this weekend, I couldn’t help but question myself. Was I actually creating warm memories for my daughter? In my quest to shower her with warmth and love on her special day, why did everything suddenly seem so superficial to me? Unexpectedly, the answers to these I found on my own, while reading the copy of Geroge and Weedon Grossmith’s Diary of a Nobody. The book is a constant companion and has never failed to make me look at life’s little pomposities and inanities in a different light. There is no denying that growing up and parenting too, is not really the way it was years back. Somewhere between being a child of ten, to a parent of a ten year old, numerous changes have crept in and around the world I am part of. The best of pleasure in life is still derived from little things! However, the definition of simple things has changed now. And accepting this understanding is what we as parents must do. Life probably isn’t that complex after all. It is just us, trying to adapt to the vagaries of time! *Featured image source: Pixabay Spread the love10  9      19Shares
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Book Review: The Woman in The Window by AJ FinnI am drawn to psycho-thrillers, the likes of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. A recent book that had me hooked was The Woman in the Window by AJ Finn. A debut novel by the author, yet this book scores on almost all fronts. I loved the narration, the story, and most importantly the brilliance in the execution of the suspense. Anna Fox at the window Anna, psychologist by profession, lives alone. Ten months since she left home, and in a new neighborhood, her days are spent in loneliness, watching old movies, drinking wine, counseling patients through an online portal. She suffers from agoraphobia (the fear of open spaces), thus restricts herself to the four walls of her home. Her window to the world is the real window of her home. Every day Anna stands by the window, watching the world go by. She knows her neighbors-their daily routine, what they do and where they go. Soon the Russell’s move in across the street and Anna from the very beginning is drawn to them. It all seems so perfect, until the evening when she hears it- a scream that gives her the shiver down the spine. She sees it all, witnesses something that’s surely not to be seen. There are secrets she isn’t supposed to know… “You can hear someone’s secrets and their fears and their wants, but remember that these exist alongside other people’s secrets and fears, people living in the same room.”  From false clues, to false leads, the book traces a path that keeps you guessing. What is the real thing? Or has she been hallucinating? When all seems wrong, Anna Fox struggles to understand, trying to make things go right. Nothing short of a page turner There are twists and turns, and those moments when you are really sure, of the culprit. Yet, at the end of it you realize the story has an all-together differing offering for you. For a debut novel, I must say AJ Finn has delivered a fairly good read. The book does keep you hooked and, well, sort of addicted too, ‘cause you surely want to keep reading it till that last page. Give yourself a little time, and pick up this engaging novel; you wouldn’t regret it! It is immersive and would totally pull you into it. The book is available on Amazon in paperback and e-book format. Disclaimer: This blog post contains an affiliate link, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission, if you click through and make a purchase Related
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Are We Pushing Our Children Hard to Learn too Soon?Almost all parents love to compare the intellectual prowess of their child to other kids of the same age. I must admit, I have done this too, albeit mentally. Mornings at the bus stop waiting for the school bus, the discussion between moms, almost always drift towards the little achievements, skills and talents of their children.  As a silent spectator, I am often amused to find mothers speak of their child as if he/she is a budding Einstein. Not that I have anything against this, but when a child all of four years old is already being pushed to get ahead of the pack, something surely doesn’t seem right. When a young mother of an almost four year old made this announcement, “My son can count from 1 to 100 and has a vocabulary of almost 20 words”, another mom in the group, tried to explain to her that he had simply memorized them all, and it doesn’t equate her child being little Einstein. What ensued was an intense argument on what’s the best way to make a child learn. And that got me thinking. Are we pushing our children hard to learn too soon? What’s learning for a four year old? Are we expecting our children to be prodigies? Through evolution, from Stone Age to the present day, across organisms, it’s always the survival of the fittest. There is this struggle to get ahead of the pack. So it isn’t surprising to find us humans to be any different. No wonder you find YouTube flooded with videos of children reading, well before they are out of their diapers. Many parents push their little ones to attain academic milestones, even before the child may be ready for it. Is this really justified? Why is there such a hurry to ensure kids learn? Why do we push too much too soon? The most common explanation I am given for this, is the so called “window period” of exposure before the age of 5. It is believed, the more the exposure by this age, the better it is for the child’s intellect (I wonder if there is any research done to substantiate this logic). What’s the way to learn? There probably is no right answer to this question. I always have this fear that a parent’s over-enthusiasm, pushing the child to learn too soon, may produce anxiety and a lack of enthusiasm in the child, instead of bringing about a love for learning and intuitive thinking. Children are biological beings, with a complex brain and thinking capacity. Thus, it is vital to give them time to grow and develop their motor and cognitive skills. A chocolate cake doesn’t get baked in a jiffy. You need to patiently wait it out for those 30 to 40 minutes. Similarly, a child’s learning requires time and patience. And the rate of learning varies greatly amongst children. So one needs to be patient and, avoid comparisons of sorts. Learning isn’t a marathon… …At least not at pre-school level. It’s OK to read to the child. He doesn’t have to do it on his own, not at the age of four. Stories work wonders on the child’s imagination. Let him make his own, with pots, pans, or just about anything. Let him doodle away; surely a tree need not have to be the way we conceive it to be. Let him take the lead and express his interests. Encourage your child to explore, sans pressures, sans the need to achieve academic milestones. Muddy puddles, melting ice-cream cones, and wet paints on hands, that’s what his days are meant to have. *Featured Image: Pixabay Related
How many extra curricular activities is your child in?The park seemed to wear a dismal look. I couldn’t hear the sound of squealing children, nor did I spot a doting parent or a loving grandparent at the bench. Except for a child or so, this park in an upscale South Delhi Colony bore a deserted look. I found a comfortable spot, and as I sat, watching my two little girls do the monkey bars and climb up and down the slides a zillion times, a young mother I knew came by. It had been weeks since I had bumped into her or her seven year old daughter. On enquiring she told me how busy life was for her and her little girl. Coming to the park was out of question because the child was busy attending evening classes to learn swimming, tennis, gymnastics, karate, chess, drawing, Odishi dance and classical music. Yes, you read it all right. The child stays busy through the week including weekends! Gone are the days, when evenings are spent playing with neighbors and friends at the local park or kicking ball at an empty ground in the locality. In a metro such as Delhi, there are issues of sorts that push the child indoors after school. Space constraints, safety concerns, plus the busy lifestyle of parents are a few of the reasons. Not to forget the shrinking size of the family, with no companion whatsoever for the child at home, and the growing menace of hand held gadgets in our daily lives. Parents thus, find it easier, to pack a child’s day with structured activities of sorts, keeping them not only occupied (presumably productive) but also away from television and technology. Big cities today sport classes of every kind. From ballet, to piano, sketching to tennis, Bollywood dance classes to gymnastics, name it and you would find them around. Centres running these classes are open to young students on almost all days of the week. Such activities of music, dance, dramatics and sports surely do wonders to a child’s self-confidence. And when you give them a chance to learn them outside school, it’s also another opportunity to make new friends. Much as I acknowledge this fact and also admire parents who dedicate their evenings ricocheting between classes, I prefer not subjecting myself (and my child) to many activities. I must confess though, that this decision of mine has many a times made me feel inadequate. There is this constant Fear of Missing Out, as I see parents around ferrying children for various activities. Probably that’s what pushes many other parents too. But I constantly make an effort to remind myself that what best I can do is just equip my child with a bit of extra skills, to help raise his confidence. I cannot over-schedule his life, not yet. And that truly raises a valid question- How many is too many? Balance is the key Each child is different and, has his own pace to learn, develop interests and pursue passions. It pays to not push him beyond his comfort level and, allow him to discover interests on his own. Give him that blank space in his daily time table, to dream, breathe and explore the world around. Strike a balance- between free playtime and the exposure to learn something new. *Featured Image: Pixabay Spread the love28  11      39Shares
Gender Role Reversal in Today's TimesWhat’s gender role reversal all about? Is it when we get into the other gender’s skin? Or is there something more to it? This morning as I sipped my coffee, a news in the local daily caught my attention. *It was the reversal of a wedding practice, in Maner near Patna. Instead of the groom, it was the bride who took the baraat in a horse chariot, to the marriage venue where she was greeted with great pomp by the groom’s relatives. This reversal of roles was planned much before their wedding was finalized. And it got me thinking. Is this just a mere inter-change of a tradition? Or is it communicating something more- about gender roles reversal? Surely it was worth a scrutiny. Gender roles are predominantly rules laid down by past generations and carried forward, either in the name of tradition or culture. For generations together, with absolutely no anomaly whatsoever, men have been considered to be the best providers. To ensure the home functioned efficiently, the women were the caregivers. When decades back Smriti Irani took the small screen by storm, she was depicted as the epitome of how a woman must be. Beautiful, meticulous, a whiz in the kitchen, home and family, the sanskari bahu and the nurturing figure. More than a decade later, though soap operas have taken a modern avatar, the ambitious woman is still seen as the brash and aggressive bahu, in contrast to the demure sanskari one. Despite many brands coming out with more non-conventional themes for their advertisements, a major chunk still portrays women as the caretakers, instilling traditional gender roles in minds. Thus, it didn’t come as a surprise to me, when at a fine dining restaurant with my family; the bill was first presented to the man of the house. Is there anything wrong with this? On the surface, it may seem to be no big deal in continuing the age old system of gender roles. But if you scratch deeper, you would find that it isn’t actually so. A couple of generations back, men would hesitate to marry a woman with an aspiring career. Things have surely changed now, and both genders live similar lives. Both have career aspirations and seek equal opportunities. However, the equations seem to change once the child arrives into the picture. A large percentage of these once ambitious women, drop out of the work force or cut back considerably. Of course one may well argue that this is a personal choice, to be with the child in the formative years. But when one looks at the corporate world, there is continually a wide gap with regards to women in leadership roles. This is despite the growing break down of gender barriers. So what stops women from climbing up the corporate ladder? The answer to this may lie in the fact that most are loaded with domestic responsibilities, and are entrenched in patriarchal rules. Career advancements are thus pushed into the back seat, and embracing leadership roles become far-fetched. We seem to have a double sided issue at hand here. Where on one side, society’s rule book pins down the woman to the home front, on the other side, women themselves allow their aspirations to be crushed by the stereotypical gender roles. So does this mean the conventional gender roles must be shed in entirety? Well, it is not exactly that way. It is all about having the freedom of choice, for men as well as for women, to choose what suits their life and situation the best. Whether it is reversal or embracing traditional gender roles, or probably even a mix between the two, it should not be based on the biological aspect of one being a male or female, but the couple together must decide what would be suitable for them. Surely, roles are changing in recent times, albeit these are mere exceptions.  At the end of the day, we could preach and argue at stretch about the unfairness in gender roles and expectations. But we must bear in mind that cultures do not change overnight. Patience along with a progressive outlook should be the order of the day. *News Source: Deccan Herald 26-Feb-2018 Featured Image Source: Pixabay Related
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Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders- Winner of Man Booker 2017Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders is no easy read. It is a book where the voices of spirits serve as the narrator; leaving you perplexed at most times. No wonder, I took over a month to complete reading it. The narration shuttles between subtle humor and being intense. Thus the book can surely not be categorized as a breezy read. So is this book worth reading after all? Let’s get to the story first In 350 odd pages, “Lincoln in the Bardo” recounts happenings of a single day- 25th February 1862. It was the day, Willie Lincoln, son of Abraham Lincoln succumbs to Typhoid. In a cemetery in Washington DC, the young boy is laid to rest. Amidst cold stones of the graves and the eerie silence of the night, spirits of many others laid to rest in the very same cemetery rise. They rise to babble about life and death, about the state of society in times of the unpopular American civil war, under the governance of the then American President Abraham Lincoln. This cacophony of graveyard voices, describes situations of a small American community, living and struggling to overcome the difficulties inflicted in times of a civil war. The voices speak amongst each other. They meet, greet argue and discuss. Where some spirits such as the one of Hans Vollman lend an interesting tone to the conversation, a few other menacing ones drag conversations making you yawn a bit, well skip pages too. Let’s get to the title A Bardo is considered to be a transitional state between death and rebirth. Lincoln in the Bardo draws metaphoric connections to Willie and his father Abraham Lincoln. Willie is the Lincoln in the Bardo by virtue of having succumbed to death; Abraham Lincoln his father too is considered to be in a Bardo as, not only is he grieving his son’s death, he also needs to put up a brave front and lead the country through trying times. The Critical Acclaim Lincoln in the Bardo was critically acclaimed and also won the Man Booker Prize in 2017. This experimental fiction was also in the list of top ten 2017 novels on Time magazine. This was reason enough for me to pick this book up. However, it failed to leave an impact. The primary reason was that I found the super natural chattering tedious to read. Most portions seldom made much sense, and it took me a while to piece conversations together. The concept seemed weird and I felt there was a lack of a clear-cut plot. The book also seemed to be oddly punctuated, which added to my confusion. Lincoln in the Bardo wasn’t my kind of read. If your interest lies in American history, this experimental writing may appeal to you. *The book is available in paperback as well e-book format. Related
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