Tag Archives: children

Along Came Lucky

My daughter rushed into the room, “Amma! There is a kitten outside and it has been abandoned by its mother. It was hungry and we fed it some milk and Acha named it Lucky,” she said. It was 8 in the morning and I was still in bed contemplating another miserable day spent languishing on the couch. But my curiosity got the better of me and I got up and went downstairs. My daughter beamed proudly as she pointed to the kitten crouched behind some cardboard boxes. I hadn’t seen her this happy in a long time. I peered behind the box and two little grey eyes with a black and white face looked back at me and mewed pleadingly. Something melted deep inside of me and all my defenses came crumbling down. All my sadness stood meaningless in front of this poor helpless creature.

lucky

“Don’t worry, we’ll take care of you. We’ll feed you. We love you,” I found myself saying these words. I was offering the very comfort I was seeking and in that moment my life changed. If I could have named the kitten I would have gone with Joy because in a trice it had pulled me out of my sorrow.

Lucky was very wary of us on the first day, darting quickly behind the boxes whenever we made any quick movements or loud noises. The kids were relentless in attending to its needs. They made sure that it felt safe and it was fed. Now feeding Lucky was a challenge because both my husband and I had only had dogs for pets. Its diet on the first day was milk, curd rice and biscuits. When I went to sleep I prayed that Lucky would be around the next morning. The kitten had opened up a part of my heart that only pets can – by being vulnerable and by loving us unconditionally despite our flaws.

The next day Lucky seemed to be more at ease with the kids and allowed them to come close and touch it. It didn’t eat as much as it did on the first day. We replaced its coconut shell bowls with a plastic tray, now that Lucky was a part of our household. As we were playing with Lucky after dinner, a cat jumped onto the compound wall. My husband beamed the flash light in its direction and it slunk away into the dark. Could it be the mother cat? Will she whisk Lucky away in the dead of the night? Fears of losing him clouded our minds as we retired for the night. I prayed that he would be waiting for us in the morning.

My son gave Lucky an old ball to play with. In two days the frightened, helpless kitten had transformed into a sprightly fly-chasing fur ball! It let us stroke it and rub its belly. It ran to my son when he called his name and enjoyed playing with the kids. It tried to follow us inside but we decided to let Lucky be an outdoor cat. I remember how the neighbor’s cats used to steal fish from my grandma’s kitchen and I didn’t want any of that.

The kids had wanted a dog for a long time but life gave us a cat. In a moment of deep understanding I uttered these sage words, “We didn’t choose Lucky, Lucky chose us.”

Today we figured out ‘it’ is a male kitten. He showed up when we most needed it and it turned my focus outward. He touched my maternal chord. Triggered the flow of selfless love. If he wasn’t already named Lucky I’d probably have named it Miracle.

 

Who Stole my Childhood?

 

Running carefree with naked feet,

Reaching for mangoes up in the trees,

Endless summer days of fun,

Spent in the lap of the sun.

 

Hours spent in glee with friends both imaginary and real,

Board games, hopscotch, badminton and dolls,

Trips to the beach on moonlit nights,

And ice cream treats to beat the heat.

 

Walks in the evening with pleasant friends,

Vacation at grandma’s comes to an end,

Back to school and back to the grind,

Churning homework day and night.

 

Weekends come and weekends go,

But the churning never ceases,

Cooped up indoors under a light,

Write, write, write, write!

 

Then come the tests that are pointless,

And activities that are no fun,

Slowly they suck out the vital force,

Falling ill is no excuse, the homework must be done still.

 

Summers pass by without a trace,

Holiday homework takes its place,

No where to go and nothing to do,

But homework through and through.

 

Chugging along school and college,

Silencing the child inside,

Work, responsibility, commute, stress,

Replace school work and projects.

 

Working hard, working long,

Surely has taken its toll,

Popping pills and skimping on sleep,

Need to make sure you never skip a beat.

 

Bigger, bigger, better, better,

That’s the mantra of a go-getter,

Going where and getting what?

We all end up in a six-foot plot.

 

 

Lunch Dabba Debacle

No this is not yet another ode to Maggi noodles, so you can stop groaning. Maggi was in my black list for a while now after I heard about the wax coating on the noodles and that it is difficult to digest. Anyhow over the past several years I have been slowly weaning my family from processed foods, school lunches and fast food. But the backlash triggered by the whole Maggi episode removed an entire food group from my weekly menu – pasta. It cooks in 10 minutes and can be dressed in various sauces to make a quick lunch. With pasta gone and bread largely a breakfast item (in India!) my options kept dwindling. One day I packed some left-over chapattis from dinner with some scrambled eggs for my kids. In the evening the kids announced that the school had a strict vegetarian policy. No meat, poultry, fish or eggs. I mentally scratched out egg fried rice, parathas with eggs and egg salad sandwiches from my lunch dabba list.

Back in the U.S. I had to keep aromatic curries out of the lunch dabba, to spare the sensitive olfactory senses of kids of non-Indian origin. Occasionally, rajma (kidney beans) rice, lemon rice, semiya or idli made it to the lunch box. Naan pizza and grilled cheese sandwiches were easy to whip up in the morning. Sometimes dosa with jam or peanut butter was a quick option.

Now with limited options, I rolled back to my school days. The taste of fried rice, parathas, salad, lemon rice, tomato and cheese sandwiches flooded my brain. How my mom and grandma whipped up all those delicious lunches in such a short time is beyond me. I’m up by 5.30 a.m. and just about manage to pack lunch and get breakfast ready for the kids. It’s funny because I did almost the same thing in the U.S. and yet it never took me this long. Does time go by faster in India? I think so!

For now it is lemon rice, tomato rice, idli, semiya or chapatti with potatoes for the kids. They don’t seem to mind as long as they have something to eat. So I’m trying to stop obsessing about my lack of options. Hopefully, I’ll come up with more options as time goes by and I have a better understanding of how things roll in India.

A dear friend of mine in the U.S. said the other day – If you need anything from here let me know and I will send it across. I told her that we get everything here and that I don’t need anything. Maybe I should ask her to send me a year’s supply of pasta and peanut butter. That way the kids won’t miss out on their weekly Italian lunch and you know how peanut butter goes with everything!

Sometimes I fantasize about having a cook and completely escaping the kitchen which is hotter than hell in the summer. I love to cook, but the heat makes you want to take cool showers, laze around under the fan or eat ice cream and take siestas. I get to do all of those things occasionally (except for the showers which happen twice a day) so I shouldn’t be complaining. Wonder if cooks show up at 5 a.m. to pack lunch dabbas…maybe not.

Food-wise I never dreamed I would miss anything in India. There’s so much variety out here, that it could take a lifetime to explore the different cuisines. And yet I miss things like pasta, something I really never cared for in the U.S. because we had it almost every week. Or is it just human nature to always look for the one thing that is missing and crib about it despite myriad other options. I don’t know about human nature but that pretty much sums up me!

What do you pack for lunch for your kids or for yourself if you work and don’t have a cook? Do share…

The Forgotten Art of Simplicity

I remember a time when I hated sitting around doing nothing. My days had to be packed with things to do, places to go, people to meet or I felt like I would go crazy. And somewhere along the way I had to make peace with having too much time and too little to do. I think it happened because I left the craziness of India for the eerie quiet of an American town. Uprooted from everything familiar, I had no one to meet and not much to do as I waited for my husband to come back home from work. I slept the hot afternoons away and watched mindless TV. I imagined that my brain was slowly turning into mush. Then came motherhood with its flurry of activity. I went from super bored to super busy. My brain benefitted from the constant repetition of nursery rhymes and games.

I stayed home and took care of my kids. I did not attempt to juggle a job, kids and the home. Many thought I was incapable, dumb, just a housewife and even felt sorry for my kids who had to stay home all day with boring mama instead of getting structured instruction from a group of teachers and learning social skills which can only be taught in schools! Anyways, long story short, one day I woke up and realized doing too much is not the answer to a fulfilling life. I always had time for the kids, time to cook a delicious meal, time to chat with friends on the phone. Time to care about stuff other than deadlines, meetings, shopping, athletics and social events. Simple is how I like it and I can’t for the life of me understand why people have to do a hundred things at once and then get all stressed out. Everyone wants to squeeze as much as they can from every single minute, every single day.

Even kids have to do extracurricular activities everyday of the week so they don’t end up watching TV or playing videogames all day. My kids do stuff outside of school but I only do stuff they like and enjoy and I keep it to one or two activities. More than that and I feel like I’m spending most of my time at practices or in the car driving them to performances and games.

Around the holidays you can just feel it in the air, the hustle, the bustle, the need to get things done, to follow traditions even if you don’t feel like it. It is so much pressure to cook, decorate, buy the best gifts and entertain that many miss the joy of the season – family, togetherness, love and giving from a full heart. Most holidays started off simple but over the years we have added so many layers of fluff to it. Underneath all the fluff is the real reason to celebrate and we each have to get to the bottom of it.

Simplifying my life meant changing my career goals, working from home so I can be there when the kids get home or doing part-time jobs. My priorities made it easy for me to choose what was important for me. My husband simplified his life by avoiding commute and working from home. My friend got her mom to come help her out as she transitioned from a full-time mom to a consultant.

Simplify your life, simplify everything you do. Being is more important than doing. So be there for your loved ones this holiday season. Spend quality time with them. Say no to events you really don’t care much about but feel obliged to go to. The end of the year is a good time to review your life and see what works and what doesn’t and pruning and simplifying things so you start off the new year refreshed and happy. Let your mantra be less is more and invite peace and stillness instead of activity and busyness into your life.

A Ray of Hope for Racial Tensions

Ferguson. The very word conjures up images of racial discrimination, violence and segregation. Images of black and white. Cops and innocents. Right and wrong. How about Los Angeles some 1800 miles to the west of Ferguson? Same story. Different names but the same drama unfolded in LA. Incidents between police officers and the public have blown out of proportion in the past. The black community does not trust the police and they are looked upon as the ‘bad guys’. Much like in the game – Grand Theft Auto.

Now what this adds up to, is a community plagued by gangs, drugs and sky-high homicide rates. Do the homicides cases get solved? No. The people refuse to co-operate with the police even if they know the truth, leaving the killer at large, smug with the knowledge that the cops can never get to him.

At some point the police force in Watts, LA decided enough is enough and came up with a unique plan to regain the trust of this community. They started a youth football team coached by LA police officers. Now don’t even for a second think that all the parents lined up to register their kids for the team. The officers had to go door to door asking if they would allow their kids to join the team. Many turned down the offer. Some reluctantly agreed but refused to leave the kids alone with the officers. Painstakingly and one by one, the parents slowly began to open up to the officers. They no longer demonized them, ignored them or stared daggers at them. Now the Watts Bears accepts players between the ages of 9 and 11. The program is free, the kids get a uniform and they are picked up in a police van. The boys have to get good grades and model good behavior at school. Using sports to reinforce good character traits and having contact with a good role model keeps this boys out of gangs. Most of the boys do not have fathers and this negatively impacts their ability to become responsible citizens.

One of the officers reminisces about finding an abandoned baby in a parking lot on a rainy night. He rescued the baby and put him up for adoption. A decade later he is coaching the very same boy who just happened to join the Watts Bears football team. Three years later the homicide rates have dropped in this neighborhood. Citizens are co-operating with the cops to solve crimes. Kids from rival gangs actually play on the same team – something that was impossible in the past.

The officers who support this program are a couple – one a black woman who grew up in Watts and the other a white man who started his career as a cop in the same neighborhood. So police cameras, guns and protests did not resolve the situation here. Interaction between the cops and community – not just when violence erupts but in a more stable environment to slowly build trust and co-operation, until both sides could see beyond the differences and see how human they were.

If this can happen in LA, the very place that was burning with fires of racial hatred and dissension in the 90s, then this can happen in Ferguson as well. We are a ‘Race of Hope’ – for every 10 people who breed hate and terror there is one person shining the light of love and compassion to bridge gulfs of separation and differences. And the number is growing and growing. I believe that one day we will look at a person and not see the color of their skin but the light of their soul in their eyes and know deep in our hearts that we are one.