Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The lessons children teach us...

As parents, I am sure each of us strives to provide the best we can for our children...we want to take care of all their needs(emotional,physical,material) to the 'best' of our ability...that's  what drives most of our lives once a child is born...we want to feed them the 'healthiest' food  out there...dress them up in the 'trendiest' clothes out there...provide them with the 'best' of education ...provide them with the 'best' development opportunities...show them the world...expose them to the diversity and uniqueness of cultures, cuisines, people,life! We strive to do the 'best'  we can for our children, based on our life situation.

Of course, the definition of "best" and what we strive to provide our kids with, evolves and changes as we progress through life, as the economics associated with various life phases change and as our knowledge of the "best of the best" and it's relevance to our lives evolves. Having said that, I am sure each one of us also strives to make sure that our children have balanced lives...We want them to value what they have...emotional and material ...We want them to realize that they can't always get what they want...We want them to value the people in their lives...We want them to value and treasure all the good things that they are fortunate enough to be born with...without taking any of it for granted.

That's always a big parenting challenge...striving to provide the 'best' for your children, while teaching them to value what they have and teaching them to learn to live without a lot of the material objects of affection, if the need arises...material needs and objects, which are always good to have but not necessarily essential to live a happy life...and most importantly to consciously get them into the habit of giving back to causes and people in the world, in need.

Now coming back to the point of this post. Since Raya's birth, in an effort to provide what we feel is "healthy food" for our child, at home, we try to make sure that fruits, vegetables, dairy and meat products we get for her are "organic". "Organic food" is of course the buzz word doing the rounds of health and fitness fanatics. In fact some non-believers of the health benefits of organic food products, consider it just a fad. Certified organic products are relatively more expensive than non organic produce. For now, we want to and can afford organic produce , so we buy it. Tomorrow if we get to a situation where we can no longer afford to buy organic produce or choose not to, we will not buy it. Essentially for 'D' and 'I', buying "organic" food is not and  will never be a necessity . However what fascinated and scared me  was the fact that our little toddler has recently taken a fancy to the word "organic".

Yesterday when 'D' took her grocery shopping...she literally guided 'D' to the aisle where "organic" strawberries were available...that was obviously a source of amusement and laughter for folks shopping in the vicinity.. Then when I asked her yesterday, what fruit she wanted to have, Ms. Raya asked me, "Mama, do you have "organic" grapes?"...OMG!

Needless to say, I was taken aback...

I was amused and laughed out loud, while involuntarily cringing and wanting to cry...Is that possible at all? I guess it is because that's literally how I felt.

What amused me was her fascination with the word "organic" and the tone in which she used it...it can be pretty amusing hearing "organic grapes" from a toddler's mouth...what scared me was the fact that 'D' and I may have inadvertently and unconsciously made her feel that only "organic" food is what is good for her and what she should be having...that was absolutely not our intention...while we want to make sure she has "healthy" food, as we know it, and whenever possible...while we want her to be aware of what "organic" food may be...we definitely don't want to make that an absolute necessity in her life ...and we definitely don't want her to grow up into one of those kids/teenagers shouting out, "I eat only organic!"..."I don't eat anything 'non-organic'" ....Oh gosh, how I have laughed and rolled my eyes  at those "snooty" teenagers and adults alike...serves me right,  I guess, you would say!

My little toddler, with her fascination for the word "organic", in the strangest of ways, has reiterated an important parenting lesson..and that is, not to forget how important  it is to bring up a well balanced child...to strive to provide the best for your child, while making them realize that  nothing  is absolutely essential and necessary other than love, life and health!

Oh well...the lessons children teach us...for now, while I amuse myself with various 'toddler uses' of  the word "organic", work has already begun to rectify the associated parenting flaw and minimize long term impacts of this specific word fascination...so wish me luck!:)

Sunday morning toddler tech gyan...

(Facebook timeline post. January 25th, 2015)

I was trying to set up Skype for the usual Sunday morning session with Raya's grandparents. We seemed to be having some technical issues. I told Raya( who was sitting next to me, in front of the laptop, with the skype app open): "Raya, we seem to be having some issues, we may not be able to Skype with Ma/Koka today."

Raya looked at the laptop screen for a moment and then, in a tone that signified eons of tech wisdom :) , declared : "Mama , see ...the green light ...the green circle is not next to Ma's picture. She is not "at" online. Ask her to come "at" online.The dot com is not connected. The dot com is not connected. Connect the dot com!"

LOL...oh well, what 'dot com is not connected' was meant to mean is left to imagination, but it definitely helped to start Sunday morning with splits of laughter with this teeny weenie bit of refreshing toddler tech 'gyan'!!

Monday, January 5, 2015

The old...the new...and what is yet to be...

We just got back from a short, but rejuvenating vacation to India...two and a half weeks...family, friends, food, fun...3 cities(Bangalore, Guwahati, Kolkata) and my most favorite place in the world, the small picturesque town of Shillong, in Meghalaya,...all of them together providing a glimpse into the essence of India...the old...the new...the dream and vision of what is yet to be!

It was Raya's 2nd trip to India. As I sit here penning this down and look back at the last two and a half weeks, I am quite amazed at how easily she adapted to the change of scene. Other than loving the fact that she could take in the sights and scenes of the places, we were visiting, without being strapped and confined to a car seat, I think she was too  excited and immersed in basking in the love and affection showered by family and friends, to even realize the existence of the few things (the mosquitoes hovering around ready to pinch with stinging bites, the dusty roads, the bumper to bumper traffic etc) that would have irritated and agitated her to no end, had she been anywhere else in the world, where she was not surrounded by folks she loved.

We flew into Bangalore to visit my brother, 'Ash'. I absolutely love the vibes of that city, brimming with a relatively young, diverse, professional crowd where conversation flows, music heals and you generally feel alive. I don't know whether it was the effect of the intermittent skype sessions or just
the result of  a connection she immediately felt, but fortunately it didn't take Raya too long to bond with my brother, cousin and niece. So that felt good, given that we had just two days to spend in Bangalore with Ash. We also spent some time at this awesome venture and venue spun off by Ash and a couple of his friends, called 'The Warehouse'...a one stop entertainment venue for live music lovers, pub goers and dance fanatics, replete with live bands, a dance floor and a lovely lounge/bar. Brilliant vibes and atmosphere there. So definitely worth a visit when you are in Bangalore next. And of course, fingers crossed for my little brother! We also got a chance to spend some time with some of our dear friends from school and college. With them, we always have been able to start off exactly from where we left, and it always leaves me wondering how in the world does it always, always feel that we had never left!!  So that was awesome!

Guwahati was basically 'family and friends' time. Raya got to spend some quality time with her grandparents and the rest of the loving, extended family. Needless to say, she comes back royally pampered and spoilt! Oh well, that's quite alright I suppose, specially when I realize, we literally spent every day of our childhood, being pampered and spoilt by our grandparents in big ways and small. In addition to spending time with family, 'D' and I spent some wonderful time with a couple of our school friends. I always cherish these get togethers with old friends, with whom you can literally start off from where you had left off...re-living good times...reminiscing and laughing at the 'quirks' each one of us had and continue to have or have developed, over the years...or just getting immersed in nostalgia ...all this, without ever having to feel conscious, apologetic or arrogant about the 'good' and 'not so good' changes that life has brought on over the years! Good times and beautiful memories, for sure. Other than that, we hogged on delicious home cooked food, hung out at what remains of our favorite eat-outs, since school and college days...checked out some of the new 'hot and happening' entertainment/restaurant and retail/shopping venues in the city...just sat for hours in the terrace garden at my parents' home, re-living childhood memories...enjoying the beautiful view of the sun setting over the sprawling city, that was once my only 'home'...at times revelling, and at other times mourning the changes that Guwahati has seen in the name of development...

And then Shillong, the picturesque little hill station in the State of Meghalaya, the 'land of clouds'. In the past three and a half decades I have lived in different places/locations in the world at different points of time...11 years in Shillong, 7 years in Guwahati, 4 years in Trichy, 2 years in Bangalore, 1 year in Bruge and Eindhoven, 10 years and counting in the Washington, DC area. However whenever
someone asks me, where I have felt and feel most 'alive'...among all these places, if I were to pick just one and call it 'home', which one would it be?...invariably the answer is always Shillong. I can't pin-point what it is about this small town that makes me call it 'mine' and gives me this inherent sense of belonging, despite not being able to visit it as often as I would like to. But that's the way it just is!
Despite all the changes that concrete buildings and 'development', so to say, has brought to this small town, metaphorically called 'the Scotland of the east', Shillong is where I have always felt and feel the most alive! It was unfortunately a very short trip to Shillong, nevertheless I did manage to show Raya all the places that I tell her bed-time stories about...the home on the hill side, we lived in when I was her age, where I have some lovely memories of family gatherings replete with our albino alsatian, Raja...the schools I went to when I was her age and a bit older...the beautiful lake Umiam in Barapaani...feeding the fish at the Ward's lake...the undulating terrain...indo-Chinese food...and a lot, lot more, that only being in Shillong can make you see, believe and feel!

We just got to spend a day in Kolkata and the short stay was mostly about revelling in the blend of the old and new in the legendary Park Street...yellow ambassador cabs driving alongside the Audis and the Bimmers...the cigarette smoking Bong 'bhadralok' ...the most delicious road-side 'poochcas'(paani pooris)...dinner at Peter Cat and Trinca's, with live music...coffee and dessert in Flury's...mannequins adorned with  beautiful 'taat' saries...holiday lighting that gives you that 'only in Kolkata' feel...road side book stalls, that bait you with bootlegged copies of all the books you want to read and own...catching up with D's family...

While Raya did not shed tears at the airport in India and  bid good bye to her grandparents with  "See you soon" and "See you Saturday", when we entered home in Virginia yesterday evening, my little one literally cried herself to sleep. It was not one of her usual tantrums that stems from her agitation when we don't give her something 'material' she wants. It was a pleading wail to take her back to India...to her grandparents and extended family! She cried herself to sleep with repeated wails of "Let's go back to India, mama"..."I want to go to Ma and Koka"..."I want Ata"..."I want to go to Ma, Koka and Ash mamu"..."I want Ma/Koka to come here"..."I want Ata  to come here"...I really was at a loss and didn't know how to console her! Needless to say, I was relieved when she finally dozed off. I was however apprehensive about what the morning would bring. Raya woke up this morning, seemingly reconciled to the fact that we are back to the grind and to where we currently belong. It was almost as if, she was making an attempt to get back to her "Virginia" routine...she asked for her "usual" Nutella sandwich...wanted to brush her teeth a specific way...wanted "baba" and "mama" to do their usual morning chores in the specific order she was used to...it was almost as if she was trying to find sanity in the routine...it made me feel relieved and sad, at the same time:(

So yes, that was what constituted the last 2.5 weeks of December, 2014 for us, in India...bonding with family and friends...3 cities and 1 town...the old... the new...and dreams of what is yet to be and seen  by Raya's generation of kiddos!

Happy New Year folks!!Wishing everyone love, laughter, health and happiness this coming year!

Leaving you with these gorgeous pics of the sun setting over the sprawling city of Guwahati!