“Even a minute of pretension weighs tonnes on your conscience. It’s better to admit being below par than to pretend being superior”
“Even a minute of pretension weighs tonnes on your conscience. It’s better to admit being below par than to pretend being superior”
What could be more tormenting for an artist than a mind-block that is as stubborn as a pampered 3 year old? Days became months and months became many months, all I could squeeze out of my right brain were unconvincing excuses to convince the dying creative birdie in me. Bad times, really.
And then, there came to my rescue my pampered 3 year old for he is one client who generously allows me revert time of 30 seconds punctuated with non-stop tantrums. However, the creative liberty I get here cannot be compared even with my personal diary entries. I am allowed the world and the space above.
All he wants is a story, he can sleep with.
And then I would tell stories of flying fish and birds that can swim; of babies with tails and tail-less monkeys; of hairy hippos and slimy bears; of a story-loving boy and his story-telling mom.
The reward: big beautiful eyes dancing with excitement, a happy-hug and a good-night’s sleep.
Okay, I know. It’s not a parenting forum where I can get moist-eyed and rant on being mommy. And that’s really not the objective of this post. It is about a very common side-effect of creativity and a very uncommon solution to it. Where there’s creativity, there’s creative block. But what I found amazing was the way my bed-time stories kept my mind rust-free and fresh for the next professional day. After all it is no less challenging than churning out a creative campaign that’s supposed to adhere to a 50-paged brand guideline.
How dare I compare the regular, outright ordinary task of narrating stories to my son with something that helps me pay his school fee?
A. Deadline that’s half a minute away
Son: Ma, story. C’mon, tell me.
Me: Okay baba, let me think.
Son: Don’t think. Tell me a story.
So, according to my son, it doesn’t take thinking to come up with something worth listening. Thinking, as they say, is such a waste of time. May be he isn’t wrong. Even at work, your best shot could be the one that came out spontaneously. With every brush-up, you take it a level down. And with a time-frame of half a minute, there’s no scope for thinking left. Isn’t it?
B. The vocabulary allowed is a list of 500 words, max.
Now, you may have a history of making the CXOs of giant brands open up Merriam-Webster on their iPhones and using words and phrases like folie à deux and idée fixe in casual conversations to your credit and but hey, this job can make you run out of your sea of words. Watch out for that frown on your little one’s face. That’ll remind you the night you had to stay back to re-write the copy that didn’t adhere to the Bible called ‘brand guidelines’.
You might wanna repeat that sentence in a simpler language. C’est la vie!
C. Dare not try something stale
Repeating a story that falls within the memory span of your little imp is as big a crime as re-proposing last year’s brand campaign to your client and expecting an ovation.
‘Unique’ and ‘Innovative’ are the favorite words here as well.
I ended up telling two stories instead of one when I made that mistake. Phew!
D. Don’t bore
Wishing to educate and enlighten as you narrate a story is but natural for a mummy. But you need to be as smart as you are while hiding bits of beans and broccoli in his pizzas and cutlets. If the story goes too heavy on morals, you might have to pay with yet another one.
So never underestimate those few moments in the world of fantasies with your kid. There’s a lot to take-away from those little storytelling sessions that may come handy while you prepare yourself for your next client presentation.
For a cheat-sheet of Bedtime Stories, visit thestorytellingmom.wordpress.com
15 years ago
It was when I was pregnant with my first child when I playfully asked my husband, “we got married after dating for 9 years and our affair had started when we were in school. What if your child does the same?”
I had not mentioned if I am particularising about a son or a daughter.
But pat came the reply, “I would never let my daughter date anyone. I’ll kill that man who touches my daughter.”
I laughed and said, “How mean! And what if it’s a boy?”
He said, “You want me to give a virtuous reply? Or an honest one?”
I chose the latter.
“I would ask him to use condoms.”
It was a girl. Followed by a boy 3 years later.
My daughter was pampered by her father. I can guarantee that her father would actually not spare the guy who would as much as touch her.
All these years he could never say NO to her demands. But today I saw that very father trying to curb the most reasonable demand of hers. Freedom.
That night, a light-hearted discussion we had 15 years ago, popped up once again. Only this time, we had creases of worry on our foreheads.
“Tell her, she is 15 now. And there is a limit to what a girl can and should do beyond this age. Freedom, equal rights for a boy and a girl is all fine. But can we forgo our daughter’s honour and life for them? Once gone, can they come back? Or can these words bring you solace? No late night parties, no short dresses, no booze. And that’s final.”
Saying this, my husband threw today’s newspaper and the front page headlines seem to stress upon the urgency of taking that decision which until now seemed just outrageous to me. Today it looks inevitable.
New Delhi: Brutal gangrape and murder of a minor.
Me: Do you want to say I will let our son live his life the way he wants, and tell his sister to shut the hell up and stay inside?
Him: You can shut your son too if you want if it’s about setting an example of equality. But remember, only those who have something worth stealing, have to take the pains of keeping the house bolted shut. You can’t make the world change to good in a day, but you can lose all you have in minutes. I don’t have the guts to tell my daughter, Go, have fun, it’s your life, when I know there are barbaric wolves baring fangs to feast upon her at every corner. So it’s time you think of a stern solution before it’s too late.
Me: Is that a solution?
Him: That’s a resort. The last and the only resort. I can’t afford to lose my kids. Let them think me as their foe. That’s fine.
In a place like India where everyday, everywhere, everyone reminds you of the gender disadvantage (or advantage) you have, the hardest challenge is to raise a boy and a girl together without making them feel that one has an upper-hand in the society over the other.
I have always imparted my lessons to my children through stories. As they seem to absorb them well that way.
A story every night. A lesson every night.
But I guess, my labor of cooking up stories for them has increased now. Because from now on, the girl needs to be taught a different set of virtues. She needs to be taught where to draw a line and what horror she can face if she dares to cross that. But am afraid, she needs to take those morals raw. Without being accompanied with the humor and light-heartedness of a story. Because life for her is not as rosy and fantastic as bedtime stories.
Till now I had taught her how to make friends, how a smile can turn an enemy into an ally, how friendship can make life livable, lovable.
Now I’ll have to teach her how not to trust a friend, especially a male friend, especially after-hours, especially if he offers her a drink, especially when he asks her to drop her home after a late night party. Oh, but late night parties are now not meant for her.
Till now I had taught her that the whole world is a family.
Now I need to teach her how to identify a hostile/desperate touch even if that’s of a family member.
Till now I have taught her not to fight with her brother. Love him come what may.
Now I need to muster the courage of teaching her, that her own brother can show savage signs. Keep a watch.
Worse still, it can even be her father.
That’s the dilemma of raising a girl in a middle class family based in New Delhi, India.
How can I cook-up a story to make my daughter understand that even if her brother parties late, wears what he wants, does he what he likes, she is not entitled to do so, for her own good?
What could possibly be a plot for a story that teaches a girl that she is vulnerable at every step and every nook and corner of the very city she was born in and brought up?
That it is only because luck was by her side all these years that she was not abducted from the very road which took her to school?
That because of some good deeds of the past life, she has managed to escape the fate that hundreds of girls in this city encounter?
That anytime life can decide to show her the harshest, most painful part of a female life?
That a female life comes with a side-effect?
I have no clue, how am I going to tell all that to her. But I have no answer to the question a worried and withered father had just posed.
Can we forgo our daughter’s honour and life for phrases like Freedom, Equal rights for woman?
With every new kid born, a generation takes birth. Ask your mother, and she would agree that your son is smarter than you were at any given age, though she used to marvel at your antics (like blinking when she said BOO) and admitted that you are born ‘loaded with brains’.
My kids’ granny who also plays nanny to them throws her hands back in despair and declare- my sons had never made me do as much as raise my voice on them. They would play sitting at a place and I will find them sitting at the same place hours later.
That makes me wonder if there was an age when kids sat at the same place like an immobile rock. I guess, I am not envious.
My son and my niece are just two years apart in age. Both of them did their job of entertaining us and surprising us quite well. They still do.
But here’s an observation.
My niece when asked to sit on the couch quickly climbed the arm-rest and took her seat. Two years later, my son did the same. Only he went a bit further- stepped on the armrest and made his bums rest on the top of the back rest. Both were going to turn one at that stage. Recently, one of our acquaintances visited our place with their 11 months old daughter. Same couch, same place, same given scenario. The girl stepped up the arm rest, climbed the backrest and leaped onto the nearby table finally seating herself there.
Would it be wrong to say that every new generation raises the bar a bit? But are parents ready to match steps?
My life was like any other life
And so was my wife
So you know now
That I am going to talk about my married life.
Ha! Fooled you. No dear,
It’s neither about my life
Nor about my married life,
But about a day when I saw a change in my wife
Go, have fun! She said,
I know that’s unbelievable for you!
She also added, “Take her for dinner,
Coz I have booked a table for two”
Flabbergasted, yet pleased
I got ready for my date,
She asked me to hurry up,
Today, I shouldn’t be late.
Dressed in the finest of suits from my wardrobe,
I drove to pick my date at the other end of the town
I had called her and asked to wait for me
In my favourite crimson shaded gown
She had abided, she always had,
Even when she was brisk and lively.
Years later, she had still cared
Even though she couldn’t take a single step surely.
How lovely! I complimented
And mind you, I meant every word.
But I must say, she looked prettier
Than the words I had mustered
I took her by her arm,
For she was my lady
My first lady, literally.
I had plans to fine dine with her
Thought she would like it that ways,
But she wanted the evening
To be like those good old days
Those days, when she had to hold me
With her love and a cooked-up story
Lest I would run away,
Leaving the unfinished bread and curry
If a 5 year old me insisted
to sit on her cushiony lap
Like an infant, like a baby
She would put me to nap
Relishing those days of yore
We had so much fun with each other
What a date it was, what a time it was
When for the last time I was with my mother.
She looked blissfully beautiful even with those welled up eyes. Tears glazed the most magnetizing part of hers, her eyes. It must be blurring her vision, I am sure. But she’s not making efforts to wipe her eyes to see the blue waves hitting the shore and the sun taking a dip into the other end of the sea. Neither, am I making an effort to see all that. Because that would mean taking my eyes off her. I can’t afford doing that. I just can’t.
Her small nose became smaller when she sniffed to clear the air passage. Smaller, prettier. And then, I guess, it got blocked completely as she is now breathing with her mouth open. Can someone still be feast to someone’s eyes? I don’t know if I am crazy about her or she is a damsel on earth? I am fine with both.
I know I should not relish someone’s grief. More so, when the grief is equally mine too. If she has lost a decade long companion-ship, I have lost a soulmate for 3 decades. An extremely beautiful and impossibly adamant soulmate. I remember staring and relishing every bit of her sitting at a distance, just like it is today. Exactly the same place. I used to have a younger heart then. It knew the art of woo-ing. I don’t know if it still knows. Never tried on anyone other than her.
Today, the heart is beating with the same fervour. It’s no longer as young as it was last time. But it still goes bananas over that small, cute nose and those glistening eyes.
Like mother, like daughter.
I don’t know my affection to that 10 year old little lady sitting at ten hand distance from me is because she resembles the only love of my life or because she is my daughter. I don’t know. But I don’t want to know either. All I want is to grab her just the way I did her mother, to hold her pretty face just the way I did to her mother, to kiss her forehead just the way I did to her mother, and wipe off that ceaseless flow of water from her eyes just the way I did to her mother.
But alas, she seems as adamant to me as her mother.
I kept waiting for the day when she would forgive me for my only sin. I kept waiting for the moment when she would run back into my arms. Destiny’s sense of humour is sick. That day came but it was the last day of my beloved. After 10 years of patience and wait, all my arms could hold was a lifeless body.
I can’t let that damn droplet hamper my vision, now. No. I want to see my daughter to my eyes’ fill, to my heart’s fill.
If only she can run into my arms, like her mother used to.
I got promoted. And I wish to boast. So take it as a given, this post is going to be part-boast, part-flaunt.
Till now I was a mom. Now I am promoted to being a mom-of-a-pre-schooler.
‘I am elated’- would be an understatement when used to describe the current-state-of-mind.
My son is 2.5 and speaks like a 5 year old, understands like a 15 year old. He started speaking quite well at the age of 1, rapidly started grasping words and by the time he turned 2 his dictionary had included words that made our brows hit the roof. We were astonished. And annoyed.
So against the advices of people who believe a kid shouldn’t be sent to school before he turns 3.5, I sent him to a small playschool in our own apartment. My point was, if he is grown enough to express himself, answer back and pick up nasty stuff from television and people around him at the age of 2, he can very well use his energies and intelligence to learn something good. And since the school was just a few floors down, we had nothing to fear.
Within months, he could count till 30, know the alphabet well, recite hindi Swar and Vyanjan till the end and recognise almost 8 colours and basic shapes. I was proud. But a little scared. Because deep inside I feared if I am putting him under any kind of pressure.
Few months later, I started thinking seriously about his grooming in the foundation years. I am strongly of the opinion that every kid has to ‘start right’. Some research and few recommendations later, I zeroed down to a pre-school and activity centre called The Circle.
The school is not within walking distance from our home and we had to take the school transport. Again something that makes me cringe. Till now.
But seeing the thrill of a new bag, new friends and new school in his eyes makes me see the brighter side. The mornings are super-hectic. Making sure he gets a healthy filling breakfast and empties his bowels well in time, and then running to the pick-up point carrying him in the lap (while he screams, Mummy bhago mat, ap gir jaoge ) makes me imagine the scene that is going to be in a few years when he starts his nursery school. I shudder.
I apprehensively hand him to the teacher in charge of taking care of the kids in the bus. But the glee I see in his face when he excitedly waves me off puts me to ease.
At the end, I congratulate myself of accomplishing yet another morning only to realise that the day has just begun.