In every class that I conduct, I repeat the phrase ad infinitum, ‘ Nurture your passion’ and go on to tell my students that if they are great dancers, or mediocre dancers but have a liking for the art, they should spend time pursuing it. If you are singer, choreographer, designer, a rangoli expert or a web designer, do it again and again, and remember that like a plant that you nurture, in your good times and especially your bad times in life, this tree will present you many fruits of uninhibited joy. It will give you strength when the ground feels shaky and you are looking for succor. Because we all need to be like rivers.
You see, no river is sustained by a single rivulet or stream, we all need multiple inlets of joy in our lives. So when you love, love your lover but love yourself and find other people, places and hobbies to pursue with love. When you work, work with all your heart, but don’t do it like a blind obsession, along with your work practice your art, pursue your hobby, grow your network , if nothing, at least go for daily walks and spend time with nature. Look often at the limitless sky and wonder of what it holds…dream…keep up the dreams.
Some of us tend to do the error of being of single-minded focus on a role either professionally or personally and forget everything else. Then of course, slightest disappointments are harsh or life -threatening because this role has been your lifeline.
Should it be so, really? Is the role of a mother, sister, wife, manager, teacher so life consuming that you find it necessary to cut yourself of all joys of existence of which this role is but one of the many facets. How narrow minded can we be? How blind to the many joys of living?
It happened to me that post marriage I was not allowed to connect to my cousins or friends with whom I shared a beautiful bond. When this was followed by years of my only brother’s illness and his passing away, I was left with no one to even turn to in my life. Those were tough times. When my ex decided to quit his job, and the added responsibility of running the home fell on my shoulders, I became what I call in malayalam an ‘otta buddhi’, a woman of single minded focus on financial sustenance, emotional support to my parents and daughter and fighting for my sanity, which was the only thing I focused on. During these trying years, actually before events took a more serious and dramatic turn, a dear friend advised, ‘write’ and I took it up, because I always wanted to be a writer but also because I knew it would help me heal. And it did.
During the most trying times in life, I could put up a poem and feel a bit relaxed because there was no other let out that was accessible to me besides spending time with my chirpy kid. Yes, the occupation of teaching is a healer too, as it gives you as much as you give. So I held on to my core and stood strong despite the winds of adversity that kept testing me. Many years later I discovered a happy company of like minded speakers in Toastmasters International whose camaraderie and constant cheering lent me much courage and strength. Besides, I had also discovered the magic of expressing gratitude which the universe was kind enough to acknowledge every time.
So, I came out of a very manipulative and trying relationship with a smile intact and a heart devoid of hurt and rancor, well almost and still continue to work on my inner self.
But the point is the significance of a hobby, a passion , a cause close to your heart, which you should nurture at any cost. The value of this is intangible but life saving more than any other form of vaccine you might want to take.
I write this today as I see so many of my friends who go through this stage of going through an utter sense of loss or despair when things do not go as expected.
Life never promised to follow a google map, either. All life does is to take you on a journey of life experiences which can range anywhere from good to bad , knowing that then we should all work on our sense of joy, our anchor which will help us withstand the winds of change.
My suggestion then, do not be an ‘otta budhi’, go pursue your passion, many passions in fact and breathe easy as you go about living your life.
If you are a parent, don’t dissuade your child from pursuing his interests. You never know when and how it will aid him, professionally or personally.
Besides, that is perhaps the only activity he looks forward to doing and derives joy, satisfaction and a sense of individuality, so let it be.
Dancing engineers do make better humans and better bridges too!
It is a big joke back home that if you leave anything around for longer than an hour, my mom would either have cleaned and spruced it up or just given it off or sometimes discarded it.
Often have me and my daughter left a few pieces of clothing at her home, thinking it would be useful in the next summer visit or something and find to our shock that it is not there. Ask my mother and she would shrug her shoulders and say, ‘that lady you know has a kid of your age, so I gave it to her’. Good, I manage to muster while my daughter fumes in silence.
But her ability to get rid of unwanted items from home, makes our living space lighter and breezier as if the air can enter into small nooks and spaces and breathe.
Sometime in 2020 when I moved into my fifth room in a period of 10 years, I had managed to achieve some of that. What helped was my ex-husband’s thoughtfulness in visiting and carrying off all his hoarded stuff including his car. When we moved into our new home, we were surprised to feel it so much more lighter, happier and breezier that we decided to play some music and dance round to fill up the spaces.
So, except for my wardrobe which is somewhat bulging and the book shelf, there is really nothing much around in the house. it looks bare and is bare except for a few pieces of furniture, which I have a good mind to get rid off soon.
Saturdays are generally said to be a good day to move out unessential items, but freeing the mind space of unwanted thought loops was another simple, yet extremely useful technique I picked up from Being Supernatural, by Dr. Joe Dispenza that has lightened my living and my being.
We often hear of the need to ‘watch our thoughts’, yes, but how, was a question that I asked and found an answer to recently. So, here it is:
*Write down your thoughts over a day’s time
*Read them out to yourself
*Find out how far in the past these thoughts are rooted in
*Ask what have they done to you
*Ask are they of any value
*Ask is there something you want to do with any of those
*If the answer is no, call them out
*Next time the thought enters your mind, ‘oh poor me, ‘it’s always me’, ‘why’?
*Be rational and ask the thought to be changed.
*Primarily ask yourself, is this relevant now?, is that really the truth or are you just being dramatic?, I mean, you are still alive and breathing….
*Will you be lighter if you instead listen to a song?, yes of course, then go on and do just that. The thought has already disappeared and you are happier, lighter and breezier….
Which of us don’t fear? Don’t waver? Lose interest and want to run away. All of us do, again and again and then what is that will take us to a feeling of achievement, sense of inner calm and sense of joy in being who we are?
I am no guru, yet, life in her inscrutable ways has taken me to paths, twists and turns, I would not have ventured on my own. Bewildering me, breaking me into tears and gathering me in her arms, showing me hope and a reason to smile that I learned to live and be happy about who I am.
I look back and I see how life journey has moved me from one turn to another, (yes, even the life of an average Indian woman can be dramatic sometimes, ) posing challenging questions to me, egging me out of my comfort zone, and asking me to march ahead. I have felt lonely at times, many times, yet today as I see it, I know I have done justice to roles I took, causes I believed in , to people who leaned on me and have been able to leave behind the bitterness and embrace life with a smile.
I must have been in my 12 th standard when I heard one of my aunts disparage her partner with hurtful words, which in turn reflected her own feeling of misery and pain, I remember thinking I will never want to be a grumpy old woman, never.
But what brings the sense of calm to me today, is my learning to live in the now, constantly re-orient myself to the present moment, ask myself, what are you thankful for now, today? Having asked that question, a sense of immediate relaxation enters my mind and I regain my calmness and smile.
So, I decided that it is just role to simply do the best I can in every situation,, what my daughter calls a ‘breakthrough performance‘ every time in the various roles that I take up, well, try to do that at the least.
As I detach myself from my past and worries about future, I have noticed that there is no rancor in me, no agony, though sometimes, deep pain overwhelms me and I let it pass, because I ask myself, what is that you are feeling now, allow it to happen, you can cry, feel angry and feel happy at different times, it is ok then regain the composure that I am so loving these days.
LifeI have decided is a process that allows you to experience and allow your soul to blossom to be its true self.
Yes, this new found courage to affirm my positivity has found me new friends, and hopefully new experiences .
Today, as I seek experiences, even new friends, maybe, I realize that I don’t seek anything make me happy but only to add to my already existent and thriving source of inner happiness,
The title is strong and perhaps skewed but that does not hide the fact that parenting is and often becomes a ‘power play’. A space for smart deals, ‘I did this for you, now you do this for me’.
‘How much have I sacrificed for you, can’t you do this much for me’?
Years of popular culture of idolizing the parent has made the lives of many young people miserable, that of course includes parents, who were themselves miserable living for other dreams and not having space to think or plan their life on their own.
Now the parent, being in a position of the provider tries to extract maximum benefit to satisfy his needs some times material, emotional, social or otherwise and cleverly packages his/her aspirations as a target to be achieved to the child.
Ok, so I have also been guilty of the same and have been tempted to go down the lane far too often.
One day though, in all my right senses , I told my daughter, ‘Child, sometime in future, maybe, your mom may become so needy, so dependent on you or just seek your attention so much as to dare to emotionally black mail you, then my love, you will stand only by what you feel and go with your intuition or your reasoning. You will not allow any of my manipulations to have a say in your decision ‘ and heaved a sigh, a long one at that. It was not easy to do that but I knew this was important. If there is one thing that teaching has taught me, it is to respect the young and trust their wisdom, worldly and otherwise.
I had not thought much about this until I read the Khalil Gibran poem,
And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, Speak to us of Children. And he said: Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts, For they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls, For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams. You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday. You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth. The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far. Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness; For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.
I was shocked at the truth in these lines. And remembered how ancient wisdom prevailed on the need to treat an adult son or daughter as just that, another adult, who has an independent mind and soul and dream of his/her own.
Some among us parents, consider child- upbringing a ritual of grand sacrifices and responsibility, yes, it is but we need to ask ourselves, ‘was it not our choice to do so?’
‘Did we as parents do what we did for our children out of love and because it gave us joy in doing so?’
‘Did we not derive pride and joy in thus showcasing our children to the world?’
‘Was the joy only theirs? Really!!!?????
If we think this over, and find that the reason why we lavished love/ materials/ attention on our kids was also because, we wanted to , sometimes even more than what the child would have wanted, then it becomes crystal clear that, if the process was enjoyable, what is the point of taking a ‘grand stand’ of nobility, unlimited sacrifice etc?
The numerous videos that flood the social media of the supreme sacrifice or sense of duty every animal possesses towards the upbringing of its off spring should tell each one of us parent, is somehow genetically tuned to protect his/her offspring for reasons beyond our control, yes, there are exceptions, but aren’t they far too less to the majority of us who would give our right hand to do justice to our children!
Read on to know what the famous Tamil poet, Thiruvallvur said in his famous poem penned a good 5000 years ago on the subject of parenting….
In his ever relevant poem called Thirukkural, a lesson in life skills, written a good 5000 years ago, the Tamil poet gives the following commandments to each parent.
*If your children lie to you often, it is because you over-react too harshly to their inappropriate behaviour.* 2. *If your children are not taught to confide in you about their mistakes, you’ve lost them.* 3. *If your children had poor self-esteem, it is because you advice them more than you encourage them.* 4. *If your children do not stand up for themselves, it is because from a young age you have disciplined them regularly in public.*……read more at
Yes, we are all but humans, but it would do us good to ask ourselves as conscientious parents, am I in the right, when I ask/ advice this to my child?
Parental hegemony has and will continue to create unhappy adults who never got a chance to do what their heart called for, live with who their love chose to be with, or just be happy individuals in general.
As I talk to quite a few 18 year olds, they all seem to have decided that ‘making their parents proud’ is all that want to do or even, ‘fulfilling their dreams ‘. Yes, the parent has every right to give suggestions about career and other life choices, but just leave it to the child to decide what he/she wants to do.
Reading between the lines one can also clearly understand the enormous pressure of living up to someone’s dream that the child is facing already. Sometimes this leads to unhappiness, confusion and a general feeling of unworthiness, which can be detrimental to their happy state of mind, even many years later.
Do we really want our children to carry the baggage of our unfulfilled dreams or do we have the confidence to tell that that ‘fly you may, love you may, explore you may, just know that I am here for you!’.
Anu looked at herself and crumpled into tears, surge of sorrow mixed with joy that tumbled down from her core.
The words that washed over her soul like pure manna from heaven, that kindled her dreams afresh and somehow restored the faith that ‘all is well’.
‘Amma, said Anu has never ever spoken like this to me. Her words now are full of conviction, a belief, a pride and a sense of assurance for her daughter. ‘
This is new, so new to her,said Anu that a lifetime of longing is now being answered.
‘No one ever said that to me before’, said Anu breaking into tears again.
‘All those years, among friends, in family, I have longed to hear it. Sometimes, in desperation I reached out knocking a few doors.
It created in me a fierce self defence, a strong need to stand up and fight and move on and not spare time to grieve, never.
It strengthened me as much as it pained and one learns to live with it.’
Then comes her words, a symbol of her own self acceptance and her confidence which verbalized into a loud and clear, ‘I am therefore you, girl’ and it brought back spring into my life, added Anu.
The power of this statement can never be underestimated, Say it again and again to those around you, your children, your partner, your parents, the cause you believe in , your students, tell them, ‘No matter what, I am therefore you’ and watch how miracles unfold.
When you want to dive deep, you need the springboard to propel you, to cushion you and that is what these words do to the listener, so go on, hold your close ones and tell them again and again, ‘I am therefore you, no matter what’.
Anu loves to say this to her son, whom she eggs to dream big and fly high, explore life in every which way, telling him constantly, ‘Come what may, I am therefore you. Go try, fail, get up, move on and whenever you want come back to me, Coz I am therefore you’.
Being a fierce warrior herself, Anu knows that there is nothing she will not do for her son, anytime, anywhere, how many times over.
Go on, and spell it loud and clear, ‘I believe in you, I am there for you, come what may’.
To go back to studying when you are a full blown adult is not an easy choice. Yes, you take pride in having done justice to your parenting responsibilities, but you already are in that loop of EMIs and various other billing activities which tie you down, a caesura at this point is akin to harakiri, or so you think, or fear.
Then comes a mother’s heart calling out to you and saying, ‘ fear not child, do what you want for once, just do it’, and she laughs away all the fears saying ,’what are we here for?’
And a father who chips in,’ it’s not impossible, we are there for you.’
It is terrifying to think of the instability it brings, the staying away from work, even for a short time, the insecurities for someone who has prided on financial independence, yet, a promise looms and a hope and a cause calls, the call is persistent, deep, insistent, relentless and you cannot look away.
Then comes a message, a talk and an assurance, from someone I taught a good 2 decades ago, ‘I want to help you in your studies, just let me know’, it is just a word of promise but it lifts the spirits immediately, as if the universe answered a call, and calmed a fear, and smiled away a tear.
Years ago, I quit school teaching to move to the corporate, in need of a gainful employment, to pay the bills of course, again I remember how one of students asked, ‘What made you quit teaching? You would not have done that. You see, I am a corporate lawyer now. I can help you. Let me know what you need’. The words at that time brought tears to my eyes. I had expected such support from those in my immediate vicinity but there it came from a student again, who had just started his career.
I think of how the universe is assuaging my fears and holding out a hand, egging me on to a journey, whose turns I am not yet able to see.
Yet, it is true that there have been new opportunities and meeting with people who value my abilities in a slow, subtle manner that seems to be changing my universe in some ways, perhaps, a new horizon shines, a new friend or two waits, a new journey begins…
For the Ullysses in me, who wants to go looking after a sinking star, what could be better?
I now feel it won’t be difficult to find a school for Sunil to study, a place to work and learn for Chanamma, a place for me to grow as a writer and a student and to contribute to a cause so close to my heart…. perhaps that is what it is…..a place from where I can reach out and say to those I love and those who love me, here I am for you always…. I have everything to help you…ha, life… what learnings, what lessons!!!
Ok, so I grew up wearing the red dot on my forehead. It was something I wore ever since I was born. Until perhaps I was three it was a black dot, made of kajal that amma positioned on my forehead. When I started school, it was red mostly, but while I was at NSM Public School, Vijayawada where the Saturday uniform was white, amma would pound the white kernel of the ‘nalu mani poovu’ or ‘Mirabilis jalapa’ to apply a white bindi on my forehead.
Sundays would make the forehead a busy place with chandan or sandal wood lining plus the usual bindi competing for space on my rather spacious forehead.
At the temple though, we would all fight to get the cream sandal wood paste from the plantain leaf, plus the red sandal wood paste which while at college, I thought looked better on me!
Now that was at the famed Vadakkanthara Devi Temple in Palakkad, which amma again insisted that we visit daily. So we did, myself and my brother, along with father on a daily basis. My attraction being the red sandalwood paste which I loved. I did I guess take some pride in being the typical village belle, perhaps inspired by the movie glam dolls of the time.
In those years until perhaps the late 1990s the bindi I wore was of liquid material, with which you could paint a circle or draw something fancy as some of my truly ingenuous friends did, drawing elaborate patterns on their beautiful foreheads. Some time later the plastic, ‘stick on bindis’ hit the market and soon, we were all sporting these colourful sticker bindis on our foreheads.
The bindi or the dot on my forehead did get bigger over the years when I thought that a bigger bindi gave me an air of authority, and some times to add to the general air of sternness that I wanted to reflect, I even tied up my hair in a neat bun.
All in my effort to impose discipline in the classroom and stand up to the team as the leader, or so I thought!!!
The past year since I started reading more and more on environment I have been unable to put on the sticker bindis which otherwise I would stock up for various occasions in vibrant colours.
The reason being that these are non recyclable. Imagine the numerous bindis that lay piled up invisible to our eyes or oblivious to our notice.
Imagine what it must do to the plants and animals, to earth in general?
The thought itself was a shocker to me that I went around almost for 5-6 months without the sticker bindi trying to figure out if the old paste or liquid bindis were still available.
I did find some, but having got used to the stick and throw business, I found it difficult to use them. But then today I chanced upon in a shop the dear old multi colour liquid bindi in a new rectangular box and my joy was irrepressible. Imagine the joy of being able to continue with a practice of childhood but not having to feel guilty about it.
I wish the times of Kalidasa’s Shakunthalam where the girls made all possible hues to adorn themselves from the various flowers, fruits and leaves found in the famed Kanva Ashram returned. Till then, perhaps this is the way out!!!
It really is high time that all of us to took a moment or two to introspect the impact of our actions on the planet, because we know for sure today that our carelessness has cost us much.
We can all be better conscious customers who evaluate our decisions on a scale of environmental impact, whether it is while buying a bindi, carrying a shopping bag, practicing minimalism, choosing to recycle, or to compost, or while making a conscious choice of residing in an apartment which recycles its waste , while eating out or in or well anything and everything.
Our tokenisms to nature care is not really taking us anywhere, its time we got down to some action.