Category Archives: Living and Learning

Finding your Village

It’s quiet. 
You see I’m a mother of an 8 month and a 6 year old, so this silence comes at a price. The last 10 months or so, I’ve had my village with me. My parents and my Inlaws helped me find my bearings after I had my second child.
When you live in a different country, you sign up to the good and bad that comes with it. It’s different when you’re single, or when you’re married. It’s having kids that make you crave for belonging. A steady state. An extended family. Being equipped to handle their needs and be everyone they can’t have with them.
So much pressure. You know how you feel when you have a nagging headache? That times thousand multiplied by two is how I feel on a daily basis. 
Don’t get me wrong, I love these tiny humans. Love that consumes you fully, that kind of love. Love that walks around you as your heart is now beating in those little beings. 


A few days ago the extended family had to leave. I didn’t realize the gravity of how dependent I was on them and how much help I had. I felt like my fort starting crumbling all at once.
Kids were both sick, and it was snot filled chests and noses times two. I was running on an average of two hours of sleep a night (where’s my fucking award already?) and was ready to give up. To make things worse the older one has a massive meltdown stating boldly ” I don’t need you anymore. Go away” with snot and tears and a hoarse voice. 

I suddenly remember the innumerable times I’ve said the same thing to my own mother. It’s all coming back to me at the speed of light. I’m really sorry, mom. I know how it feels now. 
I’m trying my best. We all are. Some days we scrape through and on the other days, we don’t. And I’m here to tell you that’s ok.

If you’re failing, let them see it. There’s a certain lesson they can learn in it– their mother is human too. It’s taken me six parenting years (equivalent to 500 human years, heh) to learn this.
I wanted to be the perfect parent ( bhahhaha, I know right?). If there is such a thing. I shut all my fears, worries, my inadequacies in the back of my head. I refused to give up. I tried and tried and oh my god it was so exhausting. I was exhausting. 
Slowly, I learnt it was ok to shove a mouthful of candy and drown it with a glass of something strong and I was going to be ok. I learnt that it was ok to cry, when I couldn’t take it anymore. I learnt to gloriously bask in my failures because (wtf) raising a human is hard. 
The cleaning, cooking and all the million things we mothers do on a daily basis would get done, if not I could prioritize and choose the top 3 things I could do in my list of 150 things. (For example: Today I showered, cooked, showed up at work and kept the kids nourished and alive. Win!!)
I am now at a stage where I don’t have a list. I let inadequacies visit me once in a while. I beat myself up, but also learn to take responsibility. I now know that I’m human and I’m taking baby steps everyday. 
Two kids is so so hard. Don’t know how you parents with more kids do it. Mad props to you guys. Recently when I was talking to my girlfriend Nicole (she has 3 kids, God bless her)– I told her “I wanted to jump off a cliff and kill myself but I think I’ll be ok”. She laughed saying that describes parenting perfectly. I think so too.


Parenting is never going to be a set of directions you can follow. There is no gps to wing this thang. You hold on to a paper map like you hold on to dear life, get lost many many times before you are on the right track, and that’s ok. Never mind the muck, and bites you got along the way. 

When your village leaves (it’s ok to panic) but realize that you become that village. Outsource as much as you can (except love of course), and cut yourself some slack. I’ve read about the CTFD (Calm the fuck down) approach and let me tell you, it works like a charm. 
I’m writing all this down because I would need to read this. Everyday. Every week. This is a letter to myself and to every other mom out there who is trying to do her best every day. 

 

Hang in there you guys. It’s going to be ok, if not, you will figure it out eventually. Breathe. 

Advertisements

Letter to Stuti’s Teacher

Dear Ms. P,

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to introduce our child Stuti to you. We are so excited she is a Kindergartner at your school.

Sanjay and I have been in America roughly for over twelve years. We hail from Bangalore, India. Over the last decade or so Bangalore is better known as the Technology hub of South Asia. We currently both work in the IT sector and support our companies in various capacities.

I had the opportunity to take a break from my career when Stuti was born. I’ve seen her transform into an amazing child from a tiny baby. Most of her learning started at home, with us. Since our family is back In India, Sanjay and I have given her the best of both worlds and culture. We speak Kannada at home, and Stuti is bilingual. Over time she has shied away from conversing in Kannada, but we continue encouraging her to speak the language at home.

Stuti’s strongest trait is the ease at which she is able to strike a conversation with people. She will walk into a group, introduce herself, and make friends immediately. I think it’s so wonderful that kids have that ability. She is a visual learner, and enjoys learning by association and conversation. She has great social skills and a lot of empathy.

As her parents, we have encouraged Stuti to be kind, loving, gentle, and a positive person. She has her days where she is vocal about how she feels, and some days where she prefers remaining quiet. We talk about everything at home, and encourage her to approach us if she needs anything.  We celebrate her success, and her failures in equal measures, as they are both very important for her to grow.

We had another addition to our family recently. Our baby boy Sachit is 5 months old. The initial days were hard on her; however, I am so proud of how she has come around . It’s a joy to watch her ease in to playing a role of an Older sister with such aplomb.

She consoles him when he is upset, talks to him, entertains him, reads to him, and in general is a goofball. Needless to say, she is the twinkle in her brother’s eyes. He loves her a lot!

It’s amazing how much hope, dreams, love, and wonder this child holds. I never want her to grow up, and become the boring, predictable adults we are. I love her spontaneity, her energy and always wonder where she gets it from.

We read to her every day (sometimes every hour!), and she has started reading books from memory. She can also spell words, and is currently reading Dr. Seuss books with ease. She has a LOT of books, and we never say no when she wants to buy books.

From a learning perspective, I want Stuti to continue being kind, having empathy, and being a good listener. I want her to develop her social skills further, and get confident. I would also like to see her actively participating in class/school activities.

img_7243

Stuti is not good with pacing herself. Eating is the last thing she wants to do. She is very slow, and often comes back with most of her items in her lunch box as-is. I would like you to work with her to build awareness around food. I am sure this will flow into building awareness around time management as well.

I still remember my Kindergarten teachers and how they molded me to being the person I am today. We are really excited to have you as her teacher, and guide throughout this year. Please feel free to reach out to us if anything needs our attention (good or bad). We will continue to work with her at home, and emphasize on what is being taught at school. Teamwork is so important, and I’m sure you agree.

It is so hard being a parent, providing firm roots to the child, while knowing that someday they will fly. However, it’s great to have a teacher, who would work with us to provide the skills the child requires in order to achieve their full potential.

Thanks so much for everything you do, and we look forward to learning more about you through this year.

Regards,

Shruthi Malur

 

 

 


The White Canvas shoe

Often we tend to buy things that we feel would define us.  A pair of jeans of this brand, a shirt of this color, or a lip gloss of a particular shade.  We are often told things like “oh that dress fits you beautifully”, or “Red is definitely your color”. Our personality is associated with all the “attributes” that are responsible for defining us.

We tend to get comfortable thinking that way, or giving in to buying “things” because it’s so “us”. Once we start letting such “things” define us, what happens to us? I, for one who loves to buy clothes, accessories, books or anything pretty should know. I am asking these questions out loud, because I am still trying to figure this out.

When I became a parent, I had to be a little more careful about what is “wanted” Vs “needed”. It was a great time to introspect, and look back at the experiences I had. There are so many incidents but I remember this one in particular.

When I was in middle school, it was compulsory to wear white on Saturdays for physical training. That included a white uniform, white ribbons, and white shoes and socks.  Why they made us wear white was beyond me because the dresses and the shoes got very muddy and dirty. I washed my canvas shoes diligently, and with rigor to make it as white as it could be, so that I could wear it the following week to school. I guess over time they wore out, and I was due for a new pair. There were new ones in the market then (the sleek ones, with thicker soles, to last longer). They were so pretty, and also expensive. I brought this to my dad’s attention that I needed new shoes, and having the newer design might be helpful.

Times were hard then, we had to wait to get everything we needed.

White Canvas Shoe

The idea of the new white canvas shoe was happiness. I thought it would look perfect with my uniform, and it would make me look prettier. The anticipation became an obsession, and I started having dreams about wearing it, and being the best looking person in class (on earth!).

A few weeks passed by and I didn’t hear back from my parents on why they weren’t buying me these shoes yet. The obsession continued with my eyes glimmering every time we passed by a store that had these shoes. I could almost feel the soft soles on my feet and practiced on perfecting my walk. The shoes became the only thing I could think or care about.

The school had a few holidays during October and as always we visited our relatives. When I went to my cousin’s, I was so excited about indulging her with my latest obsession. She heard it, and then showed me a pair that she recently bought.  My face fell, and I was visibly sad. The next day when she went outside, I slowly tried them on. (they were slightly bigger, but who cares!). Determined, I walked around in the yard, and used a different entrance to the house so that no one would see me wearing these shoes. As luck would have it, I stepped on some dirt (cow dung perhaps) and the shoes got dirty. Hurriedly, I took it to the bathroom and tried to clean it, but, the stain wouldn’t go.

I had to tell my cousin, that I had worn her new shoes, and got them dirty. It was very hard, and what was even harder was facing my parents. I didn’t know what to say, I knew by the look on my mother’s face that I was in a lot of trouble.

I then looked at my father. He was disappointed, but he gently asked me to go sit next to him.

He told me “Shru, I know it’s been a couple of weeks since you asked me to buy you a pair of new shoes. I am sorry I haven’t been able to buy them yet, because we have had other expenses that came by.  I never had any shoes to wear until I was in college. My first pair was a hand me down, which needed a lot of stitching. I never let that stop me from being happy, or let that define me.  You will understand this someday. I will do my best to buy this for you at the earliest”.

I must have cried a lot that day, resented my parents, my behavior, my cousin for having those shoes before me, but I learnt a very important lesson that day, which I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

Never let something apart from “you”, define you. Love people for who they are, not for what they have, or what they might be able to give you. I constantly struggle with this, but I am learning to see people for who they are.

I hope I can be half as good as my parents, and teach my child her importance before everything else that could or would define her. Someday, perhaps, I will teach her the importance of everything money cannot buy.  For now, I have to go back to look at the puzzle she just put together.


Goodbye, Ajji

“She passed away, I am on my way there now”.
“How old was she?”.
97.
“She led a full life”.
“Was she your paternal grandmother, or maternal?”.
“Are you taking a trip, to say goodbye?”.
“There were lots of people Akka, everyone came”.
“I wanted to send you a picture of the body, but the elders denied”.
“This relative was wailing, while Amma was sobbing hysterically. No one can contain that kind of grief”.
“She was the oldest, and the wisest”.
“Did xyz make it? Were there that many people, really?”.
“They are probably going to finish the last rites close to home”.
“She donated her eyes, Akka, she still lives”.
“I don’t care what the elders say, we are her blood, and you deserve to see her go. Say goodbye”.
“No selfies with the dead body, please”.
“I feel for your pain, you live so far away”.
” It’s probably the price we pay to stay this far”.

Yes. She passed. While I try to come to grip with something that I like to elude, she’s gone. Actually, truly, no more. Her ashes are probably floating in a river and might have settled down. That is how quickly it happens.

I cannot believe she has gone. I cannot believe that the next time I visit India, I won’t see that toothless grin. A being so full of life, and wisecracks, is no more.

A century of wisdom bites the dust. A powerful woman, who influenced us in many many ways, is gone.

They say what we love so dearly never leaves us. I know she has left a little bit of her behind in all of us. And we will pass it along to our future generations.

The love that we give, and how true we stayed to ourselves are the only things that matter in the end. You are an embodiment of love. I didn’t wait to tell you that. I’m glad I didn’t.

While parents love you unconditionally, grandparents take it up a notch.

She saw her grand kids grow up, she had the energy to play with her great grand kids. Does that fact make it hurt a little less?. No.

I had the good fortune of making wonderful memories with her. I know it’s a little selfish of me to ask for more. Maybe she could’ve waited until my own child got a chance to know and get fascinated by this magical woman.

We humans, are so full of hope. Always thinking of the impossible.

Look at you Ajji, look at your legacy.
Every line on your face says a story. Every smile has a wonderful memory attached to it. Every incident indicates the storyteller you are. Every sign of my weakness was crushed when you reminded me of your powerful urge to fight back. You have touched so many lives, and I for one am so glad to be your grandchild.

It’s funny how it takes a death to bring a family together.

Rest in power. My beautiful Sundari Ajji.

IMG_5532.JPG


A Note to Self

The more I want to escape from writing, the more these incoherent thoughts and words keep coming back to me.

Most of us struggle with the way we deal with emotions. We roar, upheaval, hide , deny, and finally seem comfortable wearing a mask. We remove the mask, wanting to bear it all, yet, almost immediately wear another for the fear of being judged.

Invariably, we are back to the drawing board, trying to make sense , trying to cope, trying to put all the pieces together.

What I’ve noticed is leaving–(things, people, memories) as is, is fair, to us and to them.

Take people for example, you always want them to be a better version of themselves for you to be happy. To satisfy your needs. You try so hard to change them into what you envision them to be. I do that too. It’s a lost cause. People will be who they are, and you trying to tamper with their persona, is only going to cause unwanted pain.

Let it be. We weren’t meant to be perfect, or preach perfection. We are all flawed. Beautifully flawed. Else, what would separate us from each other, right?

I am a mother of a toddler. You can only imagine the amount of “reinventing” I have to do keep up. I used to be bitter, I was very hard on myself, and always felt angry, depressed and at wit’s end when I was amidst treating parenting like a doctrine we all needed to follow.

I threw that book. Left the mess. I wasn’t running the rat race for the “best parent” award. I told myself that having a messy house is better than having a messy mind. I stumble, I ache, I am covered in dirt but I am happier than I used to be.

I keep telling myself there is no right way to do this. Neither there is a set routine. Follow what your intuition tells you, and keep all the negativity in that closet. Visit it, yes, but don’t make it your wardrobe.

When things get messy, or unmanageable, leave. Let it be. Take a walk, hum a tune. Free your mind. It’s never easy, but if you don’t leave, how would you know that you want to come back?

If you aren’t already aware, we are a species that are constantly evolving, not just in the genetic sense, but also as a whole. The basic building blocks remain the same , however everything else keeps realigning and changing.

I left home, a decade ago for a different town to complete my studies. Then to a different country for work, and now live in a different country. I left work, to spend time with the little one, and now, I work and I am concious of my time with her, as it is so limited. The point I am trying to make here, is the constant state of leaving, and coming back. After a while, you realize that it is almost consistent, and probably mean the same thing.

Instead of treating this as displacement, try to create a home within you that is strong enough to shelter all the storms that life brings in. Be easy on yourself, smile a lot, do what you love, be with people who make you happy, love unconditionally , and let things be.

20140727-191156-69116031.jpg


Death

I cannot articulate my feelings about death. Whenever possible, I try to avoid talking about this topic altogether; because I am in denial.

I heard about a friend’s death a few days back. Another colleague passed away this week. A relative passed away this morning. I didn’t prod on to find out how it happened, as it’s hard enough to accept that they now are just mere memories.

I’m caught off guard when people tell me about the death of their loved ones, acquaintances, death of a random stranger. I start putting a story together in my head, of who they might have been, about their life , about the insurmountable grief their loved ones are going through. It leaves me feeling helpless and empty.

Death brings back some very painful memories. It’s taken me a really long time to get here and I’m hoping that writing about it will strengthen me.

I remember the time when my parents lost their second born. My baby brother. I’ve written more about it here.
I was too young to realize what was happening, but I knew death had a lasting effect. It couldn’t be undone, and the grief was sickening.

I vividly remember the time when my paternal grandmother passed away.

The lights were on pretty early one morning. I could hear amma hurrying across the hallway, entering my room to wake me up. “Wake up Shruthi, we have to leave to Bangalore, Ajji isn’t well”. It was my grandmother. It had been a few weeks since she was unwell. While still trying to process the information given to me, I reluctantly moved from my bed to start getting ready.

It was a few months after the Babri Masjid riots. I was in Bangalore then, and had seen my grandmother slowly getting weaker. Since there were a lot of riots around the area, and the schools remain closed I stayed back, as a lot of events started to unfold.

My dad left to work in the gulf during the same time. The gulf war had just ended and my father had a new employer in Kuwait willing to hire him, and he had to make a decision immediately. He left within days, and, my grandmother, suddenly was very very unwell.

While my maternal grandmother watched me, my mom split her time between Bangalore and Mangalore doing all she could to support the family.

The car ride was very long, and as upbeat as I was about making conversation with Ajji for one last time, the memories came flooding. It was as if someone had shook me up from my childhood and asked me to grow up within a matter of a few hours. Nothing ever felt the same.

Once we reached, We were made aware that she isn’t with us anymore. I remember the call made to my father, to break the news to him. He wasn’t able to come say goodbye. We cried together. I can’t remember my dad being that helpless. I remember the endless trips to the train and bus stations to pick relatives up. The constant chatter about what a great soul she was, and how she was blessed with an easy death started getting to me. I remember seeing her body in the freezer and feeling so sick that I couldn’t breathe.

Ajji was the binding force in my dad’s huge family. She was a headmistress, a great teacher (went back to pursue her career after three kids in the 60’s) and remains one of the most influential people in my life even to this day. It’s taken me two decades to comprehend what I was feeling then, and hence writing it out.

Why Ajji? Why did you have to go? Who would listen to my endless chatter? Who would reprimand me for eating too many stuffed potato buns from the neighborhood bakery? Who would give me 50 paise to run to the milk booth just to see how the machine worked? Who would make me sing endlessly and say I was terrible? Who would trick me into learning Maths while playing? Why wasn’t anyone telling me what was going on? Why wasn’t she opening her eyes?

The cremation was done. The family moved away from the house they lived for over four decades, and I haven’t mustered the courage to pass by the house, to this day.

For the last few years, my maternal grandmother has been really sick and I’ve made a few trips to India to see her. Every time I fly back I fear that it might be the last time I will see her. She’s 96 (bless her) and has lived a long and fruitful life. Am I ready to let go yet? I probably never will be.

She has the kindest eyes, and the funniest Kannada vocabulary (I’ve also caught her cursing multiple times, heh). She never ceases to make me laugh whenever I’m with her and has a memory of an elephant. She always has something up her sleeve–Be it a piece of chocolate she had saved, or some advice. She cannot clearly see anymore as the eyes are weak, but recognizes my voice in an Instant, enquires about the entire family, with such precision. She’s a giver and has helped so many individuals all her life. Even though she’s weak she insists on being independent and does all her chores. My daughter was lucky to meet her during my last visit. The gamut of her knowledge and love is beyond words. Every little wrinkle on her face has a story to tell.

She has been really sick the last few weeks and every time the phone rings at odd hours I’m mentally preparing myself to hear the worst, and breathe easy when I hear she’s holding on.

We humans are so strong, yet so fragile. I guess the range of emotions we feel is what separates us from the rest of the species. Not to sound self righteous or anything, but having seen death so closely, makes me appreciate life. Don’t wait until a person is dead to declare what they mean to you and how much they have influenced your life. Do reach out to people you love, whenever possible, to tell them how special they are, and how much they mean to you. Hold people who matter close to your heart and do what you can to make them happy and feel appreciated, while they are still here.

They weren’t lying when they said Life was too short. It is Indeed.

20131208-141855.jpg

20131208-142613.jpg

20131208-142653.jpg

20131208-142736.jpg


Turning three was a breeze

Funny thing about parenting is that you always think you’re prepared for what lies ahead of you, but you seldom realize that no amount of preparation would help, as the child never fails to astonish you. They would turn around and do something out of the ordinary, which would leave you enough room to grow to accept them for who they are.

I was given every sort of warning about terrible two’s. (Now, I’ve been warned about horrible three’s, it’s always something).

This year was challenging and beautiful in equal measures.

Little one you now have your own personality. You have started expressing your emotions really well. You make it very clear when you aren’t happy, and also keep testing the waters to have things your way. You’ve always amazed me at how you make it seem so easy to throw a tantrum when you don’t have it your way. I am going to try it soon :).

You’re very receptive to everything around you. You pay so much attention to the sounds around you. The music, the birds, the vehicles, your books and the characters in them. You pick up vibes so well, and smile your sweetest smile when I’m mad at you, or try to hush me up when I’m mad at your dad. You’ve shown me that every situation is only as big as we make it to be. If you can smile easily, everything will fall into place in its own time.

You started school part time this year. Even though we had a lot of initial hiccups you were a trooper and you now love going to school. You love your teachers and you’re trying to socialize. It’s so great to see you attempt at things you have never been exposed to with such ease. You’ve helped me overcome my own fears at attempting new things. It’s been liberating.

You love reading. Every time we are indoors you drag me to your room, take a book out and have me read it to you. We’ve spent hours reading the same books and you’ve never complained, because your imagination keeps getting better and better. It has taught me to look at myself and people around me differently, keep looking for good in everyone and keep giving second chances.

You’ve always taught me to give away all the love, even the love I didn’t get. You love me equally on my good and bad days and have no expectations. This is something I’m still working on, and hope to realize it before you grow up. It might come in handy when you need help with this in the future.

We’re always told to “be prepared”, “be tough”, “don’t be their friends, be their parents”, “use a grown up approach to deal with them” etc. When it comes to raising kids, little do we realize that we need to unlearn, let ourselves go, and many times come down to their level to resonate with them. Thank you child for bringing that out in me and help me grow with you.

I love you (even though I sometimes need to drink four cups of something before 09:00) and look forward to many many years of loving and growing with you. I’m so blessed that I don’t have to travel a lot to see the world, I often see it in your eyes. Happy Birthday.

20131106-195305.jpg

20131106-195351.jpg

20131106-195439.jpg

20131106-195502.jpg

20131106-195534.jpg

20131106-195607.jpg

20131106-195710.jpg

20131106-195859.jpg


%d bloggers like this: