Friendly Friday Photo Challenge- Mood

   It’s Monday and I am a tad bit late for this, but here is this week’s prompt from The Snow Melts Somewhere for the Photo Challenge-Mood. Hosted by Snow and Amanda from Something To Ponder About, the weekly prompts have been my motivation for taking new photographs and I am thankful to them for that! In case you haven’t checked out their blogs, I  suggest that you do so:)

   As Snow pointed out, weather does have an impact on the mood of many…myself and the good man included. The gloomy and cloudy weather, that sadly seems to be spanning a significant portion of spring here in New Jersey for the past couple of years, at times dampens the otherwise cheeriness that tiny green leaves and chirping of birds bring. I don’t mind the long winter months as long as there is bright sunshine and so,  in spring when the cloud does not seem to disperse for long stretches, I weirdly find myself yearning for winter!

   We were at a stop light and this tiny barn shed flanked by two trees caught my eye, this Sunday. One was still bare while the other was covered in the spring leaves. I liked it and hence, I clicked! And once we got going again, it made me think about how sometimes change takes time. It can’t be rushed, it probably  shouldn’t be. The process unfolds on its own and interfering restricts the meaning. And I realized – that is what my ‘mood’ has been, for the past few weeks.

 

IMG-0705                                                          Sometimes, change takes time.

   As someone who likes things done fast, this is an extremely valuable lesson. It lets me do things as and when they should be done, and that includes mundane things like doing laundry, but at the same time teaches me to pause and take a step back from rushing through life. It helps me take control of my emotions when my four year old is unable to grasp concepts that may look basic to me but are certainly not so for him! It’s OKAY if he gets confused by squares and rectangles, it’s OKAY if he gets distracted peeling off the wrapper from the crayons instead of coloring and it’s most certainly OKAY if he sometimes jumps on the bed while I wait to read him his favorite story. He is supposed to be doing these! It helps me wait for the right time to get a job, allowing me at the moment,  watch my kids achieve their own milestones. It also reinforces beliefs that I have always known to be true and which I have held on to at times when all was not smooth sailing.  It also guides me to remember Rumi’s ‘let silence take you to the core of life’, but a monumental piece of teaching that it is, I often fail to adhere to its principle. However, I am trying and I hope one day I will be able to grasp a tiny bit of its essence  and in the process learn to live organically and mindfully.

 

A long read

It IS a long read!

    Dealing with exhaustion is not easy, be it emotional or physical. It is overpowering and intense and can wreak havoc if not attended to with the love and care that it deserves. We all have had moments, days, months where we have felt like ‘there is no more energy left’! Triggers are different for different people and the way they deal with that, also varies. But, we have all been there. While my household is blessed with the giggles and mischief of two tiny humans, it also entails round-the-clock work that seriously never seems to end! ‘Maybe I am lousy than many; maybe I am a bunch of other things that super moms are not; maybe I am not doing things right’-are just some of the thoughts that crossed my mind during those times and definitely did not alleviate the intense exhaustion. It brought me down with a crippling fear of being ineffectual.

   I stopped and took a step back. Step back from over thinking, something that I am hugely prone to; step back from holding myself to sometimes impossible standards; step back from not appreciating me; step back from not nurturing me.

   I was recently re-reading a book that talks about, amidst many other wonderful things, the importance of spending time thinking about things that mattered to us, nurturing those and in the process taking care of one’s own self. It made me think about meaningful things that I considered of absolute importance in life, not merely for my own self but also for those with whom I share my ups and downs, who hold a special place in my heart, who matter to me and with who I associate.  And I came up with the following:

What's Important

   They are not in any particular order and this is not an exhaustive list by any means but there are the things that have the highest significance in my life. I am not implying that I abide by all of these to the letter, but I do make a sincere effort. I must mention that I owe all of these to my Ma and Baba as I grew up in a household where money was always tight but these values were in abundance and held on to, strong. I owe them everything and I am especially grateful to them for teaching my brother and me, through their smiles and struggles, what really matters.

    I am a kind person…so I have been told, and I am mindful of the words that come out of my mouth and cross my mind. Words hurt. And they can break you. I learnt from my mother, very early in life, how to be inclusive of people and their thoughts, how to not hurt anyone with my words and actions and for this, I can never thank her enough (I wonder if parents can ever be thanked enough…for their relentless and selfless love). I have always appreciated the tiniest bit of effort, thought, act that has come my way or goes towards someone else and my heart is grateful for all that I have , all that I am and all that I am not.  I am obviously not perfect and I slip more than I would like, but I strive to make an effort to learn from my mistakes and hopefully one day I will be better than what I am today!

   In our everyday lives, we often underestimate the importance or power of appreciation and I personally know people who are never appreciative of anyone. I wonder if  they think that showing appreciation would somehow undermine their ‘importance’ (yes…don’t roll your eyes, people are strange!). But appreciation can work wonders. It bridges gaps, mends hurt hearts and makes one feel good. And that can have a lot of positive impact going forward…be it in a professional setting or be it within the four walls of our homes. But it has to be genuine…from the heart. A charade of thankfulness seldom works in the long run…just like any other form of pretense!

   From a very young age, my father instilled the importance of gratitude. We saw how thankful he was for his job, for his family, for the roof on our head and for the food on our table. We learned early enough to not take things for granted and to always honor whatever came our way. Gratitude is powerful and sublime- it keeps one grounded.

Honesty encompasses every other emotion in our lives and so to say that you can be kind or empathetic or courageous or grateful without being honest, is pointless.

   My reason behind saying all of this is, in this cacophonous life, we, or least I sometimes miss the bigger picture. I get lost in the struggles and joys of everyday life and let small things get to the heart. I stop being mindful and let negative emotions creep their way in. It makes me not like myself! I then realize that while I cannot control the false or hurtful narrative that some might create of me or forget to utter a kind word, I know the truth and I know me and that is all that matters. I pause to appreciate myself for not letting bitterness get the better of me, I pause to tell myself it’s okay if one day I slipped a little in my duties as a mother, I pause a little to read a book or watch something on Netflix for the hundredth time! I always go to bed with one thought- I will be better tomorrow and though I am far from being where I want to be, I am taking tiny steps towards that. I am flawed and I recognize that. And I am learning from people who are around me now, people I read about, people I have seen growing up and I am grateful for all they teach me, which includes my four year old…who continues to teach me every day with his acts of kindness.

   Life is incomplete without books, music, travel and while I am yet to travel far and wide and I hope one day I can, I have enjoyed every little vacation or get away I have gone on, starting from traveling with my parents and younger brother when we were little, to traveling with our little ones now! My father loved to travel (he no longer can because age has caught up with him, but still jumps at any chance that presents itself) and when we were growing up, he made sure we went somewhere, whenever we could.

Baba is known for his very straight forward talks and his laughter. He has a big soulful laugh that you can feel comes from deep within, something you cannot fake and I love this about him. I have seen and felt the power of laughter growing up and I see it in the infectious smiles and laughs of my four year old and my four month old. It brightens up any damp day and makes me appreciate life a bit more.

   And what can I say about family, friendship and love? I don’t think I can ever put into words what these terms encompass and how they hold us, mold us and inspire us to be the best that we can. These are the Pillars of life that give meaning to every emotion; the Elixir for all that is hurtful and toxic.

 

 

  [ My son brought this ‘lunch’ for me as he noticed the other day that I had not had my lunch and was busy finishing up a few things. So he came up and said- I saw you have been working hard and you are busy and so I made you this…you can have some pretend lunch to keep your tummy full 🙂 ]

What guides you? What inspires you?

 

 

Friendly Friday Photo Challenge-Photo Walk

   This will be my third post for the Friendly Friday Photo Challenge hosted by The Snow Melts Somewhere (https://thesnowmeltssomewhere.wordpress.com/) and Something to Ponder About (https://forestwoodfolkart.wordpress.com/and when I woke up this morning, one of the first things that crossed my mind was ‘what would the prompt this week be’!

   I love taking pictures and there is no denying that and though I am not good at it, I am quite passionate. I am not the one who has the phone ready in her and at all times and clicks at anything and everything. On the contrary, I have had more missed chances that I would like to acknowledge as I was busy rummaging through what is supposed to be my bag but looks- like- a- sack, trying to locate my phone in vain! But, when I do go on walks, I am mindful about my phone and it’s storage space (another dreadful scenario I face often) and I remember to carry my camera as well. This week’s prompt gave me a chance to look back at many pictures I had taken that I have not had a chance to share yet (I am assuming none of my previous posts have these!) and I feel thankful and happy. None of these are recent but they all are special in heir own way,  with anecdotes that make them close to my heart.

   These first batch of photos were taken during our first visit to my sister-in-law in California and it was our first proper trip ever. Neel had recently got his first job and I was doing an internship at an organization, whose cause I was passionate about. I had never been anywhere before that in this country (other than Minnesota where we both went to grad school) and, on top of that we were visiting family and a very dear friend too! It was a special trip, reminding us of the steps we have had to climb to be able to go on a trip at that point in our lives. We did not have a camera then and so these were taken by my first smart phone:)

 

Santana Row, CA:2011

SAMSUNG

San Francisco, CA 2011

   These next set of pictures are in and around my neighborhood during spring time, a couple of years ago probably. These are during the times when my then two year old and I would be going on our afternoon walks, him toddling as fast as his tiny legs would allow and me walking a few steps behind him soaking in all the magic that was happening as the little guy would walk, stop  and gaze at almost everything with wonder and delight! And as I took innumerable pictures of him, I also would occasionally take some of the cherry blossom that add pink and white to our neighborhood during spring.

 

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These final set of pictures are from our last visit to Kolkata , India in the spring of 2018. They are from in and around my in-laws’ house and my father’s house and hold a special place in my heart as it was around this time we found out that we would be adding another member to our family of three!  Now that she is four months old, looking back at these pictures bring back those flutters of excitement and anxiousness and remind me once again, to count my blessings and be grateful . It also hurts a little as I reminisce about growing up in this soulful city- a city I still call home, a city that has seen me through my many ups and downs. It’s the city where our parents and my younger brother live-  indispensable and unequalled, who enrich our lives with their selfless love; people we have left behind to find our footing in this world;  people whose hearts ache a little more with every passing year as we wave goodbye at the airport gates and people who bear more than their age allows  to make life easier for us.

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Friendly Friday Photo Challenge- Story

I decided to participate in Friendly Friday Photo Challenge hosted by:

The Snow Melts Somehwere ( https://thesnowmeltssomewhere.wordpress.com/) and Something to Ponder About (https://forestwoodfolkart.wordpress.com/). There is a new prompt every Friday and this week’s prompt is “Story”.

 

It is my first time doing this and here’s my take on that:

7195d1a4-3c6d-4e48-ba32-5e09b93a2896                                                             GROWING UP TALES

 

I have been noticing for quite some time how my four year old has been gradually turning into a little more matured tiny human, with a developing set of likes and dislikes- and this shelf in our small bookcase tells that story the best. ‘Baby’ books (as he calls them) have been getting replaced by these ‘big boy’ books and we are enjoying growing up ‘seeing and reading’ these. The saying ‘ Kids grow up too fast’ is so true!

My Recent Reads

    I have always loved reading books. Growing up, I would look forward to ‘library time’ at school, a designated 40 minutes in a week when we could go to the library and spend time there and at the end could also bring one (or may be two…my memory betrays me) home for about 15 days. I remember exchanging books with a couple of my really close friends after we had finished reading ours. During senior years, when there was no more library ‘class’ or even the time to read much outside what was in the syllabus, I would still sometimes go to the library and pick up books other than ‘study stuff’, that I would later sneak in to the bed at night, even when I could barely keep my eyes open.  Books have always been my go-to when it comes to reading material of my choice. Our four year old too loves reading and story reading at bedtime is one of our favorite things to do as family! At times, the little guy takes over and reads his Ma-Baba his favorite story.

    It has been a very long time since, and while a lot has changed in terms of reading material and medium, my love for books remains unchanged. As a student of English Literature many moons ago, I came across the works of Camus, Kafka, Beckett, Naipaul, Virginia Woolf to name a few, that cast a spell on me. While the cacophony of every day life does not let me spend a sunday morning lazying in bed, sipping on copious cups of coffee and some chocolate chip muffins and read as much as I would like to, I still try to catch up on some reading at any chance I get. Bookstores are my favorite store to visit and the sight and smell of books enthralls me today just as much as it did when I had first walked into a library at my school decades ago. Nothing probably beats experience of physical browsing at a real store and it saddens me to see local book stores and even big ones close due to the craze of on-line buying.

    An absolute necessity is our pursuit of happiness and in helping us dream, the pivotal role of books in undeniable. Today, I am sharing with you books that I read and re-read over the period of last two years (a couple from here I am yet to finish) and can read over and over again!

  1. The God of Small Things (Arundhati Roy)
  2. Beloved (Toni Morrison)
  3. Snow (Orhan Pamuk)
  4. Love in the Time of Cholera (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
  5. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
  6. Sea of Poppies (Amitava Ghosh)
  7. Clear Light of Day (Anita Desai)
  8. Selected Stories by O. Henry
  9. Train To Pakistan (Khushwant Singh)
  10. The Namesake (Jhumpa Lahiri)
  11. The Ministry of Utmost Happiness (Arundhati Roy)
  12. Dreams from My Father (Barack Obama)

 

What are some of your favorite reads?

A Beautiful Mess

   It has been quite a while since I wrote anything and while no one else missed that, I did, and it took me by surprise as I hadn’t expected to miss my petty ramblings!

   Things have changed quite a bit around here as our home has got brighter with the birth of our daughter last month. Schedules are crazy and while we are having to re learn how to gently slip on a onesie over a wobbly head, our smiles are bigger and our hearts fuller and are grateful for all the love that has come our way.

   Our little one sleeps better than what her brother used to and that means we are less sleep deprived and have tad bit more energy during the day. And while (on most days) that lets me make all kinds of plans, it rarely reaches the point of fulfillment. I get so excited right after I put the little one down for her nap thinking about the two very long hours that I am about to have to do what ever I feel like (since I have been blessed with parents who are here and are leaving no stone unturned to make my life comfortable…they cook everyday, keeping in mind my favorite things and they keep their grandson occupied all day long with games and songs, reading and writing too and I cannot begin to describe how immensely helpful that is). And then reality strikes. A typical two hour window is generally some sort of a variation of this-

   On way to getting my laptop or a book that I have thinking about finishing, I see a pile of clothes in the laundry basket that is about to tip over with the weight of the clothes. So I decide to quickly put them in the washer before sitting down with the coffee. Once the clothes are in the washer and I go to the kitchen to warm up the coffee, I notice a couple of baby bottles that need to be washed before being sterilized and I think to myself… ‘ I will quickly rinse these while the coffee is in the microwave’ and I do that. As I sit down with my coffee and am about to pick up the book, I remember a bill that needed to be paid a week ago and so I quickly grab my purse and dial the number and get going with the process! And while I am doing that I remember five things that need to be added to the grocery list that the good man has taken with him to the office. That entails a call and as soon as I hang up, I see the state of mess our coffee table is in…unopened mails, coloring books, a box spilling with crayons, nasal spray, some pieces of a puzzle, a bowl of crackers, sanitizing wipes, a couple of books my dad was reading (or had planned to read), two broken phones (that my son currently ‘uses’ as his own) and my mom’s too (who invariable picks up one of the broken ones thinking it to be her own..the similarity is uncanny and so I don’t blame her!)…and I lose it a little bit. I sit myself down on the sofa to clean up the mess a little bit and ask my dad to reheat my coffee one more time. I glance at the clock and realize I have time for a good shower and dash into the bathroom while Baba hollers about the coffee that has been heated three times. I holler back that I would be back before it cools down and all the hollering wakes up the little one who had, till then been sleeping peacefully in her swing. I stop to comfort her and after a good 15-20 mins when she has settled down, I remember the clothes had to be put into the dryer and it was time for me to pick up my son from his school. I slip into the clothes that hang at the back of the bathroom door, grab the car keys and rush out of the door while I hear Baba holler again… ‘what about the coffee?”

   I am beyond thankful for this beautiful mess at the moment and while my ‘plans’ often remain just that, I find myself beaming. It is stressful too, to have an infant and an almost 4 year old (who, by the way, has exceeded our expectations of him as a “big brother”, exemplifying maturity, love and understanding even I had no idea he was capable of- we underestimate amazing things that little ones are capable of) but it is a learning experience too and it is a time to soak in this love that is unparalleled and unique. As I look around this delightful chaos, I notice how toy trucks and guitar picks things have quietly made room for new rattles and a plush kitty and my super messy closet has some small pink hangers in the middle of lots of greens and blues.

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Teacher-Teacher

   My preschooler has now reached the stage where he looks forward to going to his school. Most days he wakes up before I do and encourages me to laze around in the bed a little less, which is good on weekdays but not a whole lot of fun on the weekends! And with his growing interest in school, I have noticed major developmental changes too in him within a very short period…in terms of language skill, picking up on the tone of the teachers, using specific words to convey certain things and his body language. It makes me happy and proud and reassured to see my little boy taking these strides and becoming his own little person slowly. We all know that kids imitate adults and how it is important to model the behavior we want to see in children. Kids are excellent observers and pick up things in no time. These new skills they practice and master over time and the new experiences that they gain through interaction with important people in their lives are crucial to their cognitive and social development. We have all gone through these stages but I wonder if our parents were as focused on noticing and chronicling behavioral developments, and doing things by the book like we do today.

   While parental behavior and teaching has evolved over time and there is probably a palpable inter-generational tension when it comes to the do-s and don’t-s of parenting, it is quite comforting to see that kids’ behavior has not changed significantly, at least in the early stages of development. While they are much more adept at handling gadgets and have a lot more ‘developmental toys’ at their disposal than us, things like hop scotch, jumping ropes, silliness at monkey bars, the good old see saw, board games likes the snake and ladder are still a major hit with them. And when it comes to pretend play, the imagination knows no bounds!

    Growing up, my favorite thing on the weekends was ‘playing school’ or as we used to say ‘teacher-teacher’ and I am pretty sure I was not an exception. I remember being in awe of all my teachers, especially class teachers (home room teachers) from grade one through six or seven and imitating them at home while ‘teaching’ imaginary kids, was what kept me engaged. I had my own ‘roll-call’ register which Baba had very lovingly bought for me where I had written the names of most of my classmates and neighborhood friends, and before ‘class started’ I would call out the names and mark ‘present or absent’ with blue and red pens respectively against each. I also had a set of chalks to write on the big wooden door of our living room and an eraser. My parents never objected to this action of mine and while at the end of my ‘teaching period’, that lasted a good six to seven years, I had almost destroyed one side of the deep brown door, they never got mad. As you can see, I had all the props needed for teaching and as if to make it official, I would also wear Ma’s saree every time I went to ‘class’. It also helped me learn on my own things that were taught at school, and that was something I enjoyed much more than the routine ‘porte bosha’ (study time) every evening.

   My little guy is in his own world of playing ‘teacher-teacher’ at the moment and this is his current favorite thing after playing guitar with his Baba, being silly with his Dada (grandfather) and being busy with his cars. He imitates his teacher almost immaculately and keeps himself busy ‘teaching’ his friends and at times ‘coaches’ them on school rules! He also goes over the things he learns at school and it makes me smile thinking about the fascinating parallel. He ‘practices’ his rhymes, his Spanish, concert songs (with December just a month away!) while being totally immersed in his world of pretend play and I listen with a happy heart.

 

   It gives me hope that all has not changed yet and when we play snakes and ladders and he does all the things that we used to do when we were his age, it reassures us of the wonders of childhood that our little guy seems to be living and enjoying. When he hides during ‘hide and seek’, he makes sure you know where he is hiding before you even begin to find him and at times when he manages to keep that a secret, the giggles from behind the curtains or from under the table are priceless and timeless. In this ever changing world around us, I sometimes question my ‘parenting approach’ that creates some needless confusion and clutter. But my little guy steps in unequivocally, albeit unknowingly and relieves me of my futile perturbation. I quiver a little at times when I think if he is growing up too fast and whether we are letting him enjoy his childhood to the fullest and at moments like these too, my little guy comes up with goofiness that makes me toss away my silly thoughts without any hesitation.

 

(The picture on the left is what he said at school when asked how he thinks he is a good friend and the one on the right is where he was being a tortoise hiding in his shell, giggling away the whole time!)