Crazed


“Crazy, this one is” said one nurse to the other when they looked at her multiple self-inflicted stab wounds to the stomach

She was indeed crazy with pain, but not from the stab wounds. No, the other pain was infinitely worse. These wounds would heal, there’d be relief from this pain, eventually. The other problem – no diagnosis for 3 years now, so no relief either.

Flash Fiction 22


She plead guilty to her husband’s murder. Her lawyer couldn’t understand her plea. They’d a rock solid alibi for her. “Why?” he asked her, incessantly

She thought about her father who had abused her all her adolescent life, about the husband who prostituted her to his debtors. “Because I want to feel safe” she replied.

Signing off for this year


The year is drawing to a close and I, for one, can’t wait for it to end. Like I said in my earlier post a lot of bad things happened this year. The year started with bad news and as it leaves, it’s leaving with sadness in its wake.

I used to be an optimist. In school and college I was a regular Pollyanna, always looking for the silver lining, always believing that tomorrow would be better. As I’ve grown older, I’ve become a cynic but I remain cautiously optimistic even today. I still tend to look for the silver lining.

This year, though, my optimistic nature, what little I have left of it, has taken a sound beating. I have spent so much of my time worrying about near and dear ones and on every occasion the worst has come to pass. The unthinkable has happened and I have found myself questioning “How does one go on from here?”

I will be honest – I have thought of throwing in the towel a number of times. I have wanted to dive under the covers and not come out until all the bad things and the sad tidings I’m worried have passed. It is a tempting proposition, to stay hidden and hope that the monster at the door is gone. Or to run to the grown ups and have them allay my fears.

This year, though, that security blanket has been yanked away too. Instead of being able to run away to the grown ups and have them solve my problems for me, to tell me all will be well, I have been forced to be the grown up.

I lost my father-in-law in the month of September. I have been married 16 years and in all that time I have come to treat my in laws like my parents. This is in large part because they have treated me like their daughter. I have been childish, stubborn and often a brat with them but they have always been understanding of my behavior and indulgent, too. My father in law was a very quiet man. He’d speak very little, he had a quiet chuckle and he was shockingly forthright. I started by respecting him for his financial savvy, for his clear thinking and for his morals and principles. Soon that respect and regard turned into love.

For a quiet man, he was very communicative, he’d call every 3 days to ensure we were doing well. It used to be a 2 minute conversation but he’d call without fail. With his demise, all of a sudden the DH and I had to grow up. Since he passed so suddenly, we had to arrange to have DH fly to India right away. The DD and I followed a week later. Meanwhile, the DH managed everything in India (with help from near and dear ones, of course) – finances, funeral arrangements, the elderly, heartbroken relations while I managed tickets, taking time off from work, school, informing friends and family here in the US. When we got to India, I found roles were reversed. My iron willed mother in law needed support. For the first time, I held her while she cried.

We’d barely gotten over everything that happened in India when we got news that my cousin, someone I’d grown up with and much younger than me passed away suddenly. This loss took my breath away. Suddenly the world did not make sense. My father-in-law, I’d met in the month of August and he was getting older but he was fine. My cousin, I was in touch with over social media. She’d written to wish the DD a Happy Birthday 2 weeks before she passed away. How could 2 apparently healthy people go so quickly?

I have rarely found myself as helpless as I did in those days, but life did not come to standstill. We still got hungry, homework still had to get done and colleagues weren’t going to wait endlessly for me to come to terms with my life. That’s the part that caught me wrong footed. In the face of such loss, time should have stood still, life should not have gone on, but none of that happened.

With this sadness and loss came some lessons. I paid too high a price for them but as a result, they’re more valuable. With my father-in-law, I have very few regrets. I made it a point to visit every year. I called my in-laws often, 2-3 times a week. They were aware of all the small and big happenings in my life. I find peace in the fact that we spent a lot of time with him. My cousin, on the other hand, I’m full of regrets about her. I didn’t take the time to call, I made very little effort to meet. We both got busy with our lives and I should have made the time to reach out, to connect outside of social media and I didn’t. There’s no way to fix this now and I’ll regret this for the rest of my life.

So here I am, stripped of all my naivete, forced to grow up and yet the Pollyanna survives somewhere deep down. I’m hoping that with the year ending, bad times will end. The New Year will bring with it good news and small joys. I’m not holding out for spectacular things anymore, I could do without those. The small joys – meeting a friend for coffee, connecting in person with the people that matter to me, bringing a smile to someone’s face. Those, I’m ardently looking forward to.

I hope your year is full of small joys too, that you are spared your naivete and your ability to run to the grown ups when monsters knock on the door.

 

The Other Parent(s)


This post appeared on Parentous.com sometime in 2015

Parenting is often a lonely task. When your children are newborns, there are the late night feedings, the lonely vigils you sit by the side of your sick child’s bed….then there are the toddler years when playdates are cut short because your baby had an unexplained meltdown. Oftentimes, when you are having a bad day, well, because your child is having a bad day, it feels like you are the last human on the planet. You glance at the clock over and over again wishing for the day to be over but darn it, the clock seems to have stopped working. How can only 30 seconds have passed since you last checked the clock?

The teen years might be loneliest, though. At least when you are the parent of a young child there are enough articles in popular media and twitter accounts and Facebook posts that offer a humorous spin and the comforting notion that we have not been saddled with the devil’s spawn. By the time your children are teens though, most of the sympathy and empathy is gone. Your children are older, they look independent and yes there are articles around how said child might be suffering from multiple personality disorder – given how they were sweetness and sunshine 6 minutes ago and now they look at you like you are some sort of primordial ooze that crawled out of the drain, but for the most part the sense of community you experience when your babies are young, is gone. No longer do you have friends and family offering advice or asking to help. Nobody wants to “babysit” your teens and the teens themselves are not sharing anything with you making this the loneliest time of your lives.

What then do I mean about the other parent(s)? Am I talking about parents who might be traversing the same path you are? Yes, to some extent, I am. More importantly, I am talking about people who share your journey of parenthood, the ones that parent your child along with you.

When your children are really young, the other parent(s) might be family viz: grandparents, aunts and uncles, all of whom are in and out of your lives, if you are lucky. They have a wealth of advice, they mean it when they say they want to take the baby off your hands for a bit and with rare exceptions what they’re saying can be taken at face value. From personal experience, I know that when such help was offered to me, it was rebuffed. Every time my mother, mother-in-law, aunts, and friends offered advice it sounded, to me, like they were judging me and my parenting skills. When they offered to take the baby off my hands, I thought it was because I wasn’t doing a good enough job. In a bid to prove that I was the best damned parent for my child, I decided to go it alone. I’d handle all the late night feedings myself.  When my baby was sick, I’d be the one tending her. When friends called to offer help, I’d say “Oh yes, I’ll absolutely let you know if I need anything” and then of course, I wouldn’t. Somehow, my child had become my badge of honor, my measure of success and my certificate of excellence all rolled into one. I’d invested so much of my sense of self-worth in raising her that I failed to see I wasn’t doing a very good job despite my best efforts. I was often frazzled, the smallest things would set me off and oh yes, the loneliness was killing me. In hindsight, I wish I’d taken advantage of every offer that came my way. Maybe my mother-in-law would not have fed my daughter the exact same way I did or not have put her down for naps per my schedule but surely, no harm would have come to the child. Sure, my mom had a different way of swaddling the baby but that didn’t mean she’d be uncomfortable. Anyway you slice it, there were going to be no long lasting effects from a nap time or two going awry and if the toddler ate idli for breakfast as opposed to organic cereal.

As the daughter grew older, there were other influences in her life. She was at a daycare from the age of two and what do you know the child who refused to be potty trained at home was perfectly capable of using the bathroom at school when her teachers asked her. All day long she’d patter about what Miss Rusudaan had taught her and how lovely Miss Christine was and at home, I’d be hard pressed to get her to sit down and listen to one single story. In an epic meltdown at age 3, she once yelled “I will never read, you cannot make me read” and threw all her books to the floor and the next day at school I found her on her teacher’s lap, painfully sounding out b-r-i-n-g. All this had me believe that I was not being a very good parent. Why else would my child insist on using diapers at home and not listen to a story, never mind, read one?the-other-parent-1

Wisdom came and thankfully, before long. I realized, at home she’s the focus of my attention. I wanted, like every other parent that she be a happy, well-adjusted and well-behaved child. She, meanwhile, had cottoned onto the fact that her performance in public was a measure of my success as a parent. So her behavior was the Damocles sword she’d hold over my head. That is, if I let her. One day, at the grocery store, she had a full blown, lying-on-the-floor-scream-my-lungs-out kind of tantrum. At first, I was mortified, everyone was looking at us and she refused to get up until I bought whatever crap she wanted. Then, in a moment of blinding clarity, it hit me that she was doing this to provoke a reaction. I told her that I was going to be shopping and she could join me when she was done having her tantrum or she could stay back and have the store call me when she was ready to be picked up. In under 5 minutes I had a teary eyed 3 year old trailing me.

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That was the day I realized that my child spends about 8 hours a day at daycare. She has a life separate from what she does at home. She has relationships that I can observe and to some extent, understand but I cannot replace those relationships. I cannot be everything to her, no matter how hard I try. And that’s okay. It has to be.

I stopped pushing her to use the bathroom, I would ask her to read and if she didn’t want to, I’d try my hardest not to push. I’d love to tell you that I did all this graciously but no, it was ugly. I had temper tantrums of my own and long bouts of crying but I learned to leverage the other relationships my child has.

Today, she hates it if I nag her to practice piano but when my brother (a long time, ardent piano student) asks what she’s playing and how long before she nails a piece, she redoubles her efforts in a bid to impress him.

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My husband and I have tried to get her to dance at parties but she’ll stand in a corner and refuse to join, until this year. Her teacher at school has regular dance breaks between classes to help the kids relax and the child dances and has picked up some snazzy moves too.

 

Her teacher, this year, also got her to lead a couple of projects. My baby, the one who doesn’t raise her hand in class for fear that she’ll be asked to answer, actually lead a team of her own and delivered some good work.

Her piano teacher pushes hard and has, at times, berated her. I’m often sitting in the same room where she takes class and much as I’d like to intervene, I have learned not to. Her piano teacher knows how best to motivate her and get her to deliver. As much as I’d like to protect my child from criticism, it is not my place to get between her and her teachers. Instead, I have started talking to her teachers to understand how to co parent with them. I ask them for advice on what I should be emphasizing at home to get her to do better. By the same token, I have made it a point to get to know the parents of most of her friends. We have them over for dinner or at least try and meet for joint activities with the kids. My child is 11 and she will only spend more and more time with friends, going forward. It is in our best interests to get to know the various people she’ll meet, talk with and be influenced by. They are my co-drivers in this parenting gig. I have realized that what I say most of the time is sensible but uncool but the same advice coming from a friend’s mom is so much easier to take. These other parent(s) are the only way I can keep my sanity as I navigate the teen years.

 

Are you listening, God?


This year has been one of introspection. A number of things happened, most of them bad that had me questioning my belief system.

 

I have always believed in God, in the fact that he/she has a plan for the world. However, when I look at the world around me, I’m not a 100% sure if God is paying attention to his/her job. In the face of so many terrible things happening, how do I reconcile my faith with reality? More importantly, what do I teach my child about God, about religion and spirituality?

 

When I was a child, I always questioned why we celebrated festivals a certain way, why certain rituals were performed etc. My parents, grandparents or even religious leaders were unable to answer most of my questions satisfactorily. I have always been a happy believer in God and as I grew up I followed all rituals that I was taught to the best of my ability. However, as time went on and more so after the daughter was born these questions started eating at me for I was now responsible for the religious and spiritual instruction of another human being.

 

How would I answer questions about religious wars being fought, about acts of terrorism being committed in the name of God? How would I explain to someone just learning about the big, bright world around her why people persecute each other in God’s name? If there exists such a God that demands retribution and persecution, why am I praying and in turn asking her to pray to such a deity? Wouldn’t she ask that if I asked her to be kind and polite and nice to all around her, how is the God we pray to allowed to have his/her devotees behave so appallingly?

 

Sure enough the daughter did ask such questions and for a time when she was very young, I managed to muddle through somehow or distracted her. Not my finest parenting moment, I must admit. This trick however, was not going to work when she grew up.

 

So for a few years now, I have been thinking about this more and more. All my questions and my thinking has led me to the following conclusions. Some of these have helped answer the daughter’s questions successfully. As for the other questions she has come up with, we are working on finding answers together.

 

  1.  God exists – this has to be taken on faith. I believe God exists and we have told the daughter she is free to believe or disbelieve. There’s no compulsion on her to think one way or another
  2. God is not necessarily found in temples/mosques/churches/synagogues – If one finds peace and contentment in a place of worship, then by all means one should visit. In our house the husband, my parents and my in-laws all love temples so they visit regularly. I don’t and I prefer praying at home
  3. God does not insist on rituals – After a lot of thinking and research I believe rituals are man made. We came up with rules and regulations, prayers and certain ways of doing things because we believe they are path to find God. Lately, this has been bothering me tremendously. I don’t understand most of the prayers or mantras or shlokas, I’m not a 100% sure if what I’m saying is in praise of God at all, since I don’t understand the language of the prayer. So I have eschewed rituals. Again, if one finds comfort in the rituals, one should practice like in our house, the husband does.
  4. There are a variety of ways to find God and there’s no guarantee that one way is better than the other – each religion offers a different path to God. One should be free to choose the path that works best for them. Similarly, if none of the religious paths appeal one can find God through service. If service doesn’t float your boat then all one needs to do is be kind and good to all. Any of these paths could lead to God or none of them may. Feel free to experiment with religions, with spiritual paths. They’re there to be explored and to be experimented with.
  5. No God has ever advocated violence – Ones who commit violence in his/her name are interpreting their religion and its scriptures to their benefit.

 

It is only this year that I have felt fully comfortable in the above answers that I have shared. Life long conditioning in religious systems and rituals made it difficult to give up everything at once, but this year we celebrated one of our favorite God’s birthdays a little differently. For Ganesh Chaturthi this year, we did not do the puja that I grew up with in my house. I did not turn on a CD and repeat mantras that I did not understand. Instead, the daughter and I fashioned Ganpathis out of clay and painted them. We made vadas and kheer and offered fruits and flowers and we sang one Ganesh aarti that we all love. It was short, sweet and a labor of love and it gave me the kind of satisfaction that I haven’t felt in the longest time. From here on, this is how all festivals will be celebrated in our household including Eid and Christmas. Like I tell the daughter, it’s best to pray to all Gods of all faiths. You never know which one of them may be listening. 🙂

 

I’m hoping my quest for answers will help answer some of your questions.

P.S Needless to say, this is my personal opinion. If you think and/or feel differently, I welcome an open discussion. Please bear in mind though, trolling will not be tolerated.