Friday, December 28, 2012

Winking at the Universe!

After a late night call with Atreya, I was especially disturbed. He had sounded very low, worse than ever before. He was not happy with his performance in the Army and was wondering if he was at all meant to be an officer. According to him, the other cadets seemed to know what they were doing and were doing it well, whereas he was fumbling and making mistakes, and not getting any better as time passed.

My first reaction was to tell him firmly to plow on. I was not just firm- I was angry at what I perceived to be his defeatist attitude. I told him that I too had to do things I didn't know or like in the last one year, but I had figured them out with hard work and persistence. If I could do it, he should too. I feel strongly about this issue of giving up half way, so this reaction was instinctive.

Later, while in bed, I felt terrible remorse at how I had reacted. So many thoughts went through my mind. He has only me to talk to- what right have I to push my opinions on him? And was I pushing him for his own good or to save my face? As always, such situations bring out my deepest inner conflicts about my role as the only parent to my kids. Am I a father, tolerating no nonsense and teaching his son to be strong, or am I a mother, gentle and kind and all forgiving.  I remembered how my mother had always unconditionally supported all my decisions, whether they looked good or bad, and how much that meant to me. Didn't Atreya deserve the same unconditional support? I recalled my father's implicit trust in my ability to run my life my way and how much that empowered me. Doesn't Atreya deserve a similar right to make his decisions, and take the reins of his life in his hands? 

After tossing and turning and contemplating on all these issues for a while, the mom and pop in me reconciled and I messaged him to say that whatever he decides to do, I would support him without judging him. I really meant it.

Three days later, I received another call from him while at work. He urgently needed his passport and certificates to be delivered to his camp. These were needed to apply for his citizenship, which was necessary before he could be nominated for an award called Sword of Honor. Not having forgotten our conversation of a few days ago, I didn't pay much attention to the award. In fact, a part of me thought it was a joke. I assumed that this nomination thing was just a gesture, and therefore certainly several cadets from his platoon would have been nominated too. Anyway, since he had asked, I rushed from office to home to pick up the documents and then took a cab to his camp 20 miles away.

There I met his boss, the Captain, and asked him what this award was for and how many cadets had he nominated. He looked at me oddly and said that he was nominating only one from his platoon. There were a total of nine nominations in the entire cohort, one from each platoon, of which only one would win the Sword of Honor. 

Taken aback, I blurted out- “Only one from your platoon? And you chose Atreya? Why?” He looked shocked at my question. But I think we were hell bent on shocking each other, because he responded- “Why? Because he is the best cadet in my platoon”. By now, my head had begun to spin. I said- “But he has not been doing well. How can he be your best cadet?” The response had me totally rethinking everything I knew about my son. The Captain said- “It's Atreya’s humility that he thinks he is not doing well. He is not arrogant enough to believe he knows it all, and works hard to improve constantly. We need more people like him, we need that attitude. He is a role model.”

On the way back, his words kept ringing in my ears. Atreya is the best cadet in the platoon. Atreya’s humility makes him doubt his own performance. Atreya is deserving of the highest award in OCS. Atreya is a role model!

When I spoke to Atreya later that night, I first scolded him for making me go through the hell of guilt and anxiety for almost a year for no reason. I told him I will never empathize or sympathize with him ever again because it is not needed. And so on. He listened to my ranting quietly and when he got a chance to speak, he admitted that he was as shocked as I was at the turn of events! 
Talk of humility!

As we found out in the next couple of days, Atreya did not after all win the Sword of Honor, but his nomination as the best cadet of the platoon (and award of Sword of Merit) is proof enough about his abilities and character. More than making me proud, which is a fleeting emotion, he makes me confident about how he will deal with the huge change happening in our lives. Just a few days ago, I was faced with the terrible guilt of abandoning my son in his time of need, and here I was watching his self-esteem build up all over again. Could I have asked for more at this juncture? 

I see the Universe winking at me, and I wink right back at it! 

‎"We ordinary people can see neither our own eyelashes, which are so close, nor the heavens in the distance. Likewise, we do not see that the Buddha exists in our own hearts." : Nichiren


  1. Very Nice Puja!I can see and hear the person who wants to explore and articulate and I can visualize the author on the horizon!

  2. Inspiring. You are an inspiration to all single mothers out there. Your son too!

  3. For many of your achievements you do give credit to your mother. But let me tell you that apart from giving birth to you by sheer act of providence and anonymous permutations ,I had nothing to do with your strength of character and confidence. Life teaches so much and I agree we have to be grateful to life and incidentally whosoever has played some major or minor role at any time of your life. Even adversity can be a boon sometimes.
    When I look at you I marvel,"Is she really MY DAUGHTER?!!"
    While I have been very miserly most of the time (for my reasons alone) you are mighty generous. At the fag end of my life you have made me rich in learning new things, computer games, on I phone ,on I pad and I know as long as I live I shall be enriched. Looking forward eagerly with greed for the next set of presents under the Christmas tree.
    Smilingly yours(after electronically brushing teeth)

    1. Mommy, the humility genes run in the family then!

      Nothing makes me happier than giving you gifts. It's my pleasure totally. So, yes you can expect more next Christmas and in between! Love and love.