Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Figuring out the village!

Having lived in a village for over two years now and having made several good friends from around here, I am just beginning to understand what makes village folks different from city folks. But it was not until last week that I was able to put a finger on a major difference, and it all started with a visit to a newly married woman's house, whose wedding I couldn't attend due to ill health.

I went to visit Asha three days after her wedding. I also took along Shraddha, my son's school mate who is visiting from Singapore. Now Shraddha has no clue who Asha was, but she tagged along because we were to go buy some stuff for her kitchen once we were done socializing. At Asha's house, we were given tea and sweets and then Asha started showing us all her new clothes gifted by relatives. Finally, she pulled out her special wedding dress, a traditional gaddi attire that is like a loose skirted gown worn with a huge belt made of rope wrapped around the waist several times. It is a beautiful and expensive piece of clothing that gaddi brides wear on their weddings and on weddings of their close relatives. Asha first offered that I should try it because it looked loose enough for me to get into, but I couldn't get my shoulders in it, she offered it to Shraddha, a total stranger she had just met.

Shraddha wore the dress (minus the complicated belt) and another friend promptly put on lipstick and bindi on her. I took several pictures of her in the dress while she posed sometimes like a shy bride and sometimes like a wanton one. It must have been the highlight of Shraddha's stay in our village, wearing another woman's traditional wedding dress!

I thought about this generosity of Asha's on the way home, and then it struck me. Village folks are generous because they have very little self importance. They don't consider themselves as special or important. Imagine a city woman offering a total stranger her wedding dress. In the city, the wedding dress is a special dress of a special person. No sir, sharing it ain't gonna happen!

Village folks are also without walls that come from a sense of self importance. I have on so many occasions walked into the village homes of strangers on my walks and been offered the best treats they can put together from their meager resources- soft drinks, biscuits, and tea, and been told simple tales of their simple lives without hesitation. This won't happen in a city because we have too many walls around our homes, and around our hearts!

There is another effect of lack of walls- friendships flourish in no time. Among my closest friends today are village folks I met barely a year or so ago. Compare that to a few people I have known for decades, potential good friends because of so many common interests and attributes, who haven't yet felt safe enough with me to let go of the walls!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Black Sheep Gray!

Yesterday, while driving to Palampur, a classic Kishor Kumar song played on the radio and all of us joined in, belting it out as loudly as possible. The song was Phoolon ke rang se, dil ki kalam se from the movie Prem Pujari. One of the lines in the song goes like this: Lena hoga janam hamay kai kai baar, meaning that we will have to be reborn again and again just to fully savor the love between us.

After the song was over and our throats nicely sore, mommy said something that took my breath away. She said "Puja, I wish to be born as your mother in my next life too!'"

As is my habit when overwhelmed, I joked about it. I said that it would be better that she be my daughter so that I could order her around, and she retorted that as a daughter, she would make my life hell.

But jokes apart, I was totally touched by that statement. After all, I am the child who, as a teen, gave her serious trouble and scrubbed off a bit of the shine from her otherwise charmed life. It is true that whenever I read the phrase black sheep of the family, I see myself reflected in it as the tortured and rebellious teen in a family of regular good people. And even now, mom and I have our daily minor skirmishes on totally innocuous issues.

That my mom wants to be my mom again if possible is an honor that I never expected and have difficulty adjusting to. It seems to paint the black sheep gray!

And I kinda like it.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Blasts from the Past!

I shared a short story on Facebook yesterday about Atreya's reaction to topping his class at 14 (see at the end of this post). Here is another interesting story from his school years, which was the beginning of it all.

It's all about Attitude!
Singapore has a system of a major exam, called PSLE, at the end of Primary School education. Sadly, the results of this exam decide a child's academic future. A bad score in this exam can mean s/he will not be eligible to attend University six years later. 

Most Singaporean parents are hyper-stressed about this exam, but that was not the case with me because of several reasons. For one, I don't think much of such exams that put unnecessary stress on a child. Two, Atreya was a smart child who seemed to understand most of the concepts easily.  And finally, I was extremely busy being the sole breadwinner of our small family. 

But when his school teacher expressed her concern about his lack of effort (her words- he is one of my brightest students but doesn't seem to care about anything or put in any effort), I decided to have a conversation with him.

I said to him that when I hire or fire an employee, it is always based on their attitude, never on what they scored in their exams. When choosing team members, I always look for people who demonstrate commitment and responsibility. And based on Atreya's attitude towards his work, which as a student was his studies, I would never hire him, and if I did hire him, he would be the first one to be fired. 

That was the extent of our discussion. No extra classes, no additional supervision by mommy. 

My words hit home, and this careless child went on to break all records in his Secondary School exam, getting seven distinctions (in all subjects except the much dreaded Hindi) and being declared the best student of the year. And all this without a watchful mommy's supervision or any after-school tuition! 

It's all about attitude really...in school as in other aspects of life! 

Top or Bottom?
After years of just doing okay in school, when my son came in first in the second year of Secondary school, he thought the rank 1/43 meant he had terrible scores and had come in last! It's only when his friends congratulated him that he figured out what it meant.

I was quite surprised by his innocence. But it is understandable and shows how little he and I used to stress about results and scores. The only thing we ever discussed was the right attitude towards learning.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Morning was Bright and Shiny!

By Chandrama Anand

The morning was bright and shiny, after a few gloomy days of clouds and rain. Puja drove up to the point where we always park our car before we trek up to Saloti Mata Temple.  The peaks were glinting like silver against the embankment of white clouds and blue sky. On the left, the serpentine  dirt road  meandered through the green  step like wheat fields. The mountain rivulet could be seen gurgling and gushing  rapidly, dancing to reach its unknown destination, but from this distance the music was on mute. 

While my eyes feasted on all this breath taking canvas, my heart was filled with overwhelming emotion. Was I grateful for this life? Did I deserve such bounty? Was I worthy of this gift of Nature ? I wanted to thank someone or every one for handing me this trophy. 

It was my darling husband who had taken the decision to settle here in the lap of Himachal, where I had just come for a mission for a short time.  Now he has gone and I miss him with fond memories. But I miss him with love and gratitude and no regrets.

My life has attained another beautiful height because of my youngest daughter Puja . She has left the comfort and advantage of a posh country like Singapore to give me her love and care in this small out of the way village Mouli, in Dharamshala. Her siblings too are breathing easy knowing that their mother is no longer alone. 

Puja, I and my grand daughter Aloka go for these crazy outings at the drop of a hat. Today we took some crazy photos posing and not posing,  but enjoying the bounty of nature so pure. The sheep and goats were our companions. Then the eagles came rejoicing with their huge span of wings, floating freely in the thermals. Butterflies too came in hoards. Bees and flies too came out in a swarm. 

That is how I spent my today- remembering my yesterdays and looked forward to tomorrows.

5th April 2015