An insider’s tips to Pushkar

Some of you may know that I live in Ajmer, a small town in the heart of Rajasthan.  While Ajmer is famous worldwide in its own right because of the Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chisty’s dargah. It is made even more famous due to its proximity to Pushkar.

Separated by a narrow stretch of mountain Ajmer and Pushkar while just a few kilometers apart physically are a study of contrasts in their spirit. While Ajmer is laid back, conservative, routine… Pushkar is dynamic, bohemian and full of surprises! It is no wonder then that I love it.

Here is a piece I recently did on Pushkar  at the popular travel blog at Travelyari. Do check it out!!

young Shiva – by-Satish-Krishnamurthy

 

 

She is going away…

She is going away…

I didn’t want to write about this since I already wrote about this last month. But since the last few days it’s all I think about. The thought I sleep with and the dull ache I wake up with. And it is impossible to write about anything else.

My little girl M is stepping out into the BIG BAD WORLD. All on her own. In the nine years eleven months she has been in my life (not counting the nine months she spent in my tummy). I have experienced the best and worst, the happiest and the saddest, the proudest and the most  anxious minutes of my existence. And on the cusp of her day of departure for a  residential school, they play out like a video tape in front of my teary eyes.

The happiest day of my life: The day I had M. The pictures show the tiny tiny M lying in the arms of  a smiling beaming me. There is not a sign of the pain and tiredness I know I felt. Holding my little ‘cookie’ wiped it all away. As soon as M was born I asked the doctor (a dear friend), “How  is she?” “How do you know it’s a she?” she asked. “I just know ” I mumbled without a trace of doubt.

I had miscarried twins before conceiving M and thus she had become even more precious to me. “She has to be the most ‘sonographed’ foetus in the world!” my sister in-laws joked as I rushed to my doctor friend each time I imagined I didn’t feel her move or move enough. I was an anxious mom to be. But the only thing I wanted to know was whether my baby lived. I was determined to not lose her. That it was a ‘her’ was never a question I needed an answer for. That, I just knew.

The other thing I knew was that M was going to be a book lover just like me. From the early stages of pregnancy I read to her. I read aloud short little stories that spoke of happy cuddly things, little mushy poems that rhymed and meant nothing and I knew that even as a baby M enjoyed them. Our reading time together became a tradition that’s been with us till now. It has been a joy to see M graduate from listening wide-eyed to classic fairy tales (Her favorite was Goldilocks! ) to lying next to me absorbed in a copy of “I am Malala” . These days she prefers to read on her own while I lie next to her and catch up on my own reading. But our reading time together is still the most enjoyable part of our day. Ten years of ‘reading time’ with M will always be the  most cherished moments of my life.

The proudest moment of my life: M was a fast learner, speaking fluently before she was even one. But having no other yardstick to compare her progress by I never attached much significance to that.  It was only after she started going to school and I started getting her progress cards that it dawned on me that M was quite special. Her school has a beautiful concept of writing short character sketches along with children’s report cards. These are short notes that the class teachers write about each child in their care. M’s notes always spoke about  her willingness to share, to resolve differences, help and adjust. But they almost always also mentioned her shyness and her tendency to prefer to remain in her own zone.

I was thus very apprehensive when she was chosen to be sent to Delhi to represent her school for an inter house quiz competition. The teacher said ” We have never taken such a small child before, do you think she will be able to cope?” Barely Eight, would she be able to travel overnight with a group of senior boys and girls ? Would she know how to sleep in a train without rolling off the narrow seat, use the awkward loos, change into her uniform all by herself? Wouldn’t  she be nervous to stand up on the stage and face strange crowds? M is a fussy eater, What kind of food would she get? I was nervous like hell  as I accompanied her to the railway station. M must have been apprehensive too, I could see it in the way she clutched tightly to her small suitcase. But as the train blew its whistle ready to roll off she put on a brave smile and waved me off – whispering in my ears “Don’t worry mumma, I will be okay.” That day as I saw her standing  on the doorstep of the train bogey, trying to be confident. I was proud of my little girl. She was facing a challenge unlike any she had ever faced before but instead of giving in to doubts she chose to treat it like an adventure. Two days later when I collected her from the station again, she was grimy and tired but bright-eyed with her first taste of victory. On reaching home she ate like a starved puppy and then snuggled into a long deep sleep. To this day , the trophy on her mantlepiece stands in my mind not for her general knowledge but for her ability to put aside her doubts and take on life’s challenges by the horns.

The saddest day, in my parenting memory unfolded when M was three months shy of  two. We had welcomed K her younger brother a couple of months earlier into our family. It had been a hectic time for us. K was born in the peak of winters and had suffered from severe cold since the first day. Between tending to a sickly new-born and taking care of the needs of a toddler I was perpetually tired and haggard. That evening as I sat M in my laps for her nightly story and asked her about her day. She began to stammer. My chirpy bird who had been talking fluently since she was eleven months old and had hardly even lisped was stammering! It broke my heart. The next day the stammer was still there and the next and next… Was this genetic? I had a close relative in the family with a stammer. Will my little girl have to face the jokes and sniggers that I had seen my relative suffer? Would it be assumed that she is ‘slow’ in her mind because she is ‘slow’ in expressing herself? Was this a passing phase? My husband and I googled and read every single article we found on stammering. Finding no answers in our small town, we headed to Delhi. The doctors and speech therapists we met were not very encouraging. They counseled us on how to deal with the condition but could give us no clue about the reason for its onset or prognosis. To the best of their understanding the stammer was here to stay.

We returned from that  trip heavy-hearted and dejected. Each time M spoke our eyes filled with tears. But we were determined to not give up. We were not going to lose this battle. And we came up with our own theory. We decided that the arrival of the baby had something to do with the affliction. And even though the doctors insisted that ‘insecurity’ due to a sibling did not manifest into stammering at such a young age, we believed otherwise. My mom in law – M’s dadi stepped in and took over the daily care of the baby. K was brought to me only to be fed and bathed, spending the rest of his time with his dadi and dad. A month or two later the stammering stopped. Just as suddenly as it had creeped into our lives, it left us for good. For a year or two we watched anxiously. Wondering if it would claim our little girl again but thankfully it never did.

K and M have had their share of sibling rivalry. But slowly over the years we were able to convey to them that they were both cherished and loved and that in some crazy way our love instead of dividing between the two of them, multiplies and grows manifold to encompass them both. Today, K and M are inseparable. Being just a year apart they understand each others thoughts and feelings better than we ever will. They snigger together about classmates, swap jokes only they find funny and share secrets, that we have no access to. And if there is one person who is going to miss M more than us her parents,  it is K her baby brother.

Her going away is a test for all of us. And like all important tests this one too is difficult. But if we pass it and we hope we will, the fruits will sweeten our lives forever.

This post was written for Parentous – a parenting forum. For more interesting stories and posts related to parenting and children do visit us there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Being A Queen

Love is wonderful! It makes our steps lighter and our hearts happier! It makes us feel more beautiful and liked and cherished. It increases our confidence and self-worth. It makes us feel on top of the world. As if  we own it!

Why is it then that the same love begins to bind us? tie us? suffocate us? change us so much that we cease to exist as the individuals we once were?  Metamorphosing instead into something that fits the expectations/ convenience of that special someone.

No wonder when the happy love bubble bursts as all such bubbles must. We realize that we are now just shadows of who we used to be. Lost and bewildered we feel cheated! Feel cheated that the love that promised so much did not last forever. (Like in the movies/ or romantic novels). Cheated that the person who once thought we were amazing and faultless  now can’t seem to find in us a single good quality!

Does it always have to be this way? And what does one do when one’s world comes shattering down like this? Mope around, cry buckets or reinvent oneself and emerge a Queen?

I just saw it – Bollywood’s latest coming of age film – Queen was awesome! I loved it! Go watch it if you haven’t seen it already. It will make you cry and laugh (often both together), and leave you feeling so exhilarate-ingly free!!!

I do not write movie reviews usually. But this one just got under my skin!

Do you  enjoy watching movies? Which ones are your favorites and why?

Colours From God’s palette

This Holi let’s ignore our differences and embrace our similarities. Pink, Blue, Yellow, brown, White or Black -

We all come from God’s palette. And We are all BEAUTIFUL – Happy Holi!!!

Sapna

 I am not a photographer. Though the words in my posts are always mine, the pictures almost never are.  It is said “A picture speaks a thousand words”. I thank the talented photographers who complement mine so beautifully. The photo credits are given in the captions of every picture.

A Village woman cooking courtesy www.theguardian.com

To the Women of My World – On Women’s Day

Their veil of ‘protection’

forcibly keeps out ‘our’ light

darkening our worlds

Against all odds

we dream

The shackles of ‘tradition’

stifle us

authoritatively dictating our lives

Against all odds

we breathe

The menacing shroud of  ignorance

violently wrapped around us

entangles us

not allowing escape

Against all odds

we hope

The fear of reprimand

ties us down

intimidating us to  tow the line

Against all odds

we assert

The danger

of being mutilated, burned, violated, killed

scares us

smothering us to silence

Against all odds

we speak

The violence we face everyday

intimidates us

terrorizing us to tears

Against all odds

we smile

The world

we were born into

stands against us

up in arms to defeat us

Against all odds

we live.

‘Women’ of the world and specially the women of my country, whose woes I know more intimately. Everyday in our lives is a struggle. one day for us is not enough. Lets pledge to claim the year!

Considering buying some puppy love? – Five reasons you should not get a pup and One reason you should! Advice from a Pet Loving Mom

You think it is just a pet. You think it only needs to be given food thrice a day and to be walked once maybe twice. You think “I can do that much”. Sorry! Pal. You are way off the mark. You need to think again! The ‘wagging tail-ed darling’ who’s licking your hands right now will not let you think straight. So my advice… step out of that pet shop, now! Away from the mesmerizing hold of those innocent ‘doggy eyes’ and hear me out. Take what I say seriously, because I made the mistake you are about to make, three months back and I am still paying for it! (

5 Reasons Why Not To Own A Pet - Advice From A ‘Pet Loving Mom'

Here are the five reasons that would make even the staunchest ‘dog lovers’ reconsider buying themselves some ‘puppy love’ :

Reason no. 1

You have to begin toilet training all over again: Remember the time your kids were two-year olds? The constant obsession with whether they had ‘pee-d’ and ‘poo-ed’? Always trying to anticipate when they may need to ‘go‘ next? A new pup in the house takes you back to the same time in your parenting life only minus the joyful lisping chatter that a two-year old human baby is capable of. If you are still enthusiastic about that little ball of fluff, let me tell you this. “They have still not discovered puppy diapers” Atleast not in India!!!

Reason no. 2
They give you sleepless nights: Like babies, pups are demanding. They want to be cuddled and petted all the time. And like babies their desires are not controlled by the clock! Whether you watched a late night movie or had an assignment to submit and stayed up till midnight. Does the puppy care? No! If it feels like whining for some ‘human mommy time’ it will. Between mid night ‘petting sessions’ and early morning ‘bladder relief’ visits to the garden. It will be a while before you start getting your eight hours of beauty sleep again.

Reason no. 3

They shed their hair everywhere: There is a reason humans are the superior race to dogs. And it’s not the brain! It is that we do not have a coat of fur that covers almost every inch of our bodies! Just think about all the grief we face because of the hair on our heads. Now multiply that by a hundred! Do not be fooled by the small size or short length of some of those ‘cuties’. The dog dander will coat everything in your house. Your clothes, armchairs, bed linen… even the smart black jacket you reserve for special occasions! And the brushing is easier said than done. Try getting the ‘small round ball of liveliness’ you just adopted to sit still for a second.

Reason no. 4

You can bid goodbye to all your fancy shoes and socks: Actually you can cut out the ‘fancy’! By the time the gnawing, munching, chewing ‘charmer’ is done with you there will be no ‘hole – less’ socks or ‘teeth–bite-less’ sandals left in your shoe shelves. No matter how many rubbery bones or leathery balls you buy it. The teething needs of ‘new baby’ of the house will be satisfied by only that golden strapped high heel you paid a bomb for!

Reason no. 5

You can never ever leave home again without worrying about who will feed, pet and care for the ‘little angel’: Goodbye month-long vacations in Europe. Goodbye the week-long holiday in the hills. You can even say goodbye to the impromptu weekend at the new resort that just opened a hundred kilometers away. Your little ‘bundle of joy’ is not welcome on trains, buses or air planes. And no, even if you limit your holiday options to the places you can drive to you will discover that no hotel or resort or guest house worth staying in will have ‘your best friend’ aboard. Why? You ask exasperated. Refer to reason no. 3.

Post Note:

Before you give up on the idea of getting a pup,  stop looking at the pet shop windows longingly as you drive past them and relegate that book about ‘ Finding the perfect breed for your family’  to the topmost shelf of your book cupboard forever… STOP!!! I have still to share with you the one reason that would still  make you adopt that ‘ coochie poo’

As I write this my “doggy munchkin” is lying at my feet. I stroke his soft fur with my ‘un-socked’ foot. It is five ‘o’ clock on a Saturday morning and the household is still asleep. But the minute I wake up my ‘ tail wagging bundle of joy’ comes leaping up to me. He licks my toes, my hands, my face and whatever else he can find to tell me how much he loves me. Next he snuggles into my arms rubbing his sniffing wet nose into my night-clothes. “I love you too” I say as we step out into the open. Under the still star covered sky, I watch as the ‘baby’ does his ‘business’. Our alone time together is short.

Soon the children will be up and my ‘lively rolling bundle of fur’ will run away to romp with them. They will squeal with delight as he jumps on them, wetting them with his puppy drool. They will fight with each other to cuddle him first. Beg me to let him accompany us in the car to drop them to school. And make sure that he will be the first one to greet them when they return from their ‘five – hours- of – education’.

Yes the puppy is a lot of trouble but when I look at the joy on the faces of my ‘two adorable human munchkins’. I am sure he is really worth it.

The original article was published at Parentous- An Indian parenting forum.Those among you, interested in reading about children/ parenting/ schooling  or family life in general must visit the site for some amazing articles/ stories/ anecdotes and wise advice!

The land of prayers

Ladakh – An unforgettable Road Trip

Hi Folks

I was recently asked by Shivya from The Shooting Star to write a piece for Travelyari. Shivya is one of those bloggers I admire. Young and hard-working, Shivya decided early in life that her heart was in traveling. So she checked out of her well-paying corporate job and became a ‘modern age vagabond’ :) Today she heads a travel company, writes travelogues for newspapers and magazines and generally leads the kind of life that makes people like me ‘jealous’! ;)

The piece that I have written for ‘travelyari’ is about a road trip I took last summer to Ladakh. I hope to follow this up with pieces about the rest of this wonderful journey.

Unforgettable Journey – Srinagar to Kargil by Road

The photographs in the piece have been done by my fellow travelers on the trip! I hope you enjoy the piece.

Here are two photo essays, I had previously posted about the same trip. Check them out. You may like them.

Meeting Red in Ladakh

Lonely in Ladakh

Murderous Dream

I had a dream

It shimmered and shone

beckoning me

to touch it.

As I reached out

It embraced me

so hard

my ribs hurt.

I strained to be free

but the grip tightened

the more I tried to get away

the tighter it clutched me

crushing me.

Till I could breathe no more.

Pushing, screaming

I scrambled to disentangle myself

begging to be liberated.

But the dream clung on.

I wanted to let go.

To run.

So far that it would never grasp me again.

Never entice me with its false gleam again.

With all my strength

I pushed it.

And somehow

managed to escape.

Only to realize

too late.

In my struggle to be released

I had left behind

my soul.

Held fast in the dreary dream’s deathly grip.

I existed but I lived no more

talked but  spoke no more

touched but felt no more.

Now I wait

with breathless anticipation and gloomy dread.

For my soul to come back to me

For the murderous dream

to clasp me  again…

The prompt on Daily Post was Dreams… There are dreams that nurture us . There are dreams that soothe us. There are dreams that motivate us and then there are dreams that kill us. This is my interpretation of a dream that break!. Prose or poetry, I do not really know. I have taken liberties with the punctuation too. Apologies to the grammar police!

To Send or Not to send – Dilemmas of being a Boarding school parent

My little girl M is going away. No she is not 16 and moving to college. Neither is she 26 and getting married. She is not taking off on a holiday or a camp! My little girl is 9 and come April 1st. she is heading to a boarding school.

To Send Or Not To Send – Dilemmas of Being a Boarding School Parent

Boarding school, where gaggles of girls sleep in long bunk bedded dormitories and have gaggles of fun (my daughter’s viewpoint)! Boarding schools where busy parents who can not or do not wish to spend time on their children send them away (The critical view point), (remember taare zameen par!) Boarding school where children learn to be independent and self driven (viewpoint of hopeful parents like me).

The truth as in most cases lies somewhere in between. Having lived in a boarding myself (Fifteen years no less!!) I always thought when the time to send my own children to a boarding school would arrive, I would be able to do so easily. Instead, I discovered that fifteen years of experience in some of the best boarding schools of India (At least they used to be) made the decision even more difficult for me to take. I had too much information (aka experience). Not all of it good from my own time at the hostel.

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visiting the past

visiting the past

A reader reminded me of this post I had written last year in July. I don’t have a very good memory and sometimes when I look back at my own writing I do so with a sense of deja vu. Does this happen to you? How do you feel when you look back at pieces you wrote a while back?