Saturday, August 30, 2008

Why Settle for Less

“Mama, come quickly!!" my eldest was calling in an excited voice. He wanted to show me something, I could tell from his voice, seasoned mother that I am! I rushed out to the courtyard. We have some trees with some wild fruits that are home to a large number of birds, many of them quite exotic in spring. They flock together, sometimes are solitary, taking pleasure in the succulent fruits.
Being a home bound woman in the boonies, from a big city where I had spent all of my life, I have an absolute fascination for these migratory birds. To me, they seem to be having a great deal of fun. To see the different terrains, to live with the glorious uncertainties of yet another day, to maintain the faith that a better fruit awaits them tomorrow... as they soar to unknown territories...... must be so exciting!!!
My son's excitement was justified, as the bird sitting with regal grace was really a gorgeous one. I often see birds with fluorescent yellow, orange red and green in the cool greenery. Had it not been for the presence of a big white kite entangled in the branches.... we would have missed the beauty. It had a sea green body, rust coloured wings and a jet black tail, with just a dash of fluorescent blue at the junction of the wings and the body. It was simply gorgeous!!! I marvelled at the beauty of the creature. Courageous; exotically beautiful and vulnerable. What more could you ask for...... to be spell-bound, to feel its beauty clutch at your heart.
How could its mother let him go? (It had to be a’ him’ because of the brilliant colouring.... survival of the species depended on his plumage.) And here stepped in my imagination..... this bird must have listened to stories from his grandfather about how they prepared for flight, how they fattened themselves to sustain the rigours of braving the cold winds, how to use the sun for directions, to determine their flight path. Did they romanticise their adventures like we humans do, forgetting all the trials and tribulations of such travels?!? This one looked like a love bird. Did it travel at night- which holds it's own perils- to elude the birds of prey? Would he pay the price by losing his life for this adventure?
Didn't he get tired of endlessly roaming? Will it miss the young ones, the sick ones and the old ones left behind? As a child, I would lie looking at the clouds scudding by and dreaming of being able to soar the infinite sky like a hawk, to never, ever land, to be able to see the snow queen and find incredible adventures and endless treasures.
Migration, it is said, is a step in evolution born of necessity for survival and not for better pastures in lower animals. Animals keep moving till their needs are satisfied, and return home when they know conditions are favourable. Are we humans like this? We, the supposedly higher animals, move for greener pastures in life, and more often than not never return. Why not instead, transform the place of birth to what we want it to be like? Is this thought regressive? Or simply a tougher option?? Is it settling for less? Humans are the only migratory being to have this option of being in control of his surroundings with the ability to change it. The migratory birds after all never have a place to call home. We certainly do.
So make a difference. Don't settle for less.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The fragility of respect

The other day I happened to read an article in the papers about respect that started me thinking. What is respect, in actuality? Is it really so easy to lose the aspect most relationships are built on? It seems so. It’s scary, but true. We all, each and every one of us hide behind masks. The regard we hold for people is built over time, through many ups and downs, we excuse those people for almost anything. But sometimes, just a word, a sentence spoken at the wrong time, a response or the lack of it…. And it’s all over. Just one unfeeling word or action, and it all falls down like a house of cards.
Disillusioned and surprised at the face you see, at the entity that lurks behind the mask that you thought you knew so well. Is this the friend you trusted with your inner-most secrets and shared your laughter with? Is this the lover, your partner, that you gave your all to with spontaneity? Is that what they actually are, so at variance with your self-perception? Is that what they think? Maybe….
Yes. And it hurts. I lost all respect for a friend when I told her that I suspected my husband of infidelity and she turned around and told me, “All men do it”. What I heard was, “Deal with it, there’s nothing you can do”. Words once uttered can’t be retracted. I lost all regard for my husband when he turned around and told me, “I have been asking around, and everyone I have spoken to agree that I have every right to raise my hand on my wife”. He had justified his actions to himself. He condoned himself for torturing me physically and mentally, for trying to break my spirit. That one sentence shocked me out of my wits and I lost any shred of respect I held for him. It was at that moment that I realized that I wouldn’t be able to respect myself if I took what was happening lightly thinking that he will at some point see the light at the end of the tunnel. And I walked out.
We all at some point get negative thoughts, about even the ones we love the most. Sometimes, at unguarded moments, it may well slip out. We reveal our inner-most, darkest selves to a loved one and there’s no turning back. Sometimes we say things in self-defense or attack a well-wisher when cornered, with verbal knives that we may later regret, but can’t take back the words or actions. It is only under extreme pressure that our true character is revealed. Each of us is very well aware of who we really are deep down. However, that does not mean that those closest to us are privy to that self or to our deepest thoughts.
Is respect such a fragile thing? It’s certainly not something that should be taken for granted, because, yes, it is fragile. Respect, unlike regard, is something we need to keep working on maintaining. For it can snap, like a strand of thread. When we have a high regard for someone, it is maybe because of whom they are, or the tradition surrounding them. One has regard for an aged person, a teacher or a learned person. Respect on the other hand is what we develop for a particular trait in those that we observe and interact most closely with, those closest to us. Thus it is important to maintain the aspect of respect because that is the basis, quite often, of most relationships.
My elders always exhorted me to think before I spoke. Yet there are times in all our lives where we have spoken without thinking and lived to regret it. Time was when I used to think that one had to weigh one’s words so as to not hurt another. It’s only recently that I have come to the realization that the greatest harm we do when we speak without thinking is to ourselves!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Parent or Friend

“Mom, did you happen to see this article in the papers?” asked my eldest son, with a deadpan expression on his face. (And FYI he’s pretty savvy.) I didn’t even glance at the article and thought to myself – what a chip off the old block he was. Not! I figured that it was yet another article on the nastiness that some parents dole out to their offspring in the guise of parenting. “What a cruel father! Isn’t that right, mom?” chipped in the second son while my third looked on with a cherubic, butter-won’t-melt-in-my-mouth expression. And sure enough! I had surmised correctly where the conversation was veering. “Father jailed for pulling child’s ear and calling him stupid,” was the offering of my youngest son to the conversational gambit.
I fully understand the message implied: that I have to toe a careful line in dealing with my sons. This dose of intimidation is meted out to me on a regular basis, lest I forget who the actual boss in the equation here is. My eldest, after scanning the entertainment section of the newspaper (his favourite), skims through the other pages looking for articles like that. News of that genre, he perhaps (nay, surely!) thinks are extremely potent weapons in his arsenal to keep me under check. Perhaps I am the only one in my household under the mistaken impression that I am a fairly doting mother. My cruelty is now limited – as I am recently separated from my husband and doing the balancing act on Damocles’ sword – to making them get up at an unearthly (for me – as I am definitely not a morning person) early hour in the morning (they won’t if I don’t, LOL) so that they make it to school in and on time.
The unearthly hour, though, is for my benefit. And that is because of the daily soap opera that unfolds without fail every morning at 5:30. I won’t go into it. It’s enough to drive most sane people to drastic acts of cruelty! My most cruel acts (in the eyes of my children) are to get them to clean up the myriad messes they create and to help with daily household chores, or to make them get down with their homework. Sigh! The travails of parenting!!
I have always endeavored to be a friend to them – along with cracking the whip when I deemed it to be a requirement. But it is they that break this fragile bond of friendship the moment I request them to turn off the TV and study. It is they that snap it the moment I tell them to brush their teeth before going to bed or to go for a shower when they return home sweaty from playing outdoors.
Then there are the lectures (for them), motivational talks (for me). I try to keep them succinct and contextual (after having rehearsed them countless times before the mirror) -MAJOR stumbling block in our friendship. My inability to get them their preferred mode of transport – all terrain bicycles – at this juncture of my life, along with other amenities which are pretty important for boys their age, perhaps also contribute towards quashing any overtures of camaraderie with my sons. I console myself by repeating the mantra: boys will be boys.
They reciprocate my friendship a tad if I give them some pocket money and increase it when they demand citing inflation. To my way of thinking, rising inflation should result in a decrease in their pocket money. After all, I have to run the house with my constant, limited ‘salary’ but rising costs. But my sons have a different logic. They need a hike because the rates of ice-creams have risen and the cyber cafes charge more for the games they want to play; besides, other children get more. I try to explain the new situation to them, but it is their logic that prevails while mine fall by the wayside!
Then…I am deemed to be a good mother when I keep my cool when they come home with poor results. They appreciate me if I believe all their BS – nay, excuses – for doing badly in their exams without batting an eyelid or losing my shirt. They rate me as an ‘acceptable’ parent if I relent to their excuses for playing truant from school. There are umpteen other such acts that would make me worthy of their approval and coveted friendship (duration not guaranteed) but I fail to make the grade time and again.
I struggle to ensure that even my well-intentioned behaviour with my children does not lead toward any long term damage to their psyches. If my children are to march to the beat of a different drum, then darned, if I’m not ready to procure that drum and learn to play the beat myself! I have no preconceived notions, but find the response elusive to date.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Good old Love.

Once there was an island on which all feelings resided: Happiness, Sadness, Hatred, Knowledge and all the others including Love. One day it was announced to the feelings that the island would sink and in order to save themselves they all constructed boats and set sail. All, except Love.
Love was the only one that stayed. Love wanted to hold out until the last possible moment. When the island had almost sunk Love decided to ask for help. Richness was passing by in a grand boat. Love said, "Richness, can you take me with you?"
Richness answered, "No, I can't. There is no place here for you." And Love got variations of that answer from everyone: Distress and Exhileration, Depression and Ecstacy. All of them. Love's shoulders slumped and head bowed.
Suddenly there came a voice, "Come, Love, I will take you." It was an elder. So blessed and overjoyed, Love forgot to even ask the elder where they were going. When they arrived on dry land, the elder went her own way. Realising how much was owed to the elder, Love asked Knowledge, another elder, "Who helped me?" "It was Time," Knowledge answered.
"Time?" asked Love. "But why did Time help me?"
Knowledge smiled with deep wisdom and answered, "Because only Time is capable of understanding how valuable Love IS."