Friday, September 26, 2014

Stepping Out of Boxes and Into Ourselves

Yesterday, Raghav and I were trying to fix some of the light wooden dolls (from a Kondapalli Dasavatharam set that we have) to a wooden base, so that they didn't keep falling over every time there was a strong gust of wind that blew from the balcony. He was helping me fix them on with some blue-tac.

"What is this mutated horse-man thing?", he exclaimed with a weird look on his face. He was holding the doll that symbolised Kalki Avatar :) If only my mother-in-law was around to hear this! She would have fainted in shock I think :) I was in splits, guffawing out loud and explaining to him what that symbolised. And all the while, I was thinking to myself that this is perhaps how an alien would feel about the multitude of gods that we have :) Perhaps that was the new-age definition of Kalki avatar!

Yes. Raghav has no clue about most of our Hindu gods and goddesses, except for Rama, Krishna and Ganesha. Not that we have kept him away from all this deliberately. We tried to read him those stories when he was younger, his grandparents tried to tell him those stories, but he was never interested in them. They didn't appeal to him. He could not relate to them. He would just walk away. He has most often liked only 'real' stories with everyday happenings woven into them or stories with lots of humour. He has loved listening to stories of what my dad or my husband did when they were little kids, or the series of fascinating stories that my dad made up for us when we were kids - one was about a boy and a talking parrot and all their fun antics, and the other one was about a little boy and his magic carpet that took him on adventures to far away places all over the world. These are the stories that inspired him. Not stories with violence or a lot of fantasy. He has often also told us that the stories about our gods have too much violence in them, which he didn't quite like. And so we respected his choice and never forced those on him. Maybe some day they will appeal to him. Who knows?

Looking back today, I can say happily that we are a family with a curious blend of different beliefs -  where we have given each other the space to pursue what we believe in with minimum interference (we all try hard). I have to thank my husband for that - for his understanding and commitment to the journey we have chosen to undertake with our son. My husband likes rituals, visiting temples and following some traditions and customs, while I have (as far as I can remember) questioned everything and not followed anything that didn't make sense or appeal to me. I have moved from being an avid temple goer in my childhood and teens, to not finding the need to do that anymore, from being one who followed all rituals and customs to often please my family, to doing only what I feel like doing now. And our son  has been the one who has made us sit up and think about what we were following and why. He doesn't like going to temples and so we just don't go so much anymore; or else one of us stays with him while the other goes. Somehow it has always worked out okay.

So yes, we celebrate some festivals, and we don't celebrate some others. We celebrate what we love and we don't celebrate what we don't care about too much. Diwali is a festival which we don't celebrate like the rest of the country does. It is a time when we get away from the noise and hungama to find our little space of quiet and light. Raghav loves Christmas and so we celebrate it in the ways we know. We have stopped doing puja for our vehicles the traditional way on Ayudha Puja day as Raghav didn't like the idea of cutting and using young banana trees and a heap of flowers for the puja. Every time our son questioned something, we would stop and look at or question ourselves and our beliefs and that would open up a whole new world and way of thinking for us.

Often it is my husband who does puja or lights the lamp at home, while I often just cook the special dishes and organise everything, and my son just hangs around somewhere in the house doing his own thing. If he feels like joining in, he does, but otherwise we just let him be. None of us forces or enthuses the other to partake in things that we don't feel drawn to partake in naturally. And I am grateful for this understanding and space that we have been able to give each other.

So yes, we are not ones who believe that we have to give our son a good grounding in our culture, our roots, our religious beliefs, mother tongue or traditions. We believe that the best grounding he can have is in an understanding of himself. Yes, he sees people around him follow some of those traditions, speak only our mother tongue, and he also sees some people who do not follow some of those things. We believe that he will pick up what he needs and form his own opinions that will of course change and evolve with time, just like it has happened with us.

We feel that these are the safe boxes we get into and cling on to for a feeling of security and belonging. And these are the very boxes that feed our fears. So perhaps it is time for some of us to step out of these boxes and into ourselves. For that is perhaps where and how we will find ourselves.


"Why do we feel pain? Do you know?"

The question jumped into my head from my son, who stood behind me as I was busy browsing something on my laptop this afternoon.

"What is our body trying to tell us through pain?", he continued.

It came too suddenly for me to respond coherently. And anyway, I need time to think through before a response forms inside. So I told him that while I thought about it a little more and found the words to share, he could tell me what he thought about pain and why we feel pain.

"I think maybe it is a signal....telling us that the body is protects us. I also think that pain tells us that the body is already starting to heal," he added.

"So you feel that when you get hurt physically, the pain that you feel is actually useful, because it is telling you that something is wrong, that you are hurt, and also that the body is already starting to heal?" I asked.

"Yes," he said.

And then we went on to talk about how each of us experiences pain differently, how we have different levels of tolerance to pain, and about the pain we feel inside when we feel 'hurt' because of what someone has said or done.

It was a lovely exploration for both of us. I liked what he said about pain telling us that the body is already doing what it can to heal itself. It left me with so many more questions - some that had come up earlier, but which had sunk back into some forgotten corner of my mind.

Why do we want to get rid of pain? 
Why do we go to a doctor? 
Why don't we trust our own body and its capacity to heal when we are in pain?
Can we ever get to that space however great our pain?

As these questions bobbed up and down inside, I realised that physical pain is actually something that I feel only in the moment. The greatest physical pain that I have felt up until now - labour pains and  pain during childbirth - is something that I have no physical memory of...that is, however hard I try to relive those moments now, I cannot remember and feel the pain now as I had probably felt it then. My memory of pain is only through my feelings, emotions, visual images or words that are associated with that event.

So then, what is pain? 
Why is it that I do not remember 'pain' as pain? 
Is that in itself telling me something? 
Is pain just a reminder for us to get back into our body, stay with it and trust it? 
Is it a way of letting us know that all we need to do is to be aware of the pain and our body? 
Is it telling us to just stop what we are so busy doing, to just slow down and 'rest' into life or what is happening?

I don't know the answers to these questions, and I am okay to not know. Maybe I will discover something about it as I go along and live my life. Or maybe not. As of now, I am happy to stay with these questions and see where they take me and my son. He will learn what he needs to about pain and so will I. And every now and then perhaps we will meet to check and share what each of us has discovered about it and ourselves. What a beautiful way to live that would be!

So what is your relationship with pain?
What is your story of pain?


Just yesterday I wrote something about trusting children and life, and today Life decides to give me a test on that! Much like a surprise test that teachers throw on us at school :)

I had gone down to meet a friend who was visiting and in my other friend's house, a few floors below where I live. Raghav decided to stay home on his own, as he has been doing quite often these past few months. I have stopped giving instructions to Raghav every time I leave the house when he is alone.

He doesn't know my mobile number or anyone else's by heart, but he knows where my friend lives. There is a sheet near the phone where I have listed out all the important numbers, which he knows about, but has never used. There has not been a need to do that. Nor have I felt a need to simulate a situation like that. So I really don't know how he would react in an emergency and what he would actually do. I don't know if he would be able to handle that. But I know that he will be taken care of by life. I know that that is all I can do - inform him about some of the choices he has. The rest is up to him. This shift happened recently when he on his own expressed a desire to be home by himself, while I did short, quick errands. And I knew that because it came from him, he probably knows what he can do and handle, much better than I would ever know about him.

This afternoon, while I was catching up with my friends on old times - I was meeting one of them after many many years - I lost all track of time. We were busy chatting away and suddenly the doorbell rang. Raghav was at the door! He told me how he thought I was taking longer than usual, and that he wanted to come and call me. He said that he had taken the stairs instead of the lift, because he felt safer doing that. This was the first time he was doing something like this. It was a huge moment for me.

He then got impatient waiting for us to finish talking and decided that he wanted to go home and bring his iPad along. I was wondering what to do, because I had only one key. For a few moments, I felt fear.....a fear of what would happen if I gave him the key and he forgot to bring it back when he stepped out again.....we would not be able to get back into the house then! I realised that the fear was that I could not trust him with the key. I was scared that he would be lost in his thoughts or world and just put it in the keys basket, like he usually does, out of habit, and not pick them up before leaving home again. I was scared that he would just forget about the keys. Once I touched this fear, the solution popped up on its own. I asked him if he had a pocket in his shorts where he could put the keys into, as soon as he opened the door. He looked, smiled and said yes, putting the keys in. I reminded him again as he stepped out of my friend's house, to put the keys in his pocket, with a little more confidence that whispered to me: "We will see what to do if that does not happen. Don't worry."

A few minutes later, Raghav was back with his iPad. I was relieved that he had brought the keys with him, while he very matter-of-factly said: "yeah...the keys are in my pocket," and plonked himself on the sofa, immersed in his racing game.

I realised that even when I did not quite trust him, myself and life in those few moments, I actually had no choice but to trust. Yes, I could have put my foot down and asked him to wait till I could go with him. But I  could not do that. Because deep down, I knew that this whole thing was about me and my being aware of my thoughts and my fears. It was something I had to allow to happen. For myself. For my son.

There is just no way we can be completely 'prepared' for emergencies, because no matter what you do to be prepared, it all depends on THAT moment and what you think, feel and do in the moment. In spite of all the talking and preparation, my son could have still forgotten the keys at home, or dropped them somewhere. How can I ever hope to prepare him for that?

It was a good experience for me today to reflect on my fears and my levels of trust. I love how Life gives me these surprise tests :) Life is my resident teacher, my friend and my guide.

You cannot prepare yourself for Life. 
You just have no choice but to trust it and live it. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014


Pauses. I love the pauses that hold my heart through the little rocks along the course of a river that flows the string that guides the kite in the sky.

Yesterday was a busy and fun day with my son as he set down to putting an idea of his into action, and then planned his talk - the seeds for which were sown by him more than a year ago. During the course of our conversation, we were discussing about how space shuttles take off and land or return to the earth. I realised how much I did not know and sat down to Google some information about it, to find an answer to my question.

We stumbled upon two videos of space shuttles Discovery and STS- 22 landing and returning to earth after their successful missions. It was amazing for both of us to watch and feel the joy of the human spirit at work. We watched beaming from ear to ear - two children wonder-struck and thrilled to bits at the marvel of that incredible engineering feat - of putting something into space and then making sure it got back here safely. The pictures of the earth taken as the shuttle was landing were absolutely stunning. And as the shuttle descended, here was my son giving me a running commentary on the different layers of the atmosphere it was passing through. At one point, the body of the shuttle seemed to be aflame.
"See...that is why the mesosphere is so important. It burns away all metal and rock. It protects us from meteorites and harmful radiation from the sun," he said.

While I expressed my amazement at the human feat to my son, his eyes drifted off to the distant ocean and the pale blue sky outside, and he smiled to himself saying: "What a special planet we live on....what an amazing planet our Earth is! I love space....I love the Universe and I love our earth."
My heart broke open with love and joy, and so did his.....I could see it in his eyes....the sheer joy of a union of spirit....the spirit that knows only how to love.

Pauses do this to you. They break you open. They break the flow so you can feel love and joy in an unfathomable way. They are the spaces that dig deep, where you sink and touch that space of togetherness and incredible joy, even if for a moment. They bring you back to the moment.

If only we can pause more often....if only we can let those eyes that seek something constantly, that are trained so hard to 'concentrate' and 'focus', drift to where they want to...for in that space, in that moment is where the heart breaks open; that is where dreams are born; that is where we feel the joy of being alive...

Lego and Measuring Fun!

Raghav decided that he was getting back to Lego today and was all excited to build a space centre and launch pad to display for Navaratri (he had already built the space shuttle a few months ago). As he was finishing, he realised that the control centre needed a huge radar dish, which he did not have ready in Lego.

So he decided to make one. It had to be a giant one! While he was building it with the Lego pieces he had, he realised that it hardly looked like a radar dish and was more like a giant flower :)....but he really wanted to make it look like one. I suggested we use paper to cover the gaps, and he agreed to give it a try. So here is what he set out to was challenging and fun! And he figured out that there was so much measurement involved :) He wanted a perfect circle and since we could not find anything around the house that matched the size exactly, out came the ruler and the compass (from the ancient geometry box), for the first time in all these years!

the basic structure for the radar dish
made with lego
measuring the outer radius

adjusting the compass to get the radius
done! - got the exact measurement

drawing the outer circle with the compass
drawing the inner circle
after measuring it in the same way
immersed in cutting

cutting the outer circle
cutting the inner circle
all the cutting done!
checking to see how it fits
fixing the paper onto
the lego structure with cellotape
all stuck!

bending it to look like a radar dish
cutting another one for the back side

fixing loops of cellotape
sticking the second circle onto the back
bending the structure to resemble a dish

it worked!
the giant radar dish is fixed!

mission accomplished!

The Birth of a New Game!

What happens when someone loves two games and 'cross breeds' them? 
Well, you get a new game!
Raghav loves Mine Craft and Chess, and so he came up with a new game called 'King on King Battle'!

Because he felt that in Chess, the kings never get to fight each other 'properly' and have limited moves, and so he wanted to think of a game where the Kings would have more to do.
Here are the rules... briefly 

(he is still playing, checking out and reworking the rules to make it more fun and challenging)
1. You
first play chess, almost as usual - only that you allow your opponent to cut all your coins, watching him and cheering him as he destroys all your coins - except for the king and queen (I figured that this is so that the first half of the battle gets done fast!)

2. Once one person's coins are all cut, he can use his queen to demolish the opponent's coins, until only his queen and king are left.

2.You continue to play with the usual rules, with only the kings and queens on the board, until both the queens are destroyed.

3. Then the King on King Battle starts!
- each king has five 'hearts' or lives (this is where the Mine Craft idea comes in!)
- each king can summon a horse (only one of his horses is allowed on the board at any given time) to help him fight at any time
- the king can move up to 2 spaces at a time, but can cut now only diagonally - like the bishop (more power to the king!)
- there is no checkmate in this game. You only have to put the king on check five times to win. You can use the services of your horse for this.

It was great fun! ....and I loved the conversations we had about how much power to give the king and why, what was fair, what was unfair and of course the birth of a new avatar for the king:)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

It's Time!

Last week, the only digital clock we had in the house for Raghav, conked suddenly after a power surge. It was a clock gifted to us by my father-in-law for some special occasion. I however, didn't see it as a gift then, as the songs it sang on the hour were just too loud for my ears.....loud enough to wake up even the dead :)....and I did not like a constant reminder to tell me how the day and time were flowing by!

But that clock proved to be a gift nevertheless. A gift for Raghav, who finally got to understand the passage and language of time in a world that we are inevitably bound to and have to live in, in many ways still. It proved to be a boon for us, as we had fewer meltdowns when we had to leave to go somewhere, or when we had to stop something suddenly, or when he had to wait. He finally started understanding and relating to the different times of day and what exactly we meant by 'two minutes' or 'ten minutes', in the language of a world outside of him.

And then, we all started loving it. When we wanted to know the time and date, we would go to this clock. It was simple, easy and convenient. For all of us. The song on the hour just blended into the other sounds of the day. It didn't bother us. It became a part of our house and our day, without us having to give much thought to it. It was only when someone visited or stayed with us or asked if the chime was the doorbell or phone ringing, that we remembered our clock :)

We have quite a few clocks in the house, but Raghav could not read the time in those. He did not want to even try. He found it too confusing, and so always went to this one. So when this clock suddenly stopped working, Raghav was the first one who felt the loss.
"What will I do now to find out the time?", he asked. "I don't have any clock now."
"Well, yes that clock seems to have conked, but you can read the time on my phone or the iPad or the computer," I said.
"It won't be the same," Raghav mumbled.
"Yes...I know...or do you want to try and read the time on this clock?", I asked quietly, pointing to the clock hanging on our bedroom wall. It was the usual one.
He thought for a few moments and said: "I don't think I can, but it's okay....let's try."

That was a huge step forward. I smiled and together we got down to figuring out what each hand of the clock was trying to show. And we realised that there were just three things he needed to know to read the time:
  • that there are two hands - one longer than the other
  • that one showed the hour, while the other showed the minutes
  • that the numbers and markings on the clock signified intervals of 5 minutes
(He already knew that there were 60 minutes in an hour and also knew his numbers and how to count in 5s.)

It took him barely two minutes to figure out how to read the time on this clock. And just through the usual conversations we had. All he had to do was to see where the shorter hand was, where the longer one was, and to count in 5s from 12 until that point. And he figured this out on his own! Soon, he was happily reading the time out for me, every few minutes, beaming from ear to ear! :)

It's time perhaps that he learned how to read this clock. He made the choice to learn what he wanted to, when he wanted to and how he wanted to. When he made this choice, the learning was effortless and complete.

And yes, it's time only when we think that it's time.....not a moment before that! :)

Friday, September 5, 2014

Fear of the Dark

I have been watching this change in Raghav, slowly over the last few months. But I didn't talk about it with him. I just waited and watched. Until he was ready to talk about it today.

Raghav has had this extreme fear of the dark from when he was a baby. He would scream his head off every night, and we would get so frustrated because we had no clue as to what was bothering him. He would have just had his feed, and dozed off to sleep, and I would put him down on the bed. A little while later, he would scream and scream. We would walk him, hold him, sing for him, take him out, but nothing would work. For a long time we thought it was something to do with colic, until I mentioned this in conversation very casually, to a colleague and 'boss' of mine at the special school I used to work in. She asked me to try leaving a light 'on' in the room. As simple as that! And it worked like magic! Raghav slept much better after that. That was when we first realised that he was perhaps scared of the dark. He spoke about it many years later to me as you can read in this old post. (

This fear has stayed with him ever since. And we have learned to sleep with the light on ever since! :) Not a dim zero watt light, but quite a bright tube light (dim for him, but bright for us)! We have carried torches and emergency lights on our many trips, just in case the power went off somewhere :) Those were on the list of  most-important-things-to-be-packed always. Only many years later (actually quite recently) was he okay with just candle light to light up the room.

So this evening, when we came back to a dark house, and he said to me: " Amma, I think I have overcome my fear of the dark," I was almost in tears. Tears of joy. Yes, it is such a huge thing to overcome the simplest of fears, because that holds us back so much. It is such a freeing feeling to look at one's fear in the eye, and not run away from it or push it away, to be tackled some other day. I knew he was happy and so was I.

"I don't know how, but I think Mine Craft helped me get over this fear," he said. " See, earlier I would not even go into the room without a light being on.....I would stand and scream asking for the light to be switched on.....but today, I went in on my own, did not turn on the light, and am quite okay without that.....maybe, just maybe we can even try and sleep without the light tonight in the bedroom," he added.

I was quietly happy. Happy with where he was today and the journey he had made to get here on his own. We didn't do anything. We acknowledged his fear of the dark and talked about it off and on when it came up. That's all. And we let him have the light on for as long as he needed.

He must have faced and vanquished his demons on his own somehow. I have no clue how. And I am quite okay to not know. Maybe it was Mine Craft. Who knows? Who cares? :)

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Slowness Helps

After months and months of hibernation of sorts, by withdrawing from everything else and immersing himself deep into only Mine Craft, the 'seasons' they are a-changing, in this part of the planet :)
While it is probably autumn in many parts of the world, I can see and smell all the colours and fragrances of spring out here! For Raghav has been up and about over the last few days, exploring all kinds of things (some old and some new), bubbling with a new release of energy and enthusiasm.

Today, after several months, he took out his huge collection of small cars, examining each one, pretending to race with them and making up stories and dialogues with each one, while I was asked to watch . At the end of the day, he came up to me and said this:

"Amma, do you know something? Most people would think that in a race, only the fast car can win, and the slow car can never win. But actually, the slow car has an advantage. It can win. A fast car can speed up real fast on straight stretches of the track, overtaking all the other cars. But a slow car can actually do better at bends. Do you know why? While a fast car is going so fast and has to make an effort to brake suddenly and sharply at the bend, a slow car can very easily take the bend and even overtake the other car. It can even win sometimes. Its slowness helps." :)

Simple yet profound words from a nine year old, who finds his own truth by living it. He is not one who will take another's words as 'the truth' easily. He has to immerse his whole self into his life, enjoy it, struggle, let it all sink in and simmer slowly inside for as long as it takes, until it explodes quietly one fine day, in the most unexpected moment.....when your heart will skip a beat, pause, smile and say to itself - "Hey, this seems so true!"

When you soak in the slowness of being, of life; when you pause and hold things inside, letting them simmer for a while, the aroma and taste of that learning is both divine and unforgettable for its simplicity.