Tuesday, 22 October 2013

My Santa Claus, real-ly!




I love Christmas! For 25 years now I have hung stockings, decorated trees, made wreaths from leaves, bells with Styrofoam cups, and had cakes upon cakes – since that’s what you eat when Christ is born, or so I want to believe for my gastric merriment sake. It’s a different matter that often socks in place of stockings and potted look-alikes (or those shimmery ones from China) rather than original Xmas trees were used. It’s also a different matter altogether that eating the cakes took precedence over getting the buntings up in time, maybe. Be that as it may, my Christmas has never lacked cheer or a stocking on Christmas eve. Because Santa Claus never forgets to drop by!

I am 30 years old and my son is a little over 2. Here is a picture of us from last Christmas, with both of us believing that Santa Claus is coming to town. I have decided to perpetuate this myth for as long as he starts to reason with me, and then reply to him ...

[To read more, please click here.]



Friday, 18 October 2013

Guest Post - Projecting Parental Expectations by Jairam Mohan


The author of this post, Jairam Mohan is somebody who pores over excel spreadsheets and power point presentations in his day job, but believes that his true calling lies in boring people to their deaths. That is the sole aim of him updating his blog Mahabore's Mumblings quite frequently. Between him and his wife, they nurture and bring up their two year old daughter as well as the blog.

That's what he has to say for himself. Now for what I think.

Jairam Mohan is a whirlwind-of-a-writer. Two posts on a good day and three on an even better day (God bless him!). The top bar in Mahabore's Mumblings says it all - Bhagvatham, Movies, Fiction, Parenting, Book review and of course 'winning posts'. Each post of Jairam's stands testimony to what he thinks and lives by - be it pieces of 'faction' where fact meets fiction through his fantastic imagination, or parenting ideas and anecdotes sans air-brushing. His writing is novel, honest and refreshing and his blog speaks to you like few others can. And I will keep wondering why he calls himself a 'mahabore'! 


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Projecting Parental Expectations
Jairam Mohan

I love my Michael Jackson songs, McDonald's French Fries and lounging around in my boxer shorts at home. I hate rap songs with explicit racy music videos, self help books and people who spit in public places. The above is a small subset of my likes and dislikes and how I perceive the world. But the question is should my little two year old daughter also share the same likes and dislikes?

I have had conversations with young kids who have informed me that Sachin Tendulkar was delaying his retirement and that was causing a lot of damage to Indian cricket, and that the Congress government is probably the worst thing that India could have ever wished for, at an age when the kid did not even know the difference between the business end of a bat and what a democracy really was. And when I was left wondering  as to how smart kids nowadays were, the realization dawned upon me that it was probably their parents who had projected their perceptions on them. 

Given that when they are young, kids are extremely receptive to their surroundings and the people they interact with on a regular basis, it is but natural that they pick up a few habits and traits from us. It therefore becomes imperative that as parents and caregivers to our children, we must all be extremely conscious of our words, actions and deeds, more so when the kids are watching us. If I am the kind of father that comes home from work, plonks myself on the sofa with my shoes on and starts munching potato chips straight out of a packet, my daughter will naturally believe that such behavior is quite Ok, and it won’t be too long before she comes home from school, plonks herself on the sofa with her school uniform and shoes on and starts munching whatever snack she wants from the fridge. If on the other hand, she sees her parents taking off their footwear outside the house, washing their hands and feet as soon as they enter the house, then these are the habits she will pick up, inculcate and make her own.

In fact I realized that kids are so receptive only when I saw my daughter pick up a few of these unconscious traits from me and my wife. While she has picked up on this wonderful reading habit from my wife, who tries to spend as much of her free time reading books, the funny thing that my daughter picked up from me is to put her hand on the backside of her neck and start scratching the same. It was only when I saw my daughter persistently doing this did I realize that this was something that I was unconsciously doing whenever she was on the “seat” downloading her “torrents” (if you know what I am referring to). It took more than quite a bit of correcting and flicking away of her hands whenever she did it going forward to make her get rid of that irritating habit and now I am that much more conscious of my body language whenever I am around her.
While my daughter is still a little one and probably picks up only on visual and verbal cues that we provide her, I am more than sure that children who are a little older, say around 10-15 yr olds will surely have their world views influenced by their parents. And that is something that I tend to think that I have a problem with. In my opinion, while parents are more than welcome (and it is probably their duty as well) to imbibe their kids with the right value systems, I think it is wrong of them to project their perceptions of the world on their kids. 

So what if I don’t enjoy Chinese cuisine very much, should I discourage my daughter from trying it out and having more of it if she actually likes it? I don’t think so. So what if I don’t think Salman Khan movies match my cinematic sensibilities, should I stop my daughter from watching and enjoying them? I don’t think so. So what if I think MMS is a stooge and just nods his head to whatever Madam says, should I stop my daughter from believing that he actually has a spine and can stand up for himself…well, that one I will have serious issues with.

Anyway, the point I am trying to make is that as parents while it is our duty to guide our children on the tough journey called life and equip them with all the right tools and techniques to assist them, we should not project our perceptions of the world on them. Let them experience things for themselves and develop a world view of their own. So what if it differs from our own view of things, after all, variety is the spice of life, isn’t it?

...............

I fully agree with this parenting idea. Even as we consciously guide our children through the everyday, we need to keep in mind if we are colouring their minds a certain way too. What was relevant in our yesterday may not be in their tomorrows. And coming to think of it, we could learn and unlearn a lot from our children's perspectives too. This way, every body in the house would be growing-up, and not just growing old, together!

What do you think?


Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Eligible, are you Bachelors?


Why I read adverts in newspapers is a mystery. Why I pay attention to sarkari advertisements is a bigger mystery. Here’s one I spotted in ‘The Hindu’ a few days back. (Yes, I read this paper. I already know Duggu’s pet name!) Read carefully, it’s important. What? You are busy looking at the picture? Oh well, I’ll quote it to you here in that case. 



It shows a Mrs. B(h)ennet in a gambhir mudra talking to herself, saying, 

He wants to marry my daughter and doesn’t even own a house!

The daughter in question, and this I am sure you must have noticed, is a pretty girl playing dandiya in all her finery. Then, as if out of nowhere, a voice from above, or rather one from GIC Housing Finance, goes on to shower some pearls of wisdom upon your manly coconuts. In typical governmental fashion of ‘simplewordedness’ and simplemindedness the advert talks to the future grooms ...

[To read further, please click here.] 



Human Rights and Mental Health




A couple of years back, I worked on a book called ‘Psychiatric Hospitals in India’. I took on the project as a content advisor and morphed into a co-researcher out of sheer interest. I was interested since psychiatry is a field I did not know the ABC of. But as I went deeper into writing, compiling, advising, designing sheets upon sheets full of everything to do with mental hospitals, illnesses, problems and recommendations, I realized it was not just that mental health was a lesser known field but also that it was not covered as extensively by popular media in my surroundings as maybe other similar concerns had been. 

Because in so many countries still, mental illnesses are stuff that stigma is made of. And a mental asylum a building housing men, women and even children who have been disowned by their families.

And more often than not, the hospitals are far from asylums but places which, knowingly or otherwise, violate human rights of the mentally ill patients. And this is something that you and I do not read about in the national dailies. Because somewhere, we either tend to not notice or make unseen that semi-nude “mad man” with a matted beard talking to the trees on the side of the road.

Today, on Blog Action Day, I pen a few paragraphs of information on Mental Health and Human Rights. I am no human rights activist in the true sense of the word. I am not even taking action on the patient’s behalf in this case. I am simply showing you the picture and the perspective that I gathered along the way. Maybe hoping to bring about a change, a change in the mindset which still uses words like ‘mental’, ‘psycho’, ‘schizo’ and ‘retard’ in a loose, irresponsible and utterly insensitive way. 

Health, as a right, was included only recently in the United Nations ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights’, as Article 25 (Universal Declaration), stating ‘Everyone has a right to a standard of living adequate for health and well-being of himself and his family...’ When we talk of Mental Health, it took a series of revolutionary minds across the globe to emphasise that persons suffering from mental illness shall enjoy the same human rights and fundamental freedoms as all other citizens. They shall not be the subject of discrimination on grounds of mental illness. They have the rights to professional, humane and dignified treatment and will be protected from exploitation, abuse and degradation. Elimination of prejudice and stigma attached to mental illnesses will be aimed at and regardless of age, gender, ethnic group or disorder, they will be treated in the same manner as other citizens in need of health care. 

In short, the world recognized the fact that the basic human rights and freedoms of the mentally ill should be respected at all costs. The relationship between mental health and Laws of the Land was established, and even though a dynamic one, laid down set criterion for the treatment of the mentally ill under various governments and nation states. 

The Indian scene 

We revel in our heterogeneity. On good days we celebrate it, on bad days we have an identity crisis and want to enforce our own. Multiplicity of political systems and social ideologies add to the diverse scenario. Under the circumstances, not just availability and accessibility of mental health care but the implementation of human rights issues itself becomes a problem. Varying ideas of privacy, social stigmatization of patients, interpretations of right to refuse treatment add to the problem of implementing a universal idea of human rights of the mentally ill. But where once the ‘asylums’ were prisons for the hopeless, things are a changing for the better.

Health security for the entire population is being accepted as an essential requirement that should be guaranteed by the government. The Mental Health Act of 1987, a national statute, recognised the lack of humane treatment of the mentally ill and codified guidelines about the human rights of the mentally ill much before National Human Rights Commission was even established. The landmark judgments included no mentally ill person shall be subjected, during treatment, to any indignity or cruelty. No mentally ill person shall be used for purpose of research unless such research is of direct benefit to him, or such a person’s consent (or guardian’s consent) has been received in writing. Many more movements and efforts towards ensuring protection of human rights have followed, with the Supreme Court and the National Human Rights Commission acting as catalysts towards bringing about a constructive change in mental institutions as well as treatment of patients. What was espoused? 

That ‘everyone in need should have access to basic mental health care.

This principle components of this idea gave birth to a list of human rights that the mentally ill enjoy (published in 2008 by NHRC). Let us see some of them here:
1. Right to a decent life.
2. Legal safeguards against abuse.
3. Right to appeal, rehabilitation services, privacy, freedom of communication.
4. Right to necessary treatment in the least restrictive setup.
5. Right to social and economic security.
6. Right to family and community life, employment.
7. Right to protection against discrimination. 

The human rights of psychiatric patients in India are in conformity with the developed nations.

The problems?

Despite progressive legislations and zealous spread of awareness, conflicts and vagaries arise when human rights of the mentally ill are under question, not just in India but universally.

What happens when a mentally ill patient refuses treatment, drugs, hospitalisation or food? Is force-feeding ethical under all circumstances? Control and restraint of violent conduct of patients and seclusion of such patients in psychiatric institutions is another contentious issue. Is exclusion from voting necessary, and does it not encroach on the human rights of the mentally ill? How do you deal with the social stigma attached to mental illnesses and mentally ill, which leads to infringement of rights of the patients in a social context?

Grey areas remain in the legal technicalities and implementation, questions of ethics and professionalism. Grey areas are also housed within our own minds, and mentalities, in our social attitude towards our mentally ill. These being the two biggest deterrents in ensuring human rights of the mentally ill.  

To you and me, no amount of knowledge about the issue is enough. But what can be more than enough is spreading the little knowledge that we have. Human rights are a social issue. Apart from information and awareness, a deep-rooted Concern for a fellow-human can weave miracles. This here was just a step towards facilitating a better understanding of mental health and human rights. I hope it helps, even as it informs, in stimulating our collective consciousness towards creating a more humane and accepting environment for the mentally ill in particular and other beings in general. 

Human rights matter. Because humans do. 

[With information drawn from 'Psychiatric Hospitals of India' and a heartfelt thank you to it's author and world-renowned psychiatrist Dr. Sridhar Sharma]





Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Why no Ravana?





Dress them up in Dusshera costumes, the school circular read,
And the mother of the little child stared at it in complete dread.
Was a first, this fancy dress, and she knew not what to do,
Advice from well-wishers she did seek, even though they were so few.

Oh, you must make him a Rama, just get him a saffron dress,
The crown you’ll get in a costume shop or make it all yourself.
Lakshman is a better idea, said one of them to her,
Not many think of turning their kids into Rama’s younger brother.

Why, Sita too, a few chirped in, she can make her little boy,
That was sure to make the teachers see the naughty fun and joy.
Just no one said, “Oh go ahead, dress him in black, why not”
And so she thought, as Ravana she will make her tot trot.


[To read more, please click here.]





Saturday, 12 October 2013

The 3rd Girl



Not all of us are conceived in the hope of a boy. But I was. Most certainly I was.

I felt it as I came into her room. The hushed sense of disappointment. I hear it now too, but in whispers. Makes me feel a little unwanted, and even after 19 years of my life. I’m not complaining, though. It’s just how things are, I have grown up to realise. When the first born is hoped to be a boy, and at least the second, the third girl is thrice removed from all things welcome – a reality we live in. I live in. Perhaps you too?

I love her. My mother.

I sit and try to imagine.

I try to imagine the expression on my mother’s face when the nurse must have announced to her – It’s a girl. Or maybe – It’s another girl. ‘Another’ becomes ‘just another’ after a row of 2 others. They say so, but I hope it’s not true.

My mother. Was she disappointed? ...

[To read more, please click here]




Thursday, 10 October 2013

The Re 1 Charity




The God-men are going to jail, standing at an arm’s distance away from each other. Like a train of toddlers being lead to the school bus that will take them home. Only this one takes them behind the bars. First goes the Guru ji and then follows his family tree. Babas are turning traitor to millions of followers who thought them messiahs descended upon Earth to deliver them from their intentionally committed evils. In the meantime time, the Trustees are laying low or holidaying in other countries. And the homely Swami ji teaching us breathing on national channels also seems to be aestivating in cooler climes. The donation boxes are being buried underground till further notice, with a secret ‘Shh’ marked on them in black ink. And for humble sinning souls like me, donating to God-men’s charity to ensure myself a place in Heaven is fast becoming a non-option. 

Exactly so with adding to temple coffers and earning some blessings in return. Already jam-packed with devotees as well as the white coin boxes they bow their heads to, temples are too congested for meek ones like me to brave it out and elbow my way to the front, where the ...

[To read further, please click here]





Tuesday, 8 October 2013

The Flip-Flop Flop





He looked at my feet and was aghast. ‘What is this that you are wearing?

Um, it’s just flip-flops, papa! What’s so shocking?’ I asked, knowing fully-well what he meant. Each toe was wiggling cozy inside a differently coloured toe in the rainbow socks. In white flip-flops. Just for Rs. 50 from Lajpat Nagar. I was a new student in New Delhi and back home on my first vacation. And it showed.

It looks very funny. And to think you are wearing this to the Masonic family dinner?’ this time the aghast was with a capital A. I was not planning to defile their ‘Temple’ or some such with my informality, but neither was I planning on further defending my dressy socks against his shocks. There was no point. Because I had been his little one growing up in the same house, once upon a time …

And for all 17 years that I was home, my parents made sure that the thin line between comfortable dressing and shabbiness was never crossed. Also, that we children looked as proper as the occasion demanded.

In class 5 I was taught how to ...

[To read further, please click here.]



Sunday, 6 October 2013

The Dinner Date



The wine was humming in her glass, the whiskey in his. The Buddha mural seemed lulled to peace by Louis Armstrong’s voice. The swaying hips of the candle wick were spreading a sexy ecstasy around. The room smelled of lavender, too talc-ish for their taste, but certainly bearable. Why, she had his favourite perfume on, and he hers. The spring blossom on her wrist and the woody spice down his neck were creating magic together, even though apart. Hands were not held yet, but they were getting there. Almost running towards each other in slow motion, across the silken runner, but yet to sense the fingertips of the other. The conversation veered from this to that, but neither cared. It’s just talk, filling in the beautifully silent gaps they had come to enjoy over time. Comfortable gaps, which neither felt under pressure to fill. Oh, but her glass was empty again. 

The waiter walked in to refill. 

He, on the other hand, seemed to be taking it slow today. Perhaps since she was going too fast? It had been an hour since they occupied the corner table they often did in the past. Seemed so many years back, that first date. Her small finger tickled the side of his hand, as Neil Diamond’s voice crooned ‘Play Me’. He coloured. Straightened, expecting more knowing the woman it was coming from. There would be no stopping her, soon. He looked at the chair next to his to see if the tease had been noticed. But it hadn’t been.

The baby was busy playing with his suspenders. 

He had been surprisingly occupied with this new-found fascination for parallel elastics running on his shoulders. Almost strumming them, as if trying to contribute some string music to the ‘Delirious Love’ unfolding before his eyes and now playing in the background too. Baby eyes, which were roving everywhere but where his parents’ hands were trying to meet, and legs. They never need a reason to celebrate, do they? The children of lovers are orphans. He would have thought. 

As the candle wick continued to swing, they wondered how their life would be in the future. She slurred a little he smiled a lot. How would it be when he’s all grown up, no longer strapped in this tiny chair but gone dancing with better company. What they would look like and feel like, together, with peppered hair and perhaps a moon rising in the back of the head, “maybe at forty” she said. 

And a whirlwind struck.

He yanked the baby out of the chair, hurriedly pushed back his and without further thought started walking briskly towards the waiter. His whiskey and a few ice cubes lay crying on the table cloth. The glass had toppled in all the rush. The baby, held below both the armpits and dangling away to go-go-glory thought it was jhoola time and shrieked with anticipation. That agitated the father in him even more. He started repeating “hold on” a 108 times, as if he was telling the beads. He tripped, did a little I’m-falling jig, steadied himself and was soon by the waiter’s side. And like a whiff, he vanished out of sight.

She sat there dumbfounded. She was not drunk, and neither was he. What was this all about? A waiter came to soak up the single malt with a wipe even as the people in the restaurant stopped looking startled and went back to staring at their plates. The candle was out, perhaps with fright! Could he be playing a joke on her? That does not seem like him. More like her, but not him. He’s too dignified to make a fumbling falling fee-fie-fo-fum-ing clown of himself. Where is he? Where’s the boy? She was just removing the serviette lazing on her lap to get up and check, when she spotted the duo behind the wooden tapestry walking back to the table. The baby looked demure, he even more. As he met her eyes and put the baby back to his throne, he shrugged his shoulders and said - “Nothing. False alarm. You have had too much to drink, you naughty girl! Let’s order dinner shall we?

She had said “forty” and he mistook it to be “potty”. Now, who had had too much?

He smiled an embarrassed smile when he sat down and heard “forty” this time, clear and loud. She smiled at that smile, impressed at his fatherly alacrity. They laughed till the baby joined in, not knowing the reason why. But laughing. And this time his finger grazed her hand. The intermission was over. The evening continued. The baby was back to admiring his suspenders. And the Buddha on the wall seemed sleeping in peace, yet again.   

[This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda]

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Melody



What does melody mean?’ I asked, suddenly in the middle of watching late-night TV.

He sat up straight with a glint of excitement in his eyes. The slightest mention of music livens every cell in his musically talented being. ‘Essentially, a melody is stringing together of notes to create a tune’ he said, putting it as simply as a tone-deaf person like me deserved. ‘And it should sound pleasant for it to be called a melody?’ I asked.

No, not necessarily. What is pleasant to one may be noise to the other. Say, in many Jazz compositions the melody is difficult to understand and appears as a mixture of … why do you ask though?’ he stopped short with curiosity and turned down the volume of the TV.

It’s in the news. Tomorrow onwards Gandhi Jayanti will be celebrated as World Melody Day. By India and some other countries. Some relationship between music, peace, tranquility and harmony’ I said matter-of-factly and turned the volume back. I ignored his frown of incomprehension. I knew what it meant. Comedy Central drew back our attention and all too soon, we were at peace with it.

                                                                               ...

I woke up this morning on the 2nd day of October and the scent of a national holiday was lolling everywhere. The road some distance away was quieter today. The MCD park had no men walking their bicycles to work, no lunch boxes tied tightly on them. Even the strays seem to take a break from good morning play, for no children in blue uniforms ran along with them to seize the school day. Within, no one was looking at the arms of the clock for they were fast asleep. A handful of snores, the fan above, a group of babbling babblers and my clicking keys is all I could hear. As the sounds conspired to keep pace with each other, I thought to myself – what does melody mean, to me? Which collection of notes, when strung just right, makes me feel alive and happy to just be? Have I even bothered to realise? 

Without further thought, I decide to type away whatever came to my mind. And I also swore not to spoil it with editing later.

Melody.  

Melodious it was to hear my dance teacher say to my mother – ‘She is perfect’. Even better was to see both women turn towards me and beam with pride. I was 10. 'She went the highest' chirped my cousin, as we raced to win the who-goes-up-most on the mango tree. All 6 of us. We still talk about it. The sound of my confident voice when Whitman’s ‘O Captain My Captain’ fetched me my first poetry recital award, and the ‘prize we sought is won’. The applause, the thunder of a thousand hands clapping for me - melody. The lip-syncing father in the crowd somewhere saying it in a whisper ‘well done’, but heard so clearly when you are 13. Melody! The uncle who always lovingly introduced me as 'Born BA Pass' to everyone who came home, for I could be witty. Pass. Reminds me of my Sanskrit teacher's surprised saying – ‘You passed?’ Musical note in the report card. Piano tuned when I heard my friend whisper – ‘The head-boy is interested in you’. I hid the music inside, showed but a scowl when him I saw. Playing hide-and-seek, this melody! ‘Interested in me’ and my 17-years-old pride soared higher.

I am quite lost too, just like you. Don't worry’ and just the right notes struck as I made my first friend in college. Big city new college I have a friend already. Why worry? ‘Have you copied from a critic?’ the professor asked dumb-founded, as my heart squealed with delight, knowing in the literary world I had arrived. Melody singing all over. The drums rolled the notes and ‘Death, be not Proud’ got published. Then. A bigger degree, and even better friends. On farewell they did say – ‘You have the best heart inside’. Bells chimed. Those were big words for me. The 21st birthday was full of music, loud, real loud! 

'Come and stay with us now. You've been gone the longest while. We miss you.' they said in unison over the phone. Back home to my parents, how could I have refused? Then.‘I quite like you’ and the proposal was done. The head-boy and I tuned our lives together in our small town. Years after the first chord had struck. The 'like' again, perhaps used for love? Melody in words. And the Musician was now mine. Endless times of ‘Im with you’ followed. Times of crisis or vile relatives, new careers or infinite plunges. 3 words of support and what else do you need? Just two more to strike the perfect note – ‘We’re ready.’ My son was born. Melody, that first cry and then the giggles, the burps and even the first words. Named him after the highest note of the octave, in perfect unison of his mind and mine. Heavenly music when he now says ‘We are family’. Family melody. It even rhymes.  

… and I stop to catch a breath. My mind would have gone on, but my fingers are tired.

Was it the combination of snores and babblers and fans that got me jogging down the past? Hit the right note, inside? Have to tell him how I understood melody today. Words strung together forming the perfect tune. In that moment when they were said and heard. Years back, months back, days back. For the rest of the time, tucked away inside the box of memories, waiting to be opened at just the right O'clock. Today the hour struck.  

Musings on My Melody Day.



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