Saturday, February 24, 2018

Build Trust not Walls!


Exams are around the corner. Especially, the board exams of grade Ten and Twelve. The word "Boards" is enough to conjure images of tensed children, anxious parents, frowning teachers and expectant everyone.



So much rides on the exam results. Not only the future careers, but also the reputation of the family are at stake. The child, of course, must get a percentage, that makes the parent proud. It also must exceed the cousin or neighbour who got a certain 90%+. If the child is not academically inclined, then at least, a "First Class".  There is always a comparison, no matter how much a parent denies it. There always is. Unspoken, un-worded but enforced and engraved in many actions of the parent.
The only person who is happy is the one scoring 100%. Rest all mourn the fact "Ohhh, just one more mark, one less mistake and we could be there!"
If the above scenario sounds extreme, it still exists in many a house hold. As a teacher, as a parent, what observation I wish to bring here is not about board exams but life relationships that are affected during these times. 
I feel these are times when parents and children can bond together for life. They can become friends for life or fall apart. It is a valuable time to demonstrate to your growing kids that you care. You truly do.
"We have given everything to them. Notes, best coaching institution, best coaches, reference material, best everything. And yet..."
So much for love. When this premise is laid out, you are laying down a foundation of "Conditional Love". We do things for you, now you deliver. This attitude will set the ball rolling for counting "What one does or did and what is or was invested!". It may continue for a lifetime and mar relationships as your "dependent" teenager moves into adulthood.
Here are few possible attitudes you may adopt not only for a smooth gallop of the exams but also future relationships. 
Radiate Trust and Accept.
Every action and word you speak in presence of your children, steep in deep trust. Send out vibes that tell your child you trust him/her fully. You trust their capacities and strategies to do their best. "Their Best" is important to understand here. What you think and what is may be poles apart. You may be extremely fond of a certain subject, but that subject may not necessarily resonate with your child. He or she may not like it, or he or she may just not be able to crack that subject. Parents often go berserk over a subject like Math or Languages or Science. Often they bring in more than two teachers to learn the same subject. The understanding goes, more the teachers, better the child's cognition of the subject. A little investigation may help matters. Do find out if the child likes a certain subject to begin with. I have heard sentences like "You have to like Math!"
Really? Can we be gracious enough to accept that the child may not?
It behooves then to inquire within us "Should we be sending our kids to war for battles we left midway? Whose territory is it anyways?"
Difficult questions, but important. If a parent is spiralling down with anxiety, it is very important to create a distance and cultivate little trust. Trust that it is the child's life, her interests, her territory. Can we relinquish our hold and trust that they will come through? Their future frame of self-confidence depends on how much we let them cope with a situation that requires them to plan and think suitably to get a positive, effective resolution. Here it is marks, targeted and aimed for!
It is their first foray into adult life of planning, designing, deciding, coping, achieving. Whatever they get, it is theirs. Theirs to reflect on, theirs to wear on their experience chart as they look back. 
Can we trust them with their arena of Trial and Error? Is it too much to give up control because if we do... 
"Gossip no more and shame never..." 
One drastic way, parents feel will bring a change in their children, is bringing in an opinion of other people. During guest visits, parents make it a point to sigh and declare "God knows if he will score even 80!"
"I will be happy if she gets passing marks..." 
"So much time she wastes!" 
"His friends distract him and he keeps going after them..." 
When uttered in presence of others, it brings the shame factor to the fore. The child in question feels like being brought in a "witness box" awaiting different verdicts. 
Often they hang their heads in despair and hear it out, feeling miserable. Alternatively, they may avoid guests in many ways like walking away from the room, putting on ear phones, surfing on the cell phone. It is a clear sign that your teenager does not wish to connect. 
An important question to ask oneself is "Do we not trust our own resources to connect and effect changes in the child?" 
"Is it truly necessary to bring in other forces to put the child in line?"
But most importantly, 
" Is it working?" 
Gossiping with relatives, neighbours and even teachers reflects that you find your child and yourself inadequate. Pushing blame to fix an issue and absolving yourself, is what is happening. 
Instead of looking at the child's interests and distractions (we all have them, yes we do) in a mature way, we decide he or she must not do a certain thing and everything will be alright! 
Stop watching TV!  
 Take away the mobile! 
 No more friends! 
Try thinking a little differently. The child has six hours of school, few more hours of tuition, different teachers, different homework. All expect the child to magically complete it within a time frame or a remark pops in the form of a text message "Homework not done."
Again, the spiral of arguments and counter-arguments start. Instead, observe the child's fatigue level, inability to cope, inability to grasp certain concepts, plain exhaustion. Try giving it a space in your conversations. Add to it, there is pressure of completion of books, journals, assignments, a certain percentage. It hardly features in our talks with the child. 
Get out of the way to nourish and educate in the popular way. 
The tussle in many households is, 
"You must eat Healthy food! All you do is stuff yourself with sandwiches and chips!" 
In this internet wave and workshops and classes, fads are frequent. 
I hear some tutors and classes have menus suggested for the children. Some stuff them with almonds for memory! 
The fact is your children are intuitive in what their body wants and time permits. You may swear by the "Almond Theory" and have links full of articles supporting it. Your child may detest it. Accept it. 
Each child has a natural rhythm. Sometimes in the erratic routines and mind processes, their delicate appetites swing. To force a certain food, no matter how healthy, is at once detrimental to health; also imposing a sense of control. The nervousness may further complicate the appetites. They do go through "What if I forget? What if I don't know?" Catastrophe! 
Add to it, your insistence on "You must eat like this!" strips the child of basic control over his or her own body. 
Again being observant helps. If you tune into your child and together create satisfying menus, it will bring about peace for sure. Meal times if begin to represent silent battle zones, your anxious teenager will withdraw into a moody one. 
You are creating a disdain for mealtimes by creating unpleasant memories which will stay longer, maybe forever! 
Let them eat at their pace, skip a meal if they feel. Keep healthy alternatives (mutually decided) ready. For once your warrior has completed a set task, he or she will knock the kitchen door. 
The idea is "Peaceful zones bring pleasant resolutions!" 
Another familiar fray is "I have brought so many papers to solve, all are lying just like that!" 
Yes, solving papers helps immensely. It gives the child a fair idea of timings, neatness, areas where more refining is needed. For sure! A pertinent question to ask before getting into this zone. 
Schools do take"Mock Exams". Tuition classes do so too. Have they not made them solve enough? If not, it is time to meet and question them! 
Another important query would be"You have brought the papers but who will check them for feedback? If you do not have someone checking it, what is the use?"
How will the child determine what happened? Without supervision, there is a tendency to turn pages and look for the concept! How then, would one know the true assessment? Are you not inculcating in the child a subtle form of subterfuge? Would it be effective in the long run? 
So why add to the guilt of the child and unpleasant conversations by doing something which is unproductive? By constantly complaining, are you effecting a change? If not, then aren't you not training your child to think of you as a "nagging parent". Does it bode well for a long term parent child relationship? 
By all means, if you wish they practise more, arrange with tutors a systematic, non-stressful schedule. Get at the supervision level to get desired results of "getting papers solved and getting progress and feedback." This will inculcate an organised approach in the child's mind to tackle an issue. He / she will give you silent adulation and respect. Emulate you in the future. We all want effective adults don't we? 
Walk with them Literally and Figuratively
Most of the time, the home environment during boards spells of tension and anxiety. Unspoken silent battle of wills, half-eaten plates, tears and sleepless nights. 
Cultivate a habit of walking with your children as often as your schedule allows and listen. 
Listening involves giving no advice or solutions. Simply ask, "How are you doing?" and let whatever come up without interruptions. Initially, it will be awkward but a world resides in your growing teenager!
He/she has fears, anxieties and funny anecdotes to share, if only you would listen without your own interpretation. Just listen if the child comes up with "I feel so irritated with..." simply add "You find this irksome somehow..." instead of "You should not feel irritated..."
It closes the conversation as we launch a "Should not and Should campaign!" In the feeling zone all feelings are accepted, all behaviours are not.
I may feel like slapping someone. That is my annoyance at the feeling level. It can exist. 
Me actually slapping, is behaviour which is not acceptable, as it hurts and humiliates. 
So when a tired teenager is allowed a space to express the fatigue, annoyance, helplessness, he or she will relax. Trusting you will be frequent in the future. They know, someone will listen. Someone cares. That someone being their Mom and Dad adds to their sense of well-being.
Let us give our children the feeling that we are with them every step of the way. To encourage when needed, to lift up when there are faults abound, to cheer the victories, to hug the worries away. 
Our thoughtfulness stems in ruffling their hair and beaming trust to the growing one that things will be managed. If not, I'm still here. We will try again a different way!
Sometimes we need to learn to get out of the way, so your kid can make a way for self. A way he or she can proudly take you for a walk, showing you all he or she created. 
Build that trust in this vulnerable phase not a wall which becomes impenetrable for both of you to reach out later in life. 
Life has more exams to offer, more trails to blaze. Teach the child the skills to conquer instead of creating distances at the first shout of the whistle.
"You cannot control another person's life even if it came from you..."

-Sonnal Pardiwala

Friday, January 19, 2018

Diapers ~ A Convenience or Shame?

When I delivered my baby boy, the first thought was "I want to comfort him in every way". Initially as I followed my mom's instructions, I used cloth loin thing. Every few minutes, I ended up changing clothes of the little one. Exhaustion and Fatigue became constant companions. More than my discomfort, the discomfort of little one made me devastated.
My young and modern husband suggested "Diaper" as a means to alleviate the inconvenience.
My mother raised a storm.
"How lazy are you that you cannot change your child's soiled clothes? We all went through it! It is a shame and sin!"
I sucked in my breath, argued and reasoned but to no avail. I spend few miserable months at her abode as is the custom.
Once in my own turf, I purchased a pack. 


#Pampers was the one I found in the shop I walked in. With a wailing kid and tired bones, my Research instincts were not active. Pampers it was and Pampers it stayed. I call both my babies "Pamper kids"  with all the puns applicable. The guilt conditioning of" being a lazy mother" was so strong that, I used the diaper sparingly only in the nights. We were a nuclear set up and so two of us working and doing everything took a toll on all of us. The peaceful night sleep was a boon. He wore it in the night, passed urine, stools in the morning. We cleaned in the morning with soft tissues. It was a chore even my husband could learn and share. No longer we had soiled clothes, stinky environment. Of course for few months the day clothes soiled. Even though my mom was not there physically, her admonishing remained stuck. I continued collecting and washing and retching while cleaning the entire day's wash.
I carried my baby to work with me but had no heart to wash his stools soiled clothes there.
The Exhaustion continued for few months until I chucked the guilt and shame. Switched to diapers full time.
Each time I visited my mom, she would frown and open him up and comment "He needs some air over there!"
At such times, I so wish there were Mommy communities like "Worldwide Mommies Ghapshap". They are immensely helpful and psychological support. Years back I clutched at my misery alone thinking I was lazy and wrong.
When I saw a new mommy recently at cross roads of shame and exhaustion. I turned to it and the amount of support that poured in is amazing. So much healing, so much knowledge poured out. All agreed Convenience was one priority when mommy is tired.
Many offered their own stories of child bearing and rearing years.
Many pointed remedies and methods to overcome mental shame to physical rashes to social  milestones like potty training.
Some wise words, some funny, some solemn. But all unanimously a soothing balm for the New Mom's Soul. Do head there to partake of what moms are thinking.
A decade back though, I stood alone in my discoveries, ruthless decision making and elderly women tongue in cheek Taunting!
I braced and let it be.
Although he never developed a rash or anything, the shaming continued. I left it at that. She had shamed even when I had begun using Sanitary pads for myself years back.
If switching to comfort and ditching stench, is Laziness, I admit to it heads down. Yes I am a lazy mom but it turned out that I became a Happy mom. Pampers made me a Pampered mom!
Once the stench and soiling and washing was gone, I discovered that his passing urine or stools was no longer  embarrassing. I was equipped. Few hours would go by with him gurgling and cooing. When he passed motions, I deftly cleaned it with tissues et al. It became a routine that bonded us and empowered us. Daddy dear too loved changing and talking to our bundle of joy. We truly had the picture perfect glowing baby that we saw in adverts. Momhood then did not weigh on me.
When my second one arrived, I sent Shame on a Two years leave.
I refused to spend the mandatory months post delivery at my mom's house. I came back home! My turf, my terms, my baby's comfort being my priority.
My mom by now had written me off as ungovernable!
From day one, my baby boy grew up n peed in complete comfort. No wrinkling noses, no howling trips to bathroom. Only long happy talks while changing and fragrant spaces during holidays. We became adept at changing in an instant. In the train, in the car, in the restaurant, in the theatre seat. Life was one happy adventure with us foursome. Never did we have to cancel visiting or going anywhere on account of this little dude or his nature call.
As these times were pleasant, both my kids toilet trained happily and transitioned to healthy toilet habits without us having to make any extra effort or tireless reminders or sleepless night. Not one incident of bed wetting.
While environmentally it may be a hazard, I as a mother did not mind committing this one crime! I did find it an expensive affair but we just found value in the money we spent. Besides we learned to increase our incomes to meet them. A happy baby was my biggest Reward!
Life took a full circle recently when my ailing mom came under my care. She is in the last stage of Lymphoma. A Cancer that has infiltrated each organ of her body. She visited Gujarat for weddings and meeting relatives despite our tearful pleadings to not do such a thing.
She came back with severe Gastritis. It made her weak and she lost control if her bodily senses. At times walking the five steps to bathroom and sitting on the pot was a Herculean task. It exhausted and affected her heart rate. I feared she may collapse in the whole affair. Slipping a pot under her back while lying on the back too was a delicate task as her liver is swollen too. There are all male members in my family of husband and two sons. While I go to work for few hours, it was a question how to take her to the washroom. My dad is there but his 75 year patriarchal mindset refrained from accompanying her in the washroom.
At this juncture, I turned to Diaper dear for support for various reasons. 




She can enjoy uninterrupted sleep and not be disturbed by frequent visits to washroom or slip the pot routine.
She would not need any assistance to perform the tasks and feel exhausted in the process.
She would save herself the embarrassment of soiling her clothes in case she could not get up from the stupor and imbalance induced by illness and medicines..
Even if she walks up to washroom, it works as backup for emergencies.
She did pass stools and urine couple of times in it and peacefully I cleaned her while she slept or in semi conscious state.
Until!!!
Until, relatives walked in clucking
"Ohhh! She had to wear diapers!!! What a sad state of affairs! Such a bad time for her"
She heard it!
She refused to then use the diaper though she wore it.
She needed two people to get her up and take her to washroom. The toll to her wellbeing and heart rate was untold. The deterioration setting in is worrisome beyond measure.
I have no control over this situation as I m not the only caretaker here. I agree their mindsets are tough to change. How long will she last in front of the beastly cancer? Why should she look at a tool that can bring convenience to her body as a thing of shame and defeat?
These are few questions for our society and moms. 

Shame or Convenience??? 

What is important : Wellbeing of the person (Children or aged) or the humiliation?
Would they not be mortified by the disgust they see on the caretaker's faces as they clean up out of sense of duty?
Would their bodies not rest a bit if they could be cleaned efficiently and rest easy?
Would the caretaker's not have one less stressor to deal with as they too are running around taking care, worrying, absorbing the grim circumstances and wait for the inevitable?
Senior Citizenry they say is second childhood.
So why is Diaper perceived as cute for children but a shame for the Elderly?
Why do brands depict healthy sleeping and playing babies in their adverts but adult diapers not rampantly advertised?
Why they have a connotation of grimness around their cover pages?
Why not spread awareness that it is equally necessary for their frail bodies to relax and accept this tool to bring them some comfort in their painful bed ridden moments?
It is not a shame but an ally : for both who are bedridden and the ones who take care.
Everyone may not have extended families to support. In the busy environment we live and shrinking families that are, a hospitalised person or a long term bed ridden person may need to accept Diapers as a tool to help and lead a comfortable tenure on this earth.

When a person enters the world, he or she is helpless and dependent on the caretakers for love, care and affection. The caretakers or parents are humans juggling various responsibilities. Is a little comfort and Convenience not a priority and privilege?

When a senior citizen is ailing, he or she is again helpless and dependent on the caretakers for love, care and affection. The caretakers or children or siblings are humans who shoulder various responsibilities. Is Dignity and Comfort not a priority and prerogative for all involved? 

Can we reduce the shame and embrace the Convenience? 

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Learn to Listen not just hear.

Many a relationship meets a Roadblock and misunderstanding of:

"You don't listen to me!"

"But I thought..."

"We don't talk anymore!"

"You don't understand me at all!"

What is expressed is an anguish of being unheard or not understood.

From times immemorial, these blocks exist. The sad part, however, we are not trained in the simple art of Listening.
We hear but not Listen.
Technology has added its own complications.
Fortunately there are ways we can fine tune our listening skills and ensure our partner, child, colleague, parent that we are available and present for them.
Listed below are five ways to Listen compassionately and lovingly.

* Give Eye Contact.
Yes, really look at the person you are talking to. We have nowadays begun skipping this simple and vital skill. Infact the generation before too began hiding behind newspapers and television sets. Now, we do it with our cell phones. While talking to our loved ones, if our one eye or divided attention is on scrolling the next story on the cell, it spells disaster!
Let us put the cell phone aside and away, when we enter a meaningful conversation and be present to whatever is being said.
"Look at the person, into the eyes with cell phones, files, TV remote, newspaper, book far far away!

*Lean physically a Little towards the person.
The non verbal plays a huge role in showing you care. If you physically move even slightly away from the person, you tell them about your lack of interest in whatever that is transpiring. When we are avidly interested in what is being said, we move closer to the conversation. So, a good way to show you are with them is to slightly, not uncomfortably, lean towards them.

*Rephrase what you hear.
"Hmm! Yeah! Right!" are Conversation killers. They stop the flow. They do not take what one wants to say forward. Many a spouse complains "My husband/wife does not talk to me"
Many a child or parent are greeted with Hmms n ok! It fills the air with resentment and it simmers to later break into a full blown one sided brawl.
To avoid this, one good practice is to hear what is being said and rephrase the meaning as you understand it. It will clarify a lot, besides making the person feel at least an attempt is made to listen.
A small example
Wife: What shall we have for dinner?
Husband: Anything will do!
Wife: What do you mean anything? I don't know to cook "anything!"
Husband : Don't start again. Order from outside or whatever you feel like, Do!
Many a quarrels begin here.
Maybe we can take it like
Wife: What shall we have for dinner?
Husband : Hmm, seems like you have run out of options?
Wife: Yes, I am bored of making the same stuff!
Husband: You find same food boring? What options we have? Can we order or go out?
Here when husband acknowledges the boredom and is present, Creative solutions come forth and wife at least ends up feeling heard.

*Check and Clarify what you hear.
"But I thought you wanted to..." the base of misunderstanding is "I thought"
Why not check with words to avoid a clash.
Often we assume what the other person wants based on our perception. We rarely check the facts.
Look at the following example
Husband: Ah! Sunday Holiday is what I m looking forward to.
Wife: Yeah well! I have booked tickets for the movie that has released our friends can join in too. Shall I call?
Husband: What you booked tickets, without even asking me?
Wife: But I thought, you were looking forward to Sunday and I thought you loved movies.
Husband: I was looking forward to resting not entertaining you...
No guessing where this conversation can land.
Instead of assuming if the conversation went this way
Husband: Ah! Sunday Holiday is what I m looking forward to.
Wife: Yes, Sunday is appealing to you isn't it?
Husband: Yes, one full day of Rest. I will get up late. No alarm clocks.
Wife: Yes alarms have a way of hurrying you. You plan to sleep late and then?
Husband: And then? Let's see. I just want to get up without hurry. You can plan later something for the day.
Wife: A movie perhaps?
Husband : Whatever you say!
Checking what you think will immensely make both parties clarify any and all assumptions. A surefire way to feel connected is checking what you think is the other one thinking!
Phrases like "So you think..?"
"Hmm what do you have in mind?"
"I feel..." will be handy. Do try them.

*Wait the pauses!
Often, we are uncomfortable with the silence. A person feels heard when you wait the pauses out and let the person speak his/her mind.
Often the pauses signify a period of a person struggling to find the right words. There maybe hesitation as to how he or she will be judged. There is anxiety as to how the truth will be received. So the person pauses.
Dad : So how are your studies going on Son?
Son: Ok... Just...
Dad: Just what? As usual feeling bored!
Son: No dad but...
Dad: No ifs and buts you better study and get huge percentage. My reputation depends on it.
Son: Yes Dad.
If we waited the pause maybe we may get to the core
Dad: So, how are your studies going on?
Son: Ok... Just...
Dad: Just...
Son: Just that... I..
Dad: You want to share something? Tell me...
Son: Dad, I find...
Dad: Yes son...?
Son: Dad I don't know...
Dad: Take your time...
Son: Dad, I find Math tough.
Dad: Tough as in...
Son: I am unable to get few concepts.. I tried but...
Dad : You feel tensed you cannot manage the subject as well
Son: Yes Dad. I have requested my Sir to give extra practice but..
Dad: There is something more...
Son: Yes actually...
Dad: You can tell me.
Son: Dad, I don't want to appear for the Entrance test for engineering. I feel I am not for it.
Dad: Hmm. For now give your best shot to studies. We will discuss this later.

A Counselling personnel wins the moment by allowing the silence to stretch into eloquence. We can do the same thing. Often people mistake the silence or pause with "End of Conversation". They add their own conclusions and there goes another chance at connecting deeply.
Using eye Contact, leaning expectantly, waiting eagerly will encourage the other person come through. Check and clarify once the feeling or thought is shared.

The aim of Human Connection is to deepen our existence and make it more meaningful.
Do try out these listening skills and share your experiences.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Self Love - Make It A Priority

Oracles are messages, written texts and/ or pictures flashed to us by our higher crew to enhance us and guide us on our daily path. This week's theme is Love, and Self Love to be specific. If our insides are light and easy, we all benefit each other and the world becomes a better place. Promise to honour yourself this week by promising the following. You may add your own to the list given. Spirituality needs to be taken off the mumbo jumbo platform and brought it to the level where a common man may understand.

Promise that:

* I refuse to engage in activities that drain me and my resources.

* I will ditch being nice if it exhausts me in any way.

* I will choose to not involve myself in endless debates, arguments and discussions if they are unproductive or undertaken to prove someone right or wrong. Instead, I will choose action steps that will lead me to my goals.

* I will, daily, set achievable goals and be focused on meeting them.

* If things don't go my way, I will be patient and not give up. If I can restart, I will. If not, I will wait for things to turn over in a conducive direction for me.

* I will pamper myself in little ways. I will eat that chocolate, icecream, favourite food if I want it. I will enhance myself by using a favourite soap, perfume, hairdo or cosmetic if I so choose. I may go sans makeup if I so please.

* I will look into the mirror and say, "I Love You and we are together. We may need improvement and we are getting there. Till then, I accept who I am."

* I alone, will decide what is it that I want to do, I like or will have. I give no one the right to speak on behalf of me. I speak for myself and am responsible for myself.

* I will gently but firmly confront a rude remark, a snide comment or personal affront instead of simmering inside.

* I quit playing games with people but be straight about what I expect them to do and what I am prepared to give and get.

* I will not procrastinate and feel frustrated at incomplete tasks, I would take active charge of things I want accomplished.

* I feel no need to compete and prove myself better than others. I am just fine, the way I am.

* I will rest when I need and set my own pace to do my job.

*I honour all my bodily needs and offer love, nourishment and encouragement to all aspects of me.

These commandments to yourself will become your code of honour and show love to self and to others. For if you love, you will shine authentically in front of others.

-Sonnal Pardiwala

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Soul Soaked!

When we think vacations, we think relaxed times with nature. The noisy, hurry and run and shop is not our idea of unwinding. We love to get away to a place where even a shop of biscuits is not visible. However, the places we visit are completely self-sufficient in meeting our basic needs.

We are experiential people. We do not like to go on long winding abstract word trips. We rather love to get down to the grass root levels of a place and feel it. My kids too widen their base by expanding into a different reality- one that exists whether we acknowledge it or ignore it.

Our idea of holiday does not include looking for artificial entertainment elements, rather we find adventure in exploring "What Is" in its true form.

This October we had twin purposes- one, of shooting a short film and another of vacationing.

Our Destination was the rural set up of "Panose Kond" village in the Raigad Zilla. The closest Railway station is Mangaon. A Farmhouse Developed on 20+ acres of land by Mr. Jayant Naik, who is 84 currently. He bought this land when he was 60 and converted the barren untended landscape into a thriving ground of rice production; vegetables like Okra, Lemons, Chillies; fruits like Banana, Chickoo, Jackfruits, Pineapples, Mango, Mulberries, Cashews; Herbs galore like Turmeric, Tulsi, Lemon Grass and countless others. He has Teak and Eucalyptus.

He has deep support from his daughter Poornima Naik who is literally his partner in crime. He so fondly adds "Only my Poornima can stay here. She is so courageous." He is proud and he should be, for all the expert management she pulls out!

Together they are a Formidable Resourceful Duo.

Mr.Jayant Naik is an octogenarian Ajoba, whom my kids adored. His stories of childhood struggle of not having enough food to eat (loss of his mother at a young age) to today's abundance are awe inspiring. Each evening went in sitting around the dining table or living room listening to how he made this house, to his various adventures in other countries, to his statement on Government policies, creating impoverishment for his village folks. It had us nodding in agreement, as various aspects of rural life were totally lost on us as Urbanites.

What we take for granted like a mobile phone network is simply missing.

Medical facilities as basic as Anti-venom is simply not there. Snake bite is a veritable reality, yet the villagers devise an adjustment. They wear gumboots to deal with snake bites while they work in the golden-green, waist-tall grass. Nothing is wasted. The cut grass serves as fodder for Cattle.

Indoor Thrills

The Farmhouse is simple with basic amenities. It is a Homestay, so do carry your own towels, soap and personal toiletries. There is a Courtyard with cowdung flooring, keeping it cool and pleasant. Swing on the old wooden Jhulla or read on the cane swing or simply gaze at the greenery around. In the backyard are the glorious green plants offering you peace and silence.

For Children, they have a small pool tank which suffices as a swim pool. It is filled on a need basis with fresh water from the bore well and no Chlorine. Sometimes, a frog joins in but we are in nature; it has every right to. Fresh and clear!

Kids spent hours soaking in the cool waters. We joined them occasionally. We could literally close our eyes, be silent and actually listen to the Silence!

There is a Vermicompost shed where vermiculture thrives to add nourishment to the plants around. Another Daughter, Bhavna Jadhav is involved with that, and rearing of Buffaloes. She is greeted with evident fondness by the fivesome buffaloes as she brings them specially grown fodder from their farm.

We did carry few earthworms back to Mumbai, hoping their Green luck rubs on us too.

CUISINE

This was one of the best part of our stay. The amazing organic freshly made food by Poornima Naik and her staff. We got to eat authentic Konkani Curry, Sol Kadhi, Jhunka Bhaakar, along with other lovingly prepared dishes. Most of the vegetables we consumed and the rice were grown right there. They boast of not using any pesticides or chemical fertilizers. Their produce is fully organic. They live the adage "What grows in the backyard is wholly organic."

In the month of May, they promise a huge production of Mangoes and Cashews! We just might return!

Outdoors

We had to shoot in the Local school. The experience was humbling and educative. There are creative teachers making do with limited resources. There was just one, single room constituting the school. The teachers had painted the ground with boxes- teaching tens/units, numbers, alphabets, Kaana matras, boxes for word building, directions and shapes depicted.

The walls were painted with birds, flowers, vegetables, fruits with Marathi and English names. The floor paints allowed children to write on it with chalks and rub it out for the next batch to practice. What an ingenious idea- all practice on the floor and wipe it once done! Just one room, students from Grade 1-5 studied with two teachers at their disposal. The key to the school premises was is possession of a ten-year old who opened, checked carefully and locked once we were done!

Our visit to the local village too proved invaluable. We glimpsed their neatly kept homes, with shining pots and pans. Most importantly we witnessed their welcome even though we were strangers. We doubt if we would encourage any of them should they saunter into our surroundings. Absolutely never!

But they did spend a happy time allowing us to observe the process of rice threshing, even getting their kids to say a word we needed for our shoot. We learned how to win trust.

We had no biscuits, chocolates or any goodies since we came upon them accidentally. So, all we had was our own true selves to request, entreat and cajole to give a byte to the camera. The little ones shreiked in delight and camaraderie once they saw we came in peace and love. One Mr. Sadanand Mahadi promised to get his bullock cart for our shoot before sunset and he kept it.

Nozzer had this to say "When these innocent people give their word, they will keep it, no matter what!" We were thrilled to enjoy a Bullock cart ride by the Sunset.

We compensated in a pithy way, we Urbanites can with some money and goodies. To Mr. Naik, we can offer only gratitude for his magnanimous gesture of accompanying us to the village in the scorching hot sun and requesting the village folks to give us a Bullock Cart.

When a protest was made that it is hot and he must not venture out, he brushed it aside "I'm born and brought up in hot sun, nothing will happen." His humility as a Son of Soil is worth saluting.

When Shahaan told, "Look Everyone is waving to Uncle.", he interjected wisely "Everyone is waving because I am!" ; pointing out the vital communication principle to my little one that it is imperative, we extend warmth to receive the same.

The terrain was quaint, rugged, trails and trails of golden green grass on the sides with rural folk walking occasionally with a pot of water or a scythe, or bundle of wood. It gave us long uninterrupted periods of shooting wherever we wanted, how much ever we wanted. The serenity touched our souls with its queer solitude and secure bands. Though we were alone with not a person around not once did we feel scared. The people were non-intruding, went about their business without much ado. No one seemed to be in a hurry, nor wanting anything more than what they had.

If they were afraid that they would be bit by a snake, they wore gum boots.

They face food shortage, they grow subsistence stuff. When Shahen asked one, he simply shrugged "We grow rice, tur dal and our own vegetables, we eat that."

Water, they bring from a river that flows around the village, women folk washing clothes and bathing there.

They had Tata Docomo for network but it has stopped. Now they have no connectivity. They accept "Kaay Karnaar?"

Much of the adversity is accepted with such questions, where possible they improvise like gumboots and school premises.

We met hard working toiling people who impacted my kid enough to know what sweat goes in growing stuff, resulting in no wastage of food.

We met happy resourceful and helpful people who help without expecting much in return except a smile and a warm word. They feel happy to be useful.

We grew closer to Nature. The Silence, the serene solitude andthe content, no hurry environment. The willingness to wait for things to happen and resigned surrender to fate when cyclones flatten their plants or water shortage dries up their water bodies.

This terrain and people are fighters and survivors in no need of our sympathy but every demand that Gods and Government be kind to them.

Hope it happens some day that their water shortages and food shortages are alleviated.

As for us, we loved the long walks, warm smiles, naive innocent looks and golden green grass and the possibility to someday own a piece of land to claim this hushed solitude and striving and creating with nature!

By Sonnal Pardiwala

Friday, October 13, 2017

Drastic situations require Drastic measures!

(A  life incident of an Indian mommy who had to resort to drastic action when reasoning failed. Instead of judging right or wrong, I narrate her plight) 

Meena picked up the phone with a sigh, "Yes Mummyji! Arun will be there to pick you at the airport. No, please do not buy any crackers on the way. We do not burst them anymore." 

Her in-laws were expected after two years at her new house. Her mother-in-law had a distance control on lots of things they did in the house. Every festival was preceded with a call outlining what she had to do. Each event, 'skype-evidenced' to see if all instructions were followed to the hilt. It was more than a decade she was married to Arun but her mother in law maintained the "We do it this way, What would you know?" stance. According to her, Meena was from a lower caste and that was an irreparable flaw. She apparently had not forgiven her son for mixing his genes in an "impure" way. 

When Meena looked at her two kids, she saw only brilliance, simplicity and humility in them, but she knew her mother-in-law would never admit that. 

Her husband's transfer had allowed Meena to retain her sanity in face of laced prejudice of her in law's elderly folk. They kept moving city to city and sometimes even states. For her husband,  too, it helped as he did not have to take a stand for a nuclear family. 

"Have you brought in the ingredients I asked for making pickles? I will make them and go for my children to last you an entire year." her reverie was cut through by this sharp reminder on the other side. 

"Yes I have." was her dull admission.

 Meena was sure, she missed out quite some instructions in her distracted state. Two years she had lived with her in-laws and knew, no matter what she would do, somewhere a flaw will leap through. Her husband had not the courage to confront for he was raised to not do so. He found a diplomatic solution by accepting a Promotion that raised the salary but required constant transfers. The salary and perks were so good, it seemed practical for all. Arun did invest for his parents heavily. He was their only son. 

She did not interfere in that zone as their combined income met their needs and more. She was an environment conscious person. She inculcated simple tastes and needs for her family. This moving lifestyle did give her the autonomy she required. She was the Queen more or less. She could teach her kids what she wished. No one meddled in her household. Skype interactions can be handled. Family gatherings were during weddings and important occasions wherein they met under other people's roof and maintained civility. Few barbs may fly on her choice of clothes and stuff but nothing more.  

She sat looking around and counted all the issues her mother - in- law will extensively frown upon. She wondered ways to cope, avoid and skirt some. 

For starters, she did not have a full time servant! A top servant yes but no one who stayed around the whole day. Meena could not stand the situation where someone lurked around. She cooked their meals fresh and herself. She believed in Cooking with love thing. She had learned in her Spiritual workshops, she attended. For her, a family that worked together, learned to appreciate each other and also pitch in with each other. It helped learn the dignity of work!  Top servant came and went. No interference, no dependence. 

Her ma in law needed 24×7 needed an attendant. 

Stand off! For sure! 

She had grown a penchant for Gardening and Composting. She was lucky to set up her own Garden. She grew quite some herbs, vegetables and even was experimenting with cross planting.  She had compost bins out on the house terrace, where she held her Gardening workshops. Her newly sprouting beauties lay there. Any other folks, went "Wow",  over the teas sprinkled with aromatic herbs. Not her Mother- in- law. She would be furious to know about her expeditions with "Dirt". Peasants and servants did that. 

Well, she thought she could hardly hide the massive lifestyle she had created for her and her family. Her husband loved the Garden beaming with new discoveries, flowers, fruits. They had managed to find best sit - outs and Swings one sat on and sipped healthy brews. She was invited to give talks on Composting and Growing plants. Her children proudly hanged out with friends showing them around. 

Her ma - in- law will have a fit! She could do nothing about it.  She could not possibly shift her thriving Garden. She decided to be silent and let the criticism recede on its own. If she heard it silently her mummyji will slide to find another thing to pick on and prick. The "Bahu" is so full of them, there is always abundance in that area. 

Food was one area she had attained mastery. Her load will increase with so many preparations. No spice for father- in- law as he had Cardiac and lung  issues. Few vegetables were off for mummyji and as for her, they foursome ate whatever was there lovingly. 

Another big issue, loomed larger on her head was the "Cracker" zone literally and figuratively. She had discussed this with Arun five years back and had decided to not burst crackers anymore. She knew each one was responsible for environment and she must do her bit. Her kids were never introduced to crackers as part of Celebrations! 

Her mummyji had clucked clucked on it but being away could not do much. Her Daddyji like Arun took the "No Confrontation" attitude. Anything for peace! 

She was willing to endure low caste digs, bad householder remarks but this one thing she was not willing to compromise! 

She had no help from her husband who was meeting his parents after few years. He was unlikely to be pleased with any skirmishes at all. 

She sighed, hoped there would not be any. How she wished she could freeze or disappear these few days. She must get on though as best as she could. When Power struggle is on... It is on! 

The Door Bell rang. 

"Dada Dadi camnmnmee..! " chortled the kids who had gone down to play. They returned with their Grandparents and Arun in Tow. She touched their feet. She could already see her mummyji assessing her turf. She took a deep breath and went inside to fetch refreshments. 

" Daadaji not here, come and sit in the Garden. We just bought new swings. Mom will bring chamomile tea for you", Zesha pulled his Grandpa into the Garden. 

"Daadi for you there will be Allspice tea with no sugar but meethi tulsi", Younger Ishaan too imitated his elder sister. 

"Both of you, let them sit for a while and relax! " Arun interjected as he came back after putting the suitcases away. He had one small bag with him. 

Yes Daadi has brought stuff for all of you", smiling their Grandma opened the bag. 

Next ten minutes went in Ooohhh! Ahhhh! as clothes for all four tumbled out. Crayons and Clay,toys and Games,  shaving device for Arun and casseroles for Her kitchenette. 

"Best is saved for the last. Here are crackers for you little ones. Deafen the entire building away" 

Suddenly there was an uncomfortable silence. The delight on kids'  face withered. They looked at their mom. Grandpa too sombered out. Arun distinctly shifted gaze to the sofa tapestry. Her mummyji looked at her directly and pointedly. Meena had to be diplomatic. 

"Easy " said a voice inside her! 

" Mummyji, We do not burst Crackers", Meena stated this simply. 

"Our children do not celebrate? " 

That was a Dig. She stole a glance at Arun who briefly gave an apologetic stare. 

We all are hungry, let us just have lunch. Zesha, pack this carefully will you? " She got up with the tea cups and snacks that were left uneaten. 

Arun automatically picked up few plates and followed her in the kitchen. 

She has made a servant out of my Arun", sailed in her mummyji's lament. Her Daddyji woefully whispered "Don't start  now please. We have just come to enjoy and relax not find faults" 

"Your problem is you cannot see what I see. My son should have chosen much better" 

Voices trailed away. 

Meena kept the cups in the sink. Automatically turned to the Flour kneading. She hated when both set of parents came. Arun's folks made her uncomfortable and Her folks made Arun feel despair. She remembered the same words her father had said six months back "Our daughter should have chosen better" 

She had kept silent then, today Arun did. They had stopped expecting each other to defend the other. Both knew how powerless they were in front of their own parents. Her father too maintained, she was far more educated than Arun and could have made a great Career. She may have been out of job market but she was employed well through her workshops and talks. Working from home according to her father was a Self Delusional activity. He too took digs at him and Arun let it pass. Initially they fought over no defense stance. Gradually they understood their weaknesses and accepted. Apologised at best. 

They were happiest when they were foursome and friends flitted in and out. 

Visit of either set of parents was a nightmare. 

Arun took the plates and lay them on the table. 

"So you learned this job too. Amazing Arun! " came another dig! 

She continued serving Chapattis while family ate. Arun veered the conversation to relatives and upcoming events. For a while, she was forgotten. 

Afternoon was a silent time as they slept. 

Evening the kids refused to listen and took their Grandparents in the garden. By the looks her Father- in- law seemed pleased by the Peaceful Environment. 

Arun and his Dad sat chatting. Her mummyji however seemed Grim. 

"Does all this muck not get in the house and make it dirty? You do not even have a person to clean continuously? " another question

" It is not muck Daadiji, it is Compost. We get rich healthy fruits, flowers and vegetables from it. See... " Zesha enthusiastically corrected! 

Meena smiled. Zesha had picked up her pride. 

You can buy all that from the Organic market, why waste time and place growing? " came the deliberate feigned query. 

Oh Daadi you know, only what grows in your backyard is 100% organic rest all is fake! " supplied Ishaan with a conspiratorial wink at his grandma. 

Grandma was cornered. 

And how many shall you grow? " 

" One person at a time, Few veggies at a time!"  chorused the kids. 

Kids had keenly picked up her Workshops that happened right there. 

Meena was proud. Inadvertently her children were fighting her battle. Without knowing the Consequences. 

Grandma's temper was rising. She shifted gears. 

So can I make pickles here in your garden. Is there enough light and heat? " 

" Sure Daadi but what you want to make Choonda or Murabba? " Ishaan asked. 

That got a furrow on her head. 

"What is the Difference Ishu? ", asked Daadaji. He was amazed at the kids. 

Zesha supplied" One is what you make in the sun's light,  another on the artificial gas! Mom you know which is which... " 

" Oh God no! " Meena wanted to not be part of this conversation. 

Thankfully Arun entered just at the time. 

Dad, I have fixed your appointment tomorrow morning with the Cardiac Specialist. He wants few tests" 

That had a worried look crease mummyji's face. 

"Tests? Why?? " 

" Here,  Doctors test to be sure. Nothing to worry. Chill ma!", Arun assured. 

"Daddy, let us make Rangoli. I will remove flowers from the fridge" Zesha hurried away. 

Arun had discovered his artistic side and indulged kids in making patterns with flowers. They lit up Diyas and prayed. Even Grandpa made a pattern or two. Grandma, too, cannot be excused. The whole house looked divine. Arun was happy with his parents and kids enjoying together. 

"Won't these flowers cause garbage and add to garbage? " mummyji asked the kids. The loaded emphasis on" garbage" was purposeful. 

No daadi, we will add them in compost. We give back to Earth what we take" Ishaan offered innocently. The sarcasm bit lost on the little one. 

"Come on kids, time for Crackers. Arun, you will show kids how to leave a rocket? Your dad was an expert! " Mummyji went in her room to bring a bagful. 

The Glow from kids' face again dimmed. They looked at Meena. She knew, she had to take a stand. 

Mummyji, we don't do that anymore. I did request you not to buy them" 

"Now we have! " 

" I cannot help that but no We will not burst them".

"Arun,Can your wife explain why our childrem should be deprived of Fun? " 

Arun braced for a full blown catastrophe now. There was war of wills and he did not know where to stand. 

Meena took a deep breath" Mummyji, why should we equate fun with crackers. Were we not having fun just now, all of us? Is being together and enjoying each other's company not fun? Is only shouting, screaming hoarse fun? In a moment all crackers are gone in the air thickly polluted!  " 

" So what will happen if we burst crackers a few, others are doing it anyways! " 

" Our Supreme Court has taken Cognisance of this evil and banned its sale. We are making irreversible damage when we take in that black emission. We cannot reverse the damage" Meena answered exasperated. 

"All our lives we have burst them, nothing happened " 

" Mummyji, have you ever checked the accident cases during Diwali, the rise in Asthma, Bronchial issues? " 

"I will be supervising them, Arun and your father-in-law will be there! Do you doubt us? Will we not take care?  Just because there are accidents, will you stop travelling? " 

" Mummyji travelling is a necessity, Bursting Crackers  is a choice! " 

" What will my children do, while others burst Crackers, they will mourn in the house! Just like your side people do? " 

This was getting personal. Daddyji rose up and went in his room. He looked red faced. Her children were witness to this shameful struggle on an auspicious Day. 

Just now they are actually losing fun by seeing us argue. Please let us drop this" Arun interjected gently behind her. 

Meena felt the pressure of giving in. It was so easy to just let her go with children and have her so called "Fun" She was a mother and she had values to teach and principles to adhere too. 

"She wants to control everyone with her activism. What will you alone do by not bursting crackers? Whole world is doing it! "

Meena ushered the kids in their room. Arun brought a glass of water for both. 

You have upset even your father- in - law. We came from Delhi to enjoy in Mumbai so we can atleast burst crackers here but you had to thwart me! " 

Meena knew when Gears were changed

Is it possible mummyji that dad's weak lungs could be the reason of Constant pollution your city and my city faces? We feel, what is one day crackers but they do leave a long lasting impact on each one's health and longevity? " 

" So now you are blaming me for everything.What about all the money I spent on them? What you know value of money? You saw money after you married my son! "

"Where will that money be? In smoke. Not only crackers but their leftovers cause more smoke while disposing!" 

"Don't burst them next time but this batch I will... Zesha, Ishu come... We will see, how your mother stops us. If you do not want us Arun, you should have send us back at the airport. I can leave just now...!"

Ultimatums!

"No mom, Dad's appointment is there, you cannot leave. His pressure has increased already! "  a visibly upset Arun returned from his dad's room. 

Why will it not increase, some respect we got. Tell him to come in the fresh Air and enjoy with us. He will feel better" 

Her mom- in - law began collecting the Cracker's bag. She went in the kitchen. 

"Zesha! Where do you keep your Candles? Help me out here" 

Zesha and Ishaan looked perplexed. 

Meena stood there. She could give in to end it. She felt humiliated and hurt. There her children were standing looking at the Human drama unfolding. Either ways she was standing stripped in front of her children. 

Her stand of #SayNotoCrackers was for good reason. Her children and next generation needed it. 

No amount of reasoning will work, she knew. 

She took a decision in a split second. Confrontation was anyways on. It can get no worse. 

She picked up the Bag and went to the terrace. She had a drum full of water to tend to plants. She dumped all the crackers in them. Zesha and Ishaan followed mutely. 

Her mother- in- law stood transfixed with anger. Cold, white anger. 

"You left me no choice, Whether you burst them or put them in the water. The waste is similar. I will not have my children take even a slimmer chance of accident. No matter what adult supervision is there, they happen and hurt for a lifetime " 

She came to the living room and started the TV. 

The Lung Care Department 's Head was urging people" Is bursting crackers the only way to enjoy Diwali?  Let us pledge to create a better Longevity. By bursting Crackers, you just reduce your longevity" outlining the harmful effects Delhi suffered last year. 

Only if each one of us Understood! Not only this but every Diwali will be Happy and Healthy Diwali for all! 

Sonnal Pardiwala.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Karva Chauth - Gifts of Love.

I am 43 and from a Gujarati Household. From a young age we are introduced to the Art of Fasting. Fasting for a "Good Husband", Fasting for "Good Health", Fasting for getting a "Son", Fasting for Defeating Fate. 
As children, we were part conditioned to believe an unbreakable connection of fasting and dsired results. We feebly questioned it too,  but the women folk elder to us frowned so seriously that we dithered a bit but complied nonetheless. 
We grew up on a diet of Steady Fasting. 
Then I did the Unthinkable (for my parents)! Married a Man from a Parsee Community,  where "Fasting" was an Alien Concept. If anything, they ate at every juncture. Birth, Marriage, Navjote, Death. Food was an inevitable element in their lives. They rever Food. Alternatively, I also learned their Art of Praying to deal with inevitabilities of life. They prayed simply and expected Gods to bless without having to twist and turn in the tummy zone. Their restraint as far as to refrain from eating Non-vegetarian food on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It was a Huge Sacrifice for a Parsee person! 
No one expected me to Fast here. So Karva Chauth was a distant event in my life, happening in newspapers and Movies. Religion never came between the two of us. We enjoyed and Celebrated Everything. So did our two kids. They learned to recite prayers of both faiths and delicacies from both sides were devoured happily. 
The Childhood Conditioning is strong though. At a critical juncture of grave medical Condition of my Husband's brush with Death, it surfaced. It was "Sankashta Chaturthi". The fourth day post full moon is dedicated to Lord Ganesha and Moon. I began that fasting, on that day. After a long struggle with Death and a financial upheaval, we swam to steady shores. This Fasting now remained in my psyche. I follow it sincerely ever since. No elaborate rituals. It is a quiet day as usual, with fast broken after sighting the moon. 
This year, I jested that I dedicate the routine fast to you dear husband. It is the "Karva of Chauth". 
Left it at that. Of course my kids wanted to know what it was and why it was such a debatable issue. We gave our humorous as well as serious takes on the day. 
Since it was a Sunday, I decided to literally rest. Work was hectic so this day came in as a Boon on a Holiday. I requested my husband to fend for himself and the children. Three boys feasted on a nearby hotel delivery. I slept deeply the entire afternoon. 
When I did get up, it was to few pleasant surprises. A glass of Lassi waiting, an apple cut and a cup of tea followed. 
Still basking in the pampering, I was presented with a detailed dinner plan by husband dear. 
"I am making your favourite Rice and Aloo Sabji since you prefer homemade food at the breaking of a fast..." 
" Wow!" at not having to cook while I was wee bit tired and weak. 
My husband while eating confessed, 
I thought, I will fast with you since it is Karva Chauth. I went in the kitchen in the morning to make tea and saw the biscuits. That's it. I could hold the hunger no more! I brought it out and ate it. So the next best thing I did was to "Cook for you, your favourite food!"  
Is love not about celebrating and caring for each other in this intimate way? Fasting is not a part of his psyche. Caring is! 
To cook for me, when I have not eaten the full day and keep things ready for me forms his highest offering. Offering love and care takes many forms in our lives. Instead of linking guilt and compulsion, if we allow each one to express care the best way he or she could, would this world not have love more and compunction less? 
What he could not express in staying hungry for me, he expressed in doing what best he could. Remember what I like to eat, cook that very thing with tender love and thoughts. 
This I believe was my best Chauth ever Karva or Otherwise! 
-Sonnal Pardiwala