Basanti and dogs

This particular song in the movie super 30 has left me mesmerized. I can’t stop raving about it. It is sheer masterpiece in terms of the writing. There are so many highs in this song for me that it just raises my spirits.

First and foremost is the use of the iconic dialogue “Basanti, inn kutto ke saamne mat nachna!” Well, to the common man, Basanti is the tangewaali from the movie sholay. But who is Basanti here? In this song, Basanti stands for the low class, shabbily dressed, hindi speaking, poor students who feel that they are inferior to their well dressed, well groomed, English speaking counterparts. But in a larger perspective it includes all those individuals who are different from others and who are looked down upon because they dare to be different. And who are the dogs? It’s the society. The so called society, who has set some norms, rules, and guidelines which are binding to every one. So, in plain simple English, Basanti no dance in front of these dogs inspires us to not confirm to unnecessary, irrelevant and pseudo rules of the society. This metaphor is the work of a genius. Lyricist Amitabh Bhattacharya, you are a genius!

Another high point is the tune no no no no no. It is really moving to see Basanti transform all the negatives thrown at her into positives. So the crowd chanting no no no, becomes the tune of her song, to which she decides to dance. It’s heartwarming to see how she uses that to her benefit. Such a brilliant way of teaching us that we decide what hurts us.

One more thing which I feel is the masterstroke of this song is the use of half Hindi, half English words. One particular line in the song goes, ” Teri English, Meri English, sabki English Hindi hai” I feel nothing could have conveyed this better that knowing a popular language which is spoken across different continents is good, it gives an upper edge but that doesn’t mean that other languages are any less or inferior. It’s important to be able to communicate and express, whatever language you are comfortable with.

In short, basanti no dance in front of these dogs simply means don’t succumb to societal pressures. Be the basanti of your life, dance to your own tunes and don’t care about the dogs, they are born to bark!!

Dear kids

Dear kids,

Next time you want me to see, smell or taste something, don’t poke me in the eye or shove it down my nose or stuff it in my mouth without my consent.

Dear kids,

If you see me eating alone, don’t assume it’s something you are not allowed to eat.

Dear kids,

You, absolutely, simply, under no circumstances, need to count how many potty you did today and then make me remember the entire weeks count. I can still tolerate your singing but don’t make me do the maths.

Dear kids,

If I say to a friend that her daughter or son is very sweet or cute or talented, it doesn’t mean I don’t find you sweet or cute or talented any more.

Dear kids,

When I go shopping for MY STUFF and you tag along inspite of having the option of being at home with your tv, then bear the consequences. You cant keep crying to go home even though I am not finished!

Dear kids,

When you see me settle down comfortably with a book or newspaper, understand that it’s for me to read and not just hold in my hands while you poke your head in between to read everything before me.

Dear kids,

If you see me enter the toilet, then don’t forget that I will also exit it after my job is done in reasonable time. You can ask about the tv remote, colour box, cycle keys, that you can’t find after i come out. Why talk through the bathroom door?

Dear kids,

I understand the unseen magnetism between you and me which makes you cling to me, hold me and circle around me. That is ok as long as you don’t forget that my stomach is not a bean bag and my feet are not immune to being stamped on.

Dear kids,

When I call you on the phone, I want to talk to you and not just hear you talk to someone else with the phone to your ears and mouth.

Dear kids,

Chocolates are a universal gift and they taste better when shared. So don’t make a fuss if I eat a piece or two or accidentally finish them when you are in school!

Dear kids,

Take this post sportingly. Inspite of all your flaws, mumma loves you to the moon and back!

Rest in peace, Julie

Death is never pleasant, even if it’s just a caterpillar, you chanced upon in your house.

I saw a caterpillar in my house and on the insistence of my little sister, Prerna Bagaria, who has a soft corner for these little insects, i just caught it, kept it in a plastic container(the one you get with takeaway food) and covered it with a thin net for air circulation. I thought it will be a joyful experience for my kids to watch how life unfolds. Prerna, told me to keep some leaves and a marigold in the container and then just observe what is it eating. It would do the same colour potty of what it eats. So that became our mission. Diaa and me would peak into the container every few minutes to check if there are any droppings inside and finally after an hour later, we saw something the same colour as the marigold. I don’t think both of us have ever been so happy to see potty!!

Now that we knew it is feeding on marigold, we gave her just that and observed her.Sometimes she would eat up almost half the flower in a few minutes and Diaa would be so happy to put a new one for her. I instantly told her,”see, that’s how I feel when you eat to your hearts content.” Sometimes, she would hide deep inside and both of us would keep looking for it. Diaa would get so restless that she would turn the container upside down till she spotted it and then heave a sigh of relief!! And I would say,”see, that’s how I feel when I don’t know where you are!” This time she gave me a typical roll of her eyes from behind her glasses and exclaimed,” mummma, stop it!” Ok, I agree I went too far. This is not supposed to be a mom-is-justified-in-her-actions experience. It is for her to see how life takes different shapes.

Now, me and my daughter were feeding it, watching it grow, playing with it. We even had a name for it. Julie.We were waiting for it to metamorphosize and eager to see what kind of feathers will it have. I told Diaa we will let it fly but she became sad and said no. I was very tempted to go on another “see, that’s how I feel about setting you free…” But I controlled my feelings and told her to just enjoy the stages as of now. When she became a pupa, it was like finally we are going right. The pupa was a nice green colour before turning brown. Then Diaa lost interest in it. Because a pupa just stays put, no meals, no potty, no hide and seek, so her interaction became less. And then that was it. Julie never transformed. Her cycle remained incomplete.

I had got a feeling looking at it, that something has gone wrong. It looked very lifeless, still and dead. But I hoped I am wrong. Since I don’t know much about metamorphosis, i consulted my sister who told me to tickle its tail with a feather and the pupa will wiggle or move but alas! I was right. Our little Julie couldn’t survive and we lost her.

I buried her the next morning. It was difficult watching her go. I always intended to set her free once she became a moth or butterfly or whatever she was meant to become. I wanted to see her fly away in the sky, but unfortunately I had to bury her in the sand.Diaa didn’t miss Julie because she didn’t find the pupa stage very exciting. Her interest had diminished with her patience. It was only after 2-3 days, that she asked me where is Julie? Is she a butterfly? Did I set her free without asking her? At one moment, I thought I would say yes. It will be better than telling her that she died. But I said the truth. I told her that Julie has gone to God. She cried a little. She was sad that she couldn’t see her feathers and couldn’t show it to her friends.

That moment, I wished I had not buried Julie in her absence. Instead it would have been so much better to let her say goodbye. I thought I will spare her the pain but I took away a very precious moment from her. I wanted her to see how life grows but I couldn’t have explained death in any way better. If life gives joy, then death is sorrow. We have to embrace both. Life doesn’t always follow the predictable path. Death is harsh, heartbreaking but it’s inevitable, real, constant. I realised that I wanted her to learn detachment by setting Julie free once she turned an adult but I could have taught her the same, to let go and move on, by allowing her to witness the burial.

Detachment in life is important for growth, for new beginnings. Detachment in death is important for peace, for closure.I took Diaa to the spot where I had buried Julie. She said her goodbye and that gave her the closure.

8.5 out of 25

25th January 2020

When I went to my son’s school today for the parents teacher meeting, I was clueless about what was awaiting me. It was just another ptm for me. I knew what he would have scored. My expectations have never been very high for his marks because I know that he is more inclined towards cricket. He beams with joy more when he takes a wicket or two in a match than scoring above average marks in any subject. As I flipped through the answer sheets, I noted down his marks and found myself content with what he had scored. Then, I came to his maths paper. It said 8.5 out of 25. I was stunned. I narrowed my eyes to see if I was reading it correctly. For a second I thought I saw a 1 before the 8.5 making it 18.5, but no, I was wrong. It was 8.5. Just 8.5. I held my head and just stared at it. What do I do now?? How is a mother whose child has just passed his paper expected to behave? Is everyone staring at me?? The teacher must be waiting to meet me. The first thing to get blamed for this will be cricket. Is he the only one to score such low marks? What about the other kids? I peeked into the answer sheets of few other kids, 17 out of 25, 20 out of 25, 24 out of 25!!Where is Pratham? Does he even know his marks? Why didn’t he tell me? Do I meet the maths teacher? What will Manish say? He worked so hard on maths with Pratham. A drop of perspiration roll down the temple of my forehead to my ears. I was deeply overwhelmed with so many thoughts. I just closed his file and sat there waiting for my turn.

I was avoiding eye contact with anyone in that room. There were 2-3 parents awaiting their turn before me. This gave me a chance to get my thoughts together. In an instant, I was taken back to my school days. I had also flunked my maths paper once, in the 6th std. If my memory serves me well, most of my class had failed in that particular exam sparing a few exceptionally brilliant students. I just remember my parents and teachers getting very angry. Other than that, I don’t think it affected me in anyway. Life just moved on. I tried to better myself and that’s it.

So why am I making such a big fuss about his low score? I know how hard he is trying to balance his passion for cricket and his studies. Just one paper doesn’t change anything. He can and he will improve on it.

With these thoughts in my mind, I walked to the teacher’s desk, fully determined to defend him. But, on the contrary, the teacher was very supportive. Not even once did she tell me to stop his cricket. Infact she told me to counsel him that he has to strike a balance between both and he is fully capable of doing that. She also told me that Pratham didn’t get a chance to see his maths paper as he had gone to practice for a match. So she will show it to him next day and also motivate him to give little more time to studies. This simple gesture by the teacher filled me with positivity. I thanked the teacher for her support and went to the playground to look for Pratham.

Now, I was starting to get worried for him. He was expecting to score between 15 to 19. I knew that an 8.5 will be equally shocking for him. And I was right. He was totally stunned to know his score. In the 12 years of his school life, this is the first time he had got such a low score. When he went through his answer sheet, he couldn’t understand where he had gone wrong. I asked him to compare it with a friend who is good in maths. The comparison helped him understand his mistakes and most of them were conceptual and few silly mistakes. The first thing he told me after he got a hold on himself is,” mom, I don’t want to give up cricket. I will work harder with my studies but don’t stop me from playing cricket!!” My eyes welled up with tears.

That moment I understood how hard he is trying to juggle both sports and study. I felt guilty of not being the supportive mom that he could walk upto and find comfort in difficult times. Somewhere, in my pursuit to motivate him to do better, I have probably ended up pressuring him too much to lose his trust. How do I make him feel that I only want him to do good in life, whatever field he may choose? How do I express that I am not at all disappointed?

He met his teacher. She told him not to get disheartened by one paper. She knows he is a capable student and he will bounce back. Then he left for the playground to continue with his practice.

As I left the class, climbing down the fleet of stairs and exiting the main gate of the school, I wondered, how much had I scored as a mother that day? Maybe, 8.5 out of 25!!

No stains, no gains

My kids have a light coloured school uniform as you can see in the picture. Stains and uniform go hand in hand.

When the white shirt was introduced by the school, many mothers felt as if they were being openly challenged to keep it spotless. Some took the challenge head on, some opposed it and some even played safe by buying extra shirts, you know, just in case

Coincidentally, the same year, my son was introduced to the world of pens. He was now in 5th std and was allowed to write with a pen. Even an ink pen!! Can you imagine the scenario?? A class full of students wearing white shirts and having fountain pens!! The white shirt was every child’s weak point as well as strong point. It was the perfect set up to play mischief. Just splash ink on someone and say,”oh! I am sorry, galti se mistake ho gayi!” Or just touch the tip of your pen to the shirt and hold it there for 2 minutes. The shirt will absorb the ink and spread it. Next, you have a perfect round blot of ink. Put the blame on someone else and enjoy the show!! The smallest of quarrels or difference of opinion was settled with the white shirt being the battlefield, the ink pen their ammunition and the stains thereafter were scars of brave battle fought. Slowly, as time passed, new, deadlier weapons were thought of. One of them being pomegranates. Yes, the pinkish red, juice oozing, fruit. All you had to do was take a handful and thump it hard on the back, crushing them with your palm. Or just fill it in the pocket and give it a squeeze. There you have it, a perfect blot of difficult, stubborn stain. The inflictor and the victim, both knew it, that today one mom is going to scream her lungs out when the apple of her eyes comes home not bruised, not wounded but STAINED!!

If the kids were having their share of fun, the moms were not to be left behind. Every now and then, the school mommies WhatsApp group would have at least one mom post a pic of the stained shirt. Sometimes there was name calling, sometimes a general warning to all moms to discipline the kids and sometimes a demand to wash the shirt or replace it. On one hand, the anger was being expressed openly and on the other hand, tips were being shared for easy stain removal. Lemon, vinegar, bleach, vanish and other household things to maintain the whiteness of the white shirt. All in all the white shirt kept the conversations alive.

Personally, I wish I didn’t have to wash off the stains. I wish I could keep them as every stain has a story to say. Stories of mischief, quarrel, struggle,

The first time they tried eating with a spoon and fork, the painting with the sunrise, a match winning diving catch, the clumsy slip while chasing a butterfly, a well attempted sand castle, defending your favourite snack from pouncing friends, enjoying a juicy mango on a lazy summer afternoon,

All these stains are proof that my kids are active, energetic and keep attempting different activities to keep them busy. After all, has anyone stained clothes with gadgets? Just the other day, my daughter was cutting rectangular pieces of paper to make a small pocket diary for herself and she accidentally cut her frock with the paper!! But that diary kept her busy for the next few days. She made a nice cover page, put some stickers, wrote a few notes and felt happy with the end result. So that little snip in her dress was worth the effort she took to indulge in something creative rather than just watching art and craft videos on the mobile.

I have to keep the school uniform clean because it has a lot of dignity attached to it and the students wear it with pride. But I don’t fuss about their other clothes. They have been asked to be careful but it’s not to restrict them in any way. After all, a kid with stained clothes is an active kid with an imaginative mind!! You can’t create masterpieces if you worry about staining your hands or clothes!!

P.S. now that the white shirt doesn’t have as many stains, I wonder what are the kids upto to settle scores!!

A Festival of Minds

Day: 20 March 2019

Time: 2:15 pm

Place: Bhakti park, Wadala, Mumbai

I am taking a taxi with my daughter Diaa, age 6 years and little sister Prerna, age 30 years to The Seventh Sense movement centre, near chowpatty beach. We are headed that way to attend a paint play session by Prerna Bagaria’s Mann Mela. What I am really looking forward to is watching the two angels of my life in action. The elder one, how does she tackle a gang of kids aged 3-6 for 2 hours. The younger one, how does she react to the totally new world of umpteen possibilities which I am introducing her to today.

Time: 4:00 pm

Venue: The seventh sense movement centre

When she entered the venue, after climbing the flight of stairs, three floors to be precise, she was welcomed by serenity, peace, and calmness. The fresh cool breeze made her forget her breathlessness and my daughter seemed to embrace it with her small open arms. First impressions last long!! She was already eager to begin her journey with paints. Unable to contain her excitement, prerna allowed her to help in the pre session preparations. Removing the covers from the canvas boards, assembling the easels, putting the aprons in place for kids to pick, sticking the big mat in place, and other simple ways to take the load off her dear masi.

Soon, the other kids arrive and the journey starts or rather unfolds, bit by bit, stroke by stroke, paint by paint. What I witness for the next 2 hours just doesn’t cease to amaze me even for a second. Armed with a brush, armoured in aprons to protect against unwarned splashes of paint, they start of with a simple session of pencil and paper, move on to paints on canvas, then different paints and so on. The sessions just flow from one to another without the kids realising that they have actually been introduced to so many things. The start of each session makes them more excited and by the end of it, they are hungry for more stimulation, more innovation, more expression and more curiousity.

Then comes the climax, the finale. The young paint warriors set out to conquer the world of their imagination. The canvas is now not limited to their easels, the walls are thrown open to them. The paint brushes are not the only weapons, take your pick from a wide variety of tools or bare hands will do the trick. The aprons are flunged in the air. They are fearless, unstoppable, ready to take the bull by the horn. Next, You see a blob here and a splash there, a stain above and a mark below, a print to the left and a sketch to the right, a drip here and a spray there, and lo and behold!!! The plain boring white wall is transformed into a storyboard. There are stories of

joy,(look at my handprint!!),

happiness( I made a circle!!),

excitement( can I paint anywhere on this wall!!),

Generosity( you share your tool with me and I will share my paint with you),

Boredom ( I have tried everything, now what do I do)

curiosity( what if I dip this tool in this colour and make a splash!!),

Possession (this is my part of the wall!),

revenge( you spoiled mine, I will spoil yours!!),

Friendship( hey look, our colours got mixed to make a new one!!)

There are so many impressions for us to interpret. If only we adults could understand it and if only we were equipped with the sensibility to interpret it. Life is a canvas, if only we let the children paint it the way they want. They want to break barriers, if only we don’t mould them into set shapes. They want to think out of the box, if only we don’t restrict them in boundaries. They want to soar the sky, if only we don’t clip their wings!!!

If any of you wish to initiate the change, then do like the Facebook page of MannMela on the link shared below and subscribe to get notified about upcoming events and camps.

More power to you Mann Mela and Prerna Bagaria.

School days

Dear children

I write this today, not as a girl, a mother or an elder. I write this as an ex student. Today I want to share with you my school experience and hope to strike a chord with all who read it.

My school’s name is Trinity English School in Ahmedabad. It was a very small school with just one class for each std. Because of it’s limited student strength, we all were very closely knit into the threads of friendship. The teachers knew us all inside out and it was very difficult to get away with any mischief.

There was a huge badam tree in my school compound. One day a few friends and myself were hitting stones at the tree to make the badams fall and one of us missed and the huge stone hit the glass window of my principal’s cabin. She was a very strict lady, petite and thin in frame, but equally magnanimous in discipline and character. She was Mrs. Tanumati Christain. She looked out from the broken window and saw us all very clearly but we all ran away thinking that she won’t know who it was.

Next day, when we came to school, the glass was mended and there was a huge heap of juicy ripe red badams under the tree , all washed and cleaned, ready for us to savour. Ma’am was standing near it and all the students were asked to pick one on the way to their classroom. I was foolish enough to think that I have got away with what happened the previous day but when I approached the heap to take my share, I could see it in her eyes that I have been caught. That Stern glare was all that was needed for me to confess. I said sorry with tears welling up my eyes. She touched me gently on my back and gave me a badam. Not a word said, spoken or uttered and yet she explained it to me and all the others that carrying a guilt or a lie inside you is very burdensome. Such an important life lesson taught in such a simple way! This memory has been etched deep in my heart. It is moments like these which shape you as an individual.

Today, she is no more and my school also closed down. But even today, whenever I pass by my school or even a distant lane which leads to it, I feel elated. I want to tell you all that school life is the best phase of a human life. You are all making some of the best memories of your life here. You may not realise this right now but once you grow up and get busy with your responsibility and careers, then you will understand the value of it.

Lastly, I will give you one advice. Dont forget the watchmans and mausis who are working equally tirelessly to give you a safe and clean school. Wish them good morning or just smile whenever you cross paths with them in school. Keep in touch with the school even after you leave it. Take out sometime from your busy life to visit it. Wish your principals, teachers on Teachers day, send them emails or letters. They are treasure chests full of wisdom. You never know when you might want a gem from them.

Wish you all very happy schooling days!!