My tryst with swach bharat

A few years back, I dropped my daughter to school every day. In this regard, I had to pass a small by lane which is surrounded by slum on one side and a big open ground on the other. The ground was used by the slum dwellers for open defecation. As soon as we would make that turn and are about to approach the ground my daughter would close her nose and everyday she would pity me that I can’t do the same because I am driving an Activa. And very often, I would tell her,” it’s ok. I can’t close my nose but I can hold my breath!”

The ground was lined by a compound wall, and there was a namesake iron gate at it’s entry point. In the morning, people walking in and out of the ground with buckets, paint cans, or anything which can hold water was a usual sight. Children squatting near the wall and their moms standing with their back to them was also common. My daughter would see the children with a wrenched nose. Sometimes if she made eye contact with a child,who is in the process, she would say,” us bacche ne mujhe dekha”( that child saw me). I don’t know how she felt about it or why she felt the need to tell me that.

One day she finally opened up. This is the conversation I had with her.

Diaa: mummy, that child saw me. Doesn’t he feel ashamed?
Me: maybe he does,

Diaa: I think he doesn’t go to school.
Me: what makes you think that?

Diaa: if he went to school, he would never do potty in the open.
Me: maybe he doesn’t have a bathroom in his house….

Diaa: what? How can that be? All houses have bathrooms.
Me: no dear, those who live in these houses, they don’t have a bathroom.

After this statement, she went quiet. I think it was too harsh a reality for her little innocent brain to accept. She was shocked when it dawned on her how difficult life would be without a bathroom!! And leaving her with this thought, I dropped her to school.

From that day onwards, she looked at the kids sympathetically rather than with disgust.

Later during the year, when it was time for the swachch survekshan and the smart city survey, we started seeing some unusual activity around the ground. One day, we saw people painting the walls of the ground with colourful messages on cleanliness and hygiene. The entire stretch of road was cleaned and sprayed with disinfectants.

A few days later, makeshift toilets were installed near the walls and some men and women would be standing there, probably to encourage the people to use the toilets. The iron gate of the ground was closed and locked.

After another week or 10 days later, the toilets were shifted to block the entry to the ground and the men and women monitoring the situation also increased. Still sometimes, we would see people walking towards the ground or scaling the walls. This continued for quite some days, I don’t know how many. Diaa asked me once what these big boxes are. I told her they are bathrooms and she was happy that these people finally have bathrooms.

Some days when the officials were not present, the children would come back to their favourite wall. Again Diaa asked me,” now they have bathrooms. Why are they sitting in the open now?”

Me: habits beta habits, bad habits are hard to kill. It will take them sometime to change the habit.

Then, my daughter’s school closed for summer break and we didn’t traverse that road till school opened again. Also, she was enrolled in the school bus and the bus took a different route. My visits to her school were also reduced only for ptms or any special events.

It was only later, after about 3 months, when I went to her school for a parent teacher interaction. I saw that instead of the makeshift toilets, there was a proper brick and concrete structure. The tiles looked new. There was a swach survekshan poster and few other messages on hygiene.

I don’t know whether the people learnt to use those toilets or not…I don’t know whether they understood the importance of clean and hygienic conditions to answer your nature’s call…..I don’t know whether they accepted that doing potty in private is much better than embarrassing yourself in public glare…..

I do know that the govt and the ward officer of that slum in particular did a good job and I am happy that he didn’t give up on these people and kept on trying to improve their living standards. It gives me hope that finally, somewhere, we have made a start to arrive at that stage where we can call ourself a civilised country and open defecation, which has become synonymous with India, will be a thing of the past.

You, me and rains!!

Rains are so integral to a childhood!! . The onset of monsoons are meant to be so tempting. For me, monsoons bring back very happy memories from my growing up years. The first showers pouring from the heavens, getting drenched in cold pure rain drops, gliding through ankle deep waters, purposely stepping into a puddle, throwing pebbles to watch ripples and of course racing paper boats with names on it, and running along with the boats, protecting it with an umbrella, so that rain water doesn’t drench it before it reaches the finish line.

Mona and me just loved our rains. The moment it started raining, we would leave our homes with an umbrella even though we were sure that none of us plans to open it. It was just a cover up so that our moms don’t freak out over more wet clothes when already the clothesline is full of damp ones and there’s no place to hang more. It made us so happy to sit at our favorite bench at the crossroads, in pouring rains and just talk to our hearts content.

Sometimes, she would bring out a Diarymilk from her pocket and surprise me. It was she who was so fond of it and would pretend as if she got it for me. We would nibble at it slowly, savouring every bite and taking longer and longer to finish it so that the taste would remain in our mouths long after the chocolate was over. The walks in the rains were so full of life and carefree. Cars splashing us with more water didn’t bother us. The trees lining the roads would become so clean, and we couldn’t stop admiring the lush green cover all around us.

Then the hunt for petrichor would start. We would walk in the directions which gave out that heavenly smell and just linger at the place where we found it for little longer, heaving in deep breaths to absorb as much of it as possible, our eyes closed and a peaceful smile on the lips. Arms would just open up and spread themselves as if the rains and the petrichor have come to just embrace us. Our feet would stop moving to let us soak in the divinity of the moment. Once, we vowed to make a perfume of it when we grow up!!

Frogs bothered us. We didn’t like the croaking of frogs breaking the rhythm of the rain drops. Also, we felt sorry for them because we would see so many of them crushed on the roads under wheels of cars. Sometimes, if we saw a frog jumping across the road, we would hush it back in the bushes, in a bid to save him.

We even went cycling at times. But as we grew older, we preferred to walk more than cycling. It made us feel more closer to nature and gave us more freedom to chose our pace.

Thank you Mona, for making such beautiful rain memories with me!

Thank you for never hesitating to share your Dairymilks with me!

Thank you for being you, the perfect friend!

Teachers are covid warriors too (Corona diaries 4)

25th May,2020

Another relationship which took the survival leap and sustained in these changing times is the student teacher relationship. I am amazed at how quickly the education sector adapted to the pandemic. In a country like India, where education is mostly textbook driven, and classroom based, schools were quick to move ahead with the changing situation and switch to online classes. If I think of this, just a few months back I was discussing this concept with my kids because they complained about a heavy bag and getting up early in the morning and braving the winter chill to be at school. And now, here we are.

The transition was not easy for the students because they are so used to studying in a classroom, wearing a school uniform, and following a timetable. They are so habituated to learning from a book, in a group with friends, writing notes from the board, asking friends for notes which they couldn’t complete because they were busy cooking up a mischief in their mind. The kids miss the long school corridors, the fun conversations when you ‘accidentally’ slip off a friend’s secret to another friend, the trip to the washroom to just say hi to a friend in another class, not to forget the lunch break where every child comes with a different tiffin. The contents in the tiffin are as varied as the outer appearance of the tiffins. The excitement about making up for a boring chapati bhaji with the cheese sandwiches of another or veg pulao of another is incomparable and in no time, you have a yummy tasty lunch spread. The online classes have robbed them off all these joys.

Even the teachers had their share of adjustment to make. When they teach in a classroom, there is a personal connect, an eye contact, some facial expressions which help the teachers to gauge how well her/his students have understood the chapter. Just one simple nod of the head gives her/him an assurance that the lesson has been well grasped by all. They even identify the mischievous ones and the trouble makers by their slightest movement. Here, on online classes, kids sit with their audio on mute and the video off. The personal, one to one connect is missing.

Initially, problems were faced by everyone. Network issues, connectivity issues, no books, sitting alone in front of our gadgets, taking classes through the digital platform, downloading worksheets, uploading classwork, and even appearing for online exams.

But it is really commendable how every teething problem was taken care off. The school and the teachers took every effort to ensure that the transition was most easy and smooth for all the students. The teachers shared their personal numbers and email ids with the students. They joined the WhatsApp groups which parents had formed to be constantly available to the students. There were some students who were stuck in a remote village with no books and no connectivity. I don’t know how they managed it, but the teachers reached out to them also to ensure that they are not left behind in their studies. Online resources were made available to those who had no textbooks.

Not to forget that the teachers are also at home with their kids and family, catering to their needs, looking after a house without a domestic help, worrying about the safety and health of their loved ones and still being available for their students whenever they need help with doubts or problems. For a 40 minute class that they take, it takes hours of pre-preparation, finding the right study material, preparing presentations and slides in advance, so that time is utilised most effectively when they go online. They let the kids take their own time to adjust to this new mothod of learning. The panic, the anxiety, the sudden rush of so much to do in so little time was all taken care of with utmost sincerity. There is an ease, a friendly approach with the students alongwith a straight message that no nonsense will be tolerated, we mean business.

As the summer vacations come to an end and the schools buckle up for the start of the new session, I say my heartfelt gratitude to all the educators who are also covid warriors in their own ways for ensuring that in this state of pandemic, learning is not locked down, education is not isolated and the student teacher relationship is not quarantined.

Kudos to all of you!!!

P.S:- an incident during one of the online classes,

Pratham:-” mumma, move away, you are visible in my video to my teacher.”

Me:- as calmly as possible, ” it’s alright beta. I am as human as you. I am not alien. Your teacher will not be scared of me!”

The missing piece in the jigsaw puzzle

Sometime ago in May 2018

I gave my son, Pratham, a 550 piece jigsaw puzzle to rake up his brain and use his time constructively in the summer holidays. His cousin, Nishita, had also come over and they both seemed quite excited with this challenge. Even before they started solving it, they were quarrelling about who will fit the last piece. Obviously, both wanted the honour and none was willing to give it up for cousin bonding. And thus began the quest to solve it to the last piece.

First, they separated the pieces based on their colour. This helped to narrow down the search. Then, they separated the ones that had a smooth side. This helped them form the borders of the puzzle. Then, every piece was tried, turned and twisted to find where it would fit correctly. Each time they found a correct match, there was such an uproar, a sense of triumph that we are getting closer to victory. Apart from those at home, friends from the colony also got involved in this engaging activity and would come over to put in their contribution in the making of Hagrid and his motorcycle ride.

Utmost care was taken to keep all the pieces safe. A corner in the house was dedicated to the spread and everyone was told to be mindful of the puzzle station. The maid was instructed to sweep and mop carefully. The little ones, Diaa and Jenisha, took care to tip toe around the puzzle. Slowly, the puzzle started taking shape. Piece by piece, inch by inch, the children were nearing the last piece. More than halfway through the puzzle, it was found that one piece has gone missing! The children skipped a heartbeat. Inspite of being most careful, one piece was lost! Next, it was mission missing piece. A massive hunt to find it started. All the pieces were counted, re counted and counted again, but it was always one less-549. The sofa was turned upside down, the curtains were given a vigorous shake, the bed was flipped over, the toy boxes were emptied but it was nowhere to be found.

One person who found it extremely difficult to accept this was Pratham. He was just not able to face it that the last piece will always remain unsolved. He kept looking for it for hours in every nook and corner but he was not ready to give up the search.

Finally, I made him sit next to me and I told him,” the piece is lost, we don’t know when it was lost, you tried your best to find it but in vain. So now, it’s time to let it go. We don’t have control over everything. Sometimes, things go wrong, situations get out of hand and desires remain unfulfilled. But life goes on. Life doesn’t stop. This missing piece is a reminder that we tried our best. It’s not always possible to have everything in totality. Ultimately, it’s the effort that counts and not the result. Also, there’s a certain mystery in incomplete, a little thrill, a little curiosity about how it would be if it was complete. Somethings in life are beautiful, even if incomplete.”

We finished the puzzle in the coming few days. But the missing piece had taken away the excitement of finishing it. After all, it started as a quest to the last piece. Both Pratham and Nishita were very happy with the fruit of their labour but the missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle continued to allure them!

GIF credit: Anchal Agarwal

Locks of love donations

I first heard this phrase a few years ago on my school chat group. A friend asked if anyone in India accepts these donations. Curiosity made me ask her about it in detail and I came to know that it means donating ones hair for making wigs for cancer patients, specially kids. I had never heard of hair donation before. Something just touched a chord in my heart and I decided to do it.

We tend to fuss over our hair so much. Short haired person wishes long hair, curly hair wants straight, straight hair wants curls, high shine, bouncy volume, soft feel, oil control, frizz control and what not. One of the biggest fears amongst teenagers is not about their careers but about losing their hair or premature balding. But the hair on our head is not just sitting there to make us look pretty. There’s more to it. History is full of tales which are proof enough that our hair is our pride. Draupadi was dragged by her hair in the court of Dhritarashtra by Dusashan and she vowed to tie it only after soaking it with his blood. Chanakya was thrown out of king Dhananand’s court with his hair being pulled by the soldiers and he vowed to knot it only after finding a true heir to the throne of Magadh. What happened next is known to all.

Hair help us express our feelings also. Feeling angry? We tend to pull our hair apart. Want to relax? A hair massage will do the needful. Want to get over a breakup? Get a haircut ( don’t know if this one works). One of my most memorable moments with my kids are related to hair. I love it when my son sleeps in my lap and I run my fingers through his hair every morning for 2 mins. This is the only time in the entire day when he is mine completely. My daughter loves combing my hair and trying to make different hairstyles out of it. I feel so loved when she calls me a cutie pie in one of her creations!

Instead of artificial wigs, one those are made of real hair makes cancer patients happy. It helps to build a positive body image. I know the stigma around balding is fast disappearing and people are going bald as a choice also. But to lose ones precious mane, when you are least expecting it, is heartbreaking. In this scenario, if a small donation on my part brings a sweet, unadulterated smile on a sad face, then I think it’s worth it. As for my hair, they will grow back. I will keep growing them till I can maintain them, to donate it to some child who is struggling every moment with his life. Whenever they touch their wig, I hope it reminds them that there is a woman out there, somewhere, who wanted to reach out to you and the best she could do is send you her hair, along with buckets of Hope and tons of good wishes that you defeat this treacherous demon and emerge a winner in the battle against cancer. And when you grow up to be a healthy adult, you get a chance to experience this beautiful journey called Life.

For those of you reading this, if, by any chance, you feel inspired to walk my way, just Google hair donations and you will come across many organizations doing this Noble charity. Just follow some simple do’s and dont’s and you are good to go. I choose Cope with Cancer- Madat trust as they were very prompt in responding to my query. Please visit their website for any queries

http://www.copewithcancer.org/hair-donation

Corona diaries 3

24 April 2020

Honestly speaking, I have lost count of how many days it has been since the lockdown. If I go by the date, it’s been a month.

Today I will talk about how Corona taught us an important human value.

Much has already been said about how this time has come as a blessing to mankind. Most of us were a part of an unstoppable grind, a routine, where we barely had time for family, leisure, hobbies, friends. Corona gave us the opportunity to slow down and prioritize, to gauge what exactly do we want from life.

Health, fitness and immunity have become important. Home cooked food is preferred over online orders.

Old lost hobbies are finding their way back in people’s life. Some are venturing into learning new skills. We are reconnecting with that friend or cousin who we were thinking of speaking to since long.

But most of all, Corona has taught us gratitude. As of now, being at home, amidst our loved ones, with a well stocked kitchen pantry, is all one could ask for.

Since the househelps are also away, we value their work so much more and we feel gratitude that we could hire them.

We are ever thankful to the medical staff, be it doctors, nurses, pathologists, the housekeeping staff at hospitals, everyone who are out there in the face of this pandemic

We feel gratitude for the garbage collectors, the sweepers, the security guards, who we never noticed and their importance in our life was never accounted for.

We feel gratitude for the police, army and everyone associated with disaster management, who are trying hard to ensure that the lockdown is followed strictly.

We feel gratitude for the airline authorities, the pilots, air hostess, airport staff, who risked their life to bring back people stranded in Corona affected countries.

We feel gratitude for the water Department, electricity department, who are ensuring that our stay in our home is most comfortable.

We feel gratitude for the social activists, volunteers and NGOs who are lending a helping hand to ease the pains and suffering of the less fortunate.

We feel gratitude for the milk boy, the newspaper boy, vegetable and fruit sellers, grocery stores, who ensure that we can cook the most exotic delicacies for our family.

Corona made humans value humans. It has taught us dignity of labour. Today, all the famous, popular people, actors, sports persons, musicians, authors, artists, are nobody. Their fame, popularity and star appeal has all come to a standstill. The true heroes are out there, fighting the pandemic face to face, being away from their families and loved ones because they fear for their safety. They have decided to step out of their comfort zones, to risk everything in the line of duty.

I just hope and pray that you all are safe. Your family is safe. I hope people don’t forget you once all this is over.

Thank you to all of you!!

A day in the life of my sis

My kids had gone on a super fun trip with their grandma which left me with 7 days of carefree, blissful time to unwind (yet again). Since i had the whole week to myself, I decided to go to Mumbai for a day to visit my ailing grandma and my sweet bhuaji. It was supposed to be a short trip, but it turned out to be an exploration of sorts. My little sister, Prerna Bagaria, persuaded me to let go of my hubby for a few days and spend some quality time with her. She long wanted to take me sight seeing around Mumbai, give me a peak into how she looks at this city and this opportunity seemed God send. It was going to be a first all girls outing for me with my lovely sisters and I had surrendered myself to their will. My other sister, Priyanka, was unfortunately bitten by a female mosquito and was down with malaria. That left just the 2 of us.

On my arrival in Mumbai, Prerna and me first went to the hospital since Priyanka couldn’t join us. The travel by local train was my first realisation that my little sister is all grown up. I had heard my husband say to me once that if you are comfortable travelling by Mumbai locals then it’s the first indication that you have embraced the city. The train we were traveling in started to get crowded at every stop. It seemed like more and more people were just boarding it without anyone getting off. By the time we reached our station, Prerna was beginning to feel claustrophobic by the crowd and she thought we will not be able to deboard. But a few regular commuters helped us and we got off after a little hustle and tussle. This was my second realisation of her. I saw the scared side of her and was proud that she braves her fear to sustain in this City.

After spending the afternoon with Pri in the hospital, so as to not feel guilty about enjoying without her, we went for dinner. We went to a place in Bandra which Prerna likes. Our battle with the chopstick turned out well and the banofee pie was a good way to end it. On our way back to her house in an ola taxi, in between our chit chats, Prerna drops a message on my phone, “dont make it too obvious in our conversations that you are not from Mumbai.” Oh oh!!! So she can keep herself safe also! That is so assuring!!

Once we reached home, i was already feeling very tired. It was quite an eventful day for me. So what was supposed to be a talk-through-the-night night turned into a good night sleep tight night. I just got into the bed right away. Prerna, on the other hand, took a shower, prepared her kadha, waited for it to cool down, and in between kept pursuading me to atleast get into a night suit. Hmmm! So she is still so particular about cleanliness. Finally, we hit the sack and slept.

Next morning, she was up early looking after the house like a dutiful daughter who in her mother’s absence made sure that the milk is picked, the diya is lit in the temple, the maids finish their chores and the house is clean and in order. Hmmm!! So she can look after the house on her own!! Where’s my little sister? Is this charming, slightly demure, gleaming with confidence girl, the same Bitto who wrote silly letters to me? Just when I thought, there’s nothing more left which would surprise me further, the day ahead had something else in store for me. We kept moving through the city, tickling our taste buds with something mouth watering, at each destination, starting with raw mango at Gateway of India, a dessert from the cafe of Taj Oberoi, street shopping at Colaba causeway and a lime soda at the famous cafe. Then we went to hanging garden where we had homemade aaloo parathas which Prerna had packed from home, then a pond, and then iskcon temple for some calm and peace. We had Prasad in iskcon and sandwich at a roadside eatery. Our day ended with some relaxation by the beach of chowpati. We sat there chatting and doodling in the sand, while the wind blew our hair and the sun set beneath our feet. All through the day I was amazed by the ease with which she was taking me around the small by lanes of the city. She didn’t fumble and it seemed like she had it all etched in her mind since long ago. Her excitement at the fulfillment of a long cherished dream was evident.

My little sister is not that little anymore. In my mind, she was always that girl, who had lots of questions to ask, who had an OCD for hygiene and who laughed the loudest at the not so funny jokes too. But after today, she has grown in my memories also. She came across as someone who has taken charge of her life and is totally in control. She speaks her mind and knows what she wants from life. My little Bitto is now Miss Prerna!

Corona diaries 2

1 April 2020,

Day 8 of lockdown
In this blog, i will talk about another positive aspect of the lockdown for Corona.

If there’s anyone who is benefitting vastly from this, it’s Nature. Nature must be heaving a sigh of relief. Corona gave it the much needed break it had been asking for since years. Nature was taking the beating of our aspirations and demands to lead more and more comfortable lives. We, mankind, human race, inhibitors of Earth have long ignored her cries for help. But now, since the world has been forced to slow down with all kinds of transportation suspended and people locked up in their homes, look at the pollution levels come down so drastically. The air feels so much more pure. I stepped out to buy a packet of milk and the freshness of the early morning was something else. Not like on usual days.

Adaptation is the key to survival. People are thinking of innovative ways to work from home. Schools have switched to online platforms to conduct classes. Technology is being developed to facilitate this. If we can do it now, to survive a pandemic then why can’t we do this to reduce the stress on our planet?

Maybe, Nature is telling us that life won’t stop if our comforts are taken away but if She starts to leave us then we will be in real trouble. It’s telling us that we have chosen the wrong side by choosing comforts over Her. She doesn’t need us, she will evolve and be just fine without us. She was doing great when we were not around but we won’t be so good without her. If we stop interfering with Nature’s way of life, we may never have to face another pandemic.

This short video, by Conservation International, in the powerful voice of Julia Roberts, expresses the exact sentiments of Our Nature. Our?? Do we still have the right to call it our??Its about time we listen.

Corona diaries 1

28 march 2020

It’s the 4th day of the 21 day complete lockdown, total national isolation announced by the Govt of India. I was not wrong to think that the 14 hour janta curfew( people’s curfew) on 22 March was just a teaser of the long battle that awaits us. Even though the threat is far from over, I couldn’t stop myself from appreciating a few things which have come our way as a blessing in disguise.

I had a habit of reading the newspaper every morning( I am saying had because we stopped getting newspapers from 24 March) and the front headline each morning, for the past few months, was very disturbing. Be it the attacks on students of various Delhi Universities or the various demonstrations for and against CAA or the killings of innocent lives on the streets of Delhi. Everyday all I read about was bloodshed, lathi charge, mob killing, damage to public property, etc, etc. But eversince Corona entered India, all the rioters and protesters have just vanished. The streets which were burning and soaked with blood wear a deserted look. There is peace, calm and an eerie silence because of the virus. Atleast people are safe in their homes and not subject to violence.

In a way, Corona showed us the path to non-violence. It reminded us that unity in diversity is our strength. Difference of opinions are bound to happen but violence is not the answer to our problems. It showed us that if we are together, then we can fight all enemies, visible or invisible. We have to forget our differences and be one.

On a more personal note, it gave us the opportunity to slow down, take a break and prioritize. It made us think what do we really want from life. This fast paced routine that all of us had become a part of, working tirelessly for endless hours, no time to spare for even a meal together with our loved ones, was taking a toll on everyone and Nature. But after Corona made its presence felt, people from all over the world, want to come back home, to their country, their family, their loved ones. These same people never had the time to even pick a call from their family members when they were at work or busy socialising. Corona made us all appreciate our family. It made us realise that home is where the heart is. It made us feel gratitude that we have someone out there who cares for us and is waiting for us to be back, however annoying or irritating their concern might be.

It gave a break to Nature also who was taking the beating of our aspirations and demands of more and more comfortable living. It is heaving a sigh of relief at being able to relax. I think it’s telling us that life doesn’t stop if our comforts are taken away from us but if Nature starts leaving us, then we will be in real trouble. Maybe, because we didn’t respond well to Her cries for help, She had to resort to this to make us realise that we are choosing the wrong side by choosing comfort over Her. Look at the pollution levels come down so drastically eversince people have been locked up in their homes. I read somewhere that online classes and work from home are going to become constant, wherever possible, instead of an option to control a pandemic. If we stop interfering with Nature’s way of life, we may never have to face another pandemic.

Odd one out

I went for a birthday party recently. It was Diaa’s friend’s 7th birthday. After the customary cake cutting, all the kids made a circle and sat down to eat dinner. The conversation at the dinner table was very animated and seemed like fun banter among kids. It started with how yummy the food was, whose got a big piece of cake and who is finishing it first. Then what started to happen caught my attention. They were playing a game, *odd one out*. In a fun way, they were simply noticing how each one was different from the others.

One boy pointed to another boy and said, “He is the only one wearing jacket, he is odd one out.”

“he is alone wearing green, he is odd one out.”

“she is eating slow, she is odd one out.”

“he is the shortest, he is odd one out.”

“he has got the smallest gift, he is odd one out.”

What started as a game of finding differences had turned into name calling and mud slinging. I was watching the expression of those kids whose name were being called out. They felt confused and awkward. All the other kids laughing at them made them feel uncomfortable. They were made to feel shameful for bringing small gift or being slow or anything else. I was beginning to contemplate a similar remark on my daughter and before i had finished thinking, it was said. A boy pointed to my daughter Diaa and said,” she is wearing specs, she is odd one out!” Ouch!! That hurt! It hurt me and I was sure it had hurt her also. I thought of reaching out to her but I am glad I didn’t. Because Diaa said, “I am not odd one out, I am special!”

Bravo!! I was beaming with pride from inside. On other days, when she is teased by her brother she starts crying. There are days when her spectacles are made out to be her weakness. If she gets in an argument, with her friends or classmates, the first thing to be attacked is her specs. Just one hurtful comment is all it takes to defeat her. There are days when she would come home from a party and say that her specs don’t make her look pretty. Random people I meet, in a nearby shop, at the garden, at the movies, who don’t even know me or my daughter had an opinion about her specs.

“She must be watching too much TV.” “You don’t feed her healthy food.”

“Why do you allow so much time with gadgets?”

” Feed her carrots, feed her spinach, do this, do that,”

uff!!! Sometimes, a 2 minute ride in an elevator would seem like an eternity.

But, that day, at the birthday party, it was different. I don’t know where she got the strength to defend herself. Her bold remark put an end to this mean game and the conversation steered back to the food. Who has got the biggest piece of cake, who will eat more pav and kids were back to being kids.