Cacophonous Thoughts

These thoughts have been gathering in my mind for the past month or so and trying to put those in a cohesive manner was a bit more challenging than I had anticipated. They have ranged from the rights and wrongs of raising kids in my house to the precarious state of affairs worldwide. Hence the title of this piece!

The saying goes : ‘It takes a village to raise a child’. With a shared value of wisdom and experiences grandparents, aunts and uncles, the neighbors all join in, in their own way and try to make sense of the art and science of raising a child. Clueless parents are only happy with the help, I am assuming. Or may be this was a thing of the past.

Raising kids in a culture that is quite different from the one my husband and I grew up in is a challenge to say the least. Well, it is always a challenge for any parent to raise a kid and is probably more so in today’s world where, at times, humanity seems to be up for discussion. To that when you add stark cultural disparities, you can find questioning yourself more, with added layers of complexity.

There’s no secret formula, a fool proof plan to raising kids and neither are there 20 easy steps. And I know that. All parents know that. So do you wonder, like I often do, why are there so many books which aim to guide parents navigate the challenges of raising ‘good’ kids. That ‘good’ encompasses a great many number of attributes that basically cover everything from academics to athletics, daily drama to discipline and character to common sense (that seems to be on the decline more than ever before). In the recent past, I ended up, what can be only described as ‘panic buying’ , a few of these and have around three more on my Amazon ‘Save for Later’ list. I started reading and when I realized I was doing things differently, I panicked a bit and now the books are on the shelf waiting for me to calm down a bit. While I will probably be returning to those books, I am unsure of how practical their guidelines are going to be, for the simple fact that culture plays a huge role in upbringing and these books omit this crucial part. But I am also curious to find out. Maybe I will find books written by and for parents like us who are trying to raise first generation kids in their adopted countries.

Dreams for our children are limitless and pure…possibilities are endless. And I can’t help but wonder if that’s where it all starts- that mythical pool of endless possibility. Or probably the idea of that in our heads, reinforced by society that dictates the terms of success and the lack of it, more and more with every passing day. Let me explain and I might be wrong, as I am not a professional but I will take the risk! When my kid was about four and a half years old (he is five now) there were curious moms asking about the clubs he was attending. My answer of none was not the one they were expecting and while most were polite enough to not probe further, I was stumped when asked by some, “but why”? Why was a four and a half year old not taking piano lessons or taekwondo or soccer or art classes or one of the many other ‘endless possibilities”? I really did not know how to explain except for that I thought it was too early. For some time after that, my husband and I would often find ourselves engaging in in -depth discussions, if we were doing a disservice to our kid, by not enrolling him in these activities, who could shine if only we had started early; whether he was going to be falling behind his other Pre-K classmates; whether he would be able to catch up. And then it struck us…he was not even five! When did this become a thing- that a four year old was required to be in a certain number of activities that ‘would be’ instrumental in his development in life? I still have a hard time with the idea of extra curricular activities for toddlers and little boys and girls who should be able to run around and day dream and use the power of their imagination to play and basically, be little boys and girls.

I realize that parents often have to make choices that are in the best interest of the kid. And more often than not, such choices make kids sad! Curfew may be set at a time that is different from those of the other kids, some may be allowed to go out to movies with friends while in some families sleepovers may be frowned upon. I remember, growing up, not being allowed to go to movies, go out with friends in the evening without adult supervision. Sleepovers were always a big no no. And I resented my parents sometimes for these restrictions. There was this feeling of being deprived and it felt like a huge deal at that time. I realize that there are going to be similar things as my kids start growing older and I too, will be disliked, by them. How to deal with that ‘rejection’ is something I guess I will figure out when the time comes. Till then I will gladly indulge in as many squishy hugs and runs at the sound of every “Maa” , and snuggle with them and have tickle fights till our sides are aching from all the silliness and laughter. Along the way mistakes are bound to happen as we are all flawed. And what is perfection anyways? If we can hold each other, hear each other, respect and grow with each other, love each other and be there with and for each other, the voices of doubt, of dissent and of displeasure will probably fade out.

It has been an interesting few months to say the least and I say interesting because the good, the bad and the ugly side of the species known as ‘human‘ has been in full display for the whole world to see, to learn and unlearn and re learn from. The pain of losing loved ones, of not being able to say goodbyes, of living in fear, of not knowing what will stop this lethal virus, of losing jobs, of waiting for hours in line for food -to say a few -has resonated with people across continents. And then the whole world witnessed George Flyod gasping for breath and with that sweeping movements started uniting people across nations, with movements that are powerful and inspiring beyond words. The other day, on Instagram I saw this emotionally charged video of a little African American girl raising her hands up in the air as she sees a white policewoman get down from the patrol car and walk towards her. I felt my eyes fill up. The video is a beautiful example of the fear these little kids have probably internalized and will always live with. It is also a wonderful example of how this policewoman, who also breaks down as she sees the little girl’s hands, has a conversation with her and tries to assure her that not all hope is lost in this world. I cannot even begin to imagine what conversations that little girl’s parents and countless parents like hers have had with their children and how are we humans if we let our skin colors define us.

I digress.

Raising kids in a culturally different environment is a challenge for sure. The focus is often on the dichotomy of the right and wrong, when it comes to adaptation of cultural practices. There is an identity confusion of sorts and the dilemma of trying to fit into a culture that is not inherently theirs and at the same time, celebrating and internalizing the cultural aspects of the one they are part of. And before I proceed further, I should say that I am talking about people of South Asian descent who are raising first or second generation kids here in America, though I doubt the choice of adopted country would make it any different. So, Diwali, Eid, Christmas are all celebrated as are Halloween and Poila Boishakh (the Bengali New Year) and kids learn to play baseball and take ‘tabla’ classes. They are in acapella groups in their schools, belting out American classics while in the evening they take Bharatnaytam classes. These are wonderful examples of how we are all part of this big wide culture known as humanity and all of these individual bits, be it playing in a jazz band or taking tabla lessons, are celebrations of our uniqueness as well as similarities. But I also can’t help but wonder if this can be confusing for the child. I don’t know. And then comes the issue of race. Of skin color. Of being brown. As brown parents of brown children, I too need to have a discussion about race with my 5 year old soon and then with the younger one when she is a little older. I am terrified, if I am being honest. To raise kids who are not only mindful of different cultures and race, are aware of history that has been unkind (to put it as mildly as possible), to be able to know when to stand up and what to stand up for seems daunting and something I am scared of being not able to do correctly. I am scared to burst their bubble of ‘we are all friends’ and though we are different but we are the same…because clearly that seems to be just a bubble. But that bubble needs to be burst and that needs to happen sooner than later. I don’t want to tell my kids yet that they may be subject to occasional bursts of ‘not nice’ behavior and how should they react. We have been subjects of such behavior a few times with things like ‘you should go back to the country you came from’, ‘ you come and ruin our country’ and a few other choice sentences of hatred. We have had police called on us in the parking lot of a Target for an offense that was the person’s who had called the Police (who, thankfully, knew the right from wrong). And those have left us shaken and saddened. But we have also had wonderful people who we are friends with and who have welcomed us with open hearts. And that’s the world the little kids know but the fact that the reality also has elements of the ‘not nice’ is something they would have to be made aware of soon. I hope with all my heart that they are able to navigate the ups and downs of growing up, when the time comes.

Meanwhile, my plans of enrolling my son in swimming and soccer classes will have to be on hold for another year! He and his friends and the school going kids all over the world have been out of their little world for months now. While there are plans in progress of in-person instruction here from the new academic year starting in Fall, I am unsure of whether I will be sending him to Kindergarten. As are many others. To expect 5 year olds to wear masks and maintain social distancing, while navigating the big scary new school and trying to hold back tears at being away from home after a long time, is not realistic. So, while we have been ‘training’ and wearing face masks when we are out and trying to not touch our faces and practicing social distancing, I guess we also have to make plans for homeschooling for this year and I am absolutely unsure of how that might unfold.

Fields remain empty as of now and the usually busy walking trails are either empty or sparsely populated. Greetings have become mere nods and there is nowhere to go. My hometown of Kolkata has never seemed so far away as it has in the past few months. That home and hope glimmer like a distant mirage. The thought of being able to hug my parents seems like an illusion, as the unknown looms large in thoughts. Till the time we can hug each other again, I continue with my video calls and they soak up the joy the sight of their grand kids bring them. But the world is in the cusp of something bigger and brighter is what I am choosing to believe in, when humanity will not be up for discussion and we will be more informed; our actions will be less selfish and guided more by empathy; where choosing to wear a face mask will not be spun around as making a political statement; where common sense will be more common. Till then, stay safe you wonderful people.

As always, thanks for stopping by.

A brief pause…

It has been more than a month since my last post. The decision was to take a break from this attempt of mine at blogging, while I tried to figure out what the purpose of this was, the direction I wanted this to take going forward. While I do not want to attach a ‘this’ or ‘that’ label to this space that I have come to love dearly, I would prefer if it had an outline at least. The work on that seems to be an ongoing on!

The world is a different place than what it was a month ago. We are witnessing something magnificently powerful at the moment, with a worldwide cry for solidarity tearing through ceilings that needed to come down long ago and a pandemic is wrecking havoc through our civilization. People and their resilience are being tested to the limits and while hope seems to elude us at times, it also encourages us to be our best and how can one not respond to that call. As an eternally optimist soul, I believe and have to keep believing that this shall end and shall end for good.

I hope to be back more often! Till then, here are some photos I took while I was away and it feels so good to be able to share these with you. I also have so much catching up to do, going through your blogs and I can’t wait to start! A month’s break was good and though I had wanted it to be longer, I hadn’t realized that I would be really missing this community this much:)

Thanks for stopping by. Stay safe, be kind.

Friendly Friday Photo Challenge: Yellow

It has been a while since I participated in Friendly Friday Photo Challenge.

But that changes this week as Amanda splashes a pop of the happy yellow and encourages us to bring that to each other through this week’s prompt! This is a color very dear to my heart – uplifting, vivacious, hopeful…is that why we color the sun yellow?

Here are some from the archive and a couple of new ones!

 

At ‘Robert Is Here’, Florida. Way back in 2013

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Summer Tales

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Fall Memories

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Child’s Play

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Of sunsets

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Stories from life

 

 

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Kitchen chronicles

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There is one more picture that I would have liked to share…that of a ten or twelve year old me wearing a dress very similar to the quirky art studio photo shared by Amanda! That image evoked many fond memories not only of the dress, that was a favorite of mine, but reminded me also of the simplicity that is childhood. Growing up is overrated! My mom has been going through albums back in Kolkata, trying to find one of me in that ‘frock’ as we called it back home, and I will add that picture, when and if she finds it:) Moms are the best!

 

Thanks for stopping by and where ever you are, may you always have a pop of the bright yellow in your life!

Memories in March

There is a little corner in our bedroom that I have recently claimed as my ‘me spot’…. a corner of the couch, next to a window. Times are different and difficult and being at home is all that we do. When I get a wee bit of time, usually when the kids are taking their afternoon nap and the good man is busy with his office work, I sit there with the book I happen to be reading ( ‘Snow’ by Pamuk, at the moment) and my gaze drifts outside occasionally. Sometimes it does so to try to visualize the sights ‘ Ka’  sees in the story and sometimes I gaze to try to fathom what’s going on with our bruised world. I fail.

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Spring is here and, what would otherwise be a cheery time with kids running and neighbors hanging around for a quick chat, is eerily silent. Even the birds are quiet. Quieter. Have they taken notice of how the world is hurting? I wonder.

 

Cars don’t leave their parking spots. There is no movement. Only delivery trucks keep making their rounds, rushing to drop off the essentials people can’t seem to stop buying. I don’t blame them (not the hoarders though). There seems to be no end in sight, an end to the fear that has slowly crept deep into people’s souls. It is palpable and rising with each passing day.   Are those in charge taking notice? I hope so.

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I have stopped following the news. It isn’t helping. My motherland is in total lockdown and in a country with 1.3 billion people, that is anything but feasible. Yet it is happening. While it is extremely essential for a national lockdown since the virus, if it spread, would wreck havoc of un fathomable proportions from which the country would probably never recover, it is also not ideal. Not without a well thought out plan, at least. Or any plan. The lockdown has rendered hundreds and thousands of migrant workers in a state of limbo. With no work and no place to stay, they are returning to their native villages and towns. Many  by foot. National lockdown means no transportation in many places. Buses are being provided in some cases but the ratio of number of people needing help to the actual help in place, is massively disproportionate. Add to that,  the lack of or absence of food and water. The poor must suffer… always. And then there are celebrities who post videos of washing dishes… how hard it must be for them.

I am living my life almost exactly the way I used to before this crisis. It is a privilege and I recognize that. Yes, I don’t go out to the mall, my job hunting has taken a step back and my eyebrows could use some salon care. And yes, I am always thinking about, and when need be acting on,  how to keep the fridge and pantry well stocked so that my kids  remain well nourished. I have the privilege of cooking sumptuous lunch and dinner, baking cakes, reading books and taking photos. I am beyond grateful.  My husband’s work is letting him work from home and there has been no change, yet, in the benefits we receive like medical insurance. I am hoping it stays so but with the hit the economy is going to have to bear, it should not be a surprise if those benefits change. Provided he still has a job once this is all over. But we will cross that bridge when and if we come to that. One step at a time. Meanwhile our popcorns and movie nights, family games,  music time and being goofy together continues and the semblance of sanity prevails. Memories in March have been bittersweet.

 

The world is hurting and there is more to come. Uncertainty looms large. Careless acts of some people continue to put others in danger. Petty fights break out over trivial matters as emotions run high. And yet, the good shines through. Those in the frontline continue to fight for one and all.
I pause a little when posting pretty pictures while heartbreaking stories fill the newsfeed. To empathize and to continue with daily activities  is no longer uncomplicated.  I think about last spring when the now babbling baby girl was only a few months old and all of us were just getting to know each other better. It was beautiful, inside and outdoors.


The cherry blossoms outside the window try to put a smile on my face. I oblige. I see some kids drawing on the road. Their message is simple. I smile. I sip on my afternoon coffee and return to my book to travel with Ka.

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Thanks for stopping by. Let’s be patient, let’s be gentle and let’s be kind.

 

 

 

A Photo A Day: 30 days or so

Amidst all that is going topsy turvy, my phone let me keep clicking everyday…almost.

 

 

 


Thanks for stopping by. Wishing you all health and peace during these trying times. Wish our world heals fast and we learn to be better. Kids should not have to be kept from playing with each other, old people should not have to spend their precious days away from one another, families should not have to share happy moments through glass windows.

Dylan has been on my mind.

 

 

Life goes on…

It has been an eventful, to say the least, last couple of weeks around the world…wouldn’t you say? Personally, I never imagined that we would be witnessing something of such gigantic proportions in our lifetimes… and it’s kind of hard to know what to expect going forward. News feed has been depressing, scary and at times triggering the panic mode.  With small children at home, whose immune systems have not developed fully yet, the fear if pretty real.

With every passing hour, more and more grim reports flood the inbox. Schools are closed and here in New Jersey, starting today, there will be a curfew in place from 8pm through 5am for some time now. It is whole lot of unknown and with a crisis of such unprecedented nature, I can’t stop wondering when and how will this end? When will we get to return to our ‘normal’ lives or will this be the new normal?

I have been seeing a lot of posts on social media as to how people have been gifted the gift of Time’ to unwind, to slow down, to mediate, to pick up that book taht has been on the shelf for a while. I agree but I also feel this applies to the ‘privileged’- those who can work from home or have been asked to stay home, without worrying about pay cuts or losing their medical insurance. What about those who depend on their hourly wage to put food on the table? What about the kids who now run the risk of remaining hungry since schools are closed? What about small businesses who may have to close shop as recovering from the financial fallout of such proportions will be impossible?

Here in my blogging world, half baked thoughts, half written posts, unanswered messages await while deadlines of some of my favorite challenges keep passing by. Going to the grocery store feels like a challenge as the fear of contracting the virus does not seem to be an irrational one at this point in time. And worrying about parents and in laws and other loved ones, living on the other side of the world, does not let the mind be at ease, ever.

One evening, just a couple of days ago, as I was busy alternating between scrolling through Instagram and Google News, I heard the gentle music of guitar coming from the other room. I put down my phone and strained my ears to catch the lines. My son, oblivious of everything, including  the crazy thoughts in his mom’s head, was trying to sing “Ob la di- Ob la da” by the Beatles and the only lines he could were

“Ob la di Ob la da, Life goes on

La la, How life goes on”.

I couldn’t help but smile and think about the lines he was trying to hum without a care in the world.

I am letting the frightening thoughts in my mind take a break. They are clouding the present moments that I get to spend with my kids and husband, now that he is working from home.  I don’t want to miss out on the silliness that the little ones engage in or the faltering steps that baby girl has started taking because I am too busy thinking only about all that terrifying things. I don’t want to miss the signs that are clearly telling the Spring is slowly making her way in and I also don’t want to miss out on messages of hope that is carried by the soulful music filling deserted alleys.

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Wishing everyone, especially those in dire circumstances, who have loved ones in communities that have been hit hard, who have been directly affected by this terrible tragedy, strength and love to help through such difficult times. Hoping our world heals fast and we learn our lessons.

 

Thanks for stopping by.

Monday Motivation

Sufi Saying-
“Before you speak, let your words pass through three gates.

At the first gate, ask yourself: ‘Is it TRUE’?

At the second gate ask: ‘Is it NECESSARY’?

At the third gate ask: ‘Is it KIND’?”

 

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Thanks for stopping by.

Monday Motivation

How often do we seek extraordinary moments of happiness and in trying to achieve  ‘perfect’ moments take extrinsic steps? Such moments, we perhaps don’t realize at many times, cannot be created or chased after. It is upto us to recognize that those are within us and around us. In the humdrum of daily life, challenges are many and we often find ourselves striving to gain back our mental space and the peace from negative energy,  untruthful people, deceiving situations. It takes a lot to alienate ourselves from all the chaos outside and an even greater effort to fight the war that rages inside.

Be still. Be calm. Be true. Be grateful. Be conscious.  It may take time but slowly we are certain to attain a clarity, that will help us acknowledge that in spite of all that has gone wrong or all that is going wrong, blessings are in abundance. Our mental space will no longer be for anyone to toy with and we will not give anyone the power to disrespect us, to make us think less of ourselves.

We will have arrived. It is easier said than done but at the same time it is within our reach to practice peace, practice humility, practice rising above pettiness, practice mindfulness.

 

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Thank you for stopping by. I am grateful for you and what you help me learn.