Mole (pronounced Mo-ley) and death

I returned around 11 pm last night from a day-trip to Mumbai.  Kids and Ravi were waiting up. As i settled in, caught up on the day’s news and Ravi filled me in on stuff, i noticed that Moley, our 4 year old goldfish, was looking funny.  He was floppy and floating funny.  Not good.  Raghu and Zoya had named each of our 5 goldfish who entered our lives around 3 years ago, courtesy of a friend who had had them for a year.  Raghu has fed them every day for over 2 years.

Raghu was looking miserable.  I suggested we move some rocks around inside the aquarium and make him comfortable.  Raghu started to cry.  I was focusing completely on Raghu now.  How could i help him?  For a while i stayed quiet.  Held his hand.  Raghu was standing on top of an old toy chest to watch Mole at close quarters.  We have kept our aquarium on a high shelf.  Perfect for viewing but not if the kids want to dip their hands inside.

Raghu stood on the chest and dipped his hands in and stroked the little fish.  At this point I knew this fish was dying and it did not matter what Raghu did. As the minutes ticked by I felt inspired to say things in a soft voice to Raghu and see how he reacted.  I asked if he would like me to take some last photos of Mole. He said yes.  One is below.  Then he stated crying again.  I started talking to Mole.  I told him that we were grateful to have had him be with us for such a long time.  That we would miss him but knew that he needed to go.  I wished him well and said i was willing to let him go.  Raghu was quiet and listening.  I then offered to read The Mountains of Tibet  by Mordicai Gerstein.  Raghu said yes.  A beautifully illustrated book of living and dying and rebirth that brings me much peace.

Then I asked Raghu if he knew why he was crying.. was it because he, Raghu, would miss the fish?  Was it because he felt that the fish did not want to die?  Raghu seemed still and said yes, he was not ready to let him go and yes, he was not sure that the fish wanted to go either.  So i said i too am fearful. Of what, Raghu asked.  I am fearful of my parents dying and me missing them.  Raghu looked at me and we then spent many minutes talking about death, dying, needing to move on from this particular life, etc.

My theory is that if this life does not meet my needs, i will move on.  And if i were to watch my parents dying, i’d like to tell them to go in peace.  Not with me crying and them upset to see me upset.  Reading Sogyal Rinpoche’s Tibetan Book of Living and Dying made me aware of the beauty of death.

Then Raghu and I saw the irony… we celebrate births and do the opposite at death.  Yet when a child is born, it is born to die.  Raghu’s words.  I was moved and yet very silent inside.  Something of this conversation made us both very calm and no longer afraid.

I asked him if he’d like me to talk to Mole some more and make him comfortable.  So we lowered a soft kerchief into the tank, placed Mole’s still faintly living body onto it.  Then i put on buddhist chants.  And i said some Sanskrit chants.  And i spoke to Mole and wished him well.  Telling him to go in peace.

Eventually Raghu fell asleep on a chair watching Mole in the tank.
The next morning Raghu, Zoya, Ravi and I wrapped up Mole’s body in the kerchief and buried him in a pot of mud that has some lilly bulbs in it.  We all stood around in silence for a minute.  I watched Raghu carefully.  He had moved on.  HIs heart seemed to be quiet and full but peaceful.

Zoya asked me where did the fish go when it died.  So I said that I believe that the body went back to the earth (she understands that things decompose and become earth again) and that the energy went back to energy.  This is the simplest thing i can say about death to Zoya.  And i think it met with approval.  For now.

It was a moving experience for me and made me aware, in a very good way, of my own mortality.


My friend Dola did a blog-post about the questions her children ask.  Its ditto at our place, just different topics.

Ravi has left for a 2 week trek, so bedtime is hard for Zoya.  She needs her Nana at home in order to sleep.  Her idea of bliss is to wake up in the middle of the night and count the sleeping people around her, 1, 2, 3, and herself, 4.  Anyway, so i was wondering how to make bedtime easier.  Our idea of bedtime refers to “the time we feel like going to bed.”

So the kids were lying in bed and laughing at some character’s antics on youtube on the IPad.  We started talking about music and the next hour was a mix of all the following:

Music i heard as a kid
Bangles and their hit song Manic Monday
Nazia Hassan and her brother
Guitar lessons
Boom Boom, another Nazia hit
Elvis Presley
We watched Jailhouse Rock (Raghu loved Elvis’s deep voice)
Black and while videos
Where did color come from
The Wild Thornberrys (Kids are loving this show…i used to love this cartoon when i was in the US)
Different countries and the ways to get there
How long before Ravi gets back… so that means how many days (for Zoya counting is an on going concept)
We saw Michael Jackson’s first moon walk and talked about how he died.
Then we talked about how Elvis died
Dying in general
Bright lanterns (someone near our home floated 2 beautiful lighted lanterns)
We ran to the terrace and watched the lanterns till they disappeared
Discussion on Mr. Bean’s fridge fitting into a hot air balloon, ridiculous or possible?
Zoya talked about how they might reach the moon
Raghu argued they would never make it and why
Zoya asked about oxygen and whether you need it on the moon and is that what the astronaut’s helmet is for
Sadness that they can’t be on the moon (umm like right away or real soon)
Shock that humans sent up a monkey first
We watched the Thornberrys and of course we all felt we had to live that life right away
What is a comvee
Listened to Elvis song “return to sender”  Which is a new Zoya fave now

And finally with Zoya still asking for YouTube videos of how to make a lantern and float it and why we have not had successful kite flying for a long time… we all fell asleep.

So yeah… Questions.  They abound.  Sometimes the answers are easy, sometimes we google, sometimes we just have to trust that we do not know the answer but one exists somewhere.

The stuff of awesomeness

We traveled to Dharwad by car a couple of weeks ago.  Raghu created bazookas and other things out of the old pipes Dad had uprooted during a plumbing clean-up of his building.   We ate Uttappas and dosas and idlis every day and loved it… strangely.  The kids actually say the uttappas in Dharwad are better tasting than mine… hmm.  We loved exploring our new Apple Toys and listened to music and the rain and each other.  We rarely stepped out of home.  Dharwad is beautiful, especially in the rains.  Dad’s large terraces on different levels got the kids excited.  They collected things and snacks and jackets and made a parallel home up on the highest terrace.

Zoya has drawn a beautiful mosaic like image on the black board.  Ravi found her listening to ABBA while huddled on top of an old IKEA stool balanced on top of a chair in front of the black board.  She seemed to be very comfortable!

Snowy, my lovely baby is absolutely beautiful.  Here she stares at me, nervous of my camera!

All that lovely plasticine looks like chopped up bits of delicious looking colorful skittles (I miss skittles!!)  The things we built have been slowly cut up and cooked, pared, and even dunked in water (just to see what would happen).  Raghu’s elegant Bionicle man seemed to be dancing and beckoning to me.  I love how Raghu fearlessly mixes up all his toys and creates new forms.


Zoya has been watching videos of Kutsuwa eraser making kits…. its real fun… watch here:
There are many videos in this category and she watches them regularly.

Well she wants the kit and i’m not able to source it locally.  It struck me that i could get her plasticine. Something that resembles the stuff in the video.  The last time i got plasticine the kids mixed everything up and it was a ball of gunk… so I have stayed with home made playdough ever since. And the kids have never complained.  They love our home-made colorful playdough.

But recently i noticed that this did not meet Zoya’s increasingly exacting standards.  And she wanted details and the satisfaction of creating art that playdough was not giving her.

Anyway… today we went to an art store and got loads of plasticine.  And we were in heaven.  Kids and I created hamburgers, chillies, a stuffed blue-berry pie, sandwiches.  And Raghu, uncharacteristically, played with us!!  He even made an olive on a toothpick that i was frankly amazed by.  We all love this smelly plasticine and are looking fwd to making more things tomorrow.

I love finding ways to meet my children’s needs.  I’m also loving accepting all the times i can’t meet a need head on.  To be able to stay centered and helpful thru both types of situations is very important to me.

Click on the pic to see the details 🙂
Just want to mention that you can make really realistic looking food and the colors mix beautifully together and don’t forget… unless you press real hard the different parts of the food stay separate!!  So the sandwich Raghu made can come apart and be reused.  Also this material is very satisfying to cut.  Zoya was playing chef and was hosting a talk show while chopping up… just like her fave Nigella 🙂

Food and Layers of Learning

I was harboring fear and irritation whenever Raghu asked for “interesting” food.  His kind of ‘interesting’ usually involves me going waaay out of my comfort zone.  He drools over Nigella, Masterchef, Jamie Oliver and devours cook books.

A couple of evenings ago I plunged into buying alien items like rice-paper, sesame oil and Sumac.  That evening I created a dish inspired by Nigella and some techniques i’d learnt via Masterchef.  The stuff was eaten so fast that i never managed to photograph it 🙂  I created rice paper rolls with cooked corn-rice, cooked and raw cucumber and shredded lettuce stuffing.  It was incredible.  We dunked these translucent, beautiful little parcels of semi-cooked and raw elements in 2 kinds of home-made, asian dips.

What is my point here?  Well for me this was an act of courage.  I want to honor it / myself.  I was able to be playful and relaxed while creating, nay inventing, new food while meeting Raghu’s taste, my pantry limitations, dinner rush, and all the other “perceived”obstacles.  I did keep daal and chaval on the side as a backup, just in case 🙂

So what are the layers here?  I went way beyond just creating the food.  I was able to get past the fears, irritation (why not focus on the million other things i make?… I already make many different cuisines for my gourmand-son) and learn to go with the flow.  I set an intent “to meet Raghu’s need for new foods with love and to make it happen”.  And it happened.  This intent setting business is heady stuff.  I don’t quite know when the internal shift happens… but by setting my energies in the right direction and not lingering in doubt, fears, irritation or too much left-brain analysis etc… I am happier and able to stay in the moment with love and gratitude and an open heart that says “even what you think is impossible can happen if you want it to”.  Ok… a bit dramatic… but truly… buying rice wrappers, fancy-shmancy ingredients, paying a bomb, not knowing whether they will get used fully, whether i’d make anything good with them etc… and whether the kid will eat it etc… tests my thresholds 🙂 out here in India.

For Raghu he got to see me take a dip in uncharted waters.  He, needless to say, was thrilled, cheered me on and was an enthusiastic taster while i cooked.  He spoke with me about other ingredients we can source in Pune (he wants me to cook him endives and bake Beef-pot-pies next 🙂 We spoke about why i get irritated with his frequent needs for “interesting” foods.  I shared how i feel stressed by the cost of these imported ingredients.  A simple slab of haloumi sets us back quite a bit here (haloumi being a simple, salted, Arabic cottage-cheese variety that i took for granted growing up in Abu Dhabi) or even a simple Cheddar.  And Raghu is quite the gourmand… he knows his cheeses, oils, meats, salad dressings, nut butters, etc.  But as we talked I realized…. OMG i love it.  I love how much he knows about food… his passion for new tastes and exploration.  And Ravi, dear Ravi, confirmed for me that we should just keep money for it… like we would if Raghu wanted a class.  When it comes to money and seeing it as a flowing, moving energy… Ravi is awesome and inspiring to me.

Raghu surprised Ravi and me by having boiled, salted peanuts sold by the toll booths on the way to Dharwad.  Also road-side, large watery cucumbers slit and dipped in spicy salt.  He has been adjusting to the local cuisine and eats many, many more Indian (read: ingredients are easy to procure and cheaper and more local for me) dishes these days.  But he is a ‘foodie’ and misses bagels, pretzels, well-made shawarma (tasted last in Abu Dhabi) and other international foods that we (parents who travel and work in different countries) have exposed him to since an early age.  So I move, learn, change, unfold, whisper sweet intents to the universe and the layers of learning dawn upon me everyday.


An article on Videogame Shine

This was the script from a Webinar i participated in, recently, here in India. I use the term “Whole Being Learning” for the first time in this write-up. Our life seems to be better described by that label. ‘Unschooling’ also applies to us and is what i would say to most as its widely known as a label…. but some how ‘Whole Being Learning’ describes what we do much better in my mind.

Shining with Video Games

I was trapped by the good-mommy-status i’d conferred on myself when Raghu was little… timed sessions of TV and Videos, timed sessions with electronic things in general, only whole-grain food, no candy, no refined sugar, etc.  I was coming from the perspective that these things sucked children of their imagination, education, nutrition, health, etc. I was doing what I thought was best for my little one.

One day, when Raghu was about 4, and we were already homeschooling, I was inspired by Sandra Dodd’s web page on Media and realized something crucial:  
When I was 8, I was an avid book reader and would often find quiet nooks around the house or garden to read.  However my parents would tell me to stop reading so much and instead go out and ‘play’.  When I was 16 and in 10th grade and would watch TV detective shows, they told me to stop watching so much TV and read books (what happened to playing outside?)  Now here I was trying to tell my son not to watch Magic School Bus videos or Little Bear on TV and go out and play or read a book.  Where and when did the cycle end?

I learned then that I was controlling Raghu’s growth.  Why was I so controlling?  Fear? Of what? I had to dig within to go to the root of my fears.  Ultimately the control was eroding Raghu’s Shine, his natural inclinations.  His beautiful sense of self was being messed with.  Raghu was not exposed to video games till he was almost 5.  He took to it like a fish to water.  Upon being gifted his first DS he would not give up on a game till he cracked it.  I stopped fighting what was obviously to him a real fascination and to my surprise a real learning/education. I was just beginning to understand what “learning” or an education truly meant.

Now when we consider what is true learning, what is true education… why do we not equate everything in the world…. biology, astrophysics, painting, dancing, video gaming, cooking, plumbing, carpentry, tasting foods etc.?  Give everything the same value? We value an engineering degree to an apprenticeship in plumbing.  Why? A lot, i found, was rooted in our understanding of the word “success” or a “real education”.  

Back to my fears and thoughts.  It took time to accept that Raghu was ‘learning’ thru video games.  He was engaged, focused, absorbed, intent… completely immersed in video games.  He wanted to know when they were invented, why, how did the games come about, which characters, what games did i play when i was little.  He began to notice the music in different games, developed a love for Queen, Rock bands, and Pink Floyd (thanks to his Dad’s love for classic rock). Today he researches cheat codes, talks about cultural differences, languages, maps, directions, different genres of music like Blues, Jazz, scenes, characters and their development, life, death, real, unreal, philosophy, math, history, etc. to name a few.  All kinds of learning is happening constantly.  As long as i do not get in the way with my criticism or negative energy.

My role is to be the partner he can talk with, converse and discuss with and make connections with.  He will often talk to me…starting with some random character in the game and end up talking about film making.  Everything in the world is connected.  He uses math skills, logic, reasoning, advanced language vocabulary etc. … sometimes all in a span of an hour. He even learned all about guns simply thru an Ipad App. He started to identify, classify and even talk about cartridge types etc. He eventually went to a rifle range and loved it… he was a good shot.

Trusting that my children gravitate towards what makes them shine/learn/happy etc brings peace to all of us.  This is important.  It is important to honor our own needs and those of our children.  Our family communicates, talks, figures out things together.  And we do not undermine what we each love.

If i had a passion i wanted to pursue I’d simply pursue it.  I want to give my children that freedom.  These days Raghu is talking about being a game tester, gaming critic and advocate for letting children play video games.  He also wants to be a food critic… for someone who can identify many ingredients simply by tasting and is quite a gourmand, this is a real possibility.  He also wants to pursue his rock climbing passion.  I no longer view video games as bad or good.  I only look to Raghu.  He directs me towards what he needs.  Or he finds it himself.  What if i combined food, gaming and rock climbing and a couple of grenades thrown in…. Well he might be the next online whiz who creates a gaming version of Masterchef and throws in a level where you ride a horse and hunt animals for the meals you plan…. and then you climb a virtual rock-wall to get to the kitchen.  A giant video gaming relay race.  I don’t know… does it really matter?

I embrace Raghu’s gaming and will help him just as i would have if he was asking to play tennis or asking for a class.  Its all the same.  

Now for those who want resources, research, articles, essays on the beauty of video gaming in unschooling families… please do look up the links i will be posting on  Various family dynamics, issues, choices, violence in games, connections, types of games, online gaming groups for unschoolers, future plans, careers etc… related to this topic are all being discussed and have been discussed endlessly.  The material exists freely on the web, thanks to many, many committed moms and dads and grown unschoolers and people like John Holt.  

Welcome to a world where we can let our children shine with their own inner light.  Welcome to “Whole Being Learning” and its possibilities.

Climbing Shine for me

Posted this on FB and realised i’d done a near blog post.. so here goes:

At climbing class Raghu, grinning broadly, told me what he told his friend (12 year old, intuitive, brilliant climber): “Tu Bandar Ka Sikandar Hai.”

It is only because i see separation and feel comparison that i acutely felt the beauty of this statement. To him it was obvious and lovely and a simple happiness in coming up with an apt descriptor in Hindi.

For those needing translation and background :
-“You are king of the monkeys”.

-Raghu has been expressing himself in Hindi more often these days. As i think in English and my Kannada and Hindi are both only passable… kids and I talk mostly in English. So its way cool that he came up with this on his own.

-Raghu is in love with climbing (has been since he first got on a wall about 3 years ago). As we did not have access to a wall here till about 3 months ago and because he has no consistent interest in any other sport/physical activity… he is struggling to meet his climbing goals/challenges. Some of the kids who’ve attended classes have climbed easily and then left the class as they did not have a real interest in the sport.
Raghu has been at the wall, loving and connecting with it and the fabulous young bunch of instructors. In my heart i feel bad/sad that he is struggling simply because his body is not on par with the average 9 year old (yes i have closets full of crap despite my understanding of this thought line being unhelpful).

And then to see him be joyful about anothers joy, to simply climb and not care about how much better he is than another (unless it helps set him a goal), to be able to crown his friend even as he struggles (just the previous class Raghu had cried with frustration, trying to push his body to do things it can’t do just yet.) I’m crowning this soul and loving him.

My mom is very fond of Snowy, our dog.  She gave her a bath and played with her to the kids and my delight.  Its lovely to watch Snowy play and run around the house.  She is a smart dog.  We’ve played hide and seek with her!  

Hiked up the hill near our home with my Mom and Dad the other day.  It was a lovely time for all of us.  A few friends joined us at the top.  Its still fairly cool in the evenings.  Ravi got a nice shot of the kids resting and snacking. 

No-Poo (no, not that poo)

I have not found anything poppy to write about this week.  But just now i was kicked by an idea found via the random clicking online that i occasionally indulge in. “No Poo” is the idea 🙂  Sounds poppy to me.  Its all about no shampoo usage.  

Raghu has been anti soap and shampoo for a long time.  He just instinctively feels better without too much skin and scalp cleaning 😮   I struggle with it.   I’ve recently been committed to finding solutions/inspirations for me… so i do not get in the way of my children’s natural instincts.  And lo and behold i find “No Poo”  🙂  For those of you who still plan on visiting us and hanging out with us 😉  thank you.  For those who need a little persuasion that we will not be maladorous here is a link: or just google no poo and find the page that appeals to you.

So Raghu and I are starting our new regime or lack thereof today. Warm showers as we feel the need, but no soap or shampoos.  Maybe some of that vinegar and baking soda or lemon etc… if i feel the need.  I’m ready to try it all as i’ve been loosing enough hair that i may as well go for the bald look… it may be better. I love finding new paths towards eco-ness.  And not pouring money or shampoo down the drain is something up on the list.

Shall post a pic if we are feeling brave and confident a couple of weeks down the line.  I believe it takes a few weeks for our body to sort out its skin/scalp oil/balance. 

Funnily my face has been on a no-poo diet for years.  This is the post where i can reveal that except for an occasional makeup-remover i have not used soap or cleansers on my face since i was a teenager.  Thanks to a family friend who suggested i never rub my face, never apply soap and only splash water on my face when i feel like it and then ‘dab’ it dry not ‘rub’ it dry.  I have often been told i have great skin.  My one pregnancy pigmentation spot is the only little hiccup. No pimples, natural balanced skin.  So maybe i should have taken the hint and spread the love.  Suddenly can’t wait to see how this works out.