The way it goes

I would like to share this random day with my readers:

This morning i woke up with very low energy levels. I sat with my coffee mug and chatted with Ravi, who had been working on his laptop till i woke up. He is in the middle of re-entering the work world that he happily left 7 months ago. We are also in the last phase of the interior work on our new apartment. The current apartment, rented, has to be handed back by March 30th. The work on our site has us embroiled, mentally, physically and energetically. So there was much for us to talk about.

Raghu woke up and joined us on the couch. He said he loved the sun’s warm rays falling on his bare back. He sat their sunning and started talking with us. The next hour went by discussing (with Ravi googling things for us) a light year, speed of light, how far Andromeda, the galaxy, is, what is a measurement unit, why measure anything, great Khali, the punjabi Canadian wrestler, tricks, trickster and how to trick people. Oh and also Raghu chatted about the Sherlock Holmes movie he saw by himself the previous night. ( I had fallen asleep and Ravi was asleep on the couch half way thru the movie.)

Raghu has been wanting to trick us.. General kinds… Pretending to be asleep, sneaking up on us and scaring us, stuff like that. But he has not always been successful. I gave him a wrapped candy this morning. He opened it and saw my carefully wrapped green plasticine roll. He was surprised at how realistic the candy looked like from the outside. So i wished him happy tricking, practical jokes etc. and mentioned that we’d love to be tricked. He does not want us to pretend to be tricked. He really wants to trick us. I mentioned the book on practical jokes i have. Raghu moved onto other things. I went back to my coffee and thoughts.

Ravi got some toast ready for breakfast. I got Zoya’s milk ready. She had woken up talking about a playdate. I went upstairs to hang clothes to dry. My helper was sweeping the floors and helping with the dishes. We had not swept the floors for a day and they were filthy already.

I spoke to the kids about not arranging any playdates for the next couple of days as i was busy with the new house site issues, Ravi was managing several things, we were exhausted by the little house help, cooking, dusting, washing up etc. i explained that since we had several outings till yesterday i needed a break from social things. They both understood and decided to watch a TinTin episode while eating breakfast. I was moving around the house with a phone to my ear, arranging for dog care during the upcoming homeschoolers conference, and catching up on grocery lists and texting a friend.

I started cooking lunch once Ravi left for his errands and the site. Raghu and Zoya were playing a loud, running around game. There were times i wanted to step in and sort out their loud quarrels. I stopped myself and smiled at them and noticed that they were simply being loud but were not really angry. They kept resolving their issues and played together… A made up game.

I had steamed beetroot in the pressure cooker. I asked the kids if they wanted to colour some fabric. They put down soft white cloth pieces and for the next 30 minutes or so played with it. We stamped, printed, stained, and had some fun. Raghu then chopped up the cooked beetroot for our salad. I mixed it all up and Raghu tasted it and approved it but said it needed more salt.

While i continued to make chapatis and cooked a cabbage sabji, Zoya created coloured sand sticky paper thingies. Beautiful little things…. I have no idea what to do with them yet. But for now all that mattered was that she could mix coloured sand and enjoy the sticky paper.

Raghu then sorted out his card collection, played with a lighter, watched the flame, went out for a walk, used a blade to create wooden pencil shapes from sticks and now he is playing a video game that involves wrestlers.

Zoya is walking around with her doll, humming a song, carrying a laundry basket and creating little home spaces for her baby. She is currently feeding her doll and has asked me to get her wooden clothes pegs the next time we go shopping. I just fixed up her little pink stroller.

Ravi just got back and is upstairs printing out stuff. I will go set the table and maybe all 4 of us will eat lunch together.

Its 2:30 in the afternoon and i do not know how the rest of the day will go. I might read my Natalie Goldberg book after lunch and watch a movie with the kids. Maybe i’ll feel open to playdates and a library visit (for Raghu’s next Bone book) as the day moves on. I shared with the kids first thing this morning about how low i was energy wise and how i could not plan an active day. But they know (just from them knowing my style of functioning) that my energy may go up and we can revisit all of it).

Some days are full of excitement and busy with planned and unplanned activity. Other days like today… Quiet, loud, happy, annoyed, smiling, singsongy, simple, at home, mixed up, ordinary, etc. I stay with the unfolding of the day.

On Capone, Elvis and Learning

A few minutes ago Raghu was watching a video with me online, where we saw images of the soup lines during the Great Depression.  He immediately connected it to what he read about Al Capone in the Horrible Histories Book.  I learnt from him that during the Great Depression Al Capone tried to buy his way into the heart of the public, during his court trial, by setting up Soup Lines for the unemployed.

Often such moments happen during my randomly busy days and I’m unable to remember the connections made or the moment passes and the next time i’m at the computer my mind draws a blank.  today per chance the video froze and so i decided to blog this right away.

I also found it amazing that for a boy who normally does not read novel-length and novel-typesize books, Raghu read the Horrible Histories book on Al Capone cover to cover.  It amazes me the information that he squirrels away.  I may never truly know what my child has learnt, where he learnt it, why he learnt it, how he learnt it and when he learnt it.  But I know that he will learn what he needs, when he needs it, etc.  You get my drift.

Raghu’s love for guns, the mafia, gangs, is leading to an interest in history, geography and many other ‘subjects’.  I love the mix of information and flow of connections in our house.  Raghu said he loved the story of Al Capone.  He loves watching The Godfather series with Ravi.  And since Ravi has a clear hold over facts and figures and can talk instantly about directors, movies, dialog, films, historic facts etc, the 2 really enjoy their discussions on Scarface and the like 🙂

As Raghu plays around the house he might hear us conversing about a topic and he jumps right in with his connections, information or sometimes a joke he heard about the topic.  This is something Ravi and I now welcome. Sometimes it feels like our conversations are interrupted too often and we might tell Raghu to hold his thought while we complete our train of thought… but mostly its a joy to have him and these days even Zoya jumping right in and giving us their world view.  They can influence the actions in this house and have impact.  I think for a child this is real-time learning.

Zoya has been parading us with dialogs from a diverse variety of movies.  She will say something from 3 idiots “jahanpana tussi great ho” when I bring her something she likes 🙂  Or she might put her lyrics to the tune of  “Return to Sender” (Elvis).  Try singing this to the tune:  “Nana (Ravi) is verrrry grumpy, and not being nice, so I said to the postman, his letter comes back, Return to Sender, address unknown”.  Its so funny!  And the song has the desired effect and Nana is less grumpy right away.  She makes up songs like this in tune to many Hindi and English songs.  Sometimes nonsensical, sometimes circumstances will be reflected in the lyrics 🙂  We all enjoy her way of communicating.. thru her songs.  She tells us how she feels, what she wants and even asks questions.  Raghu has been helping her with holding the tune and finding the right rhyming word.

My children and I are learning way more than just facts and figures.  We learn about emotions, personalities, the world and why it is the way it is (a topic that is rehashed every few weeks as my ability to talk about it improves and my children ask more complex things), our selves, our family and its dynamics, what is money and why some people want more of it and some don’t.  Etcetera.  And if I’m sad and they notice it, we talk about it.  Sharing my emotions, sharing how I dealt with an emotional moment, is important to me.  Often Raghu will know exactly what I need or want and will make wise suggestions… go for a walk Amma or he might ask if I want a glass of water.

Raghu advised me recently, “You know Amma, when you get angry and you want to not be angry any more, then you just need to forget what happened.”  Ravi and I rarely, these days, get truly annoyed with each other.. its usually circumstantial stuff, rocky centers due to a cold or some such…. and yet… this piece of advice from my 9 year old was in alignment with what I have been learning from reading Byron Katie. I was indeed grumpy with Ravi that day and my grumpiness vanished. And I continue to learn.

Simple pleasures

 Zoya loves playing on the kitchen floor with a large steel plate, in which we arrange tongs, candles, camphor tablets and some little plates.  She likes burning camphor and allowing the smoke to coat a plate and then draw on it.  We love the smell of camphor!

I like how random our life is.  And if i fight this disorderly chaos that our interests bring about… then I feel low and angry and annoyed with the kids and myself.  So observing the laughter, joy, peace that the randomness of things in our life brings… makes me peaceful.

Raghu, Ishan (our neighbor) and Zoya helped me wash our Duplo lego blocks… that Z still loves to play with.  They had a blast with all that water and a running pipe… that was helping me clean the terrace as well.

I even ended up giving Snowy a bath… which she did not like.. but was easier for me with all that water being used by the kids.

Playing with fire, water and mud is still Zoya’s favorite way to spend time.  Give her sand and water and hours can go by.  Raghu has definitely moved on and is not as engaged by these elements any more.  However he does love fire and will talk about carbon to Zoya and about burning different materials to me.

Simple Pleasures indeed.  

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 🙂