Friday, December 31, 2010

Auld Lang Syne!

It's that time of the year again to look back at events past, reminisce, reflect, and recall all the lessons learned. It's also the time to look ahead to a whole new year ahead of us filled with hopes, aspirations, dreams, opportunities, and endless possibilities. We are all like Janus, the two-headed Roman God, one head looking back at the past, and other ahead at the new year. It's also the time to give humble thanks to God's guiding hand, and for those who don't believe in God, to their good Karma or whatever else it is that has kept them going. I am truly grateful for all of life's blessings, great and small, in the year 2010, and look ahead towards better times in the New Year 2011!

In my opinion, 2010 just sped by too fast, in the blink of an eye as it were! My family had no major health problems (and myself miraculously so!), no big money problems, no significant job problems, and no worrisome issues with the kid - all factors contributing to a wonderful, blessed year! Of course, there were a few minor hiccups, as is normal for any family, but overall, we were a happy, smiling lot, I should say. The most significant event in our lives was Dinesh going to India all on his own to volunteer in the tsunami-affected regions of coastal Tamilnadu, something that changed his outlook on life and made him a better person. We also had family visiting us, the husband's sister in March and my brother in November, reminding us of the warmth and love that only family members can bring.

As 2010 winds to a close, I wish all my family and friends
A Very Blessed And Prosperous New Year 2011!

May We All Find Continued Health, Increasing Wealth, And Abundant Happiness In The New Year And Decade Ahead!

May All Our Troubles Last As Long As Our New Year's Resolutions!

Happy New Year 2011, Folks!!!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Smart Alecks

Why is it that children have selective amnesia when it comes to rules of behaviour, chores at home, assignments at school, and the like, but seem to have a phenomenal memory recalling the mistakes, foibles, follies, and errant ways of their parents?!? Every single parent has the common experience of hearing the most popular response, "Oh, I forgot!" from their child(ren) when queried about something the kid was supposed or expected to do. Throw in an additional, "Oh, did you want me to?" or "Oh, was I supposed to?," and that completes the picture at my home. The same kid who feigns ignorance or forgetfulness about a task, will almost always be quick to remember some mistake the parent committed, say 5 years ago, and that too accurately, with all the minor details involved!

Take for example, a common scenario playing out at home. I ask the kid why the newspapers are piling up and why they haven't been taken out to the recycling bins, and pat comes the response, "Oh, I forgot!" The Dad will throw in his two cents' worth to help by saying, "Actually it's you who's reading all those papers!" The same goes for the coke or pepsi cans (Diet, mind you!) rolled under the bed. "I forgot," the kid says and I think how could a child possibly forget to throw them in the trash can which is right there under the table. And it's always the mother's job to send the cans dutifully to the recycling bin as well. When I find the folded laundry from one week ago still sitting on the side table, discover he's been pulling out clean clothes from the pile, and ask him why he didn't put them away in the closet right away, it's "Sorry, I forgot!"

The scenario switches to the school and it's the same story there as well. On the rare days that the kid takes lunch to school, and I question him in the evening about the lunchbox, he goes, "Oops, I forgot!" The same can be said for bringing home the gym bag for the clothes to be washed, or the locker to be cleaned out on the last day of school. And don't even get me started on the number of umbrellas he's left behind at school, all because he forgot! I get a call in the evening about the kid having missed a class, but he insists he was there after all, and so I ask him to meet his counsellor and sort it out. Come the next evening and I go, "So, did you meet the counsellor?" and the answer is, yes, you got it right, he forgot! And when eventually he does meet the counsellor and we find out it was a planning class at lunchtime that he had missed, he says he forgot about the class because it was lunchtime and all he remembered was the food! Husband and I see the validity of his statement and launch into a debate if the school is right in scheduling classes for famished teenagers at lunch break, while the kid silently gives us the slip and slinks off to his room!

It's Christmas and the Mom gets an iPad, and now is the time that the kid's phenomenal memory kicks in. Husband buys an expensive case for the iPad to match the Blackberry's and tells me how to handle the gadget properly on the commute to work. Kid butts in and says,"Yeah Dad, you think she will? Remember how she dropped the Blackberry on the sidewalk and cracked the LCD screen?" And this was like 4 months ago! To add fuel to the fire, he goes, "And do you remember how she left her cell phone in the bathroom stall at the mall?" And this was 4 years ago! Then he turns to me and continues, "Ma, don't think a stranger who picks up your iPad will be good enough to return it to you, just like you got your phone back!", assuming that I am definitely going to misplace my iPad somewhere and lose it. This is just one tiny example of how the kid can recall incidents vividly and rub it in when the time's right. Now what do we do with such smart alecks at home? Tough job parenting, eh?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Tough Love

Am I my child's parent or friend, I often wonder! As much as I would like to be the kid's friend, there are times when disciplining the child becomes imperative, and I then play the role of a parent, read "monster" here. In a world where children are becoming increasingly narcissistic and self-centred, and have a sense of entitlement to all that they desire, it rests on the parents to dole out some tough love as and when the occasion warrants. In most families, it is the mother who becomes the disciplinarian and thus the villain, while the father almost always gives in to the kid and ends up becoming the good guy. At least that's the case here at my home!

I grew up in a strict, yet loving family where austerity bordering on the puritanical was an accepted norm. No lavish birthday parties, no excessive gifts, but just a book for a gift, a set of new clothes, and our favourite meal were to be expected on our birthdays. New Year was celebrated, not Christmas, and this was marked by going to church early in the morning wearing new clothes, and a sumptuous lunch that followed to celebrate the day. There were strict rules to be followed at home, like family prayers in the evening and going to church every week, and our parents' commands had to be obeyed without question. Narcissism didn't exist then, neither did self-entitlement. It's a whole different ball game altogether these days where the kid has everything his heart desires, asks for a good reason why he has to do something when he's told to, and argues unabashedly and convincingly to justify his stand on anything for that matter, from mundane things as taking out the garbage or recycling the newspapers, to sublime matters such as philosophy or religion.

As a parent, I keep reminding the kid that everything he has is a privilege and not a right. He needs to follow the rules, tough as they might seem to him, as long as he lives with us. I tell him I'm being cruel only to be kind, not that he gets it all the time! The rules aren't that impossible to follow (in my opinion) - no pop, particularly at bedtime (maybe Diet occasionally), no Playstation 3 during school weeks, no insipid TV shows on weeknights, daily review at home of all that was studied at school, veggies at mealtime, 30 minutes of cardio each day, no iPod in bed, laptop only for studies and not for watching movies, to name a few. The kid's usually good at following them until the husband throws a monkey wrench in the works by exclaiming, "He's a child, for heaven's sake!" or "You should've been a drill sergeant in the military!" or something to that effect, and lo and behold, the kid's up in arms and goes, " Yeah, Ma, am I at home or at boot camp?" So much for my tough love, as I leave the kid and start battling the husband and his stupid comments! That's another week of hard work for me before I can bring the kid around!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Kitchen Klutzes

I've always wondered why most of the world's famous chefs happen to be men, and if at all they went home after a day's work and cooked for their wives and children. I also wonder if those chefs are as efficient at tidying up the kitchen and cleaning up after themselves as they are at concocting all those gastronomical delights. To my knowledge, men do not have the patience to put things back in order as women do, and as creative as they might get with their food, they are downright klutzes in the kitchen and leave behind a holy mess after they are done cooking.

The husband here is no exception in this regard, but then again, neither is he a renowned chef for that matter. Once in a blue moon, he ventures into the kitchen to whip up something unhealthy but delicious. I must admit that there are moments when I think he's God's gift to the gastric juices! If one were to ignore the calories piled up on the plate and focus solely on the taste and creativity of the food he serves, then he would easily and surely score an 'A'. People say I'm a good cook, but sometimes the kid says, "Mom, can you ask Dad to make something?", which goes to show how the Dad can improvise in the kitchen and tickle the taste buds. There are moments when I'm downright tired and resent entering the kitchen, and on such rare occasions, the husband takes it on himself to put together something quickly.

It so happened that a friend of his had shared a shrimp pattie with him at lunch one day. He had asked her how it had been made, and voila, that night he took it upon himself to indianize the dish and serve it for dinner. When I say such things, please don't think that the husband waits on me hand and foot everyday. These are very rare occurrences, so rare that I can count them on the fingers of my hand! But the best part is that he cooks and serves it as well, bringing it to the couch while I'm watching TV. I take immense pleasure in being served wherever I am at that moment, in front of the TV, or the computer, or the bedroom, but after the eating is done, all the pleasure evaporates when I enter the kitchen and see the royal mess it is in! I cannot for the life of me imagine why and how all the dishes - pots, pans, plates, spoons, ladles, knives, cutting boards, etc., etc. - got into the sink! Surely he didn't cook for an army, did he?!!?

I then kick myself for having let this happen, that I should have overcome my laziness and fixed dinner myself in the first place. For the perverse pleasure of being waited on, there I am, paying the price of having to spend an extraordinary length of time scrubbng and mopping and cleaning and wiping and sanitizing the whole place. Never again will I allow this to happen, I swear to myself! For every minute I spent eating, I spend ten times the time tidying up ... and as the husband keeps gloating over his culinary skills and tooting his horn endlessly, I ask him to shut up and give me a break! Ya think I learned my lesson? Yeah, right!!!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Love or Money?

We live in an extremely materialistic world these days where money rules. In an interesting discussion I had with my class recently about what was more important, love or money, I was quite surprised to find that most of the young people took the side of money, whereas the older ones opted for love. Is this a reflection of the times, I wonder?!? Is the younger generation being mercenary merely to feed their increasing narcissism or is it being very practical and realistic about living comfortably in this increasingly expensive world, I ask myself? The arguments in favour of both were plenty and I was left inconclusive at the end because of the validity and verity of both the arguments.

I commented about this on Facebook, and many of my friends weghed in on the subject. Here's what some of my friends had to say: Chithra Just, whose comment I wholly endorse, said," Why does it have to be this OR that always? money without love doesn't fill the heart; love without money doesn't fill the stomach! we need both - money in moderation and love in abundance! :)" Krithika Swaminathan said, " I would choose love... It would be great to have both in balance, but if I had to choose one over the other, I will choose love... The world won't go around without love. ;)" Petulia Joseph was succinct and poetic in her comment that she thought love was priceless and would survive even the apocalypse. Lily Blessing was very practical in even giving a ratio of 60 : 40 (love : money) that she would prefer to have. Sampath Kumar felt that it all depended on age, that in youth, one would be on the side of love, in middle age on the side of money, and then again in old age back on the side of love - sort of like a pendulum swing to me.

Shashikala Subramanian, another friend from my school days came out with some beautiful quotes in favour of love: "Though I give all I possess to the poor and surrender myself to the flames, but do not have love ... I gain nothing. Love is always happy when it can share something and give something. Everything in life prospers and grows in the sweetness and warmth of love," and went on to quote, "Even out of the three - Faith, Hope and Love - the greatest of these is Love." I was particularly struck by what my student Viktor, the 86-year-old Computer Science Professor Emeritus from Kiev, Ukraine, had to say. He and his 70-year-old wife Olga, who's also my student, took a clear stand in favour of love and he told the class of a proverb from the Soviet Union: "When there is love in your heart, you can find paradise even in a hat!" That set the whole class thinking, while another came up with a proverb from her country, in favour of money: "When Poverty knocks at your door, Love will fly out through the window!"

It was a very interesting, lively debate indeed, and when asked what I thought was more important, I answered of course, it was love. I came home and told my husband of the whole discussion, and quick came the retort, "How stupid! Will love pay the mortgage or the other bills or put food on the table?" Ever the realist, I thought! Now according to Sampath, does that make me young /old and my husband middle-aged, or as per my class, am I old and my husband young? Hmmm ... I wonder!!!