Tuesday, September 27, 2011

When Marriages Bite The Dust

It unnerves me no end when I see marriages crumble and bite the dust. As a child, I saw couples stay together come hell or high water, and divorces were very uncommon decades ago. In many cases, the concerned parties tried hard to work at their marriage, and in some cases, they just put up with the situation for very many reasons, the foremost of them being for the sake of their children. Not so these days. Separations, divorces, and bitter legal wranglings are ubiquitous across cultures, and there seems to be an attitude of impatience in that most people do not have the inclination to even give any attempt at reconciliation a try. There also seems to be an overriding feeling of self-centredness wherein the individual just focuses on individual happiness and justifies the thought,"If you're unhappy in a marriage, just get out!" In fact, these were the very words uttered to me by one who had married her fourth husband, and was trying to explain to me why she had divorced the previous three.

In cases where I have seen the couple very much in love in the early years, it comes as quite a shock to see how quickly they have fallen out of love now. Where did all that love go in the intervening years, I always ask myself?!? Public displays of affection such as the almost 50 -year-old wife sitting on her husband's lap in the presence of company, advertising her love and affection for him just five years ago, have now deteriorated into a situation where they just can't stand the sight of each other. In some cases, either the man or the woman has walked out of the house, and lives alone or has moved in with friends. At least in a couple of cases I know, where children are involved, the man has just taken off and has had no contact with the wife or children for years at a stretch. The wife doesn't know whether the husband is even alive or dead. Didn't these men marry their women for love, and weren't those children conceived out of love? Whatever dire thing could have happened to bring about this kind of an estrangement?

All I can understand is that making a marriage succeed requires hard work on the part of both the husband and wife. Instead of just blaming one another for the unpleasant turn of events, hurling accusations at one another, and letting all the acrimony between them crumble their marriage, it would serve well if both the husband and wife just allowed a moment of introspection, closed their eyes and recalled the person they initially fell in love with, and relived their love-filled, memorable days of the past. Understanding, empathy, adjustment, a give-and -take attitude, and above all, forgiveness that comes from the bottom of one's heart, will all go a long way to save the marriage. After all, life is very short. Unless otherwise the reasons are dire and warrant a separation or divorce, such as physical or emotional abuse, we should make the most of our short lives by cutting out the acrimony in our marriage. And this comes from yours truly who's now in her twenty-fifth year of marriage at which she's worked so hard! :)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Fickle-minded Gemini!

The fickle-minded Gemini that I am, I crave for constant change and excitement in my life. As the husband likes to joke very often, the only thing I've never had the slightest inclination to change so far is HIM! Well, jokes apart, he can rest assured that's going to be the one constant in my life forever, and I certainly have no intention of jumping into the dating game in the foreseeable future. I am content with the here and the now, but I can't say the same thing, let's say, maybe next year. I am constantly looking for newer challenges, better things to do, greater opportunities to try out, never-before-seen places to visit, and if you get my drift, just fresh experiences that I can dig into with relish, and to be honest, I have been quite lucky in this regard all these years, both personally and professionally. Just when I'm beginning to settle into a routine, I blurt out, "I'm BORED!" and life has thrown me something or the other my way to keep me engaged and happy.

When I was living in India, I used to wonder if I would ever move out of good old Madurai, for heaven's sake! Change came in a very big way, leading me out of India after my son had turned one. Life in California was a cornucopia of new experiences, new places, new friends, new challenges, etc., which saw me re-enter university, explore new areas of expertise, and plunge headlong into a future I knew not then where I was being led to. I just went with the flow, and lo and behold, I ended up in beautiful British Columbia. It had been MY idea to immigrate to Canada in the first place, merely because I was bored and needed yet another change, and one that I convinced the husband to go along with. Eight years later, here we are, with no regrets whatsoever - citizenship in our adopted country, Canadian passports, a home to call our own in an upscale housing market, satisfying and steady jobs amidst a raging recession - not bad at all, for a change sought by yours truly!

The husband is now keen on seeing that my fickle-mindedness doesn't get out of hand, just to preserve his sanity. When I begin to get bored, he hustles me out on a road trip, just to quench my thirst for adventure, or he packs me off on a trip somewhere to quell that wanderlust in me. I was away in India last month basically for my high school reunion, got to attend a wedding in the family, and meet long lost relatives and friends, and now that I've been back to the grind for a month, I'm beginning to itch for more adventures and fun. That calls for another road trip, I suppose, and if my husband ever reads this, which I hope he will, another fun experience should be just around the bend. Sometimes, it pays to be fickle-minded after all, take it from me!!!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Other Side Of Teaching

I believe it was my calling to become an educator. Though my mother was a teacher, and one of my brothers ended up in the same profession, I never, for an instant, wanted to be one myself. Somehow, growing up, I'd always thought I'd have a career in the Sciences, and it was just happenstance that everything fell into place and made me what I am today. I totally revel in what I do, and have a thorough enjoyment interacting with all the brilliant minds, young and old, that pass through my classroom. Looking back, I would not have had it any other way. The love and adulation my students have shown me over the years, and the fantastic camaraderie I've enjoyed with all my colleagues down the years have only strengthened my love for my job.

I must admit here that there's a totally different side of teaching that I enjoy, namely, the personal bonding I've had with some of my students outside of the classroom after they graduated, and the strong friendships I've cultivated with many of them in the last 26 years or so. I take care not to let the professional mix with the personal, and as long as one remains a student in my class, I don't let them get close to me at all, lest they see me in a different light in class and lose sight of me as their teacher, but after they leave my class, it is a different story altogether, and I continue to keep in touch with them via email and social networking, of course. It's always heartening when a student from 15 or 20 years ago reaches out to me, and remembers many of the texts and life lessons I taught him or her.

Some of my students have gone on to call me by name, some older ones call me their daughter, some younger ones call me "Mom", many still call me "Ma'am", some think I need to be fattened up and keep bringing me all those sinful, delicious food, some invite me for a drink, some invite me to their homes for a meal they've specially cooked for me, some ask me to name their newborn child, some ask me for parenting advice, some confide in me about their marital woes, some tell me about their health scares and ask me to send my positive thoughts and energy their way, some mouth "I love you" to me on a daily basis, many never fail to greet me on my birthday, some have adopted my son as their own and inquire about him frequently, some email me about their new business ventures and ask me to bless them , some go on to exciting jobs and email me about it from some part of the world, the older ones continue writing about their memories of incidents from a long time ago and ask me to correct them via email, some just reach out and update me as to what's going on in their lives, some email me pictures of vacations they've taken, some call me and ask me where to shop for Indian clothes, and so the list goes on and on. Is it a surprise then that I truly enjoy this other side of teaching as much as I do what goes on in the classroom?!?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Travails Of Working Parents

Come September, parents in North America heave a big sigh of relief as the school year begins, and they no longer need to worry about finding a baby sitter for their school going, yet under age kids. In Canada, parents cannot leave a child unattended until he or she turns 12, which leaves parents often scrambling for a place in summer camp for their wards, or trying to move heaven and earth for a sitter who can keep an eye on their kids while they're away at work bringing home the bacon. The same cannot be said for parents whose children have not started school yet, and for those, it's a year-long struggle first to find a place in day care, and then to keep the place for good. When they do, it's yet another heart-wrenching struggle each morning, trying to pry off their children's clinging hands at the daycare premises and leaving with a hardened heart, unmindful of the sobs, wails, and tear-drenched faces of their little ones. Hiring a sitter on an hourly basis and leaving them at home, on the other hand, is simply not worth it at all, and if so, then one might have to surrender their entire income to the sitter, who, undoubtedly will call the shots!

Taking care of the children in my country used to be a breeze, so to speak. There was always a grandparent, or an aunt, or a friendly neighbor who stepped in with a helping hand, and eased the burden of the parents to a certain extent. Trusted servants would take care of the children, with a family member on hand to supervise them. Not so here. In the absence of elderly family members here, children cannot be entrusted to friends or neighbors because of molestation concerns, and sitters have to be thoroughly vetted and cleared with periodic criminal checks. There are horror stories now and then of sitters being caught secretly on tape, by "nanny cams", abusing the children under their care. This can undoubtedly be one of the worst nightmares for any parent. I feel a pang when I see all the child-rearing travails of my working friends and family, and can very well understand if someone decided to defer having a child to a time more conducive to them, or if they decided not to have one at all.

Having been able to take five and a half years off work in the first six years of my son's life has been a dream come true for me, and a mighty blessing in the truest sense of the word! Looking back, it was a luxury to have been able to do so, one that many of my friends still envy me for, and I'm simply grateful that I could afford to do that then. Subsequently, the husband or I have always been available at home for the kid, and now that he's a strapping young adult, soon-to-be-sixteen, we're mulling if we should take a vacation without him after all. "No way," he says, "I want to come too!" ... and so for now, our babying continues. We may not have had the usual travails of working parents, but now our concern is of a different kind - how to ditch the teenager, leave him on his own, and take off on that much-needed vacation, without any parenting woes!!! :)

Monday, September 5, 2011

Hospitals - An Anathema

As a little girl, I always said I wanted to be a doctor when I grew up. I always thought that doctors were mini gods, with life-sustaining power in their hands. They could bring about miracles in the lives of patients who needed them the most, just to be able to breathe and live normal lives. Little did I know then that the coward that I was, the sight of blood would make me panic, or the soft-hearted sympathizer that I was, the suffering and pain of my fellow human beings would make me cry. Eventually, I ended up on a different career path, one that I absolutely enjoyed and reveled in, and I foolishly thought that I would have nothing to do with hospitals for the rest of my life, considering that I was healthy then ( or so I thought), but boy, was I wrong!

To put it plainly, hospitals are an anathema to me. I find them highly depressing and unnerving, but as fate would have it, I am the one who has had to go there repeatedly for various reasons. I have this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach each time I wait to see the doctor, and on every occasion I get off lightly with a not-so-alarming verdict or test results, I count my blessings and rush out hurriedly with a sigh of relief, determined never to set foot on the premises again. That's only until the next visit, and so the never-ending cycle goes on! I agree that hospitals are a place of hope and optimism and courage for the sick and the dying, but still they're not on my list of favorite places, so to speak. I detest them thoroughly and keep wishing that I could enjoy perpetual good health so as not to venture into those dismal corridors ever again.

Call it karma or whatever, my only child is now determined to become a doctor. I thought he might change his mind as he grew up, as his mother did, but till date that hasn't happened. He seems to show no inclination towards my career path or his Dad's. Far from it, the subjects he enjoys the most are Science and Math, and at times I feel a pang that he doesn't appreciate literature as much as I do. There's still plenty of time left for him to make a decision, and as a parent, and as a well-meaning, supportive one at that, I'll be happy whatever he chooses to do in life. His Dad and I have given him all the opportunities and support he needs to get there, and we'll be there for him, no matter what. I'd be certainly proud of him when he becomes a doctor, but I'll stay outside the hospital, thank you very much!