Growing up with Kailash
Contents Many Dreams and a Promise
Growing up Super Fast
Questions, Questions and Questions
The Robot Fanatic
The Man Called Appa
Learning and Unlearning
The Whims and Fancies of a Mother
And the Story Continues
Coverpage pic : slashdevslashnull 2
Many Dreams and a Promise “Come unto me my little one. I have been waiting for you all these days with anaemic fingers, tapping against each other like warring soldiers; and a breath weighed down with anticipation. How and what do I tell you, my son? Feeling proud has become a habit now. It is intoxicating, it really is, to silently watch you and then swell with pride – at all the things you do – the way you sleep, the way you roll your eyes, the way you smile, the way you hold on to me, the way you just remain what you are, a trait that many of us slowly start to lose as we move away from childhood. I love holding your little fingers, the five pinkish petals of a tender rose from His garden. No, two little roses. I love running my hand over those soft creases on your hands and legs, the soft folds of flawless skin. I love drawing those neat curves, tracing my fingers over your tiny toes. I love calling you by various names – “Rolly Polly”, “Ingu Pingu”, “Softy Sweety”, “Lofty Softy”, “Chingu Mingu”, “Cutie Sweety” and “Kutty Kanna”. Kutty Kanna, your amma wants to tell you so many things. She just doesn’t know where to begin. My little boy, there is so much to see in this world and so much to enjoy in life. Trust me, one lifetime isn’t enough! You know what all we can do – so many things. I will just offer you a glimpse of the world we can create for ourselves. These are flights of fantasy that I am making, with the wings of imagination.
Very soon, this will be reality, for, you are the key. As you start to toddle, I will share your pride, I will offer you a hug when you walk into me. And soon, we will hold hands and walk together. We will rub noses, share surprise hugs, and exchange tender kisses on our cheeks. We will play little games that you will always win. We will recite nursery rhymes together, when we eat, when we lie down on the bed and whenever we seem to find the time; I will seat you on my lap and we will check out the big rhymes book that Papa has got for you. And then, we will fly bright, chirpy kites that kiss the blue sky and speak to the sun. We will colour our lives with your red and my green and their many shades. We will discover new colours, explore the big palette and dab on. We will strangle fears to death and burn to ashes, the many negative feelings. We will nurture positive thoughts and build mental toughness. We will laugh our hearts out over the silliest of jokes. We will never miss a light moment and will try not to let a dull one seep in, as much as we can. We will pillowfight. We will tease your Dad about his snoring. I am sure there will be times when you guys will gang up together. Your father is drawing up his own plans for you! And my best guess is that it is a world of games, gizmos, cars, dogs and movies!” I have been meaning to do this for a long time – write things down. The name Kailash escapes my lips at least a hundred times in a day, with a dozen distinct modulations. Sometimes it is gentle and caressing, at other times joyful, at some instants it’s almost like begging, at few others it’s reprimanding, and certain times, very, very authoritative. The situations that my three-and-a-half-year-old son and I have been in, ever since he was born, are so, so many. ’Many Dreams and a Promise’ (above) was written a little over a month after Kailash was born. And now that I look back at the piece and given the phase of life that we are in now, I realize we have done this all. But what I also realize now is that life is a huge surprise package. There have been so many things in the last three and a half years that I didn’t really have an idea of when I wrote my dreams and promises for Kailash. These years of mothering have been ones of realization, learning, unlearning and understanding simple truths through the eyes of a child – truths that age and worldly life had managed to cloud quite successfully. This collection, if I may call so, is an attempt to pen down these priceless moments of bringing up a child in all his innocence and shaping him up all the same, to face the world and its ways. It is also an attempt to capture what escaped my imagination when I wrote what I wrote a month after my son was born. There’s perhaps one more reason why I choose to do this. One fine day, when Kailash has grown up and when his life takes its course, I will show this to him and say, ‘Look boy, see what a whale of a good and crazy time we both had - together!’ 4
ell, the truth is after all the dreaming that comes with expecting a child, I
should admit that the reality was far different and quite bitter in the initial days. To say the least, both Kailash and I had phenomenal spells of starting trouble! I have often heard mothers say that the day their babies arrived, they were overwhelmed with joy. And when Kailash was born, I felt just the same – simply ecstatic! However, I did not realize that the ecstasy will slowly give way to something undesirable. With motherhood came change. To admit the truth, I didn’t enjoy it very much initially. My routine went absolutely topsy-turvy in the first few days following my son’s birth. A good night’s sleep crept away silently into the folds of the dark. Feeding the baby and putting him to sleep seemed arduous tasks, especially with one’s body begging for much-needed rest. Every day was a hurdle with Kailash not falling into any particular routine. And trust me, it wasn’t easy to stay put in one place especially with one craving to get back to ‘normal’ ways of life, after so many months! Worse still, I hated the sudden shift in all the attention from me towards the baby. It was a sea change from how things were before delivery. The change threw me off balance. I recovered; yes, I did, from those initial emotional jitters. I slapped and told myself what an idiot I had been to think all that I thought. Adapt, that’s what we both did over the first few months - he, to the big, bad world he had come into and I, to the little bundle that was fast altering the boundaries of my life – only that the boundaries kept changing with every passing day. And over time, I now know he learnt his first ever lesson as a child– that this someone or something near him was his bridge to the world, that this someone or something is his wall against all that made him shiver and worry, that this someone or something is what he is a part of.. And that’s perhaps the reason why he cried every day in the first few months that he went to school – the fact that a child blissfully considers himself a part of his mother.
Growing up Super Fast
ailash just finished his first academic year at school. I remember how he would
cry in those initial days. The first one month used to be a nightmare. I used to pray every other day that he should settle down soon. Every day that I used to go to pick him up, his teacher would come back to say the same thing – he cried all the time, he cried for an hour today, he refused to go to the loo without mama. I so vividly remember how I used to get back a red-eyed, runny-nosed little darling home, telling him the same story each day – see, amma doesn’t go anywhere; she just stands outside your school gate till the bell goes. And, other such stories. And somewhere in between, the transition slowly slipped in. He began walking up to his class on his own, began picking up small words in English, began telling me stories each day, began revealing his capable side just the way I wanted to see. What all I told him to help him settle down in school! One thing I distinctly remember. I used to take his little hands into mine and tell him that his fingers had grown so much longer, his hands bigger and boys with such long fingers and big hands never cried when they went to school. I am not sure if it is a great idea to ascertain progress at this stage. Six months into school, when the teacher sent in a circular saying that they would be giving a progress report, I had mixed feelings. But I was curious all the same, to learn how he did at school, because that remains the only time he is away from me and moves in a totally different environment. The day my husband and I went to collect the card, the teacher beamed. When I read the last line, ‘Excellent Kailash’, which summarized all the other wonderful things she had written about him, I shivered with pride. It was Kailash’s true self, stripped of all the initial inconsistencies, that I was well aware of and that I had hoped all through would be revealed at school. And now that he has completed his second term too, we went yet again to pick up his report card. This time the teacher barely spoke anything, she just opened the card before us, and shrugged – I have nothing more to say, his excellent report says it all. He is an excellent child, she added, – one who took a long time to settle down at school but just bloomed phenomenally. That instant, I realized how fast the boy had grown up; not just that, I realized how beautifully he had learnt to adapt himself. It seems like only yesterday that we got Kailash from the hospital to my mom’s place, all wrapped up. He first learnt to turn and lie on his tummy, began moving and then crawling. Then he began holding things and standing up on his own. 8
He started saying monosyllables and then little words. He began walking, slowly climbing steps. At one stage, he learnt to walk from the school gate to his classroom across the big playground. He ran in his school sports day and came back with a lovely little medal (all the kids got one!). He picked up English - a language that I had barely introduced him to before he went to school. Today, he speaks long, winding sentences both in Tamil and English and claims that he knows them so well! I know every child goes through these phases but when you see it in your own, it is undoubtedly, incomparably special! And what remains the most fascinating truth is that Time just flies! This has made me understand how important it is to savour every moment with him and fully enjoy each phase of his development; and most importantly, how essential it is to be supportive, understanding and encouraging to your child, dispelling all his anxieties and inhibitions, helping him emerge a confident individual.
Questions, Questions & Questions A
few days after Kailash was born, I remember how people often remarked that he
always looked like he was thinking something or reflecting, so to speak. Now that I think about it, I feel thatâ€™s quite true. There are at least a dozen ideas running in his head at any given point of time, except probably when he is sleeping and I know I can see the wonder in his large eyes. Amma, when will I become big? Amma, you took off your bindhi. Are you a boy now? Amma, when will I get a moustache and a beard? Amma, why does Sunday come only after Saturday? Amma, is it afternoon now or is it evening? Amma, why does the car need petrol? Amma, do I have a tail? Amma, why are you looking at me like that? Amma, are you scolding me? Amma, are you a good boy or a bad boy? 10
That’s just a sample of all the questions he asks me. He asks at least fifty in a day. And I am simply amazed at the various facets of his that are revealed through his questions : his curiosity, his sense of wonder at the workings of the world and his sheer innocent way of thinking, shorn of prejudice. I try my best to answer him almost all the time just so that his hunger to know more doesn’t die out. But, being humans that we are, I lose my patience too and bark at him at times – come on, Kailash, you can’t just go on asking. I am tired. The reaction – well, it’s anyone’s guess – sometimes he may have that dismayed look on his face, sometimes he may just get hold of the object that is conveniently placed next to him (there’s always something lying next to him!) and fling it across with hot tears streaming down his cheeks. And of course, I sort of return from my state of irritated trance and console him with a satisfactory answer. So, yes, the bottom line is questions, questions and questions all the way. And I have learnt stay prepared to be stumped at least a dozen times in a day! Here’s something for a sample: This is a question he asked me some days back that startled me, one for his curiosity and other for the fact that I realized, much to my horror, that it was something that never really occurred to me at all, at least after I had grown up! The question was: Amma, does robot have a nose?
The Robot Fanatic I think I can write a dissertation titled ‘Kailash and his Robots’. Robots fascinate him beyond description. It all began when we took him to watch Rajnikanth’s Endhiran. And the questions haven’t stopped ever since. The simplest of questions about this topic would be – Amma, how will good Chitti walk? How will bad Chitti laugh? Why does the big robot (the one in the climax) walk slow? How does good Chitti help Sana ‘Akka’? He designs robots with the strangest of things – chart paper and newspaper bits, screws from his took kit, building blocks, pencils and crayons and sometimes uses me or my husband as models – making us lie down on the bed or sit on a sofa and exclaiming that he is making robots! His best gifts have been robots and a book on robots. He has listened to Endhiran songs in the car when going to and coming back from school over the last six months! On the last day of his school, Kailash’s teacher told me I owe my son a gift for having done so well in school. My husband and I got him a 3D Robot book. Do I need to say anything more?
Angry Angel Ah, now..the robot story isn’t quite over yet! It simply amazes me that angelic children can sometimes turn to fierce fighters though later on reflection, particularly when they are fast asleep like little angels, they seem like cute monsters learning undesirable yet tempting ways of life. Kailash’s anger comes in various degrees. When he is most uncontrollable, he sits tight, rolls his eyes and stares straight ahead. Ask him what’s wrong and he shoots back saying, ‘I am bad Endhiran (Robot)’ , ‘I am going to hit you.’ More often than not, I would be taken aback by the intensity of anger that can brew within a tender child. Perhaps it is a child’s way of growing up to the ways of the world. Or like the spiritually inclined among us would say, ‘the slow blooming of the ego’ – the feeling of ‘Aham’ that leads to Ahangaram. Amma, why are you doing bad manners? He would shoot the question when I would admonish him fiercely for some mischief or for talking back. Most of the times, his inevitable question would only agitate me more and then by the end of a five minute fierce battle, we both would flop down like tired warriors – he crying and me consoling and feeling bad about my outburst of anger. More so, because, after I explain to him why what he did was wrong, he would feel bad about what he had done and say ‘Amma sorry Amma, I won’t do like that again.’ The realization would fill me with pride for the conscientious observation of my child but would prick me too, like a venomous thorn, shaming me for my attitude or rather the lack of it.
I tell my son many stories, which when you strip down of all the fabrication and the fantasy wrapping, will reveal lies at the core. White lies â€“ I know that sounds more like it â€“ more friendly and undoubtedly, less deprecating. These stories are my ways of teaching him to be good, my way of telling him why something that he did should not be done and what happens when that something is in fact done. Of course, all that when am not hitting the peaks of my anger, in which case this step would be totally bypassed! 14
So, born were stories about the rocket that whisked away badly behaving kids off to the moon, the rocket that hid away their toys in some unknown cupboard, the rocket that knocked maliciously on balcony doors, the rocket that had a television inside itself through which it surveyed all the little children; born was the character with the name starting in S, who was so similar to Kailash, in terms of age, school and the car that he went to school in. It was a character meant to reflect the erring Kailash, although it’s something he is totally unaware of – the blissfully innocent child. If Kailash protested against eating cabbage, S did that a day back and in the night his bones began to ache and he went over to the doctor’s who happily ripped S’s bums apart with ten mighty huge injections. Thus would go the story. S is not a bad boy, mind you – it’s just that he didn’t know what good manners were. In fact, S, so often is whisked away by the rocket in the other story. So, my little boy with his senses and thinking set on high alert, would immediately jump and claim that he is a GOOD boy who would eat cabbage. You know these are my own situational moral stories that sort of helps us wriggle out of tense, muddy situations where both of us are stuck with our own problems – he with the problem that he is doing something wrong, a pricking conscience which his age and experience still don’t allow him to express as well as he would like to for he is torn between the desire to do what’s good and fuss intently about doing the bad, and me with the problem that I need to sort his problem out and help him feel better about himself. Too confounding? Ah, don’t bother! We also have the non-moral, just-for fun stories like the five differently-coloured jeeps that run a running race in which each one falls out of the race for some reason – failed brakes, punctured tyres, fuel runout and problematic headlights . One thing never changes in that story: the red jeep always makes it to the finishing line!
hey really are those little, little moments – incomparable in the sort of completeness
that they bring about to life. They are priceless for the fact that they demonstrate love that is pure, unconditional and forgiving. I love the way children communicate their love. They pour their hearts out in expressing their deep liking for you. They have this wonderful way of making you feel wanted – isn’t that something we all crave for as grown-ups? We all would like to believe that we make a difference to someone’s life by our ways and at the most basic level – our presence. Children, I believe, just know how to get it right. They have these sweet gestures that they use to let you know how much they need you in their lives. With Kailash, he does so many special little things. When I go to pick him up from school, he comes running to me, asking me to pick him up and then gives this lovely, little peck on my cheek. When he wakes up in the morning or after his afternoon nap, he would want me to pretend that I haven’t noticed him at all (and I do that quite theatrically even though I know from the slightest noise that he has woken up!) and then he would come running up to me, sit on my lap and give me a lovely, tight hug (even if we had had a fight before he went to sleep). It’s a moment of such pristine happiness, trust me, this moment of getting back together after sleep kept us apart for a little while. And what do I have to say about his thoughtful nature? I like to make him feel important. I tell him things that I do in a day, just as he would tell me what he did at school. Among the many things that I tell him, I also tell him this sometimes: ‘Kailash, I am feeling really tired; I have a bad headache.’ And the boy would effortlessly spring into action and with his tiny, soft fingers, would press my forehead twice or thrice and innocently ask me, ‘Amma, has your headache gone now?’. Sometimes, he would run down to fetch the pain balm that he knows I apply when I have a headache. He loves helping me around with arranging groceries – knowing very well that the vegetables had to go into the fridge (and no, not potatoes and onions – they would stay outside! He knows the protocol) and the rest of the stuff would go into that cupboard in the kitchen. If I need to get the milk packet out of the fridge, he would only be too happy to help. Tears sting my eyes when such things happen and no, am not ashamed of being so sentimental. Because these are moments that touch my core self. They make me realize the worth of being a mother. The feeling definitely is so beautiful. It’s something that is innocence personified and something that is made possible only by a child. These magical moments are priceless. 17
The Man Called Appa
ery often, when I observe my son and my husband, I realize that the relation-
ship between a dad and a son operates in a totally different plane. Kailash, as I have seen, is quite a different person when he moves with his father, including his way of talking and his body language. The truth as I have come to realize in all these days is that the boy keeps me at the same level as his but his father one step above. When my admonishing doesn’t work, I can be sure that my husband’s will – I know there’s this tinge of fearful respect Kailash has for his dad. It’s the ‘I look up to you, Dad’ and ‘I will listen to you’ kind of a respect. Sometimes, they sort of gang up and do things that are totally in their league – watching all sorts of cartoons, enjoying 3-D and mobile gaming, watching dogs, cats, rhymes and cartoons on You Tube and spending so much time in the toy shop. It’s a kind of a little world that they have carved for themselves and which I take care I don’t trample. As a father, my husband has played his unique role in shaping Kailash’s personality and in offering a different perspective on mentoring him, moulding his preferences and his way of looking at the world. Perhaps the most important aspect he has brought about in his parenting role is his constant endeavour to keep track of tools that can enhance Kailash’s thinking and creativity. I may be the person who teaches Kailash different things but the credit of sifting, picking and choosing what would benefit the child’s learning process the most undoubtedly goes to my husband! The debates have always been there – we argue about which of our methods is better or whether certain of our practices make any sense at all- the typical MarsVenus debate. But, I guess that’s what makes bringing up a child a more interesting and competitive exercise rather than it being a single-handed, boring, one-sided effort. It definitely wouldn’t be fun without the man called Appa!
Learning and Unlearning
hen we bring up children, I think we become children ourselves in that we
begin to learn some things from a totally new perspective (or rather the perspective we have forgotten), which also means that we need to unlearn things a great big deal. Or, so I believe. A crucial lesson I have learnt in these few years is how important it is to not counter a child’s understanding of the world and its workings – how important it is to stop acting as the know-it-all before a little child. My big fat ego is such a dampener, I realized, over time. I learnt how important it is to not correct immediately but appreciate their little steps of learning – a drawing he makes or an observation he shares. I learnt how important it is to feign ignorance and give him the feeling that he knows more than what we do. It’s not that children do not want to learn. It’s just that they become more receptive to corrections after a huge dollop of appreciation. It surely doesn’t cost anything! It sounds simple but it’s something I learnt only after a while! One aspect that I had to unlearn was my addiction to the cozy yet boring monotony of daily life and sticking to prescribed methods of working – I learnt that it wouldn’t hurt if one went about making wild choices that were harmless. Observing Kailash made me realize how important it is to be fascinated by working of things and try out stuff differently – he makes apple pizzas and ‘strawberry in buttermilk with salt’ shakes! Simple it may sound, but it is so difficult to go down to a child’s level and work with him. They are fast thinkers and their thinking is free of prejudice. Much of Kailash’s playing or drawing is more about exploring the way to something that leads to delightful epiphanies as a consequence rather than a pre-determined goal in mind and working towards it. It saddens me that this creative and exploring spirit sort of begins to temper down as children go up. And it’s phenomenal – the way they have their notions laid down. For Kailash, ten is the biggest ever number that exists. If he says, ‘Amma give me ten potatoes’ and if I tell him I will give him twenty trying to explain that twenty is bigger than ten, he would cry. For him, becoming big is all about growing tall. I also know that he is craving to become a big boy, a man and an old man. He tells me that often. Human fears cripple my heart when I hear him say that – but the statement teaches me that the fear is the biggest lesson I have to unlearn as a human, and beautifully so. And, the lesson I need to learn from the statement is to accept the realities of our lives. 21
The Whims and Fancies of a Mother
t times I imagine a mirror
Dazzling right in front of me And, oh, what do I see? It’s me, drifting around like a feather! Many times, it all feels like a dream – that I am indeed a mother; it makes me feel not exactly old, but sort of very grown up! During times when I have some moments to reflect, I feel I have really, really come far away from the days of being a carefree girl and an independent woman who managed responsibilities of a much smaller scale. I think the responsibility of bringing up a well-groomed child has been the most challenging role I have faced so far. And maybe, one that has got me very emotionally involved too. As a mother I have many dreams – small and big for Kailash – dreams that have his good health and happiness at the core. I fancy that Kailash will have a certain (attractive, of course!) personality when he grows up. All the same, I also know that I will make sure my dreams are in no way intrusive as far as his goals are concerned. Yet, silently flowing through all that life is now is a dull fear and a constant low-lying worry for the well-being of my boy. I know how vulnerable I become when he is not well. I know how hollow I feel when he is sick and doesn’t sleep anywhere else except on my lap, breathing slowly and deeply. I think every mother goes through it though most of us aren’t very expressive about it. As a woman, I have many dreams – mostly small, for myself. I constantly tell myself that even as a mother, I should keep the girl and woman of my past alive in some way. It’s not about being tied to the past but is about carrying forward a part of me that has shimmered silently like a gentle candle flame, illuminating the path I have walked thus far. It is that something that has given me happiness all along. I have realized this isn’t easy and that it takes lot of sincere effort emotionally and physically to get the balance right. It’s a balance I think every mother strives to achieve. Motherhood does get very involving at times and demands plenty of maturity. The good news is that I am learning to make the best of everything. And I know when devotion, hard work and self-belief have permeated my being, all my dreams will come true, one day!
And the story continues “When you get a little bigger, we will read out favourite passages from the books we read. We will grab sunshine with our hands; we will dance in the rain and waltz together on a moonlit night. We will star gaze on a clear night and go for a quiet jog on a pleasant morning. All the same, my dear, we are humans and we are here to defy the ideal. Let’s admit it. We will have our share of petty fights, and then apologize and embrace each other, only getting closer each time. What’s more, we will exchange a secret sparkle between our eyes when you get your girl home. My boy, I am here to watch you grow and I will stay by your side, through the crests and troughs of your life. Remember, the silent pride will reside within me, no matter how old you are. I will walk down with you as long as my legs can carry on and then I will hold back and watch, as you advance in age and in your life. You have come into my world and given it an altogether new meaning. And what do I have but my love and a promise to give in return? I want to make each day of your life special, in some little way and make you feel that this life is truly worth living and that, is this mother’s promise to you.” Lots of Love, Your dreamy Mum.
Anupama blogs at http://anuforyou.blogspot.com 24