Meetings

No one likes meetings held just because. Sometimes, however, even a day-long meeting with like-minded people is the best PD one can have! A day spent planning, aligning, sharing, even just talking Is. The. Best. PD. One comes out of there so full of ideas and wonderings and thoughts. The web often doesn’t make sense even, but I know now, that by taking the time to let it all sink in, it soon does, and I’ll soon be itching to try the ideas out in my own classroom. I cannot wait for it all to sink in!

It’s Only Mid-Week!

 It’s been a hectic week. Oh, and we’re just halfway through it still. But I like what I see now.

My eldest got his first job offer. It’s not a final thing yet, but being the first in the family, it was reason enough to celebrate. He still has three-fourths of his final semester left before he graduates, but it was still reason enough to celebrate. He may not even take it up, but getting even something remotely close to a job offer under the present circumstances gave us reason to celebrate. 

I got my first dose of THE vaccine. I waited all day for the side-effects to kick in, but none did. I did wake up the next morning with a throbbing head and low-grade fever, but it was our weekly screen-free day, and I gave myself an actual screen-free day, and did not bother with pending grades or checking of assignments. The effects passed quickly, and by the evening, I was back to normal.

The other kids in the family started their new school year (They follow a spring-to-spring calendar). The middle one is at an age where he’s independent and hardly needs me for anything, except forwarding WhatsApp messages to him because I insist on being on the teacher’s group and not him. The youngest needed help. Till last school year, her online classes were mostly asynchronous, with synchronous classes only in the evenings, and so I was always able to operate devices for her. But now, her classes start in the mid-mornings. On Day 1, her brother had some Google Device Policy issues and was unable to log into his classes, so he helped her log in and navigate. Day 2 was my screen-free day, and I helped her, rather taught her her independence. I iMessaged her meeting links to her iPad, with the time written separately, so she could clearly see which meeting to join at what time. I also walked her through the process of checking her new schedule between classes and to keep things needed for class ready. We cast her classes on to the big TV screen so she’s not looking into a small screen up close. So now, this very dependent youngest-in-the-family third grader is able to open iMessage, log into her Zoom meetings, keep her own things ready and complete her work all by herself. For someone who’s always had older siblings looking after her and treating her like a little baby, that’s a big step. 

And today was day 3, when everything was finally in place. A few glitches, of course, but then, what’s life without those? All in all, it’s comforting to get back into a routine after a month of holidays for the kids.

On Marriage…

SOLSC21, Day 31

I’ve been following the wedding ceremonies and celebrations on It’s Elementary, and the absolutely drop-dead gorgeous pictures of her special day. I’ve naturally been drawing comparisons with how weddings back home in India are. Now, I’m sure we’re very familiar with the proverbial big fat Indian wedding, and they are pretty much that. (Yeah, Ben and Preeta’s wedding in Tom and Jerry: The Movie might be slightly exaggerated, but it’s not too far removed from the truth)But I’ve not been drawing comparisons between the size or girth or even the ‘wedding’ as such, but rather ruminating on how marriages are ‘fixed’ in India, and on the ‘custom’ of marriages.

We have two kinds of marriages there. There is a clear demarcation. There’s the common ‘arranged marriage’ and the now-not-uncommon ‘love marriage’. The arranged marriage is the most common kind we have there. Our parents and relatives start looking for a suitable match for us when we graduate from college, sometimes even earlier. How do they ‘look’ for a match? They ask around, they eye acquaintances with daughters or sons who might make what they think is a good match. They check family credentials, education, financial status, and I don’t even know what else, and, if satisfied, they approach the parents of this suitable match and propose. The two families meet, the two people up for grabs see each other, meet under family supervision, maybe go out together a couple of times, get married and then fall in love. If you’re wondering what happens if the acquaintances don’t have suitable sons and daughters, well, marriage is a business. There are agencies – professional matchmakers, just like job hunters and job sites. They will take the resume of your son/daughter (yes, an entire CV is prepared for the partner-hunt), and come up with a matching one from their database (and yes, they have a pre-existing database of CVs). They introduce the families, who introduce the two people up for grabs. They meet under family supervision, maybe go out together a couple of times, get married and then fall in love. There are Facebook pages and Whatsapp groups where parents and guardians post profiles of their children/nieces/nephews/friends’ children, and other people looking for partners for their children/nieces/nephews/friends’ children can contact the families on those pages. The two families meet, the two people up for grabs see each other, meet under family supervision, maybe go out together a couple of times, get married and then fall in love. This is NOW. My grandparents’ generation got married without even meeting their spouse-to-be! They’d be shown a photograph, and be asked for the go-ahead. It was absolutely normal for couples to meet in person only on their wedding night. I have an aunt who didn’t even see any photograph of her husband (I don’t know why!) before she married him, and they’ve been happily married for more than three decades now. My parents met once with large families from both sides over dinner.

The other kind of marriage is what we refer as the love marriage. This is the usual kind that is common elsewhere in the world. Maybe a decade or two ago, parents of youngsters going for a ‘love marriage’ would be too embarrassed to admit to their friends and family, and would still say it was an ‘arranged marriage’! And the friends and family, obviously, knew. And would talk about it in hushed tones. While this kind of a marriage is not uncommon now and is not even hidden from the public eye, the earlier arrangement still remains the norm. Families are okay with reversing the order of first-marriage-then-love, but since old habits are known to die hard, we still keep one eye open for a ‘suitable match’ for our children as they enter their early- and mid-twenties. 

So, these are quirks, I suppose, but it is what works for us. For as far back as anyone I know can remember, our society has lived this way with not many hiccups. It is what makes up the fabric of our society. And if something works, then why not?

Penultimate

SOLSC21, Day 30

One day to go. It’s been one great ride. There were days when I couldn’t wait for the household to go to bed so I could write. There were days when I was B-L-A-N-K, but I wrote. I’ve produced writing I’ve liked, and I’ve produced writing I am not proud of at all. I’ve tried forms I didn’t know existed. Through it all, I’ve loved every day of this, even the days when I produced the writing-I’m-not-proud-of-at-all. Still, it’s been one great ride.

I’ve read some AMAZING writing. I’ve got some wonderful insights. I’ve learned the intricacies of some cultures I had only heard of. I’ve read slices that entertained, slices that brought tears to my eyes and a lump to my throat, slices that were a laugh-riot. There were times when I was supposed to be lesson-planning, but would get drawn to this tab on my device, and lose myself in it, reading slice after slice. It’s been one great ride.

I’ve met one great community. No one ever judged, no one ever opined. There was warmth and camaraderie, and a welcoming undertone always. Strange how you can feel a connection with people you’ve never met. I’ve loved the ride.

It wasn’t always easy. For a first-time blogger, first-time slicer, it definitely wasn’t always easy. There was a time crunch. There was a material crunch. Some nights, I stayed up well past midnight just thinking of what to write. The spouse gave some ideas (being the philosophical sorts, his ideas never saw the light of day.). Siblings reviewed my writing the day after I posted. It really has been one great ride.

It’s made me think: What was it that made me keep coming back to write? I think, one, the commitment to write every day. What kept me going, sometimes writing so honestly that I surprised myself that I felt that way? Was it the anonymity the space offered? Or was it just the opportunity to write freely, about a slice of my life, without the fear of evaluation or judgement? I wonder because what holds true for me should hold true for my students, and I would definitely want them to experience something like this, where you’re drawn to write, despite the challenges and the crunch. 

Would I do this again? YES! A big shout out to my colleague for introducing me to this, to the people who graciously kept me going with the comments, to the entire community for the best month in a long, long time!

🎵🎵These are a Few of My Favorite Things 🎵🎵

SOLSC21, Day 28

Today was just one of those days. Mom’s anxiety attacks are back, dad doesn’t know what to do to ease her struggle with it, my siblings and I are all countries and continents away from them and worry about them being stressed over not seeing us for almost two years. It was also a day when we have a yearly ritual of remembering and praying for the dead, so we remembered all our loved ones, especially those we’ve lost this past year to Covid and to other causes. Just one of those days where a lot of reasons get together and  conspire to keep you feeling vaguely low. 

But I also have one more ritual. This one always manages to lift my spirits in the most amazing way. The song “Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens….These are a few of my favorite things” starts with my feet tapping to the lyrical beat. Then, I start to hum along. Soon, I’m singing as I work, even waltzing or doing my own version of a ballet! The gloom is there, but this song never fails to lift the spirits. The words and the imagery, even without the music, are enough to evoke positive emotions. Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens, Brown paper packages tied up with strings…. Just envisioning all of this makes my heart feel full! “Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings….. Silver white winters that melt into springs….” I’m smiling even as I’m typing the words. It’s funny how my mood improves in tandem with the music, as the crescendo rises, so do I feel lighter and lighter!

There are also so many memories associated with the movie. Even though over half a century old, the movie still remains a family favorite. It was one of the few movies we were allowed to watch as kids, and the few that we were allowed to watch, we’d keep repeating them over and over. And so, The Sound of Music came to be our all-time favorite. As kids, we found the later, more sombre half “boring” and never fully understood it either. We would stop the movie when Julie Andrews turned more solemn and the fun stopped. We loved performing parts of the movie and its songs for the elders of the family! Our first puppet shows were also inspired from “The Lonely Goatherd.”

So there, my self-made ritual never fails to evoke cheer. It never fails to drive away some of the negativity I might be feeling. It never fails to lift the spirit.

The Empty Nest

SOLSC21, Day 27

The occasional plane that flies across

Makes me realize how much time I’ve lost.

I hope weI’ll be on a plane soon, too

To see my baby who’s not a baby,

To hold him close and not let go.

No pandemic no lockdowns no restrictions

We’ll come and go like we did before.

He’ll find success, he’ll do his best,

But no other place will ever be home. 

There will be more hugs and more laughter 

For now we realize how much time we’ve lost.

The Love of Jigsaw-Puzzles

SOLSC21, Day 26

My daughter’s latest wish arrived two days ago. It is a five-hundred piece jigsaw puzzle. Since we were painting the house over the weekend, I didn’t let her open it earlier. Today, after much waiting, it was opened. I should’ve filmed her excitement as she opened it, feeling all grown-up. The most she’s done before were 110-piece puzzles. “I’m a big girl now,” she said, “I can handle those 500-piece puzzles.” I was skeptical but gave in and ordered it. She’s seen her brothers struggle with 1000-piece Star Wars puzzles. (We’re a jigsaw-puzzle-loving family). But “I’m smarter than they are,” she thinks. So be it.

As she pored over the tiny, similar-looking pieces, I could see her feeling absolutely befuddled. Even though she claims she’s “smarter than the boys,” her vanity notwithstanding, she asked her brother for help. While I tried to get things back in order after the chaos left behind by the house-painting project, I could see both of them mumbling to themselves and to each other about the pieces. I cleaned up, took a shower, and when I came out, the puzzle was lying on the table, unassembled, and they were nowhere in sight. I went to ask how successful they were. “We did three pieces!” They exclaimed. Three? In an hour-and-a-half? Seriously? I rolled my eyes at them. Kids these days, no patience.

After dinner, I thought I’d give it a try. The pieces were so tiny I needed my reading glasses to look at them properly. They all looked almost the same. They were monotones of either pink, or purple, or white. Some were brown. How on earth was I going to do this? I spent half an hour, and couldn’t place a single piece right. I gave up for today. 

But we’re a jigsaw-puzzle-loving family. And I love a good challenge too. I don’t go to bed without finishing one Hard-level Sudoku. And so, the kitten-and-yarn jigsaw puzzle’s 497 pieces are still scattered, waiting to be assembled. The three corner pieces that the kids managed to assemble in an hour-and-a-half will be my inspiration and guide. We’ll get this done. And then, I’ll be grown-up enough for a 1000-piece puzzle!

Unbroken

SOLSC21, Day 25

I’ve been walking around in a daze today. I’ve had the ground under my feet totally shaken, almost ripped up. I am bitter, but there’s more to it. The emotions go from outrage to bewilderment to guilt to sorrow, and then back to outrage. I know it will all settle down by tomorrow; I’m not one to carry pain or negative emotions around with me for too long, but for today, I feel cheated.

I often brag to my husband about being able to read between the lines in conversations with people, about noticing those shadows that flit across people’s faces for a nanosecond when they don’t like what was just said, and, without a doubt, I did, somewhere within, think she was lying. It’s not that I didn’t suspect at all. For the sake of our friendship, I guess I chose to ignore my instinct. I let myself get used, and in retrospect, I think maybe I didn’t want to lose the friendship. But if it were all a farce, it wasn’t even friendship, so what was there to lose? Did she consider me a friend? Then why would she lie? Was there a lack of trust? I don’t know. No. I don’t know. Yes. I don’t know.

I’m broken for today. But the morning will be fine, when I wake up and realize I haven’t lost anything or anyone. I have gained insights into yet another kind of human being. I’m all the better and all the wiser from the experience of being lied to, of having been just a stepping stone in someone’s path to achieving their unscrupulous dreams.

What is this feeling?

Outrage to bewilderment

Bewilderment to guilt

And guilt to sorrow.

What happens

When you find out

Someone you trusted

Has busted that trust?

What happens

When you realize

You should’ve listened

To your Jiminy-Cricket’s voice?

What happens? 

How do you feel?

Does it seal

Your friendship forever?

What happens 

When there are questions

And only questions

With no answers?

What happens?

When you are torn

Should you tell her

That you know now?

Where do you go?

Who do you turn to?

She was always the one

There was never anyone else.

Will she leave?

Find someone else?

Oh there was always

Someone else.

Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright

SOLSC21, Day 24

I love writing along with my students, and somehow, each time we do narrative writing, I invariably return to the same story from my childhood. Yes, I make a list of possible stories, just like I ask them to make. I narrow down a couple to write long and strong, just like they do. I write 2-3 quick flash-drafts, just like they do. But when I have to pick that one special story, I always, always end up picking the same one year after year, with different grade levels, as personal narratives or memoirs.

It’s the story of how we lost our dog when I was around eleven years old. Tiger was the most adorable Alsatian you have set eyes on, I’m sure – Friendly, cute, handsome, well-behaved. We got him as a pup, and being our first dog, he was the apple of everyone’s eye. He adored all of us too. He loved my dad the most, because my dad really is a very doting dad. I loved Tiger. To me, an introvert, Tiger offered that perfect escape from having to go out and make friends and do playdates and boisterous games. It was a wonderful time.  I don’t want to recount the details of the end, because those details always leave me very disturbed. Suffice it to say that even as a child, I stayed upset for weeks, maybe months. We had other dogs after that, but I never really grew too fond of any of them. I wouldn’t even play with or go near them. To this day, when my daughter begs for a puppy, I always find an excuse. Instead, we have fish and a turtle. 

My story with my students reaches that revision stage where I ask them to think, “What is my story really, really about?” Mine ends with my dad being the support that helped me understand loss. It ends with a long drive to his farm, just the two of us, where we laid Tiger to rest. It ends with me watching him at the wheel of his jeep, wondering how he must feel; he loved Tiger more than I did. Finally, it ends with me realizing that Tiger took a part of us with him, but finding closure and solace in my dad’s assurances and in the comfort he gave me.

Not a Phobia, But What?

SOLSC21, Day 23

I cannot plan. It’s not that I don’t want to, but I’m sure i have some kind of missing link, missing gene, or whatever it is that makes people plan ahead. I don’t mean lessons, I mean life. I. Just. Cannot. Plan. 

Am I too much of a one-day-at-a-time person? Do I believe in destiny? Am I afraid of the choices I will make as I plan? Frankly, I have never given it that much thought to know the answers to these questions, but I cannot plan. I know there’s a term for the irrational fear of planning, but no, mine isn’t that. I just freeze over when friends and family make plans for the next vacation, or for any long-term future. It’s like something takes hold of my inner being when I hear plans being made. I don’t know if there’s something called the planning block, but this is something akin to writer’s block.

And so, over the past few weeks, as my parents plan to visit my sister this fall, and as she suggests I come at the same time too, and as the whole family plans this big reunion over the summer, and as people ask me what my summer plans are, and as my second son enters his Senior year soon, I force myself to introspect. Is there some childhood trauma from too many flopped plans? On the contrary, I grew up in a household that LOVED, and still loves, planning. It’s our favorite pastime. Except that it gives me nightmares now. Do I fear failure? I don’t think so; I am constantly failing and owning up to mistakes, especially with my students and my own kids. Was I always this way? As a teen, I was the one who’d want plans laid out beforehand. I hated having to come home from school and seeing my excited family all set to go on some road trip. “Tell me beforehand!” I’d say.

Then, I think: Despite not planning for anything, life has been good. I have more than I ever bargained for. Three wonderful, healthy children, a large, quirky, extended family, best friend-cum-sisters, a comfortable home, a loving husband, a job that I absolutely adore, good health, and so many comforts that so many people don’t enjoy. I never planned for any of this. And so, maybe I know in the deep recesses of my heart, that there is Someone looking after me, and in whose hands I can give my destiny, someone who cares for and takes care of me – A someone or a something out there that’s beyond my planning and my control, but one that I am eternally grateful to for so much.


So there it is: My reluctance to plan stems from the comfort and the faith and the certainty in knowing that things will be taken care of, I will be taken care of. Even during the darkest times, we’ll all be taken care of.

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