Sunday, November 30, 2014

What's in a name?

It was another one of those beautiful morning conversations....

R: "Why did you name me Raghav?", was the question today, as he sat with a lost look in his eyes, inside his most favourite place in the world - the tub! :)

Me: "I don't just felt right....that was the name I wanted for you if you were a boy."

R: "But why did you choose that name? Why didn't you choose something else?"

Me: "I just felt that it was perfect for you, even before you were born...I just knew it inside."
"And then, after you were born, appa's parents i.e. your patti and thatha wanted to follow the custom of naming their grandson or grand-daughter after the grandfather or grandmother and wanted a naming ceremony. I was thinking about it and realised that Raghav was perfect because it had a part of both your thathas' names! It all worked out so beautifully."

R: Why do they have a naming ceremony?

Me: I don't know. I will have to find out. No one was able to answer when I asked them then.

R: I think choosing a name should be done like voting. Whichever name gets the maximum votes should be chosen.

Me: But I don't think I would have been happy if by voting, another name had come up for you. I really liked the name 'Raghav' and wanted that for you. I would perhaps be the one calling your name the most, and if it was not something that I was happy with, I would have been sad all the time. So I don't think voting is a good idea.

R: Yeah....I also don't think I would have liked any other name. I actually like my name. I think it is perfect for me!

Me: Why? Why do you feel that it is perfect for you?

R: Because I feel I am like that.....the way I act....80% of the time I am happy....only 20% of the time I am I feel that it is perfect for me. It makes me happy. I like my name. It is also not very common no?


A little later, when I was in the balcony sorting out the compost, he came up to me quietly from the back to say this:

"I think you are the perfect amma for me.....even if you don't act like me or like the things I do."

What a beautiful gift to receive to start the day! :)

What's in a name anyway? 
Everything is perfect as it is....just as it should be.


P.S. - After he was born and his grandparents were figuring out his birth star (nakshatram) according to the Tamil calendar, I came to know that he shared the same birth star as Rama, and was born at around noon just like Rama....and the name that I had chosen for him was another name for Rama! 
(I didn't believe in astrology then nor mythology and related with them as figments of imagination and as just another story) 
But speak of coincidences and synchronicity! :)

Conditioning - Understanding how the world works....

Raghav was in the tub after his bath this morning. Sometimes, that's where his inspiration and questing questions come from. And I love being in that space with him.

This morning, we were talking about something to do with his childhood. He wanted to know when he started walking, talking etc. and how. I shared with him how I felt that he didn't even try something until he felt 'ready' to do it - that was how it was with walking and talking and many things. I told him how he didn't crawl at all, nor hold on to things and walk so much. He just got up and started taking his first steps, and didn't even fall so much. A similar thing happened with talking. He would gurgle a lot as a baby, and babble a little, but there was not much of using unintelligible words with him. He spoke his first word when he had just turned one and it was very clear. The words he used after were also very precise and clear.

"So I didn't know how to talk when I was born right? Then how did you know what I needed?", he asked.

"Well, you couldn't talk then," I added.

"So then, you tested and found out what I was trying to say through my crying right? probably tried different things and found out which ones made me happy or comfortable?", he went on.

I was quite amazed at his logic and inference. So I asked him how he knew or guessed that and if he had read about it somewhere. This is what he shared:

"No. I just know. Because I have experienced that so many times in my life. Like some time back, I remember how I used to get so irritated and not know why or what was causing that irritation, and we talked about it, and you told me that we could think of some things which could be causing it. So we made a list - like needing to go to the bathroom, hunger, tiredness or sleep, or something else. And then I thought about and tried out each one every time I was irritated."

"Yeah....but how did that help?" I prodded on.

"Because by doing that I got to know what was it that was causing that irritation and what was not. It was by testing that I found out....some things made me feel happy and comfortable and some things didn't, and so I found out. ....and so I think that you also must have done the same thing when I was a baby and cried for everything..," he said.

I stood amazed at how these connections and learning happen effortlessly - how we learn about how we learn. :)

Tidbits from today....

We were at my dad's place for lunch as he was having a friend from UK over. We were as usual late :)....we have huge issues with keeping to time as a family! They had already started eating and as we entered, my dad's friend got up to shake hands with Raghav.

"Hello mate! Hello young man!", he said, stretching out his hand.

Raghav looked surprised, but smiled and shook hands, before disappearing upstairs. Later, he tells his dad that he was surprised because 'mate' is usually used by Australians and not by the English, and that he was wondering how my dad's friend had used an Australian word when he was from England! :)

When we shared this with my dad's friend, he smiled and shared how the Australians may have learned it from the English, because he's been using the word 'mate' from when he was quite little :)

My learning: 

It is funny how we get stuck up with 'concepts' in our head and how Life wakes us up constantly, encouraging us to break away from fixed 'concepts' of things and people...we need jolts like that every now and then to shake up our beliefs....and that is what living and learning is all about.


We were driving back home....

 I guess Raghav saw a bike in front of our car, weaving in and out through the traffic at a manic speed and exclaimed:

"Oh wow! That man on the bike is playing Lane-splitter in real life!"

(for those of you who don't know, Lane-splitter is a bike racing game) :)


Practice does not have to make perfect.
That has been my learning with Raghav.

He has never been one to keep practicing stuff over and over again until he thinks it is perfect enough for him. He has been one who attempts things only when he 'feels' that he is ready for it.
That has been the way with him whether it has been starting to walk, cycle, cook or pretty much anything.

Tonight we were making lasagne for dinner and he was helping with all the cutting. I was quite amazed to see how he cut everything almost perfectly to size!

Friday, November 21, 2014


I don't remember being disciplined by anyone while I was a kid and growing up. And with a husband and parents who gave me the space to be myself, I guess there was no real need for discipline. It came from within when it did. And when it didn't, well, I just fell and hurt myself and learned the hard way.

Discipline for me is about self-control and inner balance....knowing one's boundaries and limitations. And that comes with the freedom to explore. How many spaces do we have where we can explore that fearlessly? Where we can stop shushing ourselves or others for just being ourselves or themselves? Where we can truly honour people for whatever they are feeling or doing in the moment, and see them for who they are? I know that I don't do that all the time. I am not so large-hearted. But I am happy that I have been able to do that for my son and my husband, to a large extent, in the small thousand odd square feet of space that 'belongs' to us on this planet, and the limitless space in my heart, that I am of course unable to fathom and see for myself many a time. Maybe that is why we say: "Home is where the heart is".

As with all my other stories, that grew and evolved from deep darkness, this story of discipline too grew from that space. With my son. We had many challenges with him (which I hope to write about some day) more so because we were ill-equipped to deal with them. And so like most people in the crowd, we too resorted to 'train' him to put on his best behaviour, change and modify his behaviour when we felt it was 'bad', tried to explain how another person would feel if he did something that was disturbing to them, and so many more strategies. What we didn't realise was this - that the moment and conditions were not appropriate for these to work (what we call readiness) and that as a person, he was one who just could not and would not 'listen' to another. Everything had to come from him....from his own experience. Today I understand that better. Today I know that he is there to challenge and change the way people breathe....he is there to shake up the foundations of what we have built or created and believe as 'norms', and create something new himself. He is not there to do what others tell him to do, if it does not make sense to him. So yes, he is there to figure out his own boundaries through exploration and challenging what exists. And I am happy that my husband and I have been able to give him that space.

And yes, while our upbringing often plays an important part in the way we bring up our children, I am also seeing how there are other hands, other factors, other voices that play a role in that, often to the detriment of our children's freedom to learn and choose. But I am also able to see now, how that is also crucial to our evolution and interaction. Each ingredient adds to the flavour and aroma of what is being cooked.

A few weeks ago, Raghav had this long conversation with us about how he wanted to go back to eating 'corn puffs', which in my mind is a sticky, orange, addictive junk food. (You can read about that conversation here) And yet, because he had made out this whole plan on his own that he wanted to try out, we went with his choice and bought him a packet some days ago. He wanted only one packet, which he was going to keep for a whole week. This was what he wanted to do:
  • he wanted to buy only one packet and check for himself how long that would last ( whether it would last a whole week or less)
  • he wanted to eat only one cup (small one that he chose) every day - which he said was going to be the hardest for him to control, because when he ate some, he always had this urge of wanting to eat more :)
  • if he finished the packet earlier, he wanted to wait for the week to go by before he bought another one
  • he would brush his teeth every time, after he ate this and take care of his teeth.
He has about three more days to go for the week to finish and reflect on the challenge he posed himself. And he has done great up until now! He has kept to the boundaries that he has drawn up for himself (I don't think I have the kind of self-discipline that he has, even at this age). And I also don't care if he fails to meet his own challenge. I know that there will be something for all of us to learn either way. And that is what is most important.

My wish is for children and adults to have the space to explore what discipline means to them individually. My wish is for more of us to start creating those spaces in our little homes, or where we truly feel that we belong and can be ourselves. 

Discipline needs devotion and commitment. Can we be devoted and committed to our own selves and our boundaries?


"Discipline yourself, and others won't have to."

Friday, November 14, 2014


Yes, that's what we do for most parts of the day.
That's how we connect.
That's how we learn.
That's how we have fun.
Here are some from today....


A Measure of Love

Of late, Raghav has been coming up to me and hugging and kissing me a lot, just out of the blue....when he is walking past, or when he comes close to me to share something with me, or when he suddenly remembers me and feels like doing that. It has been such a pleasure to be at the receiving end....every time my heart just fills up to the brim and overflows.....I am discovering this new way of being with him in the moment fully....and a sense of if something between us has given (in a positive way)....and basking in this very 'different' kind of joy :)

So this afternoon, while I was sitting and reading something, he came up to me and hugged me, gave me two pecks on either cheek, which I returned, and said this: "Amma, do you know how much I love you and appa?"

I smiled and he added, looking into the sky for a moment: "I love you more than a million iPads!"
What a wonderful way of measuring love! :)


See things for what they are!

I was talking to a friend on the phone while Raghav was first making his salad and then eating it. Just as he finished eating, he realised that I was still on the phone, and came up to me and said :" Amma, you are still on the phone! You have been talking for like two hours! When are you going to hang up?"

(I am not feeling guilty, but want to say that Raghav's estimate of time can be quite off the mark :) )

I laughed and shared that with my friend and we decided to hang up.

As soon as I hung up , Raghav turns around and tells me this:
"I didn't want or ask you to hang up. I only said that you were on the phone two hours! I am going to build with Lego can talk if you like!"

:) I learned my lesson. It was loud and clear.

See and hear things only for what they are, not for what you think they are. :)


This morning Raghav was sharing some things that he had heard and seen on BrainPop, on periods, the reproductive system and so on. He was asking me how I felt during my periods - whether I feel pain, whether it hurt like when we get a wound that bleeds, how much I knew about it and so on. 

After listening to my sharing, he wanted me to watch that video with him. And then we got talking about other why the female reproductive organ is different from the male one, why the testes 'hang' down and outside the body, whether we can find out the sex of the foetus before it was born etc. So I told him how determining the sex of the foetus was banned here and why. We talked about female infanticide, marriage, dowry and stereotypes - how in many places young girls are not allowed to complete their education when they reach puberty, not allowed to work and earn their livelihood and forced to fit into the roles defined by others in the family - like staying at home, taking care of children and so on.

"But why would they kill baby girls now when they have so many years to go to go to school, earn money, get married and all that? How do they know what is going to happen after so many years now? Why do they feel that that is how it is going to be? Maybe all that will change no?", he asked.

I smiled. I had no answer to give or words to share with him. 

Yes, there is really nothing more simple to do than to stay with and in the moment, and yet that is often the hardest thing to do! Phew!

Friday, November 7, 2014

A Nano Lesson on Trust

Raghav had just finished eating his breakfast of dosas with the spicy 'idli powder' that he so loves. I  was in the kitchen, when I heard a call -
"Amma, come need to guide me to the bathroom!"

I popped out of the kitchen to see what had happened, and saw him squinting, closing both eyes and his hands outstretched.
"What happened? Did you put your hands in your eyes?", I asked.
"Yes...I forgot that I hadn't washed my hands," he whimpered. " have to take my hands and guide me to the bathroom so I can wash my eyes."

I smiled, took his hand, led him to the bathroom, and helped him wash his eyes out.

While he was wiping them after, we spoke a little more about how he felt.

"So how was it to be 'blind' for a little while?", I asked.
"I was scared I would bump into things....I had to feel around with one hand.....and I also had to trust you.....that you would take care," he said as he ran off to continue watching his DVD....

And I drifted off into thoughts down memory lane....when we carefully thought out ideas for helping people experience how it felt to be is such an important part of any interaction.....and I reminisced fondly about walking along everywhere with my friend who was blind ....hand-in-hand.... the ease with which we moved, almost like one body.....there was hardly any need for words to was a whole body experience....a dance.....where I would lead sometimes with a squeeze, a brush or a gentle, flowing movement of my hand, and she would lead at other times with a faint pull or a pause or a different manner of was a beautiful way to be....

Trust is the silence between notes that threads them into a song.
Trust is the space between steps that weaves them into a dance.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

I Hate Advertisements!

Some days ago, while we were in the car, Raghav shared his displeasure about the ads that appear before the videos that he watches on Youtube.

"I hate those advertisements! Why do they even have those ads for videos?", he bellowed angrily.
And we talked about how they probably made money with those ads, because of which he was able to watch all his videos.

"But why do we need ads? Why can't people just go to the shop and buy what they want or feel like buying?", he added.

"Because then the buying or not depends on whether someone goes to the shop or not....and they perhaps want to make more money, they want more and more people to buy their products....that is why they put out put out a message about that tempt people to go looking for it and buy it," I said.

"Yes....I trick you," he continued. "Like I have seen that Johnson's shampoo and soap ad on Youtube, where they say that if you use it, your skin will be softer.....I have been using that shampoo for so long, but I don't feel that way.....that my skin is softer or anything...which means what they are saying is not completely right no?," he added. "That is why I never trust ads, even if they are interesting."

"Which one did you find interesting?"....I was curious to know.

"The Dove soap ad? That looks really interesting, but I would never go and buy a Dove soap....because I don't think what they say is true! I will never buy anything for which they show ads," he said. I smiled.

He wanted to know more about how they made money with ads, what are the various things which people advertise for and so on, and so we talked about ads for houses, cars, travelling, food and so on. I also shared with him how sometimes some stores advertise a sale that says -'buy two and get one free' and we spoke about how they perhaps adjust the price so that they don't lose much, or make a profit, and how people like us actually get fooled by that, as we think that we are getting something free, when we are actually not, and have paid for it in some ways. We also chatted about how sometimes they have ads for sales when they want to get rid of old stock - things not sold.

Here's how he reflected what he had understood. :)
"So that means, if there is a sale in a toyshop and they say that if you buy one car, you get one car free....and they say that you have to pay 200Rs., then actually the price of each car is 100Rs., but they sell it for 200Rs.?"
"Yes, so you are sometimes actually paying for two cars, thinking that you are paying for one only!," I added.
"Yes.....they are cheating us then," he exclaimed.

We then went on to talk about how we need to be more aware when we think of buying things, how the ads can play on our minds and what we need to think about before buying something.

Of Battles, Corn Puffs and Self-Discipline

Raghav loves eating corn puffs....the bright orange, sticky, spicy stuff that comes in packets, which we get fresh only in one store. That is probably the only 'junk' food he loves - no aerated drinks, juices and chips in packets. Not for him. But some months ago, he had two root canals done and stopped eating chocolates and this on his own. If someone brought him chocolates, he would politely refuse to take them, saying that he didn't eat them anymore. We thought that was the end of his explorations with these foods. But knowing how he likes to form his own boundaries, we should have known better! :)

Suddenly, a few days ago, he expressed a desire to eat corn puffs again. I guess he was reminded of it when we passed that store. Both Srinath and I said that we would like to talk about it a little more before deciding on anything, but we all forgot. A little while ago, Raghav remembered again and wanted to have a discussion. This is how it went.....

R: I really want to have corn puffs again.

Me: Why do you want it again now?

R: Because I love the feeling in my mouth when I eat it, and the taste. It kind of just melts in my mouth, and it is so easy to eat....I don't have to chew at all....

Me: Ok. So you like it because it is so easy to eat and it melts in your mouth? How about 'pori' (puffed rice)? You love that too don't you? That also melts in the mouth and is easy to eat no?

R: Yes, but corn puffs is different. It has holes in it, through which the saliva goes in and soaks it up. Pori takes longer to melt and is not so tasty. I like the taste and the feeling of the corn puffs in my mouth.

Me: Yeah...I understand.....but I am worried about your eating corn puffs, because you don't or forget to gargle your mouth after eating anything, and don't like to be reminded too....and I am worried that you might get your tooth problems you remember what the dentist told you about cleaning your teeth after every meal, especially after eating sticky food?

R: Yes. But I will gargle and clean my teeth. I will make it a routine. Let's do one is my plan....we buy one packet of corn puffs for the whole week. I will eat only half a cup each day and only one time. Let's see how long that one packet lasts. And I will clean my teeth after each time.

S: But there is one more thing I am worried about. How do you know what there is in that corn puff? Does it list the ingredients? What if it has some chemicals or stuff that is not good for your body. We don't know what they put in it.

R: It must be made of corn flour. It does have ingredients listed on it. I like the taste and feeling.

Me: So you would rather have it because you like that taste and feeling, than think about what it might have, even if that  might not be good for your body?

S: Then why do you insist that we buy organic vegetables? We can eat anything no?

R (telling us the story with his hands): See...let me tell's like this...suppose there is a battle of two team, which is the 'taste and feeling of corn puffs team' has 100 soldiers, and the other which is the 'organic' team has 90 soldiers....the 'taste and feeling' team wins because it is stronger.

We laughed and is great fun having these conversations! :)

Me: But isn't that unfair? One team is already stronger than the other. It will always win!

S: So going with the taste and feeling is stronger than whether it is organic or not or full of chemicals or not?

R: Yes. So if it is a battle between two teams - the 'organic' team which has 100 soldiers and the 'taste' team which has 90 soldiers, then the 'organic' team will win, because it is more important for me to eat organic vegetables than just eat anything else for taste.

The choice was made, the decision sealed! And I guess learning to discipline one's self, has to come from within, not without... and yes, it comes at a cost....a cost which one cannot measure if one measures it with the usual yardsticks.