A tribute to one fine man

When you live thousands of miles away from your family, one of the worst nightmares is that dreaded phone call bearing news of a loved one’s passing. Being away for nearly eleven of the twelve months of the year, it’s an inevitability, no matter how desperately you hope to never receive it. We had received that first call a few years ago when Munish’s grandma passed away. This week was the other one.

My sister was the bearer of the news. My heart skipped a beat when I heard her cry on the phone. I immediately knew it was THAT call. In the micro-second before she gave away the news, my mind was racing in different directions thinking about who it was going to be.

Turned out, my 96 year-old granddad was gone! While getting a closure is difficult when you’re so far away, here’s my attempt at processing the sudden death of the man whose life has been truly inspirational.

He was a man of few words whose dignified silence taught us some of the most valuable lessons in life. He led life with sheer grace and discipline – and more importantly, fearlessly and on his own terms. He got married at a young age of 20 but lived nearly 46 years of his life as a widower. That didn’t stop him from living life to the fullest. He loved watching movies, was a big cricket fan, was always up for going out, wore the crispest of shirts, relished a well-done pasta, was an avid reader and enjoyed a mean game of 21-card rummy. He never depended on anyone. Whether it was frequenting the mall to buy clothes for himself or the weekly visit to the dry cleaners, he did it all on his own. Until his early 90’s, he even drove himself everywhere. He hated relying on anyone for his needs – something that often aggravated us because he would often even go to the doctor’s all by himself without letting anyone know that he was unwell.

His life was a lesson in aging gracefully. He was a great observer but never dished out any unsolicited advice or enforced his opinions on how one should live life. The rare times when he did offer his advice, it reflected his progressive and practical thinking. He was never bogged down by conventional ways of doing things and never expected anyone of us to do so either. He believed in being practical and never cared about what others would say. A lot of that came from his fearless attitude towards life. The first half of his life was full of adversities. From losing his wife at a young age to living hand to mouth in terms of finances, he had seen plenty dark days. However, his fearlessness never ghosted him. In spite of a lean bank balance, he would frivolously leave jobs when there was a conflict of principles or ethics. Like I said, he lived life on his own terms. He taught us that bad times, failure and loss were all transient, just as good times. He didn’t let either bother him. He wasn’t overtly religious but had imbibed the core fundamental of Jainism – detachment – in his way of life.

For me, he was a presence in the house that was difficult to miss. We may not have exchanged as many words but his presence was always felt. Whenever I left for the US, he would always make it a point to be around when I left from home to go to my in-law’s before flying out. He was extremely fond of Munish and would always have a fun banter with him – not something he was comfortable doing with everyone. My best memories with him were from when he visited me in LA. He was 90 back then. After a long 24-hour plane journey, I was expecting him to take it easy but instead he was ready to go to the beach to see the sunset. Every night, we played rummy and he would tell us stories from the past. On a whale watching cruise, when I was terribly seasick, he easily stood by the front ledge of the boat and enjoyed the dolphins. He even escorted me out of the boat when the ride was over! During the week that he spent with us, he was always up for exploring new places and never complained about anything. One evening he sat me down and asked me why I decided to make a career in communication and not dance. He always encouraged me to pursue my love for dance and make a career out of it. Only if I had taken his advice!

He stayed true to his personality right till the end – graceful and dignified! A peaceful end, without any suffering or noise. He left us while sleeping at night, just a few days after his 96th birthday.

Here’s celebrating a life well lived. Farewell, dada! Only if I could have seen you one last time and said my goodbyes. Going home to that empty swing where you read your newspaper everyday is going to be really hard.

Parenting During a Pandemic

Parenting toddlers is not easy. Add a pandemic to it and it gets out of control!

It’s been 16 weeks since my three and a half-year old has been home. His innocent little mind jumped with joy when he got to know that his preschool/daycare was shutting for a while and that he was going to be staying home with mama and papa the whole time. However, day three into this new routine, his excitement quickly started waning as he found himself confused and almost angry because what he thought was going to be unlimited playtime with mommy and daddy was turning out to be long chunks of the day feeling ignored, deprioritized and lonely. With no friends to meet and limited outdoor playtime, in his little mind, this vacation was only going downhill.

His little mind wasn’t able to comprehend why the two people he is used to getting undivided attention from at home are now constantly buried in their laptops or are busy talking to other people and are asking him to be quiet a lot. My son used to be in his preschool from 9 to 5 every single day, which meant eight hours of undisturbed work time for me during the day and the evening hours dedicated to him with enough playtime, reading time and plenty attention. I would do the rest of my work either early mornings or after he went to bed.  So, he has never seen me working much when he is around. Also, he is at a tricky age. He is capable of playing alone for a bit but is still very dependent on us for a lot of things. His rapidly developing mind is like a sponge. It is a great time to teach him and expose him to new things.

To say that the past three months have been challenging, would be an understatement. The guilt of not being able to give him the attention he craves, the lack of time to do enough constructive activities together and the excessive screen time has been at an all-time high. On one hand, we’re grateful that our work hasn’t been affected by the pandemic, but on the other hand, the side effects of our crazy work life are being borne by our little guy, for no fault of his.

The work-life juggle is not easy. It’s a constant battle between prioritizing work and keeping kids meaningfully occupied. Since work and home lives have blended, there is no disconnecting from either. While working, I am constantly distracted by thinking about ways to keep my son productively occupied (meaning no screen time), and when I am with him, I am constantly checking my emails and nervously keeping an eye on the time to ensure I don’t miss the next deadline. Add to this, the pressure of staying and eating healthy, grocery shopping, dishes, laundry, cleaning…the list goes on endlessly.

Most parents are grappling to adjust to this new situation. When talking to other exhausted parents, we realize we’re all in the same boat. So, the question is, what is a parent supposed to do during these times? This Washington Post article puts it really well. “The idea that parents have to enrich every second of their kids’ lives was a crazy lie even before the coronavirus. Kids never needed all that parental stimulation and all those teachable moments. You know how Einstein spent much of his time as a kid? He made houses of cards.”

So, for the time being, I’ll take a cue from Einstein’s mama and let my little boy be. Even if it means watching him dress up as a firefighter or an Avenger, all through the day. [Yeah, we always have a fire emergency or a super villain attacking the house every single day and our firefighter (or Spiderman or Captain America or Iron Man) rises to the occasion and comes to the rescue.] It’s okay if he has a meltdown right in the middle of a client meeting or if he decides to make an appearance during a Zoom call. It’s probably okay too if he doesn’t learn writing his alphabet perfectly just yet.

I’ve realized I need to take a break from freaking out all the time. My mental health is as important as everything else I am burdened with at the moment. It’s okay if the house is a hot mess at times or if dinner isn’t exactly perfect. What matters is that we are all trying to do the best that we can, given the current circumstances. Children are resilient little warriors and adapt to any situation way better than we do! So hug your kids a little harder today and thank them for their patience as we scramble to navigate this new normal. Remember, this pandemic has been hard on them too!

Of Celebs and Sanitary Napkins…

padman challenge
Photo courtesy: Filmfare.com

If you’re a social media scroller like me, chances are you saw the who’s who of Bollywood posing with sanitary pads last week. While I am all for cause marketing, I think, the #PadmanChallenge somewhat misses the point. Flashing pads to a completely wrong audience, let alone wasting them, is nothing but a marketing gimmick. It’s not empowering women but only helping the film milk some more bucks.

Agreed, in a country where pads are hidden in newspapers or black bags, this is a big deal. But what’s the call to action here? Are the celebrities posing with pads also donating them? Any educational sessions or free distribution of pads among women who still use a cotton cloth? The call to action here is simply to watch the film. The PR person in me finds this to be such a missed opportunity for creating a real impact. How about sponsoring underprivileged girls with a year’s supply of pads for every 20 posts or how about soliciting donations to set up a fund supporting supply of pads in the remote areas? How about going to those villages and having the men there pose with pads? Now, THAT would mean something, no?

Now that the film is released, who’s posing with pads and keeping the conversation going? Just creating a buzz around the film, unfortunately, isn’t enough! It doesn’t really reach the people who need the awareness and education on menstrual hygiene. The campaign maybe well intended but it surely missed the point.

Having said that, let’s switch gears to talk about the taboo around periods. I totally appreciate that a topic like this is picked up by an actor with a lot of clout and is being talked about via mainstream cinema. I sincerely hope it brings the much-needed awareness around menstruation and breaks the stigma attached with it. Periods don’t make it to dinner table conversations, or any conversations for that matter. Heck, we don’t even call them periods. How many of us are guilty of referring to it as “that time of the month” or some other silly metaphor! Kudos to Arunchalam Murganantham for addressing an issue that makes most men cringe and look the other way. Full respect to him and his is a story that surely needs to be told.

But even today, forget villages, there are well-educated, urban, high income families (some who I personally know) who do not let women so much as eat on the same table or sleep on their beds during periods. It’s beyond my understanding that, in today’s day and age, smart and otherwise forward-thinking women succumb to following such stupid and illogical rules laid out by patriarchs centuries ago. These mindless traditions are still being enforced with no intention of being done away with.

These are such deep rooted mindset issues which, unfortunately, will take more than a social media campaign or a well-intended film to overcome.

Of New Years and New Vibes!

For me, most new years have been about resolutions and then most mid-years have been about regrets on getting derailed. But I am hoping 2018 is going to be about making things happen NOW instead of setting up unrealistic goals. I’ve been meaning to start one since forever but never got around to actually doing it. With a toddler in toe and a really crazy work life, I am not sure how successful this endeavor will be, but hey, everything is worth a go!

My meandering mind takes off on its mini trips every now and then and this blog will be an outlet to give those trips and tales a home! I plan to write about my rookie culinary experiments, random ramblings of my mind and a LOT about my little baby boy (you’ve been warned!).

Do give this blog some love if you find the time to read it! 🙂

Here’s to a great 2018!