Thursday, May 28, 2009

Men are from Mars

It is written in to our genes, I am sure of it. Worrying from dawn to dusk about our children must be an obsessive compulsive behavior that is pre-determined in mothers by genetic factors. How else can I explain biting my cuticles off when my child got on the bike without training wheels for the first time and wobbled her way around the cul-de-sac while my husband stood on the curb cheering for her?

I cannot speak for others but worrying is almost a hobby for me. Some folks knit, read, putter around the garden, write blogs or cook for fun. I worry. If the President ever gives me an executive order to stop worrying for one day, I would be completely lost. What, in all that is holy, am I supposed to do with myself if I can’t worry?

I worry if my kid will miss the school bus when she wakes up 5 minutes later than usual; I worry if she brushes her teeth for 2 minutes like the dentist says; I worry if she gets enough protein when she chooses to not have eggs for breakfast; I worry if she will lose weight when she refuses cookies and sits down with a glass of juice after school; I worry if she will gain weight when she indulges in a candy still left over from last year’s Halloween; I worry if she has trouble making friends when she opts to stay by my side at a party; I worry if she has studied enough for the test next day when she goes to bed at 9.00 pm; I worry if she will get dark circles under her eyes when she stays up to finish a project one night. It is simply exhausting to worry so much.

My husband, on the other hand, is a fatalist and believes that the French “Que sera sera” is the right motto for child rearing. “The child will do what she is supposed to do and what she does do will shape who she will become” and “Let the children make their own mistakes and learn from them” are his favorite responses to my heart-wrenching laments of worry. “Stop worrying” he says as if it is a valve I can shut off at any time. Have you ever heard of anything more illogical? No wonder they say “Men are from Mars.”

Sunday, May 24, 2009

My mind quits on me

More often than not, my mind feels like a cleanly wiped counter top; a true blank page if there ever is one. I am afraid the day is not very far when one of my children (I do have some, don’t I???) is going to initiate a conversation that is going to go like this:

"Mom, did you see my homework?"

“What homework?”

“The Science homework. I showed it to you in the car on the way to my swimming lesson yesterday.”

“Who is taking swimming lessons?”

“Both of us. Remember, you and Dad take turns driving us there every week?”

“Dad who?”

“Your husband” snaps my daughter.

“Oh really...When did that happen?”

“When you said ‘I do’ 15 years ago. Now coming back to the point, do you know where my homework is?” She sighs with impatience.

“What homework?”

The way my mind quits on me makes me wonder if I have an early onset of Alzheimer disease. If it is, I think it is a big rip-off considering I am only in my thirties. Don’t ask me if it is early or late 30s, my mind is a little foggy on that detail. What annoys me most about the way my mind kicks back and goes to sleep is:

1. It happens a lot and

2. It happens at the most awkward times.

Take, for example, the other day when we were mingling at a social gathering. There I was, walking around with a glass of punch and a goofy grin on my face. No one would have guessed the turmoil I was in. The names of half the people at the place escaped me. And all of them seemed to remember mine. That is not all. Folks were embracing me with such familiarity that you would think that we meet every other day for a game of cards. Or do we? Oh well, I know better than to ponder on that one.

If the DMV ever found out the logic (or the lack thereof) behind my driving technique, my license is sure to be revoked. Anytime I get behind the wheels, I need a quarter. No, there is no toll road in my neighborhood and I do not use a coin laundry. Every time I leave home and turn the corner to arrive at the ‘STOP’ sign, my mind quits on me. Do I turn left or right? What is the destination? If my kids are in the car with me, they shout out the destination but if I am driving solo, I use the coin. Before the advent of the coin usage, I used to sit there at the ‘STOP’ sign with my brow creased in intense concentration in an effort to determine which way I should go before folding under the pressure of honking cars from behind and turn to drive around on auto pilot mode. These days, I flip the coin. Heads, I go right and Tails, I go left.

Quarter – I don’t leave home without it.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

I was out the day they taught 'Organization' at School

My kid asked me the other day “Mom, Sara’s mom says that being organized is a trait that passes through generations genetically. Are you organized?” Fortunately, I didn’t have to think long on that question. Quoting Grandma and myself as exemplary examples, I assured her that these things are known to miss a couple of generations.

If you are one of those people that get their jollies by making lists and checking them off going through life packing for a trip down to the neighbor’s house or shopping for spring plants, school supplies, groceries, underwear and all else under the sky, do me a favor, will you?. Can you clear your calendar for an hour sometime this week and give me some pointers? Actually, if I were a computer program, you will have to rewrite the code from scratch.

Organized people are a puzzle that I have yet to solve.

Have you ever noticed how they all have a notepad and a pencil on the refrigerator within easy reach in case the mood to make lists strikes them? “Honey, we are running low on breakfast items. Can you start a list for Wal-Mart?” or “It is time for our annual camping trip. You know what that means? Let’s start making lists for camping supplies, emergency phone numbers, all Chevron gas stations with clean restrooms on our way and a separate one for travel games that we will need.” In my house, we run to the store when we dump the cereal box over a bowl of milk and can’t shake loose any crumbs.

Another trait found common amongst all ‘Organized’ folks is their ability to pull vital information like birthdays and anniversaries right out of their mental rolodex in a moment’s notice. These are the same people that can take one look at a person that they had met as a child and remember the day she lost her first tooth and enquire on a neighbor of hers who was 7 months pregnant at that time. I once forgot my husband’s birthday and still haven’t heard the end of it.

You might think “Oh, this Meena, she always exaggerates. She is not that disorganized. Take her family room. It is always tidy enough to seat a dozen people.” I will let you in on a secret. When our realtor wanted our requirements to shortlist properties to show us, I was emphatic about having a bedroom in the first floor. I let everyone assume that this room is for the visiting parents or in-laws but the truth is when company knocks on the front door, I need a place to dump the many clothes, socks, toys, remote controls, books and crayons lying around the place.

I was very surprised the other day to open the refrigerator only to find empty shelves staring at me. Now why didn’t I notice that before? Hmmm…… I decided to give the list making idea a shot and reached for the notepad on the fridge. Oops…..just remembered that there has not been a notepad on that refrigerator ever since the day we moved into the house. Oh well, you can’t blame me. At least I tried.

Monday, May 18, 2009

An extraordinary creation of God

Let me tell you a little bit about an extraordinary creation of God that lives with us. Her name is Angel and if you haven’t guessed already (you are more tired than you think so go to bed and read this later:-)), she is our dog. If you are sitting there thinking ‘Uh, oh…Poor Meena’s well has started to dry up already. Under 2 weeks of blogging, she is looking at the rear end of a dog for ideas for an article’, perish that thought.

Angel is no ordinary dog. She possesses amazing qualities that are so often missing in human beings like compassion, loyalty, patience and wisdom. Yet she manages to stay a sweet, eager and innocent child.

Those who have never had the pleasure of adopting a dog in their lives might claim that all dogs are more or less the same. Believe me when I say that nothing is farther from the truth.

Angel has a most riveting personality and those who have spent some time with her would completely agree with me.

She has unique psychic powers that control our motor skills. When we are munching on something she really really wants, it simply falls numbly from our fingers to her waiting jaws.

She needs as much attention as any child and shows all signs of sibling jealousy if we play with our kids and leave her out.

She has a basket full of toys and insists on greeting all visitors to the house with her latest toy in her mouth and, not to say, her tail wagging furiously.

She has excellent taste and even better standards. She sleeps on nothing but leather sofas and chairs during summer months (the 2 dog beds we bought are totally beneath her, we have realized) and wouldn’t get on the leather furniture during the cold, winter months if you paid her unless we put a soft, comfy blanket on it.

She prefers to eat her 2 meals of the day at the exact same time every day but would graciously tolerate us feeding her pieces of bread, biscuits, bananas, cantaloupes, mangoes, carrots and more anytime in between.

She is afraid of a small vacuum cleaner but wouldn’t think twice about getting in front of us to take on an intruder 10 times her size.

She defends our backyard ferociously with all she has got from the many bunnies and squirrels that have the temerity to encroach on our land.

Despite our many failed attempts to make her understand that she is not a guard dog, she insists on barking away any mailmen, lawnmowers (or is it lawnmowerer ??), Utility company representatives, and painters that are unfortunate enough to have business in our neighborhood. She simply refuses to accept that we own only one house in the street and the neighbors are within their legal limits to come and go as they wish.

At the risk of sounding cliched, living with a dog is not always a bed of rose petals. Angel prevents us from taking long vacations. She doesn’t move a muscle to help around with the chores in the house and instead we wait hand and foot on her. She sheds a lot and snores quite loudly even as I write this post. I wouldn’t trade her for all the gold in the world.

Angel, it is a privilege to live with you.

-Meena Sankaran

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Torture or Parenting?

Since the Obama administration took a public stand against the ‘brutal’ torture techniques secretly authorized by the former Bush administration officials to interrogate terrorists, my husband has been threatening to write to President Barack Obama about what he (and the kids agree wholeheartedly) deems as my torture of our kids.

If reminding your children that not brushing their teeth after eating their favorite dessert would result in gingivitis and more importantly, mom spending a fortune to fill a dozen cavities is considered torture, so be it. I admit that I could have waited until they actually finished eating the dessert to remind about this.

If pointing out that taking a brush to the hair is not a punishable offense in this country and that without constant combing, birds and squirrels would consider the tangled hair a wonderful place to build a nest is considered torture, so be it. I still don’t understand what was so wrong about saying it in front of company.

If driving your children week after week to Kumon Math Center to help them become the future Einsteins of the world is considered torture, so be it. I don’t consider offering to fetch extra Kumon sheets for the week anytime they have the audacity to stand up to me a threat. Do you?

If insisting that they clean up their rooms enough for me to see the floor before I take them out to a movie is considered torture, so be it. The fact that taking them out to a movie was promised as a reward for a past good behavior has got nothing to do with it.

If wanting to do a criminal background check on all members of a family before sending my kids to a new friend’s house for a play date or a sleepover is considered torture, so be it. Believe me, it is no walk in the park for me to grill their friends for information on the number of members in their household , their ages, their social security #s(how else am I going to run a background check?), their general whereabouts during the day, pets in the house etc., etc., etc.

If taking the responsibility to enlighten my kids on the value of money by giving them regular talks about how I had to walk 3 miles every day to take a bus to college and save up my allowance for six months to buy a new pair of sandals is considered torture, so be it. Contrary to their beliefs, I don’t intentionally choose the times they are relaxing to give these talks.

Go ahead and bring in the troops to take me away now, for I am guilty as sin.

-Meena Sankaran

Friday, May 15, 2009

My 15 minutes under the spotlight

You might not believe it looking at me. I am an adventurous sort.

As a child, I dreamt about flying a plane, skiing down snow-covered mountain slopes, running for the gold medal in the Olympic track event and doing all the glorious things that people on TV did. Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson were second only to action star Rajinikanth on my tall Pedestal. I promised myself if I ever got out of the clutches of my concerned, over-protective parents (that was the old stinking me, mom and dad), I would go and have myself a life of adventure.

The most adventure I allow myself to have these days is carting 20 bags of groceries in to the house in under 3 trips from the car. Playing referee to my kids, forcing them to their corners before any blood is spilled gives me all the adrenaline-pumping action I can handle.

Still, every now and then, I would think back on the dreams that I once had. Smart that I am, I have stumbled on to a secret; the perfect way to enjoy edge-of-the-seat, nail-biting, sweat-pouring adventures without getting rushed to the ER. Meet, my friends, the most fervent collector of Cop dramas on TV, the proud owner of all seasons of NYPD Blue available out in the market.

When an urge for adventure strikes, I put my feet up and enjoy an hour of action-packed episode.

An anonymous tip to the Precinct about a 30 year old homicide gets the cops in to swift action. Vigorous canvassing of the neighborhood leads to the arrest of a reputable businessman with strong ties to the community. Will the Judge remand him to the custody of the State without bail? How is the Prosecutor going to prove a 3 decade old crime without solid physical evidence? Will the defense attorney crucify the state’s only eye-witness who is plagued by schizophrenic tendencies?

Whew….if I can’t get my heart rate to slow down, will someone please dial 911?

AND, (imaginary fanfare) here is the highlight of this post. Hold on to your seats, folks.

I knew all those hours of watching Andy Sipowitz and Bobby Simone kick ass, pardon my expression, won’t be for nothing. On a seemingly ordinary day, when I was on a routine errand to the grocery store, fate finally decided to indulge my wish. Parking the car, my sharply honed cop-like instinct sensed trouble. Sliding back slowly in my seat to avoid being detected, I noticed a tall, big guy hassling a man half his size. Sensing the opportunity, I decided to see the ‘crime scene’ through the eyes of a ‘witness’ in case the prosecutor summons me to take the stand ever. I noticed that he was wearing a light blue jeans frayed at the edges and a blue polo shirt with white stripes. I noticed that his eyes were edgy and glazed over leading me to suspect that maybe he was under the influence. I mentally filed this information away to be presented to the cops later. The alleged ‘victim’ managed to escape into the store and was followed closely by the ‘suspect’. I got out of the car, grabbed myself a shopping cart and under the pretext of shopping, followed those two at a safe distance. I slowly pulled out my cell phone and had it ready in case the situation demanded that I call for help. I pushed a little closer to the ‘suspect’ just to see him put his hand in his pocket. To reach for a gun? I could hear my heart beat loud and clear in that noisy store. I watched the ‘victim’ call for help from his cell phone and heard the faint sirens of cop cars approaching in the distance. To my total dismay, the ‘suspect’ slipped out of the store just in time to escape the attention of the cops who rolled in.

Watching the cops take the ‘victim’ outside the store to question, I hurriedly finished my shopping and stepped out. Squaring my shoulders, I prepared to wait for the cops to start canvassing those at the store for details. Boy, are they going to be surprised by all the details I noticed about the scene! This is one case where the ‘suspect’ will be handed over in a silver platter to them. May be, they will even invite me to be a guest speaker at the next ‘How to be an ideal witness’ convention, who knows? Shaking out of my pleasant dreams, I saw, in confusion, the cops wrapping up their conversation with the ‘victim’, get back in their cars and roll out. What? What happened? What about ‘blue jeans with frayed edges’ details? What about testifying on the stands? What about staring down and terrifying the defense attorney?

Oh well, I guess that wraps up my 15 minutes under the spotlight. Remembering that I had yet to start dinner and attend to a pile of laundry waiting to be washed, I loaded up my van with the groceries and pulled out myself.

-Meena Sankaran

Thursday, May 14, 2009

My world is ‘large’ to me

A friend asked me recently, while waiting in line at the grocery store, about my take on the leading political story on the News that day. The store clerk, bless her timing, beckoned me to a new line precisely at that time and saved me a lot of embarrassment. I mumbled something incoherent to my friend like ‘Catch you in Mars’ and fled the place.

If you were my neighbor and your dog ate your newspaper today and you wanted a quick update on the top current events around the world, I would advise you to not pull up a chair at my home. It will take me all of 10 seconds to update you.

Not that all is well with the world and there is nothing newsworthy to report. I am sure our world has its share of heated political debates, elections, nosy neighboring countries, civil upheavals, dashing winners of nail-biting reality shows, sports events, so on and so forth. It is just that I don’t follow them. I do not subscribe to a newspaper, do not have cable to watch TV (by choice, my friends, so put the brakes on your Samaritan instinct to mail me a donation check) and can think of several interesting things to do on the internet besides checking on the News.

My apathy for the world around me is a constant puzzlement for my husband. You can’t really blame the guy because CNN is the default page on all of his browsers. He likes to know things as they happen. He is nosy that way. My routine of tending my kids, my dog, my family, my friends, my hobbies and my work with a total lack of interest for the ‘larger’ world around me baffles him.

The concept of a ‘larger’ world is highly subjective if you ask me. Packing lunch bags and getting my kids out the door before an ungodly 8.00 am with promises to go shopping that evening for the 2 new pocket folders for the Math class, 6 glue pens and a white shirt for the band recital next day is my world. Buying a soft fleece blanket to cover the leather chair so that my dog can curl up and sleep without feeling cold is my world. Playing hangman with my little one and letting her win just to see the proud smile on her face is my world. Taking my daughter to the Orthodontist to pay a fortune so she can smile pretty at the world is my world. Finding the time somewhere in between to indulge my hobbies to sing and write and talk to my friends is my world. And I haven’t mentioned the few hours in a week that I actually work for gain yet.

Now, you tell me, what would I need the 'larger' world of football games, United Nations conventions and American Idols for?

-Meena Sankaran

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Isn't it illegal?

I have always admired and, if I am honest, envied the impeccably dressed folks walking out with their kids to wait for the School bus at 7.00am. These are the mothers and fathers who look like they have just come out of a UN Council Meeting. The mothers are fully suited up sporting 3 inch high stiletto heels, smiling out of a face that could be the next one modeling the latest line of cosmetics for Estee Lauder. The fathers, as I observe through my front window dressed in a pair of pajamas that are not fit to be seen taking the garbage out, are clean-shaven, freshly showered with water droplets still glistening on the hair neatly brushed back and have on the latest career suits from Gucci or Ralph Lauren.

It is indecent for anyone to look that good at 7.00 am. If it is not already illegal, I say we petition the local Congressman to write new laws. No one can blame me or my family for the same offense. We are the folks that give new meaning to the word ‘disheveled’. You can’t catch us wearing anything but mismatched clothes, socks and shoes at any time of the day. No sirree Bob. It would take nothing short of a miracle to get us to dress up like our neighbors at the bus stop even to attend an event where the President would be presenting us with an award for the ‘Sloppiest dressed couple in the States’ at a ceremony held at the White House lawn televised by all the leading TV networks.

I have tried to get my kids to watch others and learn the secret to putting together an ensemble that doesn’t scream ‘I am sick and I gotta stay in bed’, but they are bent on upholding the family tradition. My daughter is in middle school and owns one blue pair of sandals. Be it a wedding, piano recital or a graduation party, she wears these sandals with the pride and affection of a mother watching her child perform solo at a school play. My offer to buy her another pair was taken as an insult. To my sensitive efforts of picking the right time to gently suggest that it may be time to let go of the old, battered sandals and give them a decent burial, she gave me a look that was dirtier than her worn-out sandals. Recognizing the futility of getting her to wear dress shoes when we go out to a party, I have come up with another solution. I just tell the hosts that our dog ate her shoes.

-Meena Sankaran

Monday, May 11, 2009

Eat white rice at your own risk

If Weight Loss were a war I am waging, White Rice would be the deadliest weapon of choice to bring me down.

You should know a few basic things about me to appreciate my frustration. I don’t lose any sleep over rich sinfully delicious chocolates. I despise Juicy, frosted cakes. I am not a compulsive snacker either. I am a vegetarian, eat plenty of fresh produce and walk past all things in a grocery store that is not labeled ‘fat free’. By this account, I should be skinny enough to get up on a catwalk and strut my stuff.

I blame the fact that I am not, solely on this white grain imported from Asia. To quote Lady Macbeth, “Who would have thought this little grain to have had so much evil in it?” It looks harmless enough. How bad could a cup of steamed rice be? Trust me when I say it is more dangerous than skydiving or bungee jumping or jaywalking on a busy San Francisco street at 10.00 in the morning.

Eating three tablespoons of white rice a day for 2 weeks will guarantee the following changes in your body and lifestyle:

1. Your cheeks will start to puff out and in the process pull both eyes inside their sockets.
2. Your long neck will be a thing of the past.
3. A crane will become a necessary accessory to lift you from any sitting position.
4. The skin around the wedding ring on your finger will swell like a balloon requiring the services of a doctor or a jeweler to relieve the pressure.
5. Bending and tying shoe laces will require the same intense concentration as maneuvering a submarine with nuclear warheads in enemy waters.
6. The sales clerk at the Department Store will offer congratulations on the impending birth of a non-existent baby and offer to model the newest fashions in Maternity clothing for you.

To top it all, the college kid hanging outside the Mall distributing flyers for $6.25 an hour will seek you out in the crowd and hand you the flyer about the next ‘Treating Obesity’ Clinic in the neighborhood.

You might say ‘What is the big deal? Kick the habit and switch to buns’. If you were a habitual rice-eater, you would know that it isn’t as easy as that. There is a larger conspiracy at play here. The attack on humankind’s health by this unlikely terror comes in various forms - steamed rice, steamed rice cakes called Idli, thin golden crisp crepes called Dosai, mouth watering delicacies like murukku (a dear friend today packed a bagful for me) and sweet coconut rice pot stickers called Kozhakkattai……………..

I know when I am beat. Nothing else for me to do except come out with my white hanky waving and surrender to a much superior enemy with my head held high.

-Meena Sankaran

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Science for Dummies

Today I was browsing the Web and came across a whole category of books called ‘For Dummies e-books’. If you have ever wished that you had learned how to scrapbook, tie your shoes the right way, bake cookies that at least your dog will eat, the secret to growing a tomato plant that actually grows tomatoes or the right technique to scrub a toilet, I guarantee that there is a ‘For Dummies’ book out there for you. I can’t tell you what a relief this is to me. I can crawl into bed tonight and rest easy knowing that help is just a keystroke away.

The book heading my very long list is the ‘Science for Dummies’. I am tempted to let you believe that I have this insatiable thirst for knowledge and that I am trying to keep ahead of the curve in Modern Science. If I were Pinocchio, my nose could now be used to measure the double windows in the living room for new curtains. There is no dignified way to say this. Call me ‘Dumb and dumber’ when it comes to Science. It is true. My husband would vouch for it.

For years now, he has been trying to get me excited about Science. Short of dressing up like a molecule and twirling around the room, he has done all he can to get me to share his enthusiasm for the subject. Discovery, Scientific American, and National Geographic magazines are on our mailbox menu week after week. We have annual family membership to all Science Museums within 50 miles of our home.

After an hour perusing one of the Science magazines last week, he sat me down for a crash course in a new theory in Quantum Physics that the magazine was sporting as the main story that week. ‘But first let’s see if you remember what we talked about last week. Go ahead and tell me what a black hole is again.” To which I promptly replied that something was burning on the stove and ran into the Kitchen. “Did you forget already? Alright then. Let me explain again.” He said and proceeded to talk about concentrated areas of mass, gravitational pull, Sir. C.V Raman and Nobel Prize. At the mention of a fellow country man’s success and fame, his chest puffed out with pride.

Satisfied with my repeated promises to remember this vital piece of information this time around, he then initiated a family discussion about Darwin’s Theory of Evolution and the social debate involving Science and Religion. I tried my best to look intelligent and think Science.

I have GOT to get myself that ‘Science for Dummies’ book soon. It is an emergency.

-Meena Sankaran

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Mother's Day reflections

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day.

In honor of this day, it is customary to write and reflect about a Mother’s love, her selfless sacrifices, and the countless little chores she does that almost always go unnoticed and unappreciated. This is the time to draw attention to the innumerable things that a Mother does without any expectation of remuneration.

I do not want to do that. Instead, I want to explore the idea of a perfect Mother through a child's eyes.

Every child deserves and wants:

A mother who can soothe a scratched knee without first yelling ‘Why didn’t you watch where you were going?’

A mother who understands that the child is a separate entity and that he/she doesn’t have to sign up for ballet or vocal lessons to make up for her unrealized childhood dreams.

A mother who understands that it is within the rights of a child to demand to use the Port-a-potty on the way to the grocery store, even though she reminded him/her to use the nice, clean potty at home before leaving for the store.

A mother who can say a little more than ‘Good job. Now why aren't you studying for the next test?’ when the child comes home brimming with excitement and declares that she got a 102% in the latest Math test.

A mother who limits her lectures to under 2 minutes at a time and resists the urge to step up to the pulpit and start preaching at every opportunity.

A mother who understands that a hug and a kiss on a Sunday night can quiet the Monday morning nerves much better than asking “What is there to be worried about? Monday comes and Monday goes.”

I hope I can be everything my kids need me to be, at least for tomorrow.

My mother, I am proud to say, has been so much more than that all her life. Without doubt, she is the best. If I have never said it before, here it goes. Mom, I love you very much.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Call me crazy and lock me up if I sign up to be a chaperone anytime this century

Right off the bat, let me make something very clear. I love my children and there isn’t anything I won’t do for them. Just about anything.

I was a chaperone for a Second grade class field trip today. We traveled in this beautiful luxury Charter bus with several TVs, roomy overhead compartments for bags and a bathroom on board. It was truly a work of art. You couldn’t ask for a better ride, really. We were also blessed with a scenic route all the way through the hour and a half drive each way. I wouldn’t ride on another one if you printed money in your basement and loaded up my attic with it.

I was a mess when the bus finally pulled into the School grounds at the end of the trip. I barely resisted the urge to drop down on my knees and let out a vicious scream when I got off the bus. I wanted to embrace every teacher and chaperone who sat through the day fielding questions like ‘Mrs. S, can I go to the bathroom again?’, ‘Mrs. S, can we please, please go to the gift shop?’, ‘Mrs. S, boys think girls are hot, what do you think?’ ‘Mrs. S, are we there yet?’, ‘Mrs. S, …………...?’, ‘Mrs. S, ……………..?’ with gusto. One more ‘Mrs. S’ and I would have embarrassed myself and cried.

I sat and watched numbly as my daughter’s teacher smiled, patted a child’s back with gentle reassurance because he seemed to need it, quietly controlled raised voices and through the chaos acted like she was in the midst of nobility in a Royal Palace rather than amongst loud screaming 8 year olds.

There isn’t enough money in our Federal Treasury to convince me to sign up for the next trip. I would rather be gagged, bound and tied upside down over a nice, slow fire.

Which brings me to raise a very important question. Are our teachers getting paid their fair dues to spend 6 hours a day with our children, their loud voices and their curious minds? I sure hope so. If not, I may be easily persuaded to start lobbying for their cause.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

My mother loves to quote

To make a relevant point in a context, all of us have quoted an expert at some point in our lives. It is generally considered essential, not to say, fashionable to quote on a subject over which you want to claim autonomous authority. The more quotes you can pull out of your arsenal, the more scholarly you look.

Friends, I would like to introduce you to my Mom, the consummate scholar. My sisters and I were raised on quotes. A typical day in our childhood saw astounding quotes like these:

  • Eating a spoonful of squished neem leaves with yogurt every morning will cure all of your stomach ailments. If you don't believe me, check last week's 'Kalaimagal' (a homemaker's magazine).
  • On a hot sunny day like today, you should be sure to have a lot of yogurt to cool your body....our next door neighbor told me today so you see?
  • Massaging warm gingily oil on the scalp twice a week will promote hair growth....your Aunt from Alwarpet told me over the phone should listen to her.
  • Soaking your colors and whites separately for 15 minutes before washing is good for the clothes...I heard it from the man on the street corner ironing the clothes..

This is simply a sample of the million quotes she used every day to guide us in the right path of life. If it is not the weekly magazine, neighbor or a distant relative, she would have heard it from the daily TV newsperson, my uncle's maidservant, my aunt's sister-in-law or the dear old lady she met on the bus to the temple. Her ability to quote from a variety of sources is unparalleled.

Not to take away any credit from my father's erudition, he did occasionally quote but his knowledge was very limited to literary works such as Shakespeare and Thomas Gray. Even though he could recite Anthony's speech in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar from heart (during when I stared open-mouthed at him in awe) and quote famous poets, he simply could not compete with my mother's ability to quote on a wide range of issues.

The other day, I found myself telling my daughter "If you don't apply oil and braid your hair every day, you are not going to have any hair left. If you don't believe me, check with your grandmother." I have come full circle, don't you think?

-Meena Sankaran

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Have you seen my Muse?

Incredible but true. I have been waiting for 3 decades for my muse to call me. Waiting for that bolt of inspiration to strike and unleash this well of creativity, I was sure, lying dormant in me.

All those restless hours of snuggling on my very comfortable couch laughing at Lucy and Ethel concocting ridiculous plans to entertain the world on CBS; all those fine sunny days of choosing to wait at home with a gallon of ice cream to bide my time over spending a sweaty hour at the Gym; all along waiting patiently for my muse.

Three decades, my friends, and not a peek, knock or a whistle from my muse. Today I woke up and decided to stop kidding myself. No muse is calling me and that is that. I have been growing old and dusty waiting for that elusive inspiration.

Au Revoir, Muse! I have got a lot of things to say even without your help and you bet, I am going to say it. The realization takes a load off my shoulders. It is not on me if I cannot write profound poetry or sublime essays or revered literary criticisms. Can you hold me accountable for the pale mediocrity of my writings, using the term very loosely? No, indeed not. My buddy Mr. Muse, as you all know, has deserted me and left me with no choice really.

With no pressure to create any masterpieces, I start my baby steps today to embark on a journey that, I hope, will take me on a road with many interesting twists and turns.

Here is to hoping that my little well never runs dry!

-Meena Sankaran