Thursday, 19 September 2013

Learn to Educate

When one thinks of Education & Learning, sometimes one can see the wide grey area in between the two. The gap through which many a minds could fall through for want of better guidance. My little one, a bright girl with mischief in her eyes is all and more than I could have asked for. Her attitude towards learning was amazing and she grasped all the newness around her eagerly. Her interest in the alphabet, in numbers, in books, in Computers & TV was a treat to observe. I use the past tense because the minute conventional schooling began, this slowly started waning. It was sad to see the decline in her seeking spirit and to see her total dis-interest in the learning process.

It came to a point where she was put in special classes to catch up with her class and was still unable to. Seeing her struggle made me realise that i had not been a dumb brain in school. I too had probably had learning problems like my little one. The time had come for us as parents to take the pressure of performance off our child and help her start learning again,  Since we both are from conventional educational backgrounds and firmly based in India, choosing an International School is nothing short of radical. Here, we bid good-bye to the traditional learning methods based on grade specific textbooks and rely on syllabus designed keeping the age of the child in mind. For us it was a leap of faith which we are not regretting at all!

Candor International School, Bangalore is everything and more than we expected. The very first visit is comforting and personal. Its obvious that the School is not about the Syllabus, or the Campus, or the Principal, or Mahesh Bhupati's Tennis Academy. The School is all about the Students, the most important subject in this institution! Everything from the Menu to the Music room to the Science Laboratories at Candor are designed keeping the students in mind. The School believes in giving the required freedom within boundaries and to help the child soar when the occasion calls for it. The mode of discipline is not punishment but knowing the consequence of one's action. On a personal level, this is in line with my belief in the Buddhist principle of "Cause and Effect". I think the only way to get a child to learn is to involve the child in the learning process and that is what the school has grasped. So, if the child is having difficulty catching up, she's given as much help as she needs to learn concepts. So, also on the other hand if the child is ahead of class and needs to be challenged, they have an honours program where they nominate children to attempt the next level of studies!

There are changes in my daughter, changes which surprise us and the people who know her. Positive changes that have only been encouraged and nurtured by the school. Her previous school hugely helped us by identifying the problem we had at hand. Candor is on its way to empowering her to work with the talent she has. As she loves engaging with people, her logical thinking skills are being honed slowly but surely. Case in point:

Student: Mom! Today teacher asked me what my hobbies are!
Mom: Oh wow baby that's great! So what did you say?
Student: Maa...I didn't know what to say because nobody in any school ever asked me about my hobbies! I just told teacher I love Tennis. I wanted to tell more things but was feeling shy.

Having spent the next few days in an encouraging environment, the student thought about it and told the teacher ten hobbies! This was in the first few days. Once the homeroom discussions started and various interesting topics were introduced in class, our little student became confident enough to discuss things she wouldn't have thought of earlier:

Student: Papa! Do you believe in going to the temple to pray to God?
Papa: I believe that if I do my job well and treat people with respect, "He" will bless me.
Student: Papa, you can't say "He" because I think God has no gender!

Both Mom and Dad almost fell off their respective chairs! Three cheers to Candor and a Big Thanks for giving our confident, inquisitive, seeking, enthusiastic child back to us! As a parent, I want to participate in this process of learning. It would be my pleasure to be a part of School and help write so many success stories that are in the making! 

Will I ever put undue pressure on my child to perform? Never! Is it possible to lead a change in education by example? Maybe. Would I continue choosing learning over education? Most definitely Yes!      

Home away from home...

Ages ago, my mother made a wall hanging which said, "Home is where the heart is". My father was in the Air Force and we moved every 3-4 years to a new place. New cities, new homes, new neighbours, new friends, new experiences. What fun! As soon as we settled in and unpacked, this wall hanging would get pride of place on mom's favourite wall! Amidst all the hustle-bustle and new-ness, this would somehow be the continuity in my life. I remember embracing each place with so much joy and still carry happy memories of most cities I have lived in and most people I have lived with. Getting steeped in local culture while maintaining your individuality is 1 big lesson moving taught me and has held me in good stead.

When you move to new places often, there is no chance you will grow up with a closed mind. You learn to adapt and adjust and broaden your vision. You learn to accept, to grow a little more, to be patient with a new school/new system/new culture, to be sensitive, to not take random things too personally and basically find your own space under the sun wherever you go.  

I loved moving then and I love moving now. The whole experience of going anywhere and making a "home" is for me very satisfying. Looking for the right apartment which meets with the approval of each of us (and trust me our approval is not easy to get!), moving all your stuff into the right corners, adding new stuff to your already overcrowded "new" home, joining a new workplace, getting to know the neighbourhood market, organizing School for the little one and the most enriching experience for me-meeting people! Over the years I have realised that even though the place matters, its the people who make up your experience/impression about any place. The warm nature of Indians everywhere makes you feel at home in any corner of the country and you start feeling the "Oneness of self and environment" (a beautiful Buddhist concept) immediately. The rich diversity in our country ensures there's never a dull moment when you move...there's so much to see, discover, like, love and embrace!

I have a lot of respect for people who put down their roots in one place and are content with their lives unfolding around them, but there is something to be said about moving periodically and experiencing life in different places and paces. I know for a fact that its a different high when you discover exotic places on your business/holiday travel, but staying in a new place till it becomes old and comfortable...sigh!

Will I willingly stop being a gypsy? Never! Can I try my hand at leading a more settled life? Maybe. Will I always embrace the next move, however difficult or badly timed it is? Most definitely Yes!!

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

You gotta have Faith

George Michael (oh Wham!) was soooo right..."you gotta have faith, faith,!" It's clich├ęd but it's true...Faith CAN move mountains. Bottom line is we all need to believe in something. This is not about religion, not about spirituality, not about any rituals that we follow. Just the fact that we are not alone is the kind of faith that we all need. Every person, old or young, educated or uneducated, rich or poor, successful or unsuccessful, man or woman, we all have the same basic needs. How much we believe in something is what makes us the people we are.

It's heartening to watch people who have successfully made faith work for them (i'm talking in a purely non-materialistic way) and to learn from them. To achieve the impossible is a big thing. Just to watch people accept life and live it on their own terms is what i'm talking about. To not have a complaining attitude and to not compare her/his good fortune with one's own misfortune. In my book, that itself is equal to moving mountains! How does that work? How does one reach that place? 

I have seen my Mom hyperventilating almost all her adult life about things she could or couldn't control (in her book it's the same!)...this while she was extremely religious and sometimes superstitious & ritualistic. We would go along with the harmless ones like "No non-veg on Tuesday", "Fasting on Fridays" etc. and protest against the others which didn't suit us. A great day for the entire family when she found her calling, her unshakeable "Faith" in the Buddhist Lotus Sutra. How we rejoiced, albeit in a very selfish way! Slowly we started noticing changes in Mom, changes which were small and some changes which were mega. She noticed small signs that Faith was working and went on to deepen her Faith through actually practising what she was studying. Mom was in good hands. She decided to trust and give up her worries and work on herself to be strong enough to weather the storms that life inevitably brings. She brings about change & stability to many lives that she touches. With my Dad's support she actually looks after many students that she comes into contact with. Taking her teaching vocation forward even after retirement, Mom impacts many an impressionable minds through her Faith!   

My sister followed down the same path and discovered new found patience and confidence to face tough situations in her life. Her story reads like a handbook about the absence & presence of Faith in one's life. I hang to the very same faith, sometimes with all my strength & sometimes by a thin thread. One feels that one has just overcome small problems or sometimes not found any solutions to vexing questions. But when one looks back, one realises that having faith helped in the most trying times of one's lives. My mentor, Sensei Ikeda says, "Faith does not mean sailing in an ocean with no storms. Faith means having a boat which no storm can sink!"  

With Faith & Wisdom beneath your wings, the world is yours for the taking! Handling the storms of life with wisdom, clarity & courage is what makes us women/men of substance. Hey, will the ups & downs of life ever stop? Never! Is it going to get more difficult before it gets easier to accept Faith and the changes that it brings? Maybe! Can we try & embrace the Faith that works for us and lead happier & more meaningful lives? Most definitely Yes!

Move mountains with faith? Piece of cake! 

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

The Invinsible Me

The eternal "I" specialist! I, Me, Myself...these words are always on the forefront in many a mind. "I did it...", "I was thinking...", "I was going to...", "I want to...", "I wish...", "I am better than...". I too am a culprit of all of the above, and then some!

Planning freak, control freak, I-can-do-this freak, nothing's-too-big-for-me freak...yeah that's me. When I was younger it was a challenge to do things on my own; as I grew up I didn't really want to depend on anybody for anything; marriage brought a travelling spouse, so I gladly stepped into the house pants; then followed motherhood-need I say more?!

I don't know when it became an obsession, not the necessity I thought it was. So much so that I would hate to even admit that I had fever or was unwell or just plain tired. Once you reach that stage, then it starts eroding your peace of mind and the constant pressure of being on it just gets to you. Yes...the beginning of "lifestyle related orders" as the doctors call it...this is where the disorderly list begins and takes over your life.

Just maybe...I am not Superwoman, I may be wrong, I may not be in control all the time, maybe, just maybe I am human! I have my limits, my insecurities, my vulnerabilities, my weaknesses. Dealing with these take courage and strength...something which I always thought I had in abundance, remember? But, maybe, just maybe, I need some help. The help which was always available but I never reached out for it. It's time to open the shutters of my mind, the doors to my life, the windows to my soul. It's about time to wake up and smell the coffee (oops! it's hot chocolate in case you've been diagnosed with hyperacidity along with the rest on that damn list!)   

Healing is a great process. Shedding all the excess baggage, allowing yourself to listen to others, giving common sense a chance, loving yourself from within, respecting all the good fortune that has been showered on you, being at peace with who you are and re-activating that never-say-die spirit that lead you here in the first place...of course with enough warnings to that spirit to behave itself this time around! Look closer and you will see the eternal Buddhist principle of "Oneness of life & environment" at work. Once the change starts from within, the entire force of nature gives you another chance.

The new mantra to yourself, live guilt-free, live life today, hang on to what's important, leave the rest behind. One wise sister told me, "move forward, not just move on", another wise one said, "you may look back to the past, but don't you go back there" and yet another evolved one told me to chant, "this too shall pass, this too shall pass"! With such awesome advise, tell me need anyone suffer anymore? Duh?

 Can I stop being myself? Never! Can I try and listen to reason and give myself a break? Maybe! Can I live my life today and spread some hope and happiness? Most definitely yes!

Monday, 1 July 2013

Daddy's Pet

My earliest memory of my Dad is this strapping young man in uniform, kissing my Mom & me goodbye before going to save the country from it's enemies! Try as I might to replace this image, it just stays put.

Along came my sister and my fear of my Dad's love getting "divided" was proved baseless as he showed his true mettle and just kept on expanding his love for us. So many friends, cousins, relatives, even grandparents...all basked in the sunshine of his love & affection. Unreasonable husband-yes, non-ass licking employee-yes, devoted friend-yes, doting father-100% yes!

Seeing my Dad going through life taught me so many lessons...about doing your work sincerely, always trying to be on time, listening to others, standing up for what's right, helping others from your limited resources, treating man-woman-child equally, living & letting live, most of all being the wind beneath the wings of his children! I treasure each and every value that I learnt from him and hope to carry his legacy forward.

When my Dad fell sick, my world came crashing down. It brought me to my knees and made me doubt my faith. But knowing that he needed his family to be strong, that he needed me was enough to restore my strength. I became stronger than I could have ever imagined, for my Dad, for my Mom and for my Sister. He taught me that! I just followed. I remembered all the times he had been there for the family and how we all leaned on him, and that gave me immense strength.

He's on his path to a slow and sometimes painful recovery. He's not very strong and tends to indulge in self-pity. He forgets to take his medicines and makes my Mom climb walls! He's child-like & sagely, he's difficult & understanding, he's hero & villain, he's praising & complaining, he's fiercely independent & totally dependent- all at the same time! But, beneath it all he's the first man I ever loved with all my heart.

Can I ever imagine a time without him ? Never! Can I try and understand that this is the circle of life? Maybe. Can I now be the rock for him that he always has been for me? Most definitely yes!!

I see the doting look in my daughter's eyes when she looks at her Dad, I see her sharing things with him before me, I hear her answering "I love my dad more than my mom" unabashedly, and instead of feeling sad for myself I see the legacy I have passed on! 

My first blog ever-This one's for you Papa. I Love You!