Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Different kinds of Parents

~ 78 weeks to my 'Tees' (30th) ~

Now, ever since turning a mother myself, I've received a lot of advice and suggestions (despite being a doctor) and judgmental looks even, on how to look after and raise my child - I've also read quite a bit, and come across so many, many articles and books on child-rearing and parenting - it's often overwhelming! Now, add to this, having to witness so many other parents, while being a child-doctor (although temporarily!) - all, I really want to say, is "Calm Down!" Using this blog post to answer some of the oft asked questions - even if this helps one other parent, I'll be glad. Each one, reach one ...

There are mothers, who wish to breastfeed exclusively for the first 6 months (and continue longer) some who can't and stress about it, some who couldn't care and start with the bottle, some who keep trying anyways - well, Mama, all I want to say is you're doing your best and no one is going to judge you - so please do whatever is comfortable/convenient/feasible - you've every right to choose what's best for you and your baby. In the campaign of "Breast is best", there is no sense in losing one's sanity. Although I must add, if you keep at it, the supply gets better and auto-sustains - hence if it isn't hampering your mental peace, do carry on. You've got this! There is a huge business on baby bottles and each claiming it's just like the real thing (read boob) but nothing really compares alright and so, don't fall into this trap - just get any that's pocket friendly and make sure you sterilise them right, and keep your baby well fed! Tada!

On the topic of bathing, some choose to give oil massages - and then follows the debate on which oil is best; follow that by should the baby bathe in a tub or on your lap (like our mothers and grandmothers bathed us!)? Again, I'd like to stress that most important is to be confident and strong in your grasp of your baby - and making sure the temperature of the water isn't too hot for the babies' skin. Rest, is immaterial. Of course, if there's evidence that any soap/shampoo is taken off shelves for fear of being carcinogenic, you'd prudently avoid those right? 

Back to the topic of foods - There are some who start solid foods earlier, some wait until they turn 6 months - and then starts the what to feed quiz! It varies across cultures and hence, there really is no right or wrong. I was from South India and hence chose ragi porridge and then rice and dhaal, with mashed vegetables; I was also influenced by what's available readily at the place I live - so avocadoes featured as the little one's breakfast often. Also, we used bottled fruit purees and baby rice on our travels - super convenient and safe! Once, he was a tad bit older, he just ate whatever we ate - and the number of bags we had to carry reduced drastically - yaay!

Many parents choose to co-sleep with their infant (I prefered it as it was easy with the night-feeds); some choose a side-cot or even making their baby sleep in a different room right from the start - again, whatever suits you and your family, is recommended. There is no one right way. What's most important is the safety of your infant. So while, there are parents who actually buy oxygen saturation monitoring devices to check on the baby through the night, fearing 'SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome)', I don't think most of the families, in rural India, would even be aware of it, leave alone being able to afford such a device!

When is the right time to travel with your baby? Again, I waited until he turned about 3 months - only because then my husband and I were more confident and accustomed to handling the baby given that the baby had neck control and was not just a floppy little blob of flesh :D Again, more important is to make sure you carry extra supplies, including any common medicines as well as are aware of health care services at the place you're traveling to (God forbid you need to visit one!)

Anyway, there are a zillion other topics and choices that once has to decide on at each phase of parenting and it's quite impossible to cover all of those! Infact the foremost decision is whether to even become a parent or not. The number of couples these days, choosing to go the DINK (Double Income No Kids) way is phenomenal. And yet, there are couples, who still want to have kids and experience the joy (and pain) of parenthood. Take, for example, a couple-friend of ours, who finally chose to adopt a little girl and give her a beautiful, secure life. I'm so proud and happy for them - and so I couldn't help but make and pick up a lot of little gifts, which I packed and sent with PranMaz on his surprise trip to partake in the celebration. 

So while I spent the week, witnessing the many kinds of parents I crossed paths with - it ended with a high indeed - to witness a couple-friend's family grow, and their home thus, being filled with a little baby's coos and babbles (and cries of course) - unbound happiness and smiles! Wishing them all the very best!! 

Saturday, 13 April 2019

Bittersweet musings (Ugadi special)

~ 79 weeks to my 'Tees' (30th) ~

This week, was yet another new beginning. I started my 3-month stint at the busiest children emergency in the country. I had done a posting earlier at the home-hospital's children emergency, but a new place always can be overwhelming and to get accustomed to everything new - right from the software to the infrastructure, the people, the culture - can be nervewracking!

Coupled with the pre-shift team-based learning sessions and evening shifts way past midnight, at 3am+ when I'd finally knock off, I would be so tired - and to be woken up before even 4 hours of sleep by a toddler, who wanted me to brush him, change him, drop him to school - whoa! One of the nights, I just crashed in another room, oblivious to my little one, so I could clock more sleeping hours!! So, clearly the week didn't start all that easy - but it did give me good time in the morning for myself and later early afternoon, to cuddle with my cutie, before rushing for work.

And so when, the weekend finally arrived - and I had a relatively easier day (still not a complete off day) - I invited the friends' gang over for FriYay dinner and drinks at home. I threw my stress out by mulling wine, plating cheese and cooking fine dinner (by my standards ;)). Also, did some home improvement stuff, like finally putting some photo frames up against the modernist world map, giving some breathing space to the many stuffed toys and finding a new spot for a creeper plant, and some fresh flowers to brighten it all up.

It felt good to catch up with the gang after quite a few weeks in fact; and just spend a chill evening under dim warm yellow lights, with soulful music playing in the background. 
After an initial shy period, Ayaan warmed up too and was in his best behaviour! So proud of this boy!

By the end of the week, I was settling in already. And while Prantik, held the fort at home, on one of my journeys back home, I realised that it really is all about perception. I was basing my stress on other people's interpretations and perceptions - I was told many a time, that this posting is busy, is 'hardship' and such - and I was matching my experiences, to others perceptions. But what I realised was that internally, I didn't really feel that terrible - and was only reflecting off others' experiences - which had to stop. Stress occurs when there is a mismatch in what is vs what it's perceived as, nothing a subtle paradigm shift couldn't fix. So while cooking, mulling wine etc was great to bust the stress, better still was to shake the very foundation on which that very stress was based and kill it from the root. I faced my shortcomings and my insecurities head on, and held my vulnerability on a platter - and felt perfect, embracing my imperfections. When one does that, the pressure lifts, one feels lighter and even performs better. I decided to put a fresh lens on and see sans tainted glasses. 

As the sun set over the first weekend of April, I fought the virus that the first week at the children emergency had blessed me with (literally and figuratively); yet, in gratitude, for the dawn of a tad bit of wisdom, traced my steps along with my favourite boys, to the temple at Little India, to thank the higher Force, for reminding me repeatedly that we're just a speck of dust, in this large Universe and that one mustn't give undue importance to the many events that occur in our lives-  be a witness, sure, but maintain one's poise nonetheless, stay grounded, stay rooted, living one day at a time, consciously, being present in the present moment. For like everything else, this phase too shall pass. But grateful, we must always be. 
Here's to accepting the bitterness and sweetness alike - happy Ugadi folks! 

Sunday, 7 April 2019

The Art of Living

~ 80 weeks to my 'Tees' (30th) ~

I did my 'Sahaj Samadhi' meditation course at the beginning of this week and I realised this would be the perfect time to recap my journey with 'The Art of Living' right from when it first began.

My tryst with 'The Art of Living' commenced when I was probably in grade 5 (as much as I can recall) - our school had arranged for us a unique session called "Art Excel" - it was during school hours, and as much as we liked not having to attend classes (*wink wink*), I remember thoroughly enjoying myself attending the session and taking baby steps into a new realm altogether. We were in Indonesia at the time, and my parents did their Basic (Part 1) course (which is now called the 'Happiness Program') around then too. I remember my parents doing what they called the 'Kriya' and my dad being thrilled that he could keep his antihypertensive medications at a good arm's length while continuing his Kriya practice. I wanted to get to do the Part 1 course too, but I had to wait slightly longer, until I turned 18.

As it so happened, I was walking around a park, with my mother one pleasant evening in Bangalore, chatting away, when we were stopped by a lady (whose face I definitely don't remember now), who handed us a pamphlet of an upcoming Art of Living - Basic course, happening not too far from home! I had just turned 18 and it seemed like the Universe had conspired for it to happen. I quickly registered for the same and so then that one week, I'd get home after medical school, and walk/take the bus to the centre for my Basic Course. The teachings were obviously nice, but the best take away was of course, the most beautiful "Sudarshan Kriya". I could finally join my parents during their practice and it made me feel all grown up too ;)

We moved houses, about 3 years later, and that is when we serendipitously met another AOL volunteer who came knocking at our door and thus began, another deep friendship. Mum suggested the weekly 'Satsang' rotation and thus kickstarted the every-Sunday evening Satsang sessions. Dad and I would love to discover and present new 'Bhajans' (devotional songs) and as more and more people joined the group, it turned out to be the musical highlight of the weekend indeed.
He turned teacher soon enough and we had weekly follow up sessions, on Saturday mornings conducted right within our apartment complex. Thus, our weekends were pretty much set.  :)

I delved deeper, when I was in my 2nd-3rd year of medical school. I joined my parents for the 'DSN' course. We had early starts and long days, but it was so worth it. There was a lot of yoga and meditation, and thus we learnt the "Padma Sadhna". Following the course, we had 5am sessions, listening to the "Ashtavakra Gita", followed by group Sadhna and Kriya, and then I would head to college at 7am, and head back after badminton/dance practices at 10pm, lugging my heavy bag, in an overly filled public bus, all smiles, not an iota of tiredness - that is how energised I felt, getting up at 4am and doing the practice. 

Another favourite course, was the Advanced/Part 2 course. I had just wrapped up my final exams and while the results were awaited, there was a short break, before our internship started. It was the perfect time, to go live at the Ashram and do the Silence program. It was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life, interspersed with songs, yoga, seva (service), silence, meditation, deep introspection, dance and surrender. I was charged and rejuvenated, to face the busy Internship year head on!

That year was also the year, talks around my wedding got broached. Prantik (my husband) and I had been chatting and our long-distance relationship had been going on for a while; and so, when at first I spoke with my parents about him, they weren't on board; however with time, they got around, and soon enough, we found ourselves at the Ashram, end-2013, being blessed by Guruji himself. Thus, kickstarted our wedding planning.

Getting married to Prantik, also meant I was to move to Singapore. The Ministry was recruiting doctors from India, and I dropped in my resume as well. On May 13, 2014, I had my interview with a Professor at NUH Accident & Emergency - I answered all his rapid-fire questions, save for 1, and was thus shortlisted! We (mum, dad and I) thus celebrated Guruji's birthday in peace, at the beach. 

For our wedding, as part of our Sangeet, we had renowned Swami Suryapada's (fondly called Chayanna) Satsang - his renditions of the songs can elevate one to a different level altogether. I danced in utter joy and celebration, clad in a pink Kanjeevaram sari, to everyone's favourite "Narayana Narayana". Such a blessed evening it was indeed.

After our wedding and moving to Singapore, I did have opportunities to attend conversations with Sri Sri, on a couple of occasions, during his Singapore visits. In the meanwhile, the younger brother did his 'Yes+' course (targeted at the youth), conducted by Bawa-Dinesh - who I was fortunate to meet too and meditate with by the oceanside, one blue moon night. The parents did other courses, like Sri Sri Yoga,Shakti Kriya, Sahaj Samadhi, Vigyan Bhairav, Unveiling Infinity and such - they even sang with the 'Alaap' choir at the Ashram and also participated in the World Cultural Festival (with the Indonesia AOL group) held in Delhi, in 2016. With the Bangalore AOL group, they've organised blood donation camps, spent weekends reviving dried up rivers and so much more. 

Fast forward to end-September 2016, while I was in labour, mum was meditating, silently, in the waiting room. Soon enough, our bonny baby boy was safely delivered. From day 0, he was lulled to sleep by his grandma, crooning "Nanda ke Laala". As part of the naming ceremony, the baby is given 5 names - one of them whispered into his ears by his maternal grandma was infact "SoHam". Mum stayed with us for a couple of years to help us with the baby - during my maternity leave, we would do our yoga and kriya together, or take turns if the baby was awake. On Ayaan's first trip back home, we indeed took him to the Ashram as well. 

Ugadi last year, was when we finally found our way to the nearest follow up centre in the West of Singapore. Thus, we became part of the ever-growing group - and started attending follow up sessions, on Sunday mornings (schedule permitting). Held in a beautiful home, of a teacher-couple, where the sun rays, fall on a young Guruji's picture, where the money plant creepers have grown around, over time - I wish my schedule could permit me visiting their abode on more Sundays - irrespective,  I'm very glad our paths met. He in fact held a 1-on-1 Sahaj Samadhi course, for me - and that was rather sweet of him, to accommodate my erratic work timings. And that was the highlight of the week. I would head for my lesson on effortless meditation, pre-or post-shift and go deeper into the world of the Self and transcend beyond. 
I am still a sincere seeker, an eager learner and can't wait to experience more beauty, more Grace, while diving deeper into age-old wisdom. I've made many friends and well wishers, as I treaded on this enriching spiritual journey - do join me if you feel like it, to experience supreme bliss and inner peace :) Jai GuruDev!

Monday, 1 April 2019

Celebrating Ayaan 2.5

~ 81 weeks to my 'Tees' (30th) ~

On March 26th, Ayaan turned 2.5 years old.
It's unreal the pace at which time seems to be flying - surreal more is to see how fast our toddler is growing up!

It's been 6 months since our fun trip to Tokyo and Kyoto to ring in Ayaan's 2nd birthday. I had written an emotional heart-felt poem at the time - on how I felt about weaning him off... 
Incredulous to just look back and see how far we've come since then!

I'm going to use this blogpost, to just recap some of the highlights from the last 6 months (not in any particular order) - sit back and enjoy reading, dear Ayu :)

1. Weaning off to the tumbler
A few weeks after you turned 2, we finally decided to latch you off. While it was tougher on me, because you had the bottle as an alternative - it didn't seem too traumatic on you - save for times, when I'd be back from work, and you were used to latching on soon after I stepped in (and freshened up) and you had to be abruptly deprived of that. Of course I would hug you tight and cuddle, and oft I would almost want to let you latch but your grandma and dad would strictly say "No!" and that I had to be stronger than that if I wanted to wean you off... Soon you adjusted; infact we found it harder to wean you off the bottle! But soon enough, you were kicked to just drink off a straw-bottle -- even more excited to hold your own little steel tumbler, and drink from it, on your own!

2. Joining playschool
Though infants and toddlers in Singapore, are enrolled in childcare much earlier, we waited until you turned 2 to send you to playschool. It took you just about 2 weeks or so to settle in, and we couldn't be prouder! We were let to stay in with you only for the first 3 days and after that you had to go in on your own. You did cry initially and heart-breaking though it was, we realised the longer we stayed around, the more time you took to calm and settle down. Your Mamama would drop and pick you up everyday, and days that I worked evening shifts, I'd come too - and to see your face light up on catching a glimpse of us at 12.30 pm - was simply wonderful! You enjoyed playing with the toys and listen to the stories and songs - special credit to two of the teachers, your favourites, whose laps you'd find refuge in, in a completely new environment and soon, things changed, and now, as an everyday routine, you take fresh flowers for your teacher(s) and they've come to expect it too from you everyday and if one day, if you didn't find any, they'd ask you about it! Now, you look forward to going to school, you say "Your friends are waiting for you!" Two girls (Viola and Olivia) from our own condo eased you in during your early days, and now, you are able to help newbies settle in too and know the names of all your mates - how endearing. We get regular updates on you and it's amusing to see what all you do in the 3.5 hours you spent there every weekday morning. Your precious art and craftwork have now become exhibits on our walls in our little "Ayaan corner"; you teach us new songs these days and we were completely bowled over when one morning you started singing "Majulah Singapura..." all in tune! You've in fact been on a field trip too to the Gardens by the Bay with your school friends; we also celebrated Chinese New Year and had some fun parent-child time with your fellow batch mates and their families, rolling glutinous rice balls together. All in all, we're really appreciative of the teachers for taking such good care of you and for teaching you at such a young age - you can also say the Chinese numbers, and pronounce them perfectly (I had to Google to find out what you were uttering in the first place!) - oh so impressive!!

3. Toilet training
We rarely ever have to wipe and change you out of soiled diapers now! You've a good morning routine and clear your bowels by habit, prior to going to playschool. You still aren't dry by day, but that has mostly us to blame - we've just not been around much to ensure that happens - but hopefully, we'll be able to achieve that in the next few months. Potty time is also your nursey rhyme singing time - for that's how your Mamama would train you :D And so, that ritual sort of continues. Be it ABCs, London Bridge, Baa Baa Black Sheep or Johnny Johnny - we go through many iterations of these.

4. Communication
This aspect I think, by far, beats all others. The amount you've grown in your verbal and non-verbal communicative skills is mind-blowing. So not only can you express so much more, be it affection by means of kisses and hugs, group hugs even or displeasure, by means of screaming etc, your vocabulary also seems to have grown manifold. You can speak in sentences (albeit a bit broken sometimes) and use so many big words now - from caterpillar, butterfly to orangutan & dinosaur -  wow! But the most enterprising is to see you use a few Konkani words (like 'Mogacho', 'Jaai', 'Kenle', '... Kartave' etc) with Mamama-Ajjo and Bengali words (like 'Muri Dao', 'Chool' etc) with your Dadu-Thamma! Maybe that is how, Prantik and I will learn each other's languages too ;) And now, maybe Mandarin too huh! You also throw in a couple of Hindi words that you would have heard us say in passing (like 'Chalo', 'Aa Jaao', 'Chaalu' etc) - such a parrot you are - and hence we really ought to be careful what we speak in front of you :D Like, you even copy the tone so well (like 'Nonsense', almost with a rolling-your-eyes tone :D aping me!)
It's been so much fun singing and dancing to songs too - especially the "I love you, You love me" Barney song. The long conversations we get to have with you these days, are simply wonderful, but more awe-inspiring are the emotions that are interspersed within - like when you'd fetch medicine for an under-the-weather parent, or empathise with me after a long shift and give me a tight hug and end with "Don't do hard work, Amma (pause) I miss you..." . One afternoon, I was tucking you in for a nap, you hugged me, and smilingly said "I want Amma to be happy :)" Such scaringly wise, yet supremely kind words from a toddler - had my heart brimming with such pride and joy!

5. Tantrums
It wouldn't be honest of me if I only spoke about all the cute stuff you do and missed on a major aspect of entering your "Terrible Twos" - the tantrums! So, as you've grown and learnt so much about yourself and the world around you, I can imagine how overwhelming it must all be, for a tiny little being, in a world so large - there have been tantrums, as you try and carve your own identity and individuality. There are days, you want to mix all the food, and feed all by yourself, some others you are adamant that I must feed you. Some days, you really don't want to fasten the seatbelt on your airplane seat, some other days, you're summoning everyone else to do just the same! Some days, you want only curd + sugar for dinner, some other days, you want more dosas and more butter and some more :D. Some days, you are fixed on wearing the exact same clothes you wore yesterday, "One Fish Two Fish" green tshirt and shorts, while it's still drying! Some days, you want to only use pens to colour; mix play dough with water; use your toy food processor, add water to it and then use it to water the plants - what not! You clearly have a strong mind of your own and while at times, the tantrums do get on our nerves, often, either (or both) of us is able to get onto your level and play along and enjoy the fun. Most importantly, for us, as parents, it's been a learning curve on how to teach you and ourselves, how to regulate our emotions and project them rightly, in a timely fashion.

6. Co-sleeping to getting your own bed
After 2 years of sleeping in between us, (yes, we co-slept ever since your birth - it was the most convenient with breastfeeding through the night especially and I wouldn't have it any other way - I wouldn't miss out on watching you sleep next to me, and to be able to caress your cheek, stroke your hair and smell you :D at will, in the middle of the night!), you now, sleep on an adjacent single-bed, which is slightly lower than ours, so it almost seems like a lower bunk bed of sorts! At times, you still get up in the middle and climb over and find your place in between us :D but nights you're fast asleep, we binge watch Netflix and Amazon Prime ;)

7. Being adaptive and resilient
This is something, I probably have to learn from you! How you've adapted to the many changes the past 6 months is beyond me - be it adapting to joining school, our old helper nanny leaving, your grandma too leaving us after a lovely 2 year stint, a new helper coming in, my longer, erratic working hours, a traveling dad, our busy social life, our frequent travels including some unplanned trips like the Bangalore one, when your uncle had appendicitis, I whisked you along, and you didn't fret once. You were such a darling even on the road trip earlier this month to celebrate Maamu's birthday. You've been a good boy even on super-late night flights, way beyond your bed time. You're our little foodie, and haven't given us any trouble when we're in different cities and you've to eat different cuisines etc. This - gives us strength - to be better, to be the best parents we can be to you!

This week, in celebration, we played with organic colours, on Holi and went to the Carnival over the
weekend, where we enjoyed flying and riding around on the fun rides with you.
Ayu, just know, we are so lucky to have you as our little wonder and may you continue to love and be your beautiful self, in this amazing world, happily swirling around in innocent happiness.