Friday, February 28, 2014

Doing Nothing Days

Doing nothing is not always easy.  It has to be created, these spaces for doing nothing. 

These days Raghu goes for rock climbing twice a week. Zoya randomly goes for open swim and a swim lesson every week. We have a steady weekly playdate with a friend and her children that both kids love. And sometimes like this week, we have an outing.  Zoya signed up for an Aquarium visit/class to learn about sharks and penguins.  A lovely busy week of choices we all made. But this morning we knew we would be spending our day at home.  Doing Nothing.

Our day so far: I am enjoying setting up my bedroom studio corner, catching up on cool FB links, reading up on math and design and finding a local studio for artists to draw from a model.  Raghu has been exploring his new PS3 game, talking to me about various topics ranging from social activists to when should a tea bag be removed for ideal flavor.  Zoya woke up thinking and breathing Minecraft and quickly immersed herself in a new house creation and watching Stampey videos.  Both of them are now deep into Minecrafting and creation and intense conversations about Stampeylongnose (this guy who creates lovely videos of his Minecraft world).

As you can see, a day of doing nothing is never really nothing.  Its just a pressure free, open ended, generally home bound space created lovingly, to let us all rest into our natural interests and rhythms. I resist thinking about the growing grocery list. I resist everything but the unfolding of the day.  

After intense socializing or a playdate/gathering or drives to and fro from classes we all need a "do nothing" space.  Some call it down time.  We call it "doing nothing".  Implying you can relax and allow the day to unfold without any time limits.  Follow whims and doodles and thoughts to their logical conclusion or not. Cook simple meals and laugh loud and silly. Every few hours Raghu will ask me if we are going anywhere... and i remind him that we are indeed not doing anything today.  And we smile knowingly at each other.  I love our Doing Nothing Days.  

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Death and Eulogy

Last evening a few hours after i posted about the Jatra and mentioned my Dad's gracious cousins who hosted us, one of them died.  I will simply call him Kaka for this post. Kaka means Dad's brother.  Here even a cousin is a brother or sister. Suddenly Death was real and alive and in our home and hearts.

The news came suddenly like it happens often times. We were sitting and drinking coffee around my parents dining table in their Bangalore apartment. Raghu and i were playing Pictionary. Raghu had started a new personal game as we played Pictionary. He would role a dice and assign actions to each number. So he would say (to himself) if I roll 4 I will eat a spoon of corn, if I roll 6 i will draw, if I roll 5 I will stop playing, etc. It was slowing down our game but was funny to watch.  He kept taking decisions all thru the evening based on a roll of dice.  And in the middle of this slow evening came a call.  

The voice on the other end sounded distraught and mixed up.  Slowly over a couple of calls within a few minutes we all knew that Kaka had died. It had taken his older brother and hospital authorities an hour to start the inevitable process of declaring the death.

As the evening wore on and my dad got ready to leave for Huballi, i found Raghu crying alone in his room. I sat and massaged his legs. We talked about how everything is energy. How we get attached to so many things in our lifetime.  We spoke of life, living and the need to move on.  Some call upon death, some can keep death at bay. I told him of my Dad's grandmother waiting for 3 days on her deathbed for him to arrive. Within a few minutes of his arrival she died. Raghu felt Kaka's death acutely for a while.  He had just met Kaka and had chatted with him.  The sudden death left Raghu bewildered, sad and wondering about how life can change in a split second.

Raghu also shared with me that Kaka had asked him to create a presentation on the Agnihotri family. He wanted my help to create this. My dad and i were quite moved by his earnestness. And i wondered about that dice game, the roll of dice, chance and the apparent randomness of life. 

Rest in peace dear Kaka.  Ravi and I will remember your joyful presence and immersion in Hindu rituals, your sincere smiling presence and total immersion while conducting a pooja, and the conversations we enjoyed at Dharwad during the Trust meetings. Raghu and i will create a beautiful something, that reflects the Agnihotri history. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A Jatra

My father took us to Kundgol this last Sunday. It is a small, sleepy hamlet near Dharwad. There We have an ancestral home cared for by my Dad's cousin.  It is an Agnihotri home. A home that has seen several generations of Agnihotris.  The previous night I shared with the kids about how the house is, about the bathroom, about the food, the Jatra itself, the crowds etc. This Jatra is a yearly event with decorated bulls, Brahma pooja and some famillies are honored with a role to play on the Bullock carts. 

The drive into Kundgol was lovely.  We were surrounded by green fields and some parts of Huballi's factory ridden terrain.  Raghu and Zoya met their twin cousins for the first time. My dad's cousins gave us quite a welcome.  We had a traditional lunch on plantain leaves.  Raghu had plain ghee and rice and ignored the rest of the food.  But he is managing to politely navigate social norms. He talks to me in my ear and tells me what he can eat.  Both children managed to find their groove.  They used their iPads for a bit.  They walked up our little path to the local pond.

Sometimes i wonder if we would thrive in a small town in India.  I love small towns in India.  The big urban regions make me feel quite out of sorts. The cement, the lack of gardens and trees and lack of quiet... I can go on.  So i shan't.  Suffice to say small town India is beautiful and easy on the eyes.  I love the ambling buffalo and sleepy quiet. 

At the end of the day someone asked Raghu how he felt about the day.  He said the best part was being surrounded by a home and environment that was a part of his ancestry and that everyone in the house was connected to his blood line. It was a lovely summation for me too. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

The way it goes

I would like to share this random day with my readers:

This morning i woke up with very low energy levels. I sat with my coffee mug and chatted with Ravi, who had been working on his laptop till i woke up. He is in the middle of re-entering the work world that he happily left 7 months ago. We are also in the last phase of the interior work on our new apartment. The current apartment, rented, has to be handed back by March 30th. The work on our site has us embroiled, mentally, physically and energetically. So there was much for us to talk about.

Raghu woke up and joined us on the couch. He said he loved the sun's warm rays falling on his bare back. He sat their sunning and started talking with us. The next hour went by discussing (with Ravi googling things for us) a light year, speed of light, how far Andromeda, the galaxy, is, what is a measurement unit, why measure anything, great Khali, the punjabi Canadian wrestler, tricks, trickster and how to trick people. Oh and also Raghu chatted about the Sherlock Holmes movie he saw by himself the previous night. ( I had fallen asleep and Ravi was asleep on the couch half way thru the movie.)

Raghu has been wanting to trick us.. General kinds... Pretending to be asleep, sneaking up on us and scaring us, stuff like that. But he has not always been successful. I gave him a wrapped candy this morning. He opened it and saw my carefully wrapped green plasticine roll. He was surprised at how realistic the candy looked like from the outside. So i wished him happy tricking, practical jokes etc. and mentioned that we'd love to be tricked. He does not want us to pretend to be tricked. He really wants to trick us. I mentioned the book on practical jokes i have. Raghu moved onto other things. I went back to my coffee and thoughts.

Ravi got some toast ready for breakfast. I got Zoya's milk ready. She had woken up talking about a playdate. I went upstairs to hang clothes to dry. My helper was sweeping the floors and helping with the dishes. We had not swept the floors for a day and they were filthy already.

I spoke to the kids about not arranging any playdates for the next couple of days as i was busy with the new house site issues, Ravi was managing several things, we were exhausted by the little house help, cooking, dusting, washing up etc. i explained that since we had several outings till yesterday i needed a break from social things. They both understood and decided to watch a TinTin episode while eating breakfast. I was moving around the house with a phone to my ear, arranging for dog care during the upcoming homeschoolers conference, and catching up on grocery lists and texting a friend.

I started cooking lunch once Ravi left for his errands and the site. Raghu and Zoya were playing a loud, running around game. There were times i wanted to step in and sort out their loud quarrels. I stopped myself and smiled at them and noticed that they were simply being loud but were not really angry. They kept resolving their issues and played together... A made up game.

I had steamed beetroot in the pressure cooker. I asked the kids if they wanted to colour some fabric. They put down soft white cloth pieces and for the next 30 minutes or so played with it. We stamped, printed, stained, and had some fun. Raghu then chopped up the cooked beetroot for our salad. I mixed it all up and Raghu tasted it and approved it but said it needed more salt.

While i continued to make chapatis and cooked a cabbage sabji, Zoya created coloured sand sticky paper thingies. Beautiful little things.... I have no idea what to do with them yet. But for now all that mattered was that she could mix coloured sand and enjoy the sticky paper.

Raghu then sorted out his card collection, played with a lighter, watched the flame, went out for a walk, used a blade to create wooden pencil shapes from sticks and now he is playing a video game that involves wrestlers.

Zoya is walking around with her doll, humming a song, carrying a laundry basket and creating little home spaces for her baby. She is currently feeding her doll and has asked me to get her wooden clothes pegs the next time we go shopping. I just fixed up her little pink stroller.

Ravi just got back and is upstairs printing out stuff. I will go set the table and maybe all 4 of us will eat lunch together.

Its 2:30 in the afternoon and i do not know how the rest of the day will go. I might read my Natalie Goldberg book after lunch and watch a movie with the kids. Maybe i'll feel open to playdates and a library visit (for Raghu's next Bone book) as the day moves on. I shared with the kids first thing this morning about how low i was energy wise and how i could not plan an active day. But they know (just from them knowing my style of functioning) that my energy may go up and we can revisit all of it).

Some days are full of excitement and busy with planned and unplanned activity. Other days like today... Quiet, loud, happy, annoyed, smiling, singsongy, simple, at home, mixed up, ordinary, etc. I stay with the unfolding of the day.

Friday, October 19, 2012

On Capone, Elvis and Learning

A few minutes ago Raghu was watching a video with me online, where we saw images of the soup lines during the Great Depression.  He immediately connected it to what he read about Al Capone in the Horrible Histories Book.  I learnt from him that during the Great Depression Al Capone tried to buy his way into the heart of the public, during his court trial, by setting up Soup Lines for the unemployed.

Often such moments happen during my randomly busy days and I'm unable to remember the connections made or the moment passes and the next time i'm at the computer my mind draws a blank.  today per chance the video froze and so i decided to blog this right away.

I also found it amazing that for a boy who normally does not read novel-length and novel-typesize books, Raghu read the Horrible Histories book on Al Capone cover to cover.  It amazes me the information that he squirrels away.  I may never truly know what my child has learnt, where he learnt it, why he learnt it, how he learnt it and when he learnt it.  But I know that he will learn what he needs, when he needs it, etc.  You get my drift.

Raghu's love for guns, the mafia, gangs, is leading to an interest in history, geography and many other 'subjects'.  I love the mix of information and flow of connections in our house.  Raghu said he loved the story of Al Capone.  He loves watching The Godfather series with Ravi.  And since Ravi has a clear hold over facts and figures and can talk instantly about directors, movies, dialog, films, historic facts etc, the 2 really enjoy their discussions on Scarface and the like :-)

As Raghu plays around the house he might hear us conversing about a topic and he jumps right in with his connections, information or sometimes a joke he heard about the topic.  This is something Ravi and I now welcome. Sometimes it feels like our conversations are interrupted too often and we might tell Raghu to hold his thought while we complete our train of thought... but mostly its a joy to have him and these days even Zoya jumping right in and giving us their world view.  They can influence the actions in this house and have impact.  I think for a child this is real-time learning.

Zoya has been parading us with dialogs from a diverse variety of movies.  She will say something from 3 idiots "jahanpana tussi great ho" when I bring her something she likes :-)  Or she might put her lyrics to the tune of  "Return to Sender" (Elvis).  Try singing this to the tune:  "Nana (Ravi) is verrrry grumpy, and not being nice, so I said to the postman, his letter comes back, Return to Sender, address unknown".  Its so funny!  And the song has the desired effect and Nana is less grumpy right away.  She makes up songs like this in tune to many Hindi and English songs.  Sometimes nonsensical, sometimes circumstances will be reflected in the lyrics :-)  We all enjoy her way of communicating.. thru her songs.  She tells us how she feels, what she wants and even asks questions.  Raghu has been helping her with holding the tune and finding the right rhyming word.

My children and I are learning way more than just facts and figures.  We learn about emotions, personalities, the world and why it is the way it is (a topic that is rehashed every few weeks as my ability to talk about it improves and my children ask more complex things), our selves, our family and its dynamics, what is money and why some people want more of it and some don't.  Etcetera.  And if I'm sad and they notice it, we talk about it.  Sharing my emotions, sharing how I dealt with an emotional moment, is important to me.  Often Raghu will know exactly what I need or want and will make wise suggestions... go for a walk Amma or he might ask if I want a glass of water.

Raghu advised me recently, "You know Amma, when you get angry and you want to not be angry any more, then you just need to forget what happened."  Ravi and I rarely, these days, get truly annoyed with each other.. its usually circumstantial stuff, rocky centers due to a cold or some such.... and yet... this piece of advice from my 9 year old was in alignment with what I have been learning from reading Byron Katie. I was indeed grumpy with Ravi that day and my grumpiness vanished. And I continue to learn.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Simple pleasures

 Zoya loves playing on the kitchen floor with a large steel plate, in which we arrange tongs, candles, camphor tablets and some little plates.  She likes burning camphor and allowing the smoke to coat a plate and then draw on it.  We love the smell of camphor!

I like how random our life is.  And if i fight this disorderly chaos that our interests bring about... then I feel low and angry and annoyed with the kids and myself.  So observing the laughter, joy, peace that the randomness of things in our life brings... makes me peaceful.

Raghu, Ishan (our neighbor) and Zoya helped me wash our Duplo lego blocks... that Z still loves to play with.  They had a blast with all that water and a running pipe... that was helping me clean the terrace as well.

I even ended up giving Snowy a bath... which she did not like.. but was easier for me with all that water being used by the kids.

Playing with fire, water and mud is still Zoya's favorite way to spend time.  Give her sand and water and hours can go by.  Raghu has definitely moved on and is not as engaged by these elements any more.  However he does love fire and will talk about carbon to Zoya and about burning different materials to me.

Simple Pleasures indeed.  

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Mole (pronounced Mo-ley) and death

I returned around 11 pm last night from a day-trip to Mumbai.  Kids and Ravi were waiting up. As i settled in, caught up on the day's news and Ravi filled me in on stuff, i noticed that Moley, our 4 year old goldfish, was looking funny.  He was floppy and floating funny.  Not good.  Raghu and Zoya had named each of our 5 goldfish who entered our lives around 3 years ago, courtesy of a friend who had had them for a year.  Raghu has fed them every day for over 2 years.

Raghu was looking miserable.  I suggested we move some rocks around inside the aquarium and make him comfortable.  Raghu started to cry.  I was focusing completely on Raghu now.  How could i help him?  For a while i stayed quiet.  Held his hand.  Raghu was standing on top of an old toy chest to watch Mole at close quarters.  We have kept our aquarium on a high shelf.  Perfect for viewing but not if the kids want to dip their hands inside.

Raghu stood on the chest and dipped his hands in and stroked the little fish.  At this point I knew this fish was dying and it did not matter what Raghu did. As the minutes ticked by I felt inspired to say things in a soft voice to Raghu and see how he reacted.  I asked if he would like me to take some last photos of Mole. He said yes.  One is below.  Then he stated crying again.  I started talking to Mole.  I told him that we were grateful to have had him be with us for such a long time.  That we would miss him but knew that he needed to go.  I wished him well and said i was willing to let him go.  Raghu was quiet and listening.  I then offered to read The Mountains of Tibet  by Mordicai Gerstein.  Raghu said yes.  A beautifully illustrated book of living and dying and rebirth that brings me much peace.

Then I asked Raghu if he knew why he was crying.. was it because he, Raghu, would miss the fish?  Was it because he felt that the fish did not want to die?  Raghu seemed still and said yes, he was not ready to let him go and yes, he was not sure that the fish wanted to go either.  So i said i too am fearful. Of what, Raghu asked.  I am fearful of my parents dying and me missing them.  Raghu looked at me and we then spent many minutes talking about death, dying, needing to move on from this particular life, etc.

My theory is that if this life does not meet my needs, i will move on.  And if i were to watch my parents dying, i'd like to tell them to go in peace.  Not with me crying and them upset to see me upset.  Reading Sogyal Rinpoche's Tibetan Book of Living and Dying made me aware of the beauty of death.

Then Raghu and I saw the irony... we celebrate births and do the opposite at death.  Yet when a child is born, it is born to die.  Raghu's words.  I was moved and yet very silent inside.  Something of this conversation made us both very calm and no longer afraid.

I asked him if he'd like me to talk to Mole some more and make him comfortable.  So we lowered a soft kerchief into the tank, placed Mole's still faintly living body onto it.  Then i put on buddhist chants.  And i said some Sanskrit chants.  And i spoke to Mole and wished him well.  Telling him to go in peace.

Eventually Raghu fell asleep on a chair watching Mole in the tank.
The next morning Raghu, Zoya, Ravi and I wrapped up Mole's body in the kerchief and buried him in a pot of mud that has some lilly bulbs in it.  We all stood around in silence for a minute.  I watched Raghu carefully.  He had moved on.  HIs heart seemed to be quiet and full but peaceful.

Zoya asked me where did the fish go when it died.  So I said that I believe that the body went back to the earth (she understands that things decompose and become earth again) and that the energy went back to energy.  This is the simplest thing i can say about death to Zoya.  And i think it met with approval.  For now.

It was a moving experience for me and made me aware, in a very good way, of my own mortality.