Tag Archives: #parent

Desi Upbringing Prepares You For Rejection

Desi Talk – A column that works on embracing our brown background and unique identity using Coach Yashu’s helpful tips. Find her talking to IC Editor, Srishti Prabha on Instagram LIVE Tuesdays at 6pm PST/ 9pm EST!

Are you brave enough to face rejection?

Whether it’s a job, ideas with friends or co-workers, a romantic crush, or even your pet running away from you – we face rejection ALL THE TIME! My cat, Balasubramanyam never wants to cuddle with me. 

….But there is no rejection like your “amma” saying “NO” even before you finished asking your question.

Growing up Desi, sometimes, rejection feels like the NORM.

We eventually develop this fear and refrain from speaking up, sometimes even lying or hiding things from our families. And then the whole guilt trip after…oh boy. 

Oftentimes, the Desi family structure is very different from other cultures, which oftentimes contributes to the narratives we have in our homes. 

Desi family structures depend heavily on the concept of security.

Security includes financial stability, generational wealth, familial relationships and duties, religion, and education. Desi family decisions are based on these factors more than individualistic freedom.

The benefit of this choice is that you are guaranteed money, a long term partner, a home, and kids. Oftentimes I think to myself, if it was not for my father pushing me to pursue my Ph.D. in Engineering, I may not have the money to be independent.

But there can be downsides. In 1st grade, I wanted to do a science fair project on flowers but instead, I did a project on how a water wheel is used to generate electricity. It was a rejection of my idea and push towards something that I couldn’t take ownership of. The unhappy memory stayed with me for a lifetime. Without insight into my parent’s history, our relationship was strained by such experiences.

Things my parents did or said, just did not make sense.

Why couldn’t I have a sleepover like the other American kids?  Why couldn’t I date? Or have a boyfriend in high school? Or get permission to go to sex-ed class?

And now, 20 years later, I think I know why. Because it was the UNKNOWN.

Our parents did not grow up with that level of freedom and are, now, acting out of fear. That which is risky should be left alone. 

With the Desi upbringing, you get security at the expense of freedom, perhaps happiness. And straying away from that, you get freedom at the expense of uncertainty. But somewhere in the mix, I think there is a sweet spot, where you can have the best of both worlds. You can have security, happiness, and freedom. That all starts with effective communication

For parents, I think the key is to listen and then respond. Not react, but respond.

For the kids, let your parents know what you are feeling, but also be open to listening to what they have to say, cause it is most likely true. My mom always says, “I have been the age you are, so I DO know what it feels like.” Day by day, I’m starting to realize how true the statement – hindsight is always 20/20 – can be. 

So take a minute and appreciate your parents, for all the protective measures they took out of Love. By being engaged, possibly controlling, parents in our lives, they found a way to ensure that many of us were staying away from things that could be potentially problematic. I am grateful for my Desi upbringing and I am, also, proud of the choices I have made for myself. I still make mistakes and disagree with my parents, but I do not fear rejection anymore. 


Yashu Rao is the first South Indian-American plus-size model and doubles as a Confidence Coach. She is the Founder of #HappyYashu, a Confidence and Lifestyle Coaching Service specializing in desi family structures. She’s here breaking down stereotypes and beauty standards as well as inspiring and empowering people to lead a life with self-love, confidence, and genuine happiness. Find her on Instagram giving tips and modeling.

Mother-Son Duo Deliver a Message of Gratitude

After their first children’s book on diversity, We Are One which was published in 2017, San Francisco Bay area-based mother-son duo Pinky Mukhi and Param Patel are back with their new book on diversity and gratitude I Am Grateful. Pinky, who works as an I.T. professional, loves working with children, teaching them Gujarati, and engaging them with stories, arts, and crafts related to festivals celebrated by different cultures. Her curious nine-year-old son, Param, is interested in arts, computer games, music, reading, and sports.

A simple tale told through bright and colorful illustrations by Devika Oza, the book is a journey into the daily lives of children and what they feel grateful for. The story trails a day in the life of a child, examining all the things he has around him to be grateful for—his parents, grandparents, school, lessons, teachers, art, music, playtime, bath time, books, stars, trees, and flowers—in other words, the little things that we often take for granted.

The book was conceptualized when Param was six years old and is based on a conversation with him about what he feels thankful for. When Param was eight, he along with his mother, added further to the story by imagining what children in different nations may appreciate. They then decided to include in the story some of the countries Param had visited and the continents he had studied about.

For this reason, the book is sprinkled with some charming illustrations of various well-known landmarks in different countries–such as the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Sydney Harbor Bridge, the Taj Mahal in Agra, the Stonehenge in the UK, the Masai Mara Reserve in Kenya, the Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro, the Bamboo Forest in China, the Cappadocia in Turkey, Mount Fuji in Japan, and the Keukenhof Tulip Gardens in the Netherlands. 

The book ends with these powerful lines, accompanied by pictures of children belonging to different cultures, with their palms folded in prayer:

“I am grateful for love.

I am grateful for friends.

I am grateful for Mother Nature.

I am grateful for sunshine and moonlight.

I am grateful for food.

I am grateful for home.

I am grateful for learning and stories.

I am grateful for toys.

I am grateful. I have everything I need!”

After a month of Thanksgiving and Diwali, the book which is sure to resonate with children between the ages of four and nine, serves as a much-needed reminder of optimism and gratitude, especially during these challenging Covid times. 


Neha Kirpal is a freelance writer and editor based in New Delhi. She is the author of ‘Wanderlust for the Soul’ and ‘Bombay Memory Box’. You can access all her published work under different categories in various publications here: www.nehakirpal.wordpress.com

Tips for Learning From Home

Children face myriad challenges with remote learning, as they are unable to meet with friends and follow a normal schedule during this pandemic. They become restless and unhappy.   

You as parents may be in a conundrum wondering how to teach your child(ren) at home while balancing your work lives. Keep in mind that you have always been your child’s first teacher, You have taught your child to walk, talk, and learn many values. While you may be grateful to each certified educator in your child’s lives you need to step forward with confidence to help your child.

Here are a few suggestions to make your children’s schooling at home more streamlined. These are just starting points that you can adapt to your individual circumstances.

The first thing is to develop a weekly schedule and break it down into a daily structure that you can modify with your own work schedule and that of your children. Consistency is the key here. Wake up, have breakfast, and start the day. Regular sleep time brings about normalcy.  

Your school may teach online or provide assignments and a structured curriculum. This can be very useful for you and your child(ren) to structure your days around it. If you have a teen consider empowering them to work out their own schedule so they will feel more inclined to follow it. Share the duties of household work, teaching, so that each one gets some time and doesn’t get frustrated.

It is likely that you are not the only one dealing with this and there are others at work who are in the same situation – so find a way to discuss this either as a group or with your manager to come up with a plan that allows you to reserve certain hours to help your children with their classwork or homework.

A recess or break time for your child and yourself is necessary. Every person whether a kid or parent needs some time for themselves between tasks. At this time one can unwind, run, jump, have a snack, or just relax.

Sometimes your child may get upset and angry, unable to understand a concept. Do not push them hard or have expectations that everything will work smoothly. You as a parent are new to this and should not be hard on yourself or them. When you hit a roadblock, take a break and return to the concept with a fresh mind. 

Try and work according to your child/ren’s personality. Some children like a rigorous and planned schedule while others prefer flexibility.  Be aware and pay attention to their feelings and wants. Showing compassion is essential in these times. They will always learn and grow but you as a parent need to be by their side in these times. Life will get back to normal one day and they will go back to school but this time of learning at home will make them realize three things; the bond they have with you, the joy of being back with their friends, and holding their educators in high esteem. Till then have patience and stand by them while keeping them positive and productive. 

Technology can play a big role at this time with teaching from home. Choose quality content via the abundant resources for science activities, math, reading, art, music, and also physical education. Do reach out to your children’s teachers and your children’s school parents for more help. 

You may like to ask your child to solve the task in a more creative and exciting manner. Let them be able to imagine, think out of the box, discover, innovate, and design.  

Nutritious food is a part of keeping the family healthy and happy. Plan the week’s menu so you all can sit down to dinner and catch up on the fun, unwind and talk together. Simple, quick pre-prepared lunches would be ideal during this time. Remember to get the children involved may be in setting the table, loading the dishwasher. 

It all seems so overwhelming but you got this!!!!!! Look within and tell yourself that you are competent. We have been given this time to introspect and bond with our families, care for ourselves, learn, and grow. It is time to do our bit to help society and the world come together as one. At this time being a parent is empowering and I know you are doing your best. Thank you from all of us for making the effort to keep your family and ours safe too. 


Geetanjali Arunkumar is a writer, artist, life coach. She is the author of ‘You Are The Cake’.

What If We Don’t Talk About Our Kids?

Lately, there have been many reports about women choosing not to have kids all over the world. Despite the changing times, unfortunately, bearing a child still seems the very definition of womanhood in many sad parts of the world where a woman is deemed “complete” once she “fulfills her purpose of bearing life”. Well, last I checked this is 2020, and isn’t humankind supposed to be more evolved than that by now? 

Before you judge me, let me clarify that I am very much pro-kids and maybe, someday, I’ll have one too. However, I also totally get if someone chooses not to have kids, to each her own.

And yes, it is a choice – some people just don’t want kids

However, this article is not about women choosing not to have kids (you do you, girl!). This article is about those who not only choose to have kids but are also incapable of talking about anything but their kids. This is a real problem. There are online discussions about this with people (including mothers) venting about why some women cannot stop talking about a smiley their kid drew the other day! 

Hold On To Who You Really Are

We all have that one friend whose life circulates around her baby. I understand that having a child is a life-changing event – priorities shift and personalities evolve as we embrace motherhood and learn to parent. But, do we have to completely lose ourselves? Does our life have to be only about the kid’s poop, fart, food, and sleep? 

Women undergo many physical, biological, emotional, and physiological changes in the process of delivering a child. Our appearance, the way people see us, everything changes. I strongly feel that amidst all this, it becomes even more pertinent for us to hold on to who we really are. Women as mothers have been put on these unrealistic pedestals where in some cultures they are treated like Goddesses (I won’t argue that though). However, jokes aside, we are not Goddesses. We are only human and we should have the liberty to freak out, get exhausted, and demand a break when we need, even from being a mum. 

Trust me, I have never met a man who is only capable of talking about his kid. That makes me wonder if the real cause behind this is the deep-rooted heteronormative gender bias in all cultures around the world. The brand of the mother is always associated with care and nurturing while the stud dad goes out and earns a living. Well, this isn’t the 1950s, so women, please chill!

How The Society Is At Fault Here

Sometimes, this can be because of other reasons than just being over-excited about motherhood. If you observe closely, you will see a pattern. First, they obsess over their fathers, then over their husbands and eventually, over their kids. This pattern is alarming because it hints towards a total lack of sense of identity. 

Across many cultures, especially in Asia, a woman’s entire life can be broadly divided into three milestones:

  •     Being a dutiful daughter
  •     Getting married to a fine suitor 
  •     Mothering a child

You must think I don’t know what I am talking about and that this is all ancient news but look around and tell me – is it really? In many parts of China, if women stay unmarried, they are called “leftovers”, and in many parts of India, if women choose to marry someone they love, they are slaughtered in the name of honor killing.

This brings me back to my original point. The fact that some women talk non-stop about their kids is probably because they have been made to believe that their existence on earth is not enough as themselves. They are made to feel that they must latch on to a man or a child whom they serve, care for and nurture to be essential.

I really hope that as we take baby steps towards a more progressive and open world, women are able to feel free and own their identities. 

To those, who just love talking about their kids and disagree, I have only thing to say: “No, I don’t want to know what your child did today. Tell me, what you did.”


Surabhi Pandey, a former Delhi Doordarshan presenter, is a journalist based in Singapore. She is the author of ‘Nascent Wings’ and ‘Saturated Agitation’ and has contributed to more than 15 anthologies in English and Hindi in India and Singapore. Website | Blog | Instagram

 

Why Father’s Day Felt Different

This year father’s day felt different. And I don’t mean in the way we celebrate it, because like others I was guilty of incessantly googling many creative and indoor ideas that were floating on the internet, but in its deep sentiment and what it represented. For me this year, I celebrated the often overlooked tenderness in fathers.

Australian poet Pam Brown once wrote, “Dads are most ordinary men turned by love into heroes, adventurers, story-tellers, and singers of song.”  I am head-over-heels about my own father. I love fathers in all their forms and shapes because there is nothing more appealing than to see a man’s tenderness crawl out of him in the moments least expected. And fatherhood, if nothing else, will do that to a man.

Being raised by a single father myself, I have seen the tenderness that is possible from a father, I have come face to face with the fact that gender does not decide how one loves and that such love can achieve a lot. I have always celebrated my own father’s tenderness, but in the past few months, my observation of acquaintances, friends, and family has been unique. The Pandemic has given a new face to fatherhood, that of a deeply involved state of participation, frustration, and a redefined idea of love and responsibility.

Within the Indian and even the Indian American social constructs, the father is still seen as the patriarch, the provider. Life in America, compared to India, gives fathers more chances to be involved in the household. They cook, clean, do the dishes, change diapers, drive children to school, and be part of many more practical child raising opportunities. And yet, many fathers do not know the ins and outs of day to day life with children of all ages. It is one thing to do this part-time and another to provide and nurture at the same time, around the clock without any breaks.

A friend whose wife recently had her second child confided in me recently about such an experience. Last time around even though having a newborn was a life change, her husband went back to his life after the paternity leave. But this time, his understanding of the sanctity and struggles of the postpartum period have made him see his own role as a father in a deeper light.

And there are other fathers who get to see the juggle of the children at home, the never-ending labor of love, with no escape. Fathers who are now spending time with teenagers who are off to college in the next few years, their own kids who in the pre-pandemic world had no time to see them, but now they cherish three home-cooked meals together.

And then there are the empty nesters, fathers who now see closely, the pain of the long days of mothers who spent a big part of their adult lives serving children, now starting a new life.

But make no mistake, fathers are losing their minds. They have never done this before and for the first time, they can’t wait for the work alarm to ring at five am again. But meanwhile, they are pushed to their limits. They are exhausted. All they want is a drink with a friend to escape this elevated chaos called the family life. They have children climbing on their sore backs and grumpy teenagers endlessly debating political subjects. And through these sighs and screams, the impatience for the days to end, and passing many a sulky and under-productive day, their hearts have opened, their roles have expanded, and they continue to see the new dimensions and expressions of tenderness. So I hope all the fathers out there did get that drink, whether it was in the bathroom or in the attic, that they were celebrated, because this year they deserved it, more than ever.

Preeti Hay is a freelance writer. Her articles have appeared in publications including The Times of India, Yoga International, Khabar Magazine, India Currents, and anthologies of poetry and fiction.

Without My Dad

This is the first Father’s Day without my dad. 

I reflect on his advice, “Son, don’t hate. Never be a victim and give in to anger.”  

Advice that could not be more relevant in today’s political climate. I see my father’s importance and the positive role he played in my upbringing, my sense of self, and my commitment to my work.  

To fully appreciate the philosophy behind dad’s life, you need to know one thing about him – he lived a life with an Attitude of Gratitude

He raised us not to feel entitled. We learned, early on, the subtle joys of appreciating the good in our lives with daily prayers of thanks. It was a common bond that connected us as family.

He taught us to never compromise on our values and principles and to take accountability. He pushed people to do their best and pushed us outside of our comfort zones, which really helped us grow. He said “We are humans and mistakes can be made. But we’re not going to make mistakes of character or integrity.”

When other fathers were bragging about their wealth, their children’s grades, clothes, and success, dad never boasted. He said “be a good human being in life,” and that is all that will matter in the end. He brought everybody together.

Dad was a caring, thoughtful, and gracious man. He was always quick to recognize and express his admiration for the skills and accomplishments of those around him. Dad believed that giving back to the community was of utmost importance. This was demonstrated by his extensive involvement in civic and community activities.

I am filled with incalculable joy at the thought of the many lives my dad touched. Reflecting on his life reminds me of all the ways my father is still with me after death. I am not without my dad – I am filled with his wisdom and values and while I live, so does he.

Sunil Tolani is the CEO of Prince Organization and a devoted son to his father, Arjan Tolani. He writes this in memoriam of his father, who inspired him to be the person he is today.

Complexity of a Modern Father

To be a FATHER in the “yesteryears” was easy because he heard only “yes” to every command he gave. Easy but not healthy. It actually kept our culture somewhat stagnant by keeping a father walled off. On the contrary, I consider the modern father to be a lot luckier. 

Education is no more gender-specific.

Father may know the best” but not on all subjects and matters. Women of today, plunge, and successfully so, into almost every sphere of study. Medicine, Law, Technology, Aerospace Engineering, whatever profession you can name, has seen an increase in female involvement.

A few years back, I questioned my medical students about an anecdotal enigma of a young man who was hit on the head by an automobile and was admitted to the ICU.

The Neurosurgeon looked at the patient and exclaimed in agony, “ This is my son!”

The young man, however, said, “This is not my Father.”

“How is that?” I asked the class.

What the older generation of the medical students could not answer was at once answered by the current generation. The Neurosurgeon was his MOTHER.

Hopefully, we should hear more dialogues like, “ Son, I do not know the answer to your science question. Go ask your mom.” With joint help from both parents, children will learn a lot more about not being gender specific., 

Feeding the family can ALSO be a father’s privilege since both parents are usually working.

This applies to other household responsibilities like changing the diapers, bathing children, nursing them when they are sick, etc. Why should hungry, sick, or hurting children always have to run to the mother? My daughter, when a child, always wanted me to shampoo her hair. I am very happy to have done that because that privilege was taken away from me when she grew up.

At the time of our marriage, my wife was busy with her Ph.D. studies. I went to India by myself to buy the wedding clothes and the matching accessories for the occasion. Throughout my journey, I was busy praying that my choice of purchase met her approval!

The gendered myth relating to right and left brain dominance needs to be readjusted.

Boys and girls, alike, gravitate to STEM in their educational upbringing. We need to dispel the earlier notion that boys should lean on science and girls are good only for arts. These young people are our future parents who will need to learn and teach both in their real life. It should be remembered that Corpus Callosum, the wide web connecting the two brains, is going to be the focus of our future, controlling and coordinating the functions of both cerebral hemispheres. 

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) will need STEAM (A for Arts) to nurture the coordinated growth of our future generations. 

 What could be the main reason why children rush to their Mother when in need?

A modern father has to effectively incorporate both sides of his brain, so that children do not differentiate between the two parents. Our concept of Lord Shiva as an Ardhanaarishwara (Half man and half woman) was conceived at a magnificent moment of this perception. The word female incorporates the male in its body anyway.

When the roles of father and mother get reasonably reversible, fathers will feel fortunate to experience their children in an unprecedented way. At that point in time, there may not be separate celebrations of Father’s and Mother’s Days but a combined Parent’s Day, much to the chagrin of the Business community.  

Till then, have a meaningful Father’s Day!

Bhagirath Majmudar, M.D. is an Emeritus Professor of Pathology and Gynecology-Obstetrics at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. Additionally, he is a poet, playwright, Sanskrit scholar, philosopher, and a priest who has conducted about 400 Weddings, mainly Interfaith.

A Father Sees the Sugar Cube Moments

On the first of January 2016, our girls party drove up to the Gateway of India and entered the heritage Taj hotel for a quick immersion in the grandeur of a bygone era. 

“Let’s do high tea, it’s tradition!” I told my daughter and niece. 

We sprinted through the lush corridors of the hotel and floated up the cascading carpeted staircase. We caught a glimpse of ourselves in the long mirrors. To our chagrin, we were not dressed in our Sunday best. But we “ragamuffin trio” shrugged our elegant shoulders because the sparkle in our eyes more than made up for our casual attire.

The hostess of the Sea lounge looked at us and asked if we had a reservation. “

“No,” I said, “but I used to frequent the Sea lounge with my dad when I was a teenager.” 

“Surely,” said the well-trained employee, without blinking an eye and took us to a window seat in the restaurant. 

We sat down. I gazed out at the glimmer of sea. The silver waters stretched over the teeming heads of a madding crowd of Mumbaikers and their guests on the street below. In the seventies of my childhood, Mumbai was not so crowded!

I studied the scene in front of me like viewing a painting in a gallery. The boat with ochre and emerald trim and a hint of red. White billowing sails competing to mingle with fluffy cloud gestures in the western sky. The barely perceptible boats far away on the horizon, bobbing peacefully on the waves invoked tranquility.

With a great difficulty of a child leaving the sight of her companion, I turned my gaze inside. I looked around me. I was alone at the table. From the snowy white linen, my eyes jumped to a Blue China sugar bowl heaped with perfect cubes of crystallized sugar. 

Transported to my childhood, I took a cube and let it sit on my tongue. As it melted, I remembered how I would gingerly advance my fingers towards the sugar bowl as a child. At the same time, cleverly gauging how many I could stuff into my fist without catching the eyes of either parent in one go. Dad would be sipping his tea and mom would be pouring her cup. In that busy moment, when the spoon was turning, I would plan my sugar swoop.

Me and my younger sister with sugar cubes in our mouth.

I would manage to pilfer two or three of these extraordinary sweets with great ease. I would surreptitiously stuff them into my mouth and then try to conjure an expression of innocence. Alas, the two sharp bulges in my, then smaller cheeks, would give me away! My sister would take pleasure in my failure.

As I tried to assimilate the cubes, I was amazed at how much time they took to dissolve in my mouth in those days. My countenance would melt in embarrassment and I would beg for mercy at my mothers’ rebuking gaze. My mother prided herself in instructing us on good behavior. The tension would break as my dad would chuckle and say, “trying to avoid the horse’s eye, eh?”

I never understood that expression because there was no horse in this gathering! But I always obliged him to be at the butt of his joke. Then I would hide my face in my hands, but not for long because he would smile his dazzling smile and we would all be hypnotized by his presence. His lips would form his sweet singing signature moue that I have never been able to emulate and he would sing:  “Rum jhum rum jhum, (2) Chhupo na Chhupo na, oh pyari sajaniya, sajan se Chhupo na…

I brush a tear and listen to the sounds of the ocean. I can hear dad’s laughter rise and fall on the waves.  I catch myself singing the same song…

The waiter appears at my elbow, discreetly ignoring my faux pas of pilfering sugar cubes, “Would you like some champagne, miss?”

Monita Soni grew up in Mumbai, India, and works as a pathologist in Decatur Alabama. She is well known for her creative nonfiction and poetry pieces inspired by family, faith, food, home, and art. She has written two books: My Light Reflections and Flow through my Heart. She is a regular contributor to NPR’s Sundial Writers Corner.

Daddykins Watches the Australian Open

When journalist Kalpana Mohan’s elderly father falls ill in Chennai, she is on the next flight over from California. Caring for her sometimes cranky, sometimes playful, yet always adored father at his home in Chennai, Mohan sets out to piece together an account of her father’s life. Here is an excerpt from her book, ‘Daddykins: A Memoir of My Father and I‘:

Daddykins concentrated hard during his hour of therapy. My father’s greatest challenge, Physio-Saar explained, was to tell the brain to teach the left hand to lift it high above the head. Daddykins would lift his right hand instead. My father was learning to build a link between his left arm and brain; he was using the code between his right arm and brain to apply it to his left. Daddykins’ neurologist was astonished by his patient’s focus. “I’m yet to see another man — even one who is in his seventies or his eighties — with your father’s optimism and fighting spirit. No one in the medical community will believe he’s doing this at ninety.”  

A few weeks later, Physio-Saar brought equipment that began reactivating my father’s nerves. Little by little, Daddykins began to feel life in his fingers although he never recovered sensation in his index finger. After a few weeks of physiotherapy, he was able to lift his left arm high above the shoulder. But his forearm flopped. He was permanently damaged by the stroke in countless other ways. He stopped enquiring about his family or the world outside. Sports drew out his old self for a time. We prayed for one-day cricket and tennis on TV. Late in January, on one evening during the Australian Open, Daddykins became his sprightly old self watching Roger Federer play against Andy Murray. A Federer fan, Daddykins claimed that he didn’t like Murray because he was Scottish and they were ‘all so arrogant.’ That evening, as always, his valet, Vinayagam, played the role of the sports commentator.

Aiyo, Federer, don’t hit a fault!” he yelled at our Sony Bravia. He turned to me. “The problem is our man always hits the net.” Vinayagam knelt by Daddykins’ black recliner. “Look, it’s 30-15, Saar, are you following the game?” Daddykins nodded and continued staring at the television screen. Nurse Bindu sat on her usual spot on the diwan on my father’s right. I lounged on a rattan chair between my father and my husband Mo on the rust-orange sofa working on his laptop.

At one point during the match, Daddykins told us not to breathe. Federer’s going to hit the ball, he said. Federer slammed the ball. The house came down in Rod Laver Arena. 

Vinayagam shot up and screamed. “3-2 for Federer!” He clapped. And Bindu clapped. And I clapped. And Mo clapped. Then Federer thwacked another point. “Yes! 4-2 now! Yes!” Daddykins could not clap. But he lifted his right hand high into the air over the top of his recliner. “Yes! 4-2. Federer, enough! Stop!”

Vinayagam turned to address me. “Amma, your father and I watched every game—Australian Open, French Open, US Open and Wimbledon—together. He taught me the rules. We used to set our alarm clock to get up in the middle of the night to watch our favorite games. FIFA World Cup. Grand Slam. World Cup Cricket. We used to be crazy like that.” For years Daddykins bought himself the best seat at the Nungambakkam Tennis Stadium to attend a whole week of Chennai Open.

Then, as we went into a commercial break, Vinayagam called out to Mo who was tapping away into his keyboard. “Saar, my boss has taught me everything there is to know about tennis. But now he doesn’t even know the rules anymore. Saar, do you know that this is much like a banana plant giving birth to its sapling?” 

Fully in the spirit of things that day, Daddykins cheered for Federer while insulting Murray. Perhaps it worked because at the end of a tense match, his beloved Federer emerged the victor. But he was angry because Federer didn’t show the grit of his old game. 

“Go home now,” he grunted to Federer as his square face loomed into view on television. “Your wife’s going to have your head, I’m telling you.” Then he turned to Bindu. “I’m so fatigued now after watching this fellow win.”

 “Thatha, but you didn’t play,” Bindu said, hugging his frail shoulders. “They played.”

“Yes, I know. But it’s so easy to tire out when you’re watching tennis. Especially a game like this where it took that mutta payal took two hours to win one silly point.” Daddykins patted her head. She laughed. Her white teeth sparkled against her pretty black face.

“Anyway, all this has made me hungry,” Daddykins said, looking at Vinayagam and Bindu. “And I need to celebrate this victory with some Ensure.” His face now wore a woebegone look. “Please?”

******

One morning, Daddykins walked again. Physio-Saar and Bindu stayed close on either side of him but they did not hold my father as he walked towards the dining area from the living room. “There, let me walk towards her,” he said to me, pointing to a laminated photograph of my mother on the living room cabinet. “She was my inspiration to resume walking.”

Daddykins lifted his left leg consciously and walked with his arms up and down, as if he were a soldier in an army regiment enacting a drill. “Walk normally, Saar,” Physio-Saar reminded him. Daddykins continued to walk as if he were part of a military unit.

“Great! Now let’s walk towards mother’s other photo, Daddykins,” I said as my father walked past me. “Look, she’s on that wall too,” I said, pointing to the collage of our family out on the dining room wall. 

“Yes, there she is, my inspiration,” Daddykins said to Physio-Saar, stopping at the wall to point to a photograph, in black and white, of my mother in a pensive mood. He stood there with Bindu and Physio-Saar, staring at another photograph of himself and his wife taken a few months after their wedding. Daddykins, twenty, in a formal western suit. My mother, fourteen, in a sari. Both looked timid, a little anxious, perhaps, as news about the end of the World War and the allied troops readying for D-day came in through the wires. 

My father’s face creased into a smile. “Yes, your mother was an inspiration, but many times she was a source of my perspiration,” he said, as he stood by the collage crumbling in toothless glee, his late wife frowning behind him.

Kalpana Mohan writes from Saratoga. She is the author of two books, Daddykins: A Memoir of My Father and I, and An English Made in India: How a Foreign Language Became Local.

A Parallel Pandemic in the Shadows: Women Affected

Coronavirus brings the simmering issue of gender inequity to a violent boil. 

A barrage of data can leave you with less information than the data dictates. For some, it has become a hobby to get instant updates on Coronavirus infection rates, death rates, and trends. 

“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them”, Maya Angelou advises. Yet, the reductive nature of statistics are difficult to escape. One data point can blind us to the barriers of entry, the treacherous path, the years of turmoil, the fallen and left behind, and the unseen. 

Numbers indicate that men are being affected by COVID-19 at higher rates. But where does that leave our women?

In the US, prior to the pandemic, the workforce was 51% women, revealed Dr. C. Nicole Mason, President and CEO of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, at the May 22, 2020 EMS Briefing. A staggeringly high statistic, one that has taken many years to reach. From an inaccessible job market to wage gaps, having a workforce that was representative of women was an achievement.

However, from the time the pandemic began, that number has dropped to 47%. The last time such a distribution existed was in 2000 –  a complete loss of the gains made in the last 20 years, in a short 3 months. 

Global trends indicate that women are – on and off the frontlines – being affected by what is now being called the Shadow Pandemic. Dr. Estela Rivero,  Research Associate within the Pulte Institute for Global Development’s Evidence and Learning Division, shares that women are being burdened with the unpaid work that accompanies shelter in place orders. 

Unpaid work is defined by labor that has no direct remuneration; taking care of the house, your children, your children’s education, caregiving for the disabled and elderly all fall under this category. Imagine, if you were to hire someone to do said work, you would be paying them 24 hours a day. Women take on these extra tasks in conjunction with a part-time or full-time job. 

“Who is bearing the brunt of taking care of the children? Who is bearing the brunt of the online schooling?”, asks Dr. Beatrice Duncan, Rule of Law Advisor for UN Women, when she speaks about the increase in unpaid work by women. 99.9% of women, globally, are experiencing a spike in unpaid work and Duncan implores the collective to rationalize the impact of this gender disparity.  

Women are disproportionately impacted by unpaid work and caregiving during the pandemic, Dr. Estela Rivera informs. A quick look at the two tables above indicates that the burden of unpaid work has fallen on women prior to the pandemic. 

Coronavirus brings the simmering issue of gender inequity to a violent boil. Women, all around the world, with or without the pandemic, have been doing more unpaid work AND on average, work more hours (unpaid and paid) than men.

(Dr. C Nicole Mason, left; Dr. Estela Rivera, top-right; Dr. Beatrice Duncan, bottom-right)

“COVID-19 has, really, exposed some of the fragility of our economic, social and political systems”, Dr. Mason articulates. “We knew that there was something underneath the numbers. Even though women were in the workforce in record numbers, many women and families were still struggling to make ends meet. Measuring the economy by low levels of unemployment… didn’t capture the day to day realities of women and their families.”

Women are overrepresented in the health, education, and hospitality sectors, all of which have taken a hit during the pandemic and historically have lower pay. With unemployment for women jumping from 3% to 15% in the US, during the shelter in place, they are facing the loss of jobs, inadequate savings to survive the pandemic and potentially, having to make the difficult choice to choose work over their children. 

If women are to re-enter the workforce with equal footing, creation of new jobs, equal wages, increased basic pay, childcare provided by employers, flexibility with schedules, and social support systems for women, need to become part of the government’s structural dialogue. 

The economy and its jobs have changed and recovery requires adaptation. Otherwise, the violent boil will overflow, destroying everything in its wake. 

The path forward begs the question: What policies do we need long term for women and their families to succeed? 

Srishti Prabha is the Assistant Editor at India Currents and has worked in low income/affordable housing as an advocate for children, women, and people of color. She is passionate about diversifying spaces, preserving culture, and removing barriers to equity.

Mother Says So…

A mother’s love is that divine gift that enables a child to do their best.  Mother is not a noun but a verb that personifies unselfish love. We are all connected to our mothers through a special bond even after the umbilical cord is cut. Sooner or later we all start emulating our maternal traits, some of us more than others. 

I remember my mother every morning when I wake up. I open my eyes to my palms and recite the morning prayer. During the day the Rudraksh beads of practical wisdom from her rosary guide my actions. At night when my head touches the pillow, it is her voice that calls upon me to surrender myself to the creator: “Om Hari Sharna”.

I am fortunate like many of you to have a very loving, kind, courageous, talented, and devoted mother. How I wish I could be with her on this Mother’s Day but I cannot travel to India because of the COVID pandemic. It breaks my heart but assembling the pieces of my love for her into a collage, I share this writing as an homage to all our mothers. In my conversations with friends and family on the phone, FaceTime, Facebook, Instagram, and zoom, I have gathered stories about mothers all over the world.

One of my friends said that her mother has a rule, “Never leave the house without saying I love you to your brothers and sisters. You don’t know when you would be together again.” She also said, “Contentment is a difficult virtue but not unattainable” What good advice.

Another lady’s mother went by, “Beauty is what beauty does!”

One mother bade her child to stay organized and she obeyed by keeping an immaculate home. 

A lovely southern belle shared her mother’s advice: “Always be polite and well dressed”. Your good manners can take you around the world. 

My aunt advised her daughters not to do everything themselves even if they knew how to do it. Let your children learn for themselves. Excellent advice, I wish I would have heeded this one. Because of her teaching, my friends and cousins have become experts at delegating their chores to others. Very convenient indeed! 

My aunt always had useful culinary advice. This came in handy before instant cooking and googling recipes was a fad. She said, “If you don’t want to spend your time in the kitchen, rolling rotis for your brood, just make them all rice eaters.” Although I love a fresh chapati with ghee on occasions, we generally cook rice to go with our vegetables.

My son admits that I taught him to be polite to everyone. I think somewhere, in all the telling of stories and reciting poems during his childhood, my sweetness might have taken hold in his nature.

My mother told me not to openly voice my opinion about others but I have not followed this advice. In my personal life, I am known to speak my mind, like my dad. My daughter overlooks my stubborn streak most of the time and we enjoy creative activities together. I paint and write and she creates my Instagram and web pages. My daughter is an honest critic. When I really need advice I go to her.

My grandson had some interesting inputs. He said, “My mother has taught me to say thank you, sorry and to cover coughs and sneezes”.  All helpful tips indeed.

I asked him what I had taught him? He said, “To say Hanjee instead of Haan.” I still think that he does not understand that it is meant as a sign of respect to others and not a mere grammatical appendage that he constantly forgets. 

My mother also said that save your money because ultimately it will help you in any dire circumstance. This is so true in the time of the pandemic when so many of us have to rely on our savings for food, shelter, healthcare, and helping the needy.

Mother taught a lot through her actions. She started her day early, in “Brahma Muhurta”. This good habit gave her an early start into bathing, prayers, gardening, cooking, and reading the morning newspaper. By the time other members of the house woke up, breakfast was ready on the table. She knew that a way to everyone’s heart was through their stomachs. We had fresh food every day: parathas and pickles, poori aloo, omelet toast, upama, idli sambar, and seviyan. 

At home, we kids did not have a natural inclination to learn cooking or help her in domestic chores. She never complained working on her on but was most particular about her afternoon siesta. She took a thirty-minute nap every day and no one could disturb that. We kids squirmed and protested but that was a ritual we all had to follow. Mother was very determined but her effect was gentle and angelic. She never laughed or cried loudly. Very ladylike was her expression and perhaps because of that she has a smooth unwrinkled face to this day. She was able to sense my dad’s moods and always cautioned us, kids, to behave accordingly. We had wonderful conversations at the dinner table which are dearly missed but I don’t miss having to gulp down spinach with water.

My mother often said, “Apne Hath Jagannath.”

As I was explaining the meaning of this cryptic phrase to my friends, I realized that my mother literally took my hands and put them to action. She gave me the gift of an industrious life when she presented me with a sketchbook and colors. Wherever we went, we carried our hobby bag with us.

Ever since then, I have tried to create my own world through medicine, art, and writing. Creativity is my life mantra. I gaze upon the elegant visage of my mother as she tries to bless me by touching my forehead through the phone, I feel humbled. There are not enough words, phrases, poems, or songs in this language that would encompass my feelings of deep gratitude for my mother. But I don’t have to…

There is a woman in the house

Her breath rises and falls

She rests her head on my shoulder 

We both read from the same page

Our eyes close

We hold kindness

We are happy…

Monita Soni grew up in Mumbai, India, and works as a pathologist in Decatur Alabama. She is well known for her creative nonfiction and poetry pieces inspired by family, faith, food, home, and art. She has written two books: My Light Reflections and Flow through my Heart. She is a regular contributor to NPR’s Sundial Writers Corner.

Mothering During Shelter in Place

Try entertaining a toddler without shelter in place and you will find yourself exhausted beyond belief at the end of the day. A study has shown that even athletes are unable to keep up with tots. And then try entertaining a toddler with a shelter in place and without external stimulation of friends, playgroups, storytimes, or babysitters involved. The internet is bursting with tips on how to do this. Mothers are looking for outlets to save them, and as a mother, I can vouch for the fact that every mother is asked this question: How can you do this with little ones? To that I say with much thought, as mothers, we can do this because nothing surprises a mother.

For me personally, this time reminds me of my maternity leave. A period where women step into the unknown. I was apprehensive. It was a time when the mind and body were met with unexpected challenges. A time of withdrawal. A time when nothing turned out as it was planned. External stressors such as lack of sleep, learning to care for a new child, and accepting a major life change kept me on my toes. The period lasted way longer than I thought. And even though others had been through it and in that sense it was a collective experience, my journey was my own with its unique set of parts and players. On that lonely ride, I learned to look within for the inner strength that would not only ride me, but catapult me through that time.

Unlike some others facing the general challenges of this time, mothers do not have the time and luxury to binge watch Netflix, or read novels at length or take an online class. Their lives demand action at every moment. But no one is more equipped to do this. Mothers have faced it all. Mothers are always in survival mode and take on a storm because they are always aware of the creeping dangers in the unsettling yet redeeming experience of motherhood. Their instincts to protect their children make them rise to all possibilities. Fear is always on a mother’s mind, she is like an animal keeping guard and ready to fight for her child’s safety.

Anyone who has ever been a mother would agree that mothers are used to not getting what they want. We are used to our lives being run by events and desires outside of ourselves. The universe of children throws curve balls when least expected. Illnesses, accidents, backfired travel plans, failed attempts at showing up at important work presentations, and even more disastrous attempts at working from home! Oh, how could she ever face the day again? And yet she does. Wiser and stronger than ever before, and more in tune with the ebbs and flow of the rhythm of life.

Every mother has gone through some form of deep inner transformation, whether she knows it or not. She knows that even though externally she appears to be in control or has to create her own reigns, that providence is in charge. She is fueled by a power that she digs from within herself. She has all the help and support from God and the universe. And she never takes anything for granted, for she knows the value of freedom and the greater value of bondage. Through this very bondage, she realizes that all things pass and that there is always light at the end of the tunnel.

As the world faces this challenge, my heart says a deep prayer for all mothers to be during this pandemic. It stands united with all other mothers having to make do at this time. But what I see behind the depth of this darkness is that we mothers have another opportunity not only to protect, provide, love, and entertain, but to be proud and humbled at another lesson, and have another go at being and doing what we never thought we could.

Preeti Hay is a freelance writer. Her articles have appeared in publications including The Times of India, Yoga International, Khabar Magazine, India Currents, and anthologies of poetry and fiction.