“Do you believe in God?” my 10 year old asked me straight at my face. Eyes large with expectation of an honest answer. No I could not lie to him. I remember the first time I asked myself that question, I was about his age. It was a moral science class in school. Nothing made sense. My mother being an extremely God fearing lady, made sure to follow all the rituals, say all the prayers & inculcate the same in us. I never had the courage to talk to her or anyone else about my views. So I simply played along. Played along for the next 30 years of my life till my son spoke to me. The next thing he said was a matter of fact kind of statement, ‘I don’t’. All of 10, and he had decided something so complex, so important. What I did next was not any good Indian parent would do. Neither did I reprimand him nor did I instil fear in his mind. I just appreciated his honesty & let him be.
After the initial doubt, it took me the next 3 decades to realise that I don’t believe in religion, but I believe in spirituality. It took me that long to figure out that while religion is external. Spirituality comes from within. In the end, it’s all about seeking peace from your thoughts, conduct and action and about being a good human being. These are the values I’d rather inculcate. So I gave my son the space to find his beliefs and stick to them, rather than carve a path and force him to walk on.
The stranger I married is extremely god fearing. He makes sure to light the lamp every day and pray too. I, on the other hand have been looked down upon and judged for not doing the same. But when we took our marriage vows in front of the same fire and in presence of God, It is me who took those vows seriously and lived up to it every day. When there were problems/expectations/responsibilities, It is me who faced them without running away. I lived up to every promise that I made with or without the fear of God. Somewhere in the rush of life and in the forced need to believe in God, the values of life seem to be lost.
My answer to my little one would be: No I don’t believe in God, so I don’t seek him externally in places of worship or in words of prayer. But I believe that there is a little bit of God within everyone that shows in their conduct. That is the God I seek within myself and everyone around me.
Recently I was on a holiday to Kenya. My 9 day trip was packed from day 1. Visiting different places each day & many long game drives. I had planned for night flight back home with the hope to catch on good sleep & wake up fresh in my home country.
The flight had two columns with 3 seats each side. We were at the second row. The take-off happened quick & it is only when the first infant started wailing did I realise that in just 3 rows consisting of 18 seats there were 8 children aged below 5. (yes I actually counted) Maybe it was holiday time & everyone was going home to meet their grandparents. I felt sorry for the moms who had to pacify their wailing child. Felt relieved that I had crossed that phase in life as I looked at my young man peacefully watching the movie ‘Superman’ as the flight took off.
Soon it was time to sleep & here began my ordeal. The flight per say was very comfortable. It’s the co passengers that I forgot to take into account. The first row of 6 seats, 3 each separated by an aisle was occupied by a single family. One man, two women and 3 children all related or maybe close friends. They obviously forgot that there were other passengers on board. Because they kept ALL the reading lights on through the night. While the two little boys slept peacefully under the bright light that was used as a makeshift night light, the 3rd infant just decided to play all night long under papa’s supervision. This gave the young moms their most required me time. Sitting on the centre seat on either side of the aisles, they started off on some family gossip in a local language that I very well understand. Chatter chatter chatter through the 6 hours we were in air making sure that I know exactly which Aunt said what and which sister in law wore/ate what.
Soon the lights came on and the pilot made an announcement that we had entered Mumbai & would land in 30 minutes. I started hearing sounds like that on a cell phone. Being completely sleep deprived, I thought I was hallucinating, when I saw the lady in front of me actually turn on her phone and check messages while we were still flying. It took 20 minutes to descend and touch ground after that. While the flight was still taxiing at good speed, our family (by now I felt like I was a part of them as I knew so much) got up, opened the overhead cabins, got out their luggage & then with all hand baggage and children in tow, started moving towards the exit. The aircraft was yet to stop. (It is unfortunate that they didn’t know how to open the door, or else I’m sure they would’ve jumped off too. It would have done the world some good.) The cabin crew were still buckled up like all the other passengers, waiting for the plane to halt.
For now, this is the travel lesson I learnt: ALWAYS carry earplugs and eye masks when on an overnight flight.
I hate Maths!! My 9 year old declares..
He is a child who is unable to express himself clearly. So when he wails, ’why did you make me a hummus sandwich’ something he otherwise loves, he actually wants to tell me that he is upset that he cannot play with his friends because he is just recovering from a mild throat infection. It takes a mothers keen sense of observation & understanding to get that.
Yesterday, when he got home incomplete maths books with several notes from the teacher, I was very upset. Upset that he doesn’t like maths, a subject that wont leave his side for another 7 years atleast. Worried about how he will cope up for that long as good marks mean a lot. Anxious, to get my point of view across, I did the prohibited.. I told him that his access to the ipad will be denied until the time he completes his notes. I didn’t really mean it, just wanted him to understand.
I found out that he does not understand the system of punishment when he was just about 3 years old. There is no particular incident, but an observation over a period that drew me to the conclusion that punishing him never got me the desired output. As a mother I decided never to try it on him. But sometimes I completely run out of ideas on how to explain something to him. So here I was today convincing him to go to school in the morning & still didn’t get any maths done just because of the little threat I had given him last evening. Reminder to myself to follow the carrot & only carrot approach, surely no stick!
Sometimes I wish parenting would come with some instruction manual.