Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Review of the book "Dancing Bear"

Written by Manasi Subramaniam
Art by Gwangjo and Jung-a Park

This post is written for

The ‘Dancing Bear’ book begins with Altaf's birthday, the central character of this story. Every child would love to get a teddy bear, but Altaf gets a real bear, a living one and what’s more, a dancing bear. Altaf is thrilled with his gift and feels very proud that now he can follow his father's footsteps of being a good entertainer at the Mughal Kings' Court.

He tries to make his bear friend Somu dance by tugging at the rope around its nose and is shocked to see Somu hurt and bleeding. He is pained and goes to his father to seek help to heal the bear's wounds. He is disappointed with his father's apathy. Meanwhile he meets his uncle, Bhavik Chacha who tells him that being nice to the bear will only make him lazier. He teaches him that by only tugging at the rope will Somu ever dance.

Altaf tries to follow his uncle's teachings but feels guilty about the way he is treating Somu. From this point the story takes a sensitive turn. Altaf gets to know that his conscience was true in its indication and he had not felt guilty without a reason. The book captures the feelings of Altaf very beautifully. He not only rescues his bear friend Somu, but moves on to become a bear rescuer and sees the ‘Dancing bear’, the way he wanted to see it.

The book is simple and lucid and can be easily read by young readers. The paintings capture the various moods of the story. The emotions in the paintings are admirable, where we can sense and feel the joy and pain of Altaf and Somu. The title says ‘Dancing bear’ but the painting shows a bear in distress. This contradiction draws the reader to this book. This book is good to teach young children to respect animals and to instill the sense of freedom for every living being. A commendable book for kid’s!


Friday, 21 October 2011

An entry into the Passport To A Healthy Pregnancy Contest

This post is written for the "Passport To A Healthy Pregnancy Contest".


I said, "The test showed positive". He looked at me with fear. "Yes, it is positive", I said and looked at my husband with fear. His eyes acknowledged the fear we both had. I was pregnant. Every couple in this world who see a positive pregnancy test result would have been 'super' - happy. Was I not happy? No, it was not that I was not happy. I was afraid. This was my second pregnancy. I had conceived twins the first time and miscarried them. Miscarried miserably, losing one twin at 4 months and the other at 6 months. The Internal OS had opened up without any fore warning. I did not have signs, and then came some stitches to the cervix which failed and I lost it all. Doctors suspected I had an "Incompetent Cervix", but they were not sure as I was carrying twins and miscarriage with twins is a common problem. I swear I am still trying to come out of that loss. Every time I hear the word twins, I feel something tugging at my heart. I feel pained. I feel why did I have to lose mine, if only I had them?
So, this time when I was pregnant, I was scared how it would go? Will we ever have a baby was a huge question haunting us day and night after having lost the first pregnancy. I conceived after a year and half, but the wound seemed fresh and it still hurt. This pregnancy, we resolved to be extra careful. In the initial days of the pregnancy, I had some spotting issues. So, there was no way I could travel to work. I stopped going to office and started working from home. I had made up my mind to do everything right this time. I wanted to pull this pregnancy through. After the initial glitch of spotting, things seemed to go smooth. After the 12th week, the doctor decided to put in a cervical stitch (precautionary - just in case). Then the doctor assured me that I need not worry and everything seemed to be going fine. It seemed so till the 23rd week. I went for an anomaly scan and then my Internal OS measured 0.7 mm. The same day two years earlier, I was in the hospital with the same cervix measure. I felt the whole world came crashing on me. Was I paranoid?? Don’t ask me. I lost all hopes. I was not sure I would make it. The doctor said he would be placing another cervical stitch. I cried my heart out, when I went into the minor OT this time. My doctor did not know how to console me. (I later heard from the nurse that he sat in the OT for 5 minutes, with his hand on his head) He was also emotionally moved by all my crying episodes. I had cried for a whole day, from the time I came into the hospital till the next day I was forced to sleep under anesthesia. The risk of this surgical process was while putting the cervical stitch in, the needle could break my water bag and I would deliver on the table. I did not know how I would be out of the OT? Luckily, everything went well. I stayed in the hospital for 10 days and the doctor asked me to go. I was scared and did not feel like going home without the baby. I stayed in the hospital for 3 and a half months after that stitch and came home with the baby. Yes, I did that, believe me.
Everyday posed a new challenge. If one day it was about the baby's weight, one day it was about going to the bathroom and one day I would assume the gastric pains as labor pains and panic. I don’t know how I passed that phase. I just stay put in the hospital. I was only allowed to go to the bathroom for 10 minutes. I was on a laxative, so that I don’t put any pressure on my abdomen. Every day, going to the bathroom, used to be dreadful. I was scared where I would put pressure and where the baby would move down. By the feel of my abdomen, my doctor had told me the head was in the downward position. So that posed more threat, as it would put more pressure on the cervix, as the baby weight increased. Days passed slowly and I grew friendly with all those nurses. They were suggesting me a thousand things to increase the baby weight. One nurse asked me to soak almonds in water overnight, remove the peel and eat it the next day morning. They said that would increase the baby weight. I followed that for baby weight was extremely important in my case. Since I was under the constant threat of premature delivery, an early born baby with a good weight would definitely mean a higher survival chance.
One "ayya" (a caretaker in the hospital) asked me to eat pomegranate every day saying the baby would be healthy and pink. This I did not do, as I didn’t want any constipation problems. I had read somewhere that pomegranate seeds would lead to constipation. So I completely avoided it. Another lady asked me put saffron in milk and drink it every night. I asked the doctor and she said there is no evidence of saffron of either harming or benefiting in any way. So it was completely my choice. I had it just in case it helps my baby grow fair. A nurse asked me to drink 1.5 litres’ of milk every day. She said that calcium would aid in building the bones of the baby. I could not make 1.5 litres’, but I did drink a lot of milk. I stayed in a sharing room and I met many people there. Many people gave me many suggestions and some I followed and some I could not. I met some old uncle, with whom I had elaborate discussions about Mahabharata and Life and Death and Karma. I still remember how interesting those conversations used to be. People came and went, but I never left that room. I had become a talk in the hospital. I read a lot of books and listened to a lot of music. I believed that would make a positive impact on the baby.
30th week arrived and they gave me steroids. This was for the babies lungs to develop, to help in case of an early delivery. When I reached the 32th week, my doctor for the first time smiled at me (after having got admitted there) and he patted me on my shoulder. He said, we had pulled through and the risk was becoming lesser with every progressive day. We had crossed the danger period. He asked me if I want to go home. I refused and stayed back. My mother and my husband stood by me through this tough phase. I thank them from the bottom of my heart. I did not have a normal pregnancy; it was a phenomenal roller coaster ride. I have cried, laughed, have thrown tantrums, have been rude, have been mad and what not, but I survived it. I was blessed to go through this kind of an experience. It made me strong and more humane. It was tough, I admit, but the fruit of it was special. It was lovely. I was blessed with a beautiful baby girl on September 20th, 2009. She is fair (don’t know if that was due to saffron), she is interested in music and books (don’t know if that was due to me reading so much during pregnancy) and she is completely adorable. What worked for my pregnancy was staying positive and having the faith that I will pull through every single day and ofcourse the prayers and blessings of all my well wishers. She turned 2 years now and I tell you, if not for this contest, I would not have recalled those tough times.
I am thankful to this contest (Passport To A Healthy Pregnancy). It made me recollect an important phase of my life, which makes me grateful to some important people in my life and to the almighty GOD.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Guilt Pangs of a Working Mother

Today morning was slightly a different morning for me. My husband went early to work as he had some teleconference with his client this morning. I was getting ready and my princess was still asleep. While I was doing my household chores, she got up. She usually calls me from where she is sleeping, while I am busy running like mad, cooking, packing and cleaning. Today was no different; she called me "amma". I dropped whatever I was doing, went to see her, wished her a good morning, pulled her out of the bed, gave her a hug and took her to show her GOD (That is the first thing we do, every day morning. A general practice taught early in life). After all the "Namaste’s" and brushing, I gave her, her morning dose of energy drink, a glass a Junior Horlicks. She drank it peacefully.
I am trying to potty train her. So, I asked to her finish her morning due. She refused. I forced her, but she was not in a mood to go. Then she went to lie down on the small carpet in our living room. While I was busy decorating the GOD's photos with flowers in the puja room, she pee'ed on the carpet and started calling me, informing me of the same thing. I got pretty upset that despite asking her to go, she refused and now she had it done all on the carpet. I scolded her (I feel sorry for it now, no I am not joking). I asked her, how many times I had told her to use the bathroom and she did not and how she was a bad girl (now I am guilty for what I did.. :( ). I was getting late to work and that frustration was getting dumped on the little child. I hate myself for that act, I seriously do. I could see it that she was visibly upset. She picked up her chintu (her favorite doll) and went into the bedroom and stood there quietly. She picked up zandu balm and opened it and took a little in her fingers. I luckily saw that and scolded her yet again, to not touch it again. I came out after snatching the zandu balm from her. It was my mistake to have left it there the previous night. But she had to get those scolding’s for the curiosity she had. She was looking at me like what is wrong with you, early in the morning mom? Why are you yelling at me, for everything I do? Now I feel so bad and guilty for having scolded her, as I sit here far away from her and type on this screen.
I gave her a bath and let her watch Oswald on TV, while I was busy finishing the last bits and pieces to get to work. She quietly sat and watched and when I was all done, I went to the room to get my dupatta. As soon as I emerged out with it, she got down from the bean bag and pulled out her slippers and started wearing it. She knew I am supposed to leave to work and she had to go to her day care. I felt so much pained and guilty that I had to leave her and go to office. I was also feeling guilty of having scolded her. Without my knowledge, tears started rolling out of my eyes. I did not want to leave her in day care, but I have no much choice. Or rather, I am afraid to quit my job and sit at home. I am not sure of it at least now. I can’t make that choice. I don’t want to justify me working but I sometimes feel why am I in a situation where I have to choose between two things I like most? I like to work, I love my daughter. But why can’t they co-exist? Why should I compromise on one, to get one?? I have no answer. I am sure many working mothers don’t have an answer.
She saw me crying and she came up to me and gave me a hug. She asked me not to cry. I picked her; she tried to wipe a drop of tear (it was stuck to my eye, not sure of whether it had to roll down in front of her or not) putting her little finger into the space between my spectacles and my eyes. I told her I won’t cry and picked her, kissed her and tried moving on with my life, our lives.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Second attempt at the First timer series

Few months back, I had promised to do a first timer series. This is the second attempt. In case you have not read the earlier one, here you go.
Now for the second one.
She hated seeing his face. She turned away from him and walked towards her classroom. They had contested for the College president post. She had lost and the prince charming that he was, he just swept the crowd with his looks and his sweet words. They had campaigned hard. She had a decent fan following in the college. But he had outsmarted her in the elections. She was walking through the corridor and was fretting, seeing the congratulatory posters all over the walls with his name written all over the place. It was like the congratulatory posters were making fun of her. It was like the Prince Charming was making fun of her. She bowed down and walked quickly towards the class room.
This was the final year at college. They only had some projects to be completed and then they had to start looking for a job. So, she decided to put these elections behind and start preparing for the job interviews. She thought it was good to have lost the elections. With the post come responsibilities, with it goes a lot of time. And this was God’s way of asking her to prepare for the future. She wanted to start focusing on preparing for her career. Had she won the Presidential post, she would have to take responsibility of bringing up the issues the students face with the Trust that run the college and follow it up and see to it that the issues are addressed. She had to arrange the inter-collegiate events in her college, follow up the events occurring in other colleges, take students there, and make sure they win in the events and so many things. As she thought about all this, she let out a sigh of relief. She did not have to do any of it, though deep down she would have loved to. She consoled herself telling now all this headache was his. She would be the vice president anyway. But she decided not to do much and let him handle it all. She further thought she would resign from that post. He would have no time to plan his career, while she could do all that was good for her future.
Two days passed quietly. It was like the silence after the storm at college. She had the practice of looking up at the notice board before she entered her classroom. When walking into the college a Friday morning, there was an announcement of celebrations on the notice board. It read “Welcoming the New College President”. She felt all that anger for the new college president rushing up again. He had not harmed her in anyway. The only fact that she lost to him, hurt her like crazy. She did not know why she developed such a dislike for him while the entire college adored him. The elections proved it. She knew she was wrong, but she could not help her negative emotions towards him.
He had been a dynamic student in the class. He sat somewhere behind and had been an active participant in all the college day events. He had won several events in inter-collegiate programs and contributed to the many feathers in the cap, her college possessed. He had also been the founder of the “Jagruthi” group in his college. They started it to help the needy and he would go around collecting funds, organizing blood camps, donating clothes and Braille sheets to the blind and so many such activities. Despite all this, he managed to score fairly well in the exams. She had admired him before the elections. She always wondered from where he mustered up all that energy? But the elections had changed it all. She despised the amount of ego she had. She felt so cheap about her attitude towards him but she could hardly help it either.
Finally the day of the celebrations had come. Big banners, colorful papers, buntings and decorations sprung the otherwise dull college walls to a celebrative mood. She wanted to bunk attending the function, but later decided against it, since it would be pretty obvious that she was jealous. There was an inauguration song, followed by funny skits, some famous dance numbers. Lastly came the speech from the “new president”. She did not want to hear it, but she stood no choice.
He looked magnificent in his blazers. She had to admit he was handsome. He walked up to the dais and smiled at her. She smiled back hesitantly. He spoke in elaborate about what changes he wants to do to the student unions. He explained the new proposals he had in mind, which he had already shared with the principal of the college and the trust. All the students listened to him with utmost attentiveness. There was pin drop silence in the auditorium when he stopped talking. Then slowly the auditorium roared with the applause from the students. She was dumbstruck with the vision he had for the college. She had to admit, he deserved to be the President and even had she won, she would have done the mundane things a president would do. But he was going to be a great leader. His proposals about inter collegiate events, “Jagruthi”, the involvement of other students in all this, labs in the college, library, canteen, everything was so impressive.
When the applause died down, he spoke again. He said let us extend the welcome to the vice president as well. He asked her to come on to the stage. He spoke so highly of her. He said she was so diligent and hard working and they together would make a lot of difference to the college. He said she was always his secret inspiration for many things. He also went ahead and said he was her fan and her secret admirer. She could not believe what she had heard and she smiled sheepishly for the hard feelings she had for him. Finally she was swept off her feet when she heard this from him. He said he felt she deserved to be the president more than he did and he had voted for her in the secret ballot. She hung her head in shame. She did not know how to react. With all cheers, the speech ended. She managed to speak a little as the Vice president.
After a lot of applause from the students, they both stepped down from the dais and walked behind the stage. He said thank you for sharing the stage with him. He said he always wanted to tell her things he did in the stage, but somehow never got the right moment. He was glad he finally did what he did today. She could barely speak. She managed a few “ugghs” and “hmms” with a smile. Then finally he pulled up a colorful cover and said he had jotted down all his feelings for her in this letter. He also asked her to read it and not let it affect their friendship in case she did not feel the way he did. He said they could still be good friends. Before she realized what was happening with her, she was holding the letter in her hand. He wished her good bye and started walking away from her. She turned her back and started walking in the opposite direction with the cover still in her hand. Was this all a dream?? What was she holding in her hand? Had the ice cream started melting? She walked with a thousand thoughts and her first ever “Love Letter”.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

A sincere prayer from the depth of my heart .....

We dont tend to think about many things until we are forced to do so. The situation I am in today is forcing me to think about the many aspects that are associated with our lives. Earlier, when I used to see a widow, I never felt anything abnormal or strange about them. I have never felt things I feel today. Words are short of expressing what I feel about them today.

Mom is a widow now. I feel so disgusted to use that word for mom, but I am left with no option. My dad passed away on August 4th, 2011. That day mom lost the man of her life. Since I am the only daughter, she kind of lost her home (we stayed in a rented house and she did not need it anymore), she lost her family (Only dad and She were a family, I am long married off). I did not know losing a partner would bring in such great changes in her life.

She had always been a simple woman. She never wore anything extravagant but she dressed neatly. She is very good looking but she never did anything extra to enhance it. She hardly wore flowers in her hair. All thanks to the ever lasting migraine attacks of hers. After dad passed away, she stopped wearing even those little flowers she seldom wore in her hair. I forgot to mention she had very long and thick hair. For her age, she still has good hair. I always have asked her to style her hair and wear flowers, but now I understand its never to happen again.

When I go to temple, it has always been a practice to bring home vermillion and flowers and give it to mom. But recently, when I was in the temple with her, I just noticed her not taking vermillion. It was a general practice to put vermilion in the parting of her forehead. But this time, I saw her pick up only viboothi. For a moment I did not understand why she behaved in the strange way she did. Within a flash of a second my dad thoughts came pouring back. He was no more. Mom was not the old mom I had always known.

In all the marriages and other festivals at home, she was the main organiser. She used to do everything, running around everywhere. Although she was shy of the crowd, she was doing everything in the background with great enthusiasm. Everybody talked about Malliga (my mom). She used to look so beautiful in her pattu sari and that bindi and vermillion. Now, she hesitates to come out of the house when a function is going on. One day I suddenly saw her briskly walk into the kitchen of the house. I did not knw why she was doing that? When I asked her, she said she had seen my neighbour uncle stepping out of the house and they were going to see a bride for his son. She did not want them to face her. I know most of you who read this would definitely feel, which century am I talking about? But these are the thoughts instilled in her. And she is silently putting herself through this. In a way even the society is responsible for whatever she is doing.

So many small things about her are so tough to digest. I am so used to seeing her the way I used to and now I am struggling to see her the way she is. Its just not tough, its really really tough. Even small festivals used to bring in so much energy in her. Now she has nobody to cook those dishes for. I cant promise to be with her during all the festivals. Sticking to the old school of thought, she is scared to come and stay with her son-in-law. She is afraid, she might have to hear something from the so-called society. I wonder what would be running in her mind now, when she thinks of all this. I can only pray, GOD give her the strength and GOD give me the strength to see this and endure it. GOD, please set things right for us.