To the sister, I have never met…

With a broken heart and deep hope I had penned a few lines on the Afghan crisis. 
Sharing the same…

You are a breathing living being
Just like me or any other woman
Sitting at my home
I hear the gunfire rang out
Though a helpless spectator
I feel a numbing pain

To the sister, I have never met

The situation in your country turns volatile
For every inhabitant, all the more for women
People stranded unable to leave
Scrambling to get to a safer place
I feel my heartache

To the sister, I have never met

As the present mirrors a harrowing past
I fear the return of dark days
As I see all these events unfold
My freedom seems a privilege
And my issues appear so small

To the sister, I have never met

As the war continues to rage
I do sincerely pray and hope
May the cracks heal soon
Let there be peace and light
let there be peace and light
let there be peace and light…

Cooking and Boys

It was in July that my elder son asked my opinion about which online hobby class he should pursue as part of his school curriculum. Me and my husband normally ask our kids to look at the options themselves and make a choice on their own. We try to limit our role to an advisory and on need basis only, unless I feel they really need our help and honest opinion to decide for them. Not only does this makes the kids feel more empowered, but they also take more responsibility as the decision was made by them.

My son wanted to opt for cooking (non-stove) as a hobby. He has interest in learning new recipes and thanks to lockdown, he has been really helping us out in the kitchen work as well. We encouraged him to pursue the same as that was his interest area.

After the third class, I casually checked with him if he was enjoying the classes. As was evident he was loving the classes. He always look forward to the next class and makes sure that all the ingredients are available or procured well in advance and neatly arranged in a tray before the class. He would focus on presentation and lay out the finished items on serving trays for us and take photographs. Above all, and to my great satisfaction, he also cleans up the table after he is done with his routine in each class.

Once I asked him how many boys were there in the class. He shared there were seven boys out of a class strength of fifteen. The fact that nearly fifty percent (46.67 percent to be precise) of the class population for a cooking class comprised of boys made me happy and proud.

During a recent event in my apartment, a “cooking without fire” competition was held for children. This year my son was eagerly looking forward to it and participated for the first time. He had made three dishes independently (carrot ladoos, pudding and biscuit sandwich) in the allotted time. In his category, he won the first prize. This achievement of his made us all very proud. He was very excited about this and was encouraged to continue with this hobby.

Children’s education goes beyond going to school. Considering both boys and girls pursue the education and work shoulder to shoulder later in their career, it is important that they both learn this important life skill (as I would like to call it :)). As boys learn these things, they can appreciate the efforts of those that do this and share responsibility without making a big deal about this.

I see hope for the future generation and am proud to contribute in my own little way. I am hopeful that we will one day reach a stage when there is no need to write a blog on this topic and cooking skills become a norm for all children irrespective of gender.

By the way, while my son is experimenting and evolving his culinary skills, the side benefit is the tasty ladoos and puddings we get to relish!

This blog was first published here: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/blogs/beyond-stories/cooking-and-boys/

रिश्तों की पाठशाला

रिश्ते कैसे निभाए जाते हैं


बन तो बड़ी आसानी से जाते हैं
पर बन जाएं तो निभाए कैसे जाते हैं

मिलना लिखा ही होगा
तभी तो मिल पाए हम
रिश्ते की समापन तिथि की
भनक ही कहाँ थी हमें तब

पर आगे क्यों नहीं चल पाए हम

कुछ रिश्ते हमें मानो रास नहीं आए
ठीक से निभाने के अंदाज नहीं आए

कुछ बिगड़े रिश्ते ने हमें अंदर से
जैसे तोड़ दिया हो
और इस अधूरेपन ने मानो हमें
नीचोड़ सा दिया हो

रिश्ते कैसे निभाए जाते हैं

काश रिश्तों की भी कोई पाठशाला होती
जहाँ रिश्तों का गणित इस तरह पढ़ाया जाता

अच्छी यादो को जमा करके
दिल की तिजोरी में
संजो कर रखने की कला

बुरी बातों को घटा कर
मन से रिश्ते को
टिका कर रखने की कला


खुशनुमा पलों को गुणा कर
मन में सुखद अनुभूति जो मिले
उस एहसास को महसूस करने की कला


दर्द ईमानदारी से बाँट लेना
चाहे वह अपना हो या अपनों का
उस सुकून के आभास की कला


हाँ रिश्ते शायद ऐसे ही निभाए जाते हैं


रिश्तों की नज़ाकत को
समझने की कला आ जाए तो
रिश्ते खुद ही गहरे हो जायेंगे


और इस बुनियाद पर बन जाएं तो
रिश्ते खुद ही टिकाऊ हो जायेंगे


हाँ रिश्ते तो ऐसे ही बनाये जाते हैं

Kids and resilience in today’s times

It was during the virtual PTM for my elder son few days back that her teacher asked if I was keeping a track of his notes being up to date in the notebook, if he is following the schedule and the tutorial videos have been seen and revised at his end for better understanding of the concepts. I had no clue of what she was talking about as I was not following his progress for the last couple of weeks. It made me feel bad to be honest. After the meeting, my son did try to comfort me by saying that he was very much on track. His assuring words did make me feel better.

While pondering about this episode later during the day, a thought triggered in my mind. We have been talking about organizational resilience and individual resilience during the pandemic all along for adults. However, the kids are also going through anxiety related to Covid-19. The silver lining is that to some extent kids have been adapting to the challenges better than adults.

Writing in the New York Times, psychology professor Adam Grant describes the COVID state of mind as languishing: “Languishing is a sense of stagnation and emptiness. It feels as if you are muddling through your days, looking at your life through a foggy windshield. And it might be the dominant emotion of 2021.”

Last couple of weeks have been difficult as we have been going through concern for the recovery of near and dear ones, mourning the loss of loved ones, coupled with the fear and anxiety of what lies ahead for everyone. While I have been languishing, unknowingly, there was also an unfair expectation on my part from my children to act normal, complete their assignments on time, prepare for the weekly assessments and get good grades too. My sister and her husband had both tested positive for Covid 19 last month. Her fever would not go down ever on the tenth day coupled with low oxygen levels. While we were concerned, discussing and praying about her recovery how could it not affect my children who were also at home. When children are frequently being exposed to messages about the threat to health, fear and anxiety is a normal and common response.

Few days back my younger son asked, “When are me and my elder brother getting the Covid 19 vaccine shot”. Realizing that it was his way of expressing anxiety, we promptly comforted him by saying that vaccination is not needed for the kids. Kids have their own ways of expressing their fear and anxieties, catch the signs.

I believe it is okay to be sometimes vulnerable in front of the kids. We all are humans after all. Thankfully, my boys are at an age that they do understand when their mother has her bad days, moments when fear and insecurities grip her. There have been times my kids have helped me come out of those moments.

We as parents need to make a mindful attempt and have a positive approach to ensure that the anxiety and uncertainty does not affect our kids too much. Sharing a few ways to ensure this below:

· Encourage positive thinking. For instance, few days back, I asked my kids to write about “what keeps them going” these days. It was reassuring to see what my boys (10 and 12 years old) expressed by way of their artwork and write-ups about gratitude, being with family, new skills developed during the lock-down. It gave us the much-needed strength and positivity.

· Accept that the kids are smart and know what is going on to an extent. Downplaying will not help especially when we keep emphasizing about the seriousness of Covid 19. So, try to have open and honest conversations with the kids.

· It is okay to be vulnerable in front of the kids. You may not know all the answers and let the kids accept that.

· Listening to kids’ questions and discussing their concerns could mitigate the potential negative effect on their minds.

· Try to have a routine which kids follow as much as possible. Since they are home bound keep a balance between screen time, helping in household chores, pursuing their hobbies and free time. When I say free time, it literally means that my kids do not want to do anything during that time.

· Regular video calls with friends and family help meet the human need to connect.

· Kids feel responsible and important if they are made to contribute to the age-appropriate home tasks.

No one had expected the second Covid wave to be of this magnitude. We just need to be mindful of the fact that if the present situation is hard for us, it is not easy for our kids as well.

As a parent of two kids, I believe all kids need specially during the pandemic is parents who are their friends, an open conversation and an environment that encourages them to keep on going during the turbulent times we all are in.

And mind you, it is easier said than done!

The Year That Was…

Life is not obliged to turn the way we plan, and this year has surely proved it. For almost everyone the way we have been living our lives has changed this year.

While reflecting on the year gone by is what most people normally do during the last few days or last month of the year, this year has been a bit different. Beginning the first quarter itself, it gave everyone ample time, opportunity, and moments to pause and reflect on many occasions.

For many it was a year when we started to question our priorities and may be got the time to set them right. For some, it harbored doubts about the path they had chosen and making the decision to take that conscious call to start all over again, taking that first courageous step to move on to more satisfying pursuits.

2020 was a year when even the small vendors and businesses had to make themselves technology ready to cope up with the sudden need for digitization. Same way even consumers had to adapt to this change. I see many elderly people (including my parents) using Paytm, G Pay and other online payment modes and getting accustomed to Online shopping portals.

According to me, the education sector has been the one which was the quickest to adapt to the changing times of the Online Virtual world we were forced to be in. The efforts by the teachers, supporting staff and not to forget the kids, has really been commendable. It was really hard for the kids who were all of a sudden confined to their homes; yet they adjusted quickly.

For some it was the realisation that rather than continuing with some bitter and awkward relationships, situations, jobs, social setup, etc., it was better to call it quits and move on for the long-term benefit and mental peace of all. Mental Health and Mindfulness seemed to be the buzz words with so much emphasis than ever before.

There were moments we were struggling to make sense of what ambiguous situation we were forced into due to the lock-down. Many a times there were questions thrown at us by our kids in an undisguised curiosity & anxiety, which we sometimes failed to answer. These questions surely made us ponder deeply and really search for a good rationale. Questions as to what was going to happen next or how long the pandemic would last, reasonable questions to which we had no satisfying answer.

There were moments of guilt making me question what we were leaving for the next generation. This year we have realised that we could easily do away with old ways of wasteful, unnecessary & irresponsible consumption and instead manage with what we already have. Mindful consumption is what I had started practicing few months prior to Covid as well. I am personally very happy and proud of the fact that I did not incur any expense on buying clothes this year 😊

We also realized that humans have a huge amount of resilience, we adapted ourselves to the situation be it working remotely, taking extra precautions, dropping our trips to malls, living without those luxury vacations and indulging in eating out.  In summary, we all have the strength to face what life asks of us and adapt to it.

To sum up, this year gave us a mixture of feelings some of which are hard to articulate. Should we be fearful or courageous, be home bound or roam around to the point of caring no longer, the new situation added to the responsibility not only for self, but towards people we get in contact with.

Despite everything that is happening, I personally do feel this is not the new normal. This is an interim period where we must ponder and reflect on how we would want to live our lives, in the post Covid era. We should thus define the “new normal” ourselves.

To sum up, 2020 has surely provided us the ability to appreciate the blessings that were right in front of us, but we always chose to ignore or rather take for granted. This may not be a great year for many in ways more than one. However, looking back, I have immense gratitude for the silver linings which have been abundant….!

कुछ दिनों से…

पक्षी तो पहले भी चहचहाते होंगे

या शायद चीख कर कुछ कहते भी हों 

हमनें कुछ ही दिनों से सुनना शुरू किया है

हाँ, कुछ दिनों से आसमान नीला सा ज़रूर दिखने लगा है 

कुछ दिनों से रूठों को मनाने का मन करता है

और जो रिश्ते  पास हैं उन्हें संजो कर रखने का मन करता है 

कुछ दिनों से आत्ममंथन की चाह  है

कुछ दोनों से रब ने जो दिया उसका शुक्र मनाने का मन करता है 

और अपने गुनाहों की माफ़ी मांगने का मन करता है 

कहते हैं माफ़ करना वाले का दिल बहुत बड़ा होता है

तो कुदरत तू भी हम पर कर दे एक उपकार 

और हम ये वादा ज़रूर करते हैं फिर उसी राह पर नहीं जायेंगे

खुद भी संभलेंगे और आने वाली पीढ़ी कोएक बेहतर जहान की सौगात देकर जायेंगे

Entangled

When the mind is entangled

With thoughts, worries and pain

Past regrets, we cannot change

Anxiety of the future, we cannot see

During such moments of chaos and confusion

We are desperate to find an immediate solution

Break the pattern and pause to reflect

Letting go will keep the anxiety under check

Do not hold too tightly

Let the ones who want to go, go

For life will go on for the world without them

But holding on for long will only create mayhem

There is so much more to life each day

Life is fun if we keep the negativity away…!

***This poem is from my book Strings-A Collection of Poems and Micro Fiction

Preparing kids for a digital world

Technology has changed every aspect of our life and become an integral part of it. If you see the current pandemic environment, technology has helped all of us connect with each other and conduct our business remotely. The digital wave is here to stay, and a basic understanding of software and coding is the need of the day specially for the kids. Hence, there is a need to expose a child’s brain to both logical and creative sides through age appropriate interventions.

I was talking to my friend the other day. During the discussion, we spoke about how to keep the kids engaged productively during the current pandemic as they are completely home-bound. She told me about her son attending the Coding classes from Vedantu. She seemed to be happy and satisfied as her son was thoroughly enjoying the classes. This encouraged me to enroll my kid for a trial class as I really wanted to give him an opportunity to explore and experience the world of coding.

While browsing Vedantu’s website, I was pleasantly surprised to see that there was no fixed schedule even for the trial class, and I could schedule it as per my convenience. After booking my slot, I got the details to login via SMS. I even got a reminder call to ensure our availability.

The class was a one-on-one basis to ensure personalized and undivided attention. Before starting the session, the teacher spoke to me and introduced herself. The teaching was entirely activity based and simplified. After each concept was explained, my kid was asked to do an activity to ensure he understood the concept well. I realised Vedantu’s emphasis is on project-based learning during the first session itself. The teacher was very experienced and friendly with my kid and really made him at ease. The pace of the session was perfectly aligned to my kid’s age. The teacher was also able to resolve my kid’s doubts instantly. He was fully engaged throughout the session and did not want it to end. After the class, the teacher even had a closing chat with me to know if I had any questions.

Creating something on your own always gives you a sense of pride and immense satisfaction. By the end of just the first class, my son was able to create a mobile application on his own. He was thrilled with the outcome and wanted to enroll at the earliest.

Kids learn better and faster when they are young. I am sure learning through this avenue will help prepare my kid for an ever-evolving digital future where technology will impact them immensely in both personal and professional life. When children learn to code, and that too in a playful manner, they develop an ability to be logical and creative at the same time. 

To top it all, the best part about these online classes is that the teaching is easily accessible at the comfort of our home.

So, Mommies, do let your kids experience the class and continue the journey of learning. They will surely come back wanting for more. The classes will enable them to dive deeper and learn while having fun. 

This blog was published as a sponsored post on Mompresso – https://www.momspresso.com/parenting/a-memory-here-an-emotion-there/article/preparing-kids-for-a-digital-world-4dq01nxwh36t

Different yet beautiful Diwali…

एक दिवाली  ऐसी  भी

चलो  इस  बार  मनाएं

भीड़  से  दूर  पर  खुद  के  पास

होने  का  अनुभव  कर  पाएं

एक दिवाली  ऐसी  भी

चलो  इस  बार  मनाएं

अपने लिए बस थोड़ा सा कम

किसी ज़रूरतमंद के लिए थोड़ा सा कुछ खरीद पाएं

एक दिवाली  ऐसी  भी

चलो  इस  बार  मनाएं

बाहर  की सफाई के  साथ  साथ

अंदर  से  भी  मन  को  साफ़  कर  पाएं

एक दिवाली  ऐसी  भी

चलो  इस  बार  मनाएं

              -गुंजन कपूर

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