An Unfinished House of Prayer

Whenever I have visited any place of worship, a sense of peace has prevailed…. I can hear my heart beating ,  the rhythmic breathing and my brain clock ticking. I have realized I can ‘talk’  to ‘HIM’ to my heart’s content when I am inside a place of worship….but I usually avoid the time of the day when other devotees throng to the temples or churches…somehow I find it not favourable for my calm.

I have been to many churches within India… the silence in churches sort of envelopes you, automatically inspiring one to talk in hushed tones…. the high Gothic arches and ribbed ceiling tend to echo smallest of sound which reminds me to lower my usual boisterous voice. The churches, however that I have visited are complete structures but last year in October, I walked into a beautiful almost 123 years old Episcopal Church of St John the Divine in Bronx, New York. This construction of this church began in 1892…but it is still unfinished!!

St John the Divine Cathedral

They at church, told us that the funding, for now,  is directed to service of community. Some part of the Cathedral was destroyed in 2001 due to fire in the north transept but the church was reopened in 2008 after renovation.

Of all the churches that I have visited, this was the only one where I saw statues of world leaders who had visited the church, on the pulpit walls… Mahatma Gandhi, His holiness Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, Abraham Lincoln…I could identify these many but there were many whose statues were displayed.

Pulpit wall with statues of world leaders

Another fascinating features were two huge birds; a pair of Phoenixes, male Feng and Huang the female fashioned out of salvage and architectural debris from construction site at World Financial Centre, Beijing, that were exhibited in the soaring nave of the church.  The birds are the brainchild of internationally acclaimed artist Xu Bing.

Phoenix made from debris

The light that filtered through the beautiful stained glass windows created a mystic aura in the church.

stained glass windowstained glass window

Stained glass windows

The Cathedral and its surrounding gardens and buildings in 11 acres are collectively called as The Close and is the site for annual St Francis Day fair. ‘The Close’ comprises of Pulpit Lawn, Peace Fountain, Biblical Garden and the Cathedral gardens.

Pulpit Lawn is a part of The Close

Pulpit Lawn is a part of The Close

Peace Fountain; The Close

Peace Fountain; The Close

The exterior of the church was equally adorned with figures of angels and saints.

Exterior walls with saints

Exterior walls with saints

There were a few cafes and restaurants near the church….the Hungarian Pastry shop looked quite tempting but our tour bus arrived at the stop almost at the same time as we finished the church tour…. In a foreign place for the first time we chose to skip the shop and head back to the familiarity of our hotel room.

Will visit some another day….

 

 

 

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Smart Gadgets: How much is enough?

When I was a two-year old, all I worried was about a cloth-stuffed doll with a red frock handmade by my grandmother and my blue blanket more than anything else. At three, for my first pencil…. I do not remember any of this but that is what my mother tells me!

My mother still laments how I let, the first black and white camera that my parents had, slip from my hand into the Arabian Sea. My parents were visiting Goa with a two-and-a-half-year old me. My mother tired of carrying me around, put me down near a rock at the ferry point and entrusted me with the camera for a minute or so. By the time she decided to hold the camera again, it was already drowning in the sea!!

Our home did not have a television till I was in sixth grade in school….there was one big ‘Bush’ radio though and a ‘Philips’ LP player and we were not allowed to play with the knobs and needle of the radio and player!!

Why am I remembering all this now? Because, aaj kal ke bacchhe are born into a household which has at least one big screen television, music system with radio, CD and cassette player(till few years back), another music system in an air-conditioned car and at least one mobile ( smart phone, these days) at home!!

I am not jealous…not at all. In fact I feel our childhood which was free of all these distractions was much much better and healthier than it is for kids of today. When I was a kid the teachers at school made me hold crayons and toys  for enhancing motor skills….

Today, many parents let their kids not only handle and use smart phones but also buy them costly I-pads and Tabs. The kids no more indulge in careless running around, getting hands dirty in soil, wait for their turn at the park swings or innovate some outlandish idea with pillows and sofa cushions at home!!

DSC_0300

Our neighbour’s son…a mere two-year old playing on smart phone

The kids today are more adept at handling a smart phone from a tender age of almost two than they are interested in holding a pencil.

Our neighbours’ son plays games and slides the screen of smart phone so easily without batting an eyelid….and I on the other hand could not even understand what the game was all about in first few minutes!!

When my daughter was born twelve years ago, we did not have a smart phone. This year my husband gifted me an advanced version of smart phone. I was of course excited but more than me, it was my daughter who was happy and itching to use the phone! We follow a rule at our home, that the person for whom some thing has been brought would be the first to use it and then the rest of the family would handle the item. Being busy with the mundane chores of the house while my husband switched the SIM-card from the old mobile set to the new smart phone, I allowed our daughter to ‘see’ the new phone first.

A good half hour later, when I was finished with loading the washing machine and boiling the milk, I handled the new phone for the first time. To my surprise, it already had my daughter’s image set as wall paper and ‘Talking Angela’ purring for attention!

It took me two days to understand all about the new phone and when I was not looking, my ‘tween’ daughter was creating, deleting, editing, uploading, downloading, shooting, recording, saving, filing away on it…. God knows what all!!

She finds time to watch animated movies on the You-Tube(Oh! Thank god for that!! And she has still not insisted on opening a Facebook account though her friends have it), plays ‘Mah-Jong Titans’, ‘Purble Place’ and many other games on the laptop, has a favourite site ‘Kizi.com’ for some internet games…. as far as my knowledge goes.

She is one of the toppers of her class but still I find it pretty frustrating to see her glued to these gadgets at home for, what I consider, a considerable  time. Our arguments  pretty much always revolve around this topic. She has quite a knack of sketching if she decides to draw one of the days, but the problem is that such days are far and few. She has a Synthesiser  which she has almost stopped playing since the day she discovered smart phone and laptop.

Personally, I am not comfortable allowing kids to spend time in front of televisions, laptops, gaming consoles, smartphones and all other ‘digital’ educational platforms.

I want my child to go out in sun, get wet in rain, smell the fresh wetness of rain drenched earth, see the flowers, birds, bees, play with friends, run wild, cycle, bruise herself, defend herself from a bully, read a paperback cover to cover, discover a pebble, a shell, a snail, watch the waves ebb, enjoy the setting sun, count the stars, draw patterns in sky, imagine different shapes of clouds, name the constellation overhead, feel the chill of the mountains, the gurgle of the river, the roar of the ocean and feel the wind in her hair…..

Nature has so many things to teach, if only we take our kids for such experiences during every school vacation. All the sciences, geography, sound… can be learnt practically out there….better than any artificial aid!! How would a child know the real sound of crashing wave on a rock, on a digital aid? How would a child know what to do if a real bee stings? How would a child see the little dewdrop shimmer on an early morning leaf on a digital aid? Isn’t the real experience better than the simulated one?

A limited exposure is of course necessary, but let us not thrust in their hands, the controls of gaming consoles, smart phones, laptops and other such mediums, just for our convenience, just for making them stay out of our hair….

Let us count with them on fingers, with matchstick, with butterflies….let us sing along with them all the rhymes and songs with animated facial expressions and see them grin ear to ear….let us make them fly kites of all shapes and sizes….. let us make them pick up stones, paper, grains to feel the weight….let us make them try holding on to the sand….let us show them how a seed germinates in the garden and how a flower blooms….. Let us give them the confidence to speak  and ask their doubts and not just stare at the screens without totally understanding… Let us be with them to teach and to play!

“This blogger contest is supported by Kid Social Shell, a unique digital parenting platform with 11 gaming-learning apps. Use it play 3D nursery rhymes, counting number games, shapes games, fun math worksheets, coloring games and more!”

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A Brush with American Highway Police: A day to remember!!

Why are you stopping the car?”

There is a police car with blinking lights behind us….I think he has tailgated us for few minutes now!”

I thought my husband was joking. But I could see the highway patrol police officer striding towards the rented car that we were driving from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

All weird thoughts….. corrupt cops, being handcuffed by the walkie-talkie toting police officer à la Hollywood style, images of prisons…. crossed my mind in those few seconds that the officer took to reach the car.

I wondered where we had goofed up and was ready to kneel on road with “hands where I can see them” if ordered. My heart was in my mouth and I instantly developed a headache!

Alng the Pacific Ocean

Along the Pacific Ocean

All day we had driven along the Pacific Coastal Highway skirting the immense blue ocean enjoying the spell-binding scenery. Beyond Morro Bay we turned inland driving along Cabrillo Highway. It was already evening and we were two hundred miles short of Los Angeles. We did not want to risk night travel in a new city. We were reveling in the leisure journey with no maddening traffic to bother us.

Lost in Rod Stewart’s version of ‘The way you look tonight’ playing on the radio, I missed the worried frown creasing my husband’s face and realized that something was amiss only when he pulled over.

The officer leaned in to inspect, from my side of the car and noted our daughter sleeping at rear seat without the seat belt. He started rattling off our offences. Apparently we were over-speeding and did not heed his signal to stop plus one of us was without seat-belt….three charges!!

At that point of time I was totally nervous, dreading the worst and faltering when answering the officer’s questions. The fun-filled day seemed history….

But he was nowhere like the rude policemen of the television shows. He patiently heard us out when we apologized for all the mistakes. The only excuse we had was the mesmerizing scenery and joy of holidaying in America. He checked our credentials, the car rental documents, hotel reservations and holiday itinerary.

At some moment he decided we were some over-enthusiastic harmless first-time tourists and then…. Just like that, with a warning, he let us off the hook wishing us an enjoyable stay and a happy vacation!!

Having learnt our lesson, we thanked our lady-luck for the issue not blowing into some major problem and diligently stuck to the permissible speed limits for rest of our vacation.

In retrospect, I am glad I spend so much of my time watching Hollywood movies and American sitcoms… Ha! At least we knew what a tailgating police vehicle meant! Had we kept on driving, we would have irked the officer more, landing ourselves in big trouble.

A first-time month-long vacation abroad, in itself, is a memorable experience but getting nearly arrested is definitely nothing to forget about.

 

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Real Neat Blog

I got a pleasant surprise today in form of an award by https://4yearoldadult.wordpress.com/  Thank you so much.

The rules for accepting this award are:

1. Put the award logo on your blog.
2. Thank the people who nominated you, linking to their blogs.
3. Answer 7 questions asked by the person who nominated you.
4. Nominate any number of bloggers you like, linking to their blogs.
5. Let them know you nominated them (by commenting on their blog, etc.)

Now to answer the questions:

1. Do you like to read books? Why?

I love to read, specially historic stories and thrillers. I love William Dalrymple. Reading is so relaxing and informative plus I do not need any body else if I have my books!
2. Tell me the character which would resemble the true you?

This I do not how to answer…I seriously do not know :(
3. The name of your first crush and have you ever told him/her that?

Yep, his name is Shashank and I married the guy.
4. If you could be one character out of a book, what would that be?

Surely Rani Lakshmi Bai
5. The little things that put a smile on your face everyday?

My daughter’s naughtiness.
6. The happiest thing that has ever happened to you?

My husband and my daughter…even if it sounds cliche’
7. Do you believe in true love?

Yes, I am with mine!!

I nominate http://shilpaview-ideas2.blogspot.in/ and her question remain same as above too.

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Aaji….

“Shoma, meri zara bandook toh lana( Shoma, bring me my gun!)” 

I distinctly remember her words which sounded funny even then, back in 1984-85 when I was a 9 year-old who was witnessing violence among Hindus and Sikhs, in the wake of Indira Gandhi’s assassination. Houses of Sikhs were being attacked and burned by Hindu youth and Hindus were being killed by young Sikhs who roamed with bare swords in their hands. One such Sikh man reached our door step while my parents were away on their duties as doctors in the government hospital at Ghaziabad. My grandmother stood near the door and shouted for me to bring her imaginary gun as me and my sister giggled inside the room hidden from the view. The perpetrator scooted off without getting a chance to harm us!!

Whatever little fearless spirit I have is passed on due to my strong Aaji. As far as I remember, this woman, my dear grandmother addressed as ‘Leela Aatya'(Leela Bua) by all and sundry even her own sons always had silver hair, wore white soft cotton saris, pearl ear-drops, two light gold bangles in her wrist with a small safety-pin hanging in one of the bangles and a thin gold chain. She had this coin sized depression on her forehead…a reminder of a childhood injury.

I never knew my grand father….he died when my father was a mere 14-year-old boy. All the responsibility of four young sons fell on his wife… my AAJI.

She was one hell of a brave woman. When whatever property she had inherited from her deceased husband was lost in gambling and to the money lenders by her brother-in-law, instead of crying and feeling helpless, she shifted to her brother’s house in Gwalior for providing better education to her four sons. But she did not burden her brother with expenses, instead she completed her high school and trained as health-worker and mid-wife. She shifted to Nagpur and taught as primary school teacher for few years but later shifted back to Gwalior and worked in hospitals as health worker. By then my father had joined a medical college and could support his brothers and mother by taking tuitions of small school children after college hours.

Once when she was travelling along with a six-year-old me in second class sleeper via Kalpi, a small town in Uttar-Pradesh, some one tried to snatch her only possession in the dark of the night…her gold chain. She held on to the chain and did not let the thief get away with it. The thief had to release the chain when the train started moving again and pulled away from the platform. Her palm had a deep gash from holding on to the chain and I realised of her injury only when she woke me up the next morning on reaching our destination!

In another incident in 1984, when we had recently shifted to a new house and new city Ghaziabad, three men attacked our home when my parents were on duty. The thieves hit her on head with pistol butt and stole whatever they could lay their hands on. The fearless woman, locked me and my sister in the house and with the bleeding head in a heavy rain, walked to the main road, reached another doctor’s family who had a telephone at their house and contacted my parents!

Years later, in 2003, when my daughter was born, in spite of poor eyesight and failing health, she stitched frocks for the baby fashioned out of her soft saris! She even massaged the baby, cradled her to sleep and sat near me telling all sorts of do’s and don’ts of upbringing a baby.

Love you Aaji....

Love you Aaji….

My grandmother died when my daughter was three years old. Her memory had failed her and she was bed-ridden with many body sores. It was painful to see her in last few days of her life because I felt helpless as she lay in bed unable to recognise me… But her sloppy smile and a faint recognition that lit up her eyes on seeing my three year old daughter is the most important memory that I cherish….I feel satisfied that during her last few days my daughter could bring a little smile on her face.

Memories of her time spent with me and my sister are many…times when she pampered us, scolded us, protected us, made sweets and her special treats, feigned her annoyance, let us do her hair, told us stories, scolded our parents for scolding us…..

Her continuous struggle in life is an inspiration to never give up…stand up against adverse situations and take troubles by the collar….

I wish I had half her courage, I might have been more successful in life I guess……..

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A world of my own…

lodgy-design-1.jpg.ximg.l_12_m.smartA family of three with an adorable pet dog, we are much into weekend trips around Pune. And, for a recent trip, I went about packing inflatable pillows, bed spread, hand towels, torch, medicine box, camera, night-wear, barbecue sauces, veggies, and charcoal briquettes for camping at the secluded beach at Nagaon, Maharashtra…Oh! How I wish I had this new car, the Renault Lodgy. All this along with other camping gear fits in superbly in this new generously comfortable car which has ample space to house not only our camping gear, charcoal barbecue grill, our overnight bags, beach ball, hammock but also enough space for our Labrador, the handsome beast of a pet and his bowls!

I looked over at the two sleepy heads on the bed… one a 12-year-old and another 42-year-old, who though excited about the camping trip were still lazing away on the Saturday morning.

Years ago, when Aamir Khan with a guitar in hand, swayed to the tune of ‘Papa Kehte hain….‘, the teenager that I was, fell in love with the wispy golden-brown mop of hair of the actor…but I had not imagined even once that at 24 I would fall for this dashing young fighter pilot who even at 26 had hair that were salt and pepper…15 yrs later as I wake up beside this man who still has salt pepper hair, I can not think of anybody else as my partner… Aamir Khan never had a chance ;)

Our daughter is one tom-boy…. climbing up trees, trekking, fishing, staying in a tent, catching bugs….such activities interest her more than Barbies and dressing up….she always ends up scraping her hands and knees much to my consternation! But I would rather have a lively free-spirited girl making noise at home than a dull and under confident child!

I felt a need to shake up both the lazy bones, but their peaceful faces on the pillow made my heart melt….As I gazed at them, both woke up and were amused to see me smiling at overview-1.jpg.ximg.l_12_m.smartthem….I couldn’t resist diving in the bed with them….after all they are the most important part of my world! Soon our dog jumped in too!! Hmmm…I think the plush leather reclining seats of the Renault Lodgy are just perfect to snuggle up during long-long drives when either of us drives and the rest of the family stretches and relaxes!!

My husband, daughter, our pet, barbecue grill and our camping gear….if  these three lively beings and two things are with me…what else would I need to make my world the most perfect one!!

Ha! Except may be the Renault Lodgy!! And if I did have the Renault Lodgy I could have literally taken my world with me and roamed the world with 12 volt accessory sockets  to charge up our laptops, mobile and even listen music and drive happily ever after!!

I’m participating in the #LiveLodgycal contest with Renault in association with BlogAdda to get a chance to be a part of the #LiveLodgycal Drive in Goa.

 

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A Better World!!

The day my little baby was born….I was reborn as a mother. And for the first time I started understanding my mother. With every little cry I would fret, spend sleepless hours and pray for her well being. Today my little girl is stepping into adolescence and I now understand why my mother frowned if I made some bizzare choice…

From a mother’s perspective the world is never a safe place for her child! She is worried someone may hurt her child physically… hurt them emotionally…. break their heart…. scar them for lifetime with all the ugliness of the world….

Every mother if given a chance would love to make a new world where her child is safe and happy…I dreamt of a new world too(read my World Remade here).

Being a mother, however, I can not just sit back and dream for a better world and do nothing to give towards it. It is us the mothers of today who have the onus of teaching their children the true way of dealing with life…

I would love to teach a thousand things to my daughter for her safety, her well-being, her mental peace. But a simple question from my daughter, made me realize, how important it was to teach her about work ethics.

A few days back, I was busy designing an invitation card for visiting senior Air Force officer and his wife. By the end of day, I was exhausted with household chores and day long meetings. The quilled design for the card was still in the making  and the card was required for the next morning. My daughter, showed her concern and asked me why I was making such an elaborate design? She told me to finish off quickly and slightly untidily…. so that next time, I would not be given the task and I would be free to rest after daily chores at home!!

I was surprised at her suggestion because I have never left whatever I was doing halfway be it cooking, painting, writing etc. I did not understand from where she got the idea of cutting corners for small benefits!

I sat her down and asked her why she said so and her reply was simple…” Nobody pays so much attention so how does it matter if your work is not perfect? It is you who is getting tired while others are enjoying  the evening!”

I decided that to make world better, first I had to teach my daughter to be a better person. This is what I told her:

“Sweetheart, never think whether the work is small or big…finish whatever responsibility comes your way with full dedication…it might not bring fame or acknowledgement from all quarters but in the end your heart will be at peace knowing that you did justice to the work. 

Do not take shortcuts like bribing  anybody to facilitate your work…because that leaves you in a vulnerable place to be exploited later. Even if you do the right thing, you may not be appreciated but then nobody will be able to point fingers at you either.

Do not indulge in unnecessary flattery to wriggle out of difficult situation, just put your efforts in completing the work to best of your ability …your work  will speak for itself and your ethics and integrity will garner respect for you… and may be inspire some to be like you.

Do what is right and slowly the world around you will become right…A better place to be!!”

Yes, I do believe that for a better world, we all need to work with full dedication and not sham, not cut corners, not bribe, not be dishonest, not be disloyal….. An honest person will be an asset and encourage others to follow suit making the world a little better place.

This post is in response to #MomsForBetterWorldProject

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