Thursday, January 24, 2019


The other day, my son came home, eyes all welled up - he was struggling not to cry. When I asked the reason he looked so upset, he couldn’t control himself and amidst sobs, he told his friends made fun of him for playing ‘old’ games. For a moment, I didn’t know what to say. I simply hugged him and told it’s ok even though I knew he wasn’t ok.

I let him cry for a couple of minutes and then spoke to him to find out what really happened. It turned out they were teasing him for playing outdated games (gaming is one topic they talk non-stop at school, I guess) while they played ‘cool’ games on the mobile. He was upset also because they were trying to annoy him even though he tried to move away from them and avoid the situation. They kept on teasing and later tried to make up - even when he was not interested in talking to them. He ended the narrative saying - I would not talk to them ever!

I listened patiently and told him if that is what you want to do, it is ok with me. Try not talking for some days and see how it feels - if you feel ok not talking to your friends, then don’t talk. But, if you are unhappy not talking to them, perhaps you should talk to them. People act silly at times, they get carried away - it might not be that they want to hurt you. So, while you are right to feel sad at the way they behaved with you, if they are sorry, you should have it in your heart to forgive them - I said.

I asked him whether he was happy playing ‘old’ games. He said he liked them. So I told him - then it doesn’t matter if someone thinks you are uncool for playing those games. You do what you enjoy doing. You don’t have to stop playing those games because they think it is old or outdated. If you are happy, nothing else matters. Everyone has different tastes and interests. It is ok to be different.

I told him it is entirely up to him if he wants to be friends with them. However, if they are sorry, he should forgive them. Because holding a grudge will harm us more than anything. It may not be easy to forgive and forget. But, if we hold on to unpleasant things, it will make us bitter and unhappy.

A couple of hours later, one of the friends texted him to say sorry and my son told me he has decided to be friends with that boy again because he reached out. But, he was adamant he won’t forgive the other friend who didn’t reach out. He felt wronged and couldn’t forgive him (yet).

This morning, as he left for school, I told him it is ok if you don’t want to be friends with the other boy. But if he says sorry, he should accept it and move on. People make all kinds of mistake and might regret them later on. So, we should be gracious enough to forgive. If we don’t, we are no better than the person who hurt us. He nodded his head in agreement and left to school. I hope they makeup and have a great time in school.

I have tried to bring up my boys as people who are sensitive and kind to others. I think it is important to feel empathy towards others. So, whenever my son tells me he helped someone, I feel happy. I know he is a kind boy and would help others in any way he can. At the same time, I know he gets hurt when he doesn’t receive that same kindness from others. But I keep telling him that is all the more reason for him to be kind.

Anyway, this incident got me thinking. As I reflected, I knew I too was unkind many times in the past - sometimes through my silence, sometimes through words and often in my deeds. Of course, most of them were unintentional or due to my naivety. But that doesn’t mean I can redeem myself. And yet, I understand it is important to forgive myself because the more I hold on to it, the more I will be sucked into the whirlpool of negative emotions and low self-esteem.

So, as I tried to dispel the gloom of self-reproach and feeling terrible about the unkind things in the past by forgiving myself, I felt a weight lifting off my heart. As on a cue, the weather outside slowly turned sunny…

Monday, November 19, 2018

Where there is a will, there is hard work and result

A year of daily sketching! Yes, I did it!!!
When I started sketching daily a year ago, it was just as a committment to the word I gave someone I'll do daily sketch no matter what. Apparently, that person saw a potential in me as an artist. It is one thing I am still struggling to believe unconditionally, even as I complete a year of daily sketching.
Yes, the journey was tough. Some days I enjoyed the drawings more than anything. On others, it was just a chore I had to finish before I hit the bed and called it a day. On a few days, I even questioned myself - why am I doing it at all ..
Nevertheless, I stay put. Why? Mostly because I gave my word to someone who believed in me. My theory was if someone believes in me even without having me proven my worth, I should at least show my gratitude by not giving up. Also, I wanted to prove myself it can be done. So on I went with my tryst with lines.
I think slowly it became a habit. I couldn't go to bed without drawing at least for a minute. I remember one time we went on a trip and, after a particularly tiring day, I went to bed all exhausted and fell asleep. And then suddenly, I woke up with the realisation I didn't do my daily drawing. I could sleep no more. I got up, took my sketch pad and pen, went to the bathroom (because my entire family was tired and sleeping peacefully) and did my daily sketching there. Did I draw a great picture? Probably not. But I felt good. Despite the tiredness and exhaustion, I felt happy and satisfied.
And that's my takeaway from this whole exercise. A new understanding of myself. I was always envious (still am) of people who could draw well. I am amazed by the talent I see all around me. The veteran artists and upcoming artists make me feel so inconsequential... It was like I was nothing & could be nothing. I thought I can never be like them.
And now I know that is the truth. This year of sketching has made me aware of it. But the most important lesson I learned is - I DON'T HAVE TO BE LIKE THEM. Yes, I have finally realised the competition is not with anyone else. It is with myself. I can't be anyone else. I shouldn't be. Some of them are inborn artists. The others might have spent years learning and shaping their art. What was I doing then? Just wishing to be like them and not doing anything about it.
In the past year, I understood I have been unfair to myself by comparing me to others. They are what they are because they worked to be what they are. I am what I am because I worked (or didn't) in my particular way. This is my journey. Good, bad or ugly, this is my art. My thoughts and lines tell the story my way. It doesn't have to be any other's story or style.
Perfection is not what makes a good artist. It is the journey that allows one to understand it is ok to be imperfect. No picture is bad because it is not a perfect depiction. It is good because while trying to create it, you got in touch with your soul. At least for a few moments, you forgot everything and revelled in the joy of creation. There was nothing to stop you from being happy to draw that simple line on the paper or dab that particular colour on the canvas.
This year was a journey of self-discovery too. Of forgetting limitations and taking new steps. I know that it is not the joy of acceptance but fear of rejection that had dictated my actions earlier. I couldn't take rejections. I always felt I was not enough. My efforts were not enough - whatever I did wasn't enough. Or so I thought.
But, the reality is, you can't please everyone. For every person admiring you, there could be ten saying you are not good enough or would never be. The trick to grow is shut your ears against naysayers. Ignore them. Hear your soul speak to you. More often than not, it will tell you where to go and how to go.
I am glad that I have finally realized my worst enemy is myself. Self-doubt and undue comparison along with a feeling of not being enough is what stopped me going ahead. Now, as I know my path is my own and I have to create my own legacy, I experience a strange peace. I am here to compete with myself and to better myself. My struggle is within and once I truly master myself, I know nothing can stand in my way.
After 3-4 sketchbooks and an amazing year, I can proudly say I have made the start. I am confident of going ahead and reaching the goal I have set for myself. But before I go on, thanks are due to some special friends and dear ones for believing in me (even when I didn't believe myself) and helping me see clearly. I hope one day you will be proud to have known me, as I am proud of you. Thank you!
Here is a small sample of what I did. Some you have seen before. Some you haven't. Some are good, some are just lines.... I didn't want to share only the good works because there were some really bad ones too. Accepting that has been a huge step towards growth. A few digital drawings are also included - these are essentially results of the shortage of time...
PS: I hope at least one person reading these lines would be inspired to do something they always wanted to but didn't attempt because of self-doubt. Remember, it is ok to fail and fall. You are not defeated until you stop trying. Also, success is not always about earning money or praise. Sometimes, a smile on your face and the content you feel inside is the best reward. Try it - you'll like it better than anything.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

A time to bid farewell and say Thank You!

Two years ago, when we came to Liverpool, my younger son wasn't very keen on the move. The main reason for his reluctance to move was the friends he didn't wish to part ways with. But then, life doesn't work according to one's wish always. So, he had to pack his bags and start a new phase of his life in a totally new country and culture.

Once we reached here, we had two choices - a school (literally) across the road where we lived, and another one, a bit far. Although the latter seemed to have better facilities in terms of a bigger playground and other infrastructure, we preferred the school nearby. This was mainly because most of our colleagues' kids were attending this school and during winter months the less you have to walk in the cold, the better. But, when we first enquired, no places were available. So we thought we would have to opt for the other school.

However, the luck turned in our favour as one place came up. So, my son started his first day at school barely after ten days of reaching here. There was hardly a week left for that academic year to end. But the school authorities thought it would be a good idea for him to attend the school for a few days before my son actually started school during the next academic year starting in September.

And what a wonderful start it was for him - he joined his class for a trip to the zoo on the very first day of the school. Needless to say, he enjoyed every bit of it and it didn't take him long to make new friends. 

When the school reopened in September, he was in Ms. Davey's class. She helped him settle in. The transition from the Indian schooling to the British schooling was a delightful experience for him - there was no pressure of exams, tests and homework. Here, learning was fun. Soon, he overcame all his inhibitions and started loving the school and friends as much as he did back home. Every day, he came home with loads to share about his day at school. 
Blackboard, Boys, Chalkboard, Children, Classroom, Desk

He would tell me what Ms. Davey taught them on the day, what fun activities they had, what games they played on the school ipads, what he and his friends did and so on. Soon, names like Ms. Hodges, Ms. Bannon, Ms. Cresswall, Ms. Sheilds, Ms. Calderwood and Katie, all came up in his narratives. And I started matching the names with faces every time I went to pick him up from the school. Before long, I also became familiar with the teachers and other staff at the school. The after-school clubs were informative and fun. All in all, the school was a wonderful place to be. 

Then came the day when the parents were called to the school to give a review of their child. We had the first opportunity to look at the workbooks and get an idea of what the child is learning. (Unlike in India, the kids here don't carry a heavy load of textbooks and notebooks to and from school. All they have is a small book bag to carry their homework sheets and reading books if any). Parents play a passive role in day-to-day education at the primary school level. Most of the learning is practical and happens at school, as the children don't have to mug up things. Instead, they do and learn things - so the learning stays forever with them. (For instance, while learning about World War, the kids were told to make a gas mask. This made them understand why and how gas masks are made/used. No amount of reading could have made them understand it better.)

Back home, I dreaded parent-teacher meetings on the open day. I knew the teachers are going to complain about how restless and hyperactive my son was; they were never satisfied with the effort he put in, always told me I should make him sit and study more. So, it was with a bit of apprehension I went to meet Ms. Davey for the first parent-teacher meeting here. I was not prepared for what happened next. I was told so many good things about my son - how wonderfully he settled in, how kind he was, how polite and sensible he was and so on. I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming. Never before in my life I had this experience of a teacher telling me my child was a wonderful person worthy of praise. I could hardly believe this was happening in real. I was so overcome with emotion that I had to struggle to keep my eyes dry. 

That was one of the most moving experiences I had as a parent. Before that, I never knew teachers could say such kind and positive things about children. And it is not because my son is some extraordinarily good person. I know they have this positive approach towards all children under their care. As a parent, I felt happy and proud of my child as I got this feedback. It also helped me to look at my child in a new light. I suddenly understood that with a bit of positive reinforcement I could help him be an even better person. 

So, the school experience was thrilling for me as well. I tried to give back something by volunteering during class trips and other small ways. It was a pleasure to help in any small way I could. And, a year went by in a blink of an eye. Soon, my son moved into year 6, the last year of his primary school.
Man, Kids And Adults, Teachers And Students, Education

This time he was in the class of Ms. Griffiths. I had seen her daily while picking up my son the whole of last year and what struck me was her smiling face. It is remarkable the teachers have a smile on their face every day despite the challenging job they undertake. Year 6 is when the children take their SATs (Standard Assessment Tests). As such, it is a very stressful year for the children and their teacher. But Ms. Griffiths always had a smile on her face and good words for her students. 

During this year, we had regular meetings with her and she gave us a clear picture of where our son stood and how he can improve in certain areas. She gave the children practice tests as well as tips to overcome any SATs jitters they might have. Thanks to her encouragement and motivation, the kids were never under any pressure, but they had the confidence to do to the best of their ability. (And they did, I was told, when the SATs results were out last week). 

The SATs didn't stop the kids from having fun or learning about more things. They had their share of trips to the library, theatre as well as other educational trips. It was learning as usual even with the SATs around. I had the good fortune of accompanying them in a couple of these trips and I found that the teachers and kids shared a great bond of love and care. There was this boy from Poland who knew little/no English. I was amazed at the way the teachers patiently interacted and communicated with him. The understanding and kindness they demonstrated was again a lesson for me not only as a parent but also as an individual. 

School is fun 
Every day, my son would come home excited about the things he did at school. He would go on and on about his friends, Ms. Griffiths, Ms. Dunlop and other members of staff. The class was like a second home and family for him. That's why the news of his teacher expecting a baby had him thrilled. I got the feeling that all the children suddenly had this big brotherly/sisterly feeling on hearing the good news. I am sure they all are looking forward to meeting the baby even though they won't be at the school then.   

I think Ms. Griffiths has one of the toughest jobs in the school. Not only because of the SATs, but also because of her class moving out of the school, into the bigger world of secondary school at the year-end. Goodbyes are hard. I still recall seeing the teary-eyed children hugging each other and their teacher on the last day of the school last year. In a couple of days, my son would also say bye to his friends and his school. I am sure he will miss his friends and his teachers, Ms. Griffiths, especially. I know I will miss them too.

I know my association with the school was rather short. But the memories and learning I gained in this short while will last a lifetime. I wish the teachers and non-teaching staff at Holy Cross the very best in life. May you continue to brighten the lives of every child that comes to your school. 

So, here is a big Thank You to all the wonderful teachers and non-teaching staff at the Holy Cross School. Thank you for taking wonderful care of my son, making him feel welcome and happy. Thank you for all the joyous moments he had at school and the learning that made him a better person. Also, huge thanks for letting me be a small part of it all. I too learned a lot through my association with the school and I am sure I will look back at those moments with gratitude and happiness. Like my son, I will miss you all...

Special thanks to Ms. Griffiths and Ms. Bannon for the kinds words you had for Rithvik. As a parent, it filled my heart with pride and joy to read them.

Thank You!!!