“Teaching is a thankless job!”, she says.

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I have seen her struggle alone with two toddlers and a teaching job. I have seen her sitting late at night to finish her teaching diary. I have seen her scold her children to go to bed faster than usual, so she could check the examination papers carefully. I have seen her prepare her lessons thoroughly when the syllabus changed all of a sudden. I have seen her packing her bags with one hand while pricking herself with the insulin needle with the other hand for years. I have always heard her prioritize ‘ente makkal’ (my children) over her biological children.

And when her students ran up to her or wrote to her from different cities, I used to envy her.

She did all of this with utmost dedication for three and a half decades. But now, she says that teaching is a thankless job. She retired as a TGT (Biology) teacher from a Delhi Government Aided School on the 30th of September, 2015. She still hasn’t started receiving her pension. When she approached the Directorate of Education for her health card, they told her it had to be applied immediately after retirement through the school authorities. The school authorities tell her that it can be done only once her pension papers are through. Based on two RTI applications submitted, she is informed that her pension papers have again been sent back to the school because her pay fixation of an earlier date has not been computed correctly.

She is someone who refuses to share her grief with anyone. I haven’t seen her smile for a long time now. I haven’t seen her enjoy her time with any of us for the last few months. My mom who used to call me 10-15 times a day has now stopped calling me at all because she doesn’t want to add to my already stressed life. The other day when I gave her a surprise visit, she broke down.

She says, “I didn’t even bother to check if you girls were having your breakfast properly and ran off to school for this job that does not even guarantee me my pension which is my right. I haven’t been able to sleep for days now because I feel betrayed.”

Do you know how difficult it is to see your ailing and aged parents cry helplessly in front of you? Do you know why she is suffering?

She is suffering because she and her husband have refused to pay a bribe to obtain her rightful pension. I am not sure whom to address this grievance to. The school, the management, the principal, the Directorate of Education, the Delhi government or the teachers who were ready to pay the bribe…I have no idea whom should I direct her to. Because at every door there are infinte bats hanging with hands openly begging for a bribe. Not Modi. No Kejriwal. No one matters to these shameless corrupt employees of the system. It’s a venomous cob web out there. Why should we vote? Whom should we vote for?

What if we lose her? What if something happens to her? What if she dies before getting her pension? Who’ll be at loss?

It pains to even type this but these are questions she asked me.

The country and the government benefits….right???

What about her family? Her children may still be able to cope because they have their own responsibilities. What about her husband? May be his children will take care of him. May be they’ll try their best to help him survive. But will he be happy without a partner to unconditionally share his words in his retired life? My parents have struggled all their lives for a bright future. If this is that bright future, I am sorry to say that no one should work towards a bright future.

If this is what a teacher has to go through, I would like to agree with Amma.

“Teaching is indeed a thankless job!”

Of Gadgets and Guilt

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This generation.

Our generation is probably the most unfortunate of all generations. I say this in the context of parenting. We have the wisdom inherited from our previous generations, a massive collection of parenting books and an enviable range of technology that advances every single second.

You may ask, “Aren’t these supposed to make us the most fortunate generation?”

I say, No. I refute this because along with these fortunes we also have issues like lack of time, lack of presence, deadlines even for dying in peace and an ever increasing guilt.

Our attention spans have reduced to such drastic levels that even though we wish to address certain parenting issues, and even though we already know the reasons behind those, and even though we know what areas to work upon, we are unable to do so. The reason being our short attention spans. We struggle to juggle between various facets of life. Unlike our previous generations that had dedicated time for every single task, ours is a generation that is drowning in the ocean of multitasking.

For example: at a given point in time, I am preparing dinner. I have also put the laundry in the washing machine because it is time for Delhi Jal Board water to come. I also have to check when water drips from the tap to switch on the electric motor pump. I also have to keep shuttling between the study-cum-living-cum-dining-cum-socializing room to attend to the girls and their studies. I also have phone calls from both set of parents to attend. My eyes have to keep a check on the wall clock to see if it is too late and the husband hasn’t reached yet. If it is late, I have to call and remind him that he has a family back home waiting for him. And in between all these, I also have my social life confined to the 5 inch screen of my ‘smartphone’ which is where I get my fifteen minutes of fame by posting a random picture or a random status. I have had days when my child has asked me a question while I am on phone and I have answered in affirmation whereas which is not what I was supposed to. I did it because I was answering my mother on the phone while listening to the child. Sigh!

The world is advancing exponentially and since we have to compete to remain relevant in the overall scheme of things, we have agreed to remove all foundations, break all rules and jump into the madness. We have deadlines to meet at work. We have commitments to keep. We have EMIs to pay. We have spouses to satisfy. We have parents to take care of. We have children to be responsible for. We also have gadgets to stay up to date.

What we lack is time. And thus we lack the ability to be present, the ability to be attentive, the ability to respond. We see. We listen. We understand. But our minds are so occupied with finished and unfinished tasks that we fail to address the moment that is here. We listen to our children but we don’t allow our brains to comprehend what they said. And that is the biggest mistake, the biggest sin that our generation is making.

We don’t need books, we don’t need parenting coaches, we don’t need simulative videos to teach us parenting. All we need is attentiveness. So put that phone, iPad or Laptop away when your child wants to speak with you. They hardly need a few minutes for your presence to be felt. If you’re in the midst of something, request for a few minutes that they will graciously allow. But keep everything away and be fully present and responsive in those moments with them. It is their right. The guilt will stay away along with the gadgets.

As addicted as I am to my smartphone, I have finally found a solution to my problem. I switch off Wi-Fi when I am with the girls or am doing some serious work. Everything else can wait, but not the children. They will grow up. They’ll spread their wings. And finally, they’ll fly off our nests. Let them fly off with some beautiful memories of the time spent together. Let them know that we care. Let them know that we are present.

A simple lesson learned the hard way.


Linking it to Blog-A-Rhythm’s Wordy Wednesday #2-Feb 2016 #PhrasePrompt

I have used the phrase ‘Fifteen minutes of fame’.

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A Letter to Firstborn on Her 10th Birthday

Dear Anu,

Wishing you a Very Very Happy Birthday!

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You’re rounding the curve to ten. In your own words, your first double-digit birthday. Big girl!!

Time just flies. I wish I could hold on to it tightly and allow your wings to spread a little slowly before you fly off my nest. Selfish I am.

As I keep telling you, you’re my first child. The one that made me a mother. The one that has taught me how it feels to be in love with someone irrespective of what they feel for you. You’re that ray of hope that I found when I was at the lowest in life. You’re the one that made me feel alive again. You’re the answer to all those silent tears. You were the only light that made me want to come out of that dark shell I had cocooned myself into. You are the one that has made me the stronger self that I am now.

I see a lot of that old me in you. I want to protect you from all those haunting experiences that still disturb me. As a mother, you’re my most cherished possession. There, I made that mistake again. I DON’T POSSESS YOU. I should always remember that. I am only here to guide you. I have no right to control your destiny and I know I can never do that. Even then, my fears as a mother make me want to protect you from all evil in this world. But this is your life. You have every right to make your own mistakes and learn your lessons.

I know I have unintentionally been tough on you. I know I haven’t been a good parent on many occasions. Extremely sorry my child! I know no amount of apology can erase those little wounds I have given you. You know what, I feel guilty and ashamed most of the time, and very alone. I feel helpless about having hurt you. It’s the worst feeling.

Every day I feel more and more aware of your girlhood and impending adolescence. I want you to understand so many things. Time seems so less and not everything is within the limits of your comprehension. I know I can’t make you understand everything in one shot. The best I can do is to keep repeating them and lead by example. Sometimes I wish you were like Small Wonder and you could read everything from the book of life in a matter of seconds. But I’m glad you’re not because I love your smile.

On this 10th birthday of yours, here are some life lessons I want to share with you.

  1. Don’t try to please anyone – You can’t make everyone happy. And you can’t make someone happy if you aren’t happy. In short, try to be happy and cheerful always. Everybody else will be taken care of.
  1. Do not be afraid – Don’t ever be afraid to share your innermost fears, your insecurities, your mistakes, your likes, your dislikes. Speak up for yourself and for others. Something your Mom is slowly but surely learning to do.
  1. Be kind, not rude. – Everyone has a personality. And no two people are the same. Your right may not be right for someone else. Their right may be wrong for you. Learn to accept people for who they are and how they are. Be polite, humble and kind. Being rude has never helped anyone. We can agree to disagree with someone without being rude. Be humble.
  1. Don’t feel ashamed to apologize – Say ‘Sorry’ and ‘Thank You’. These are powerful. Very powerful. Sometimes they can help you mend broken relationships. They can help you be friends again.
  1. Don’t keep grudges. Move on. – However careful you are, there will always be a situation that you’ll get hurt. Your best friend, the love of your life, your parents, your siblings, they’ll all hurt you at some point or the other. People will let you down. Intentionally or unintentionally. Get back up on your feet, forgive them, let go and move on. Life is too short to keep grudges. All this will not matter in the long scheme of things that life is all about. Same applies to you too. If you happen to hurt someone, don’t shy away from apologizing. Your ego isn’t bigger than their pain.
  1. It is not always about you – The one thing that your Dad kept repeating to me when I needed it most is, ‘It is not about you. It is not your mistake. It is their mistake that they aren’t able to see the goodness in you. ’ This is true. It is not necessary that everything people say or think about you is because of you. Don’t blame yourself. I made that mistake. Get over it and move on. Everyone is fighting their own battle. So forgive and forget. If you ever want to speak, I’ll always be there. My soul is within you.
  1. Respect yourself – Don’t do anything wrong. Don’t humiliate or insult anyone. Respect every individual and their views, however conflicting. But most of all, respect yourself. If you do not respect yourself, if you do not appreciate yourself, how do you expect others to? You cannot allow people to treat you poorly and if they do, you need to respect yourself enough to walk away. You must love and respect yourself before anyone else can.
  1. Life is Precious – This life is a gift. A precious one. Respect it. Treasure it. Share the beauty. Share your experiences. Share your laughter. Every person you meet leaves a footprint in your life in some way or the other. Be thankful. Be grateful for this life.
  1. You are YOU. – You’re beautiful. You’re strong and powerful. You’re better than me. You’re you. You’re precious. Don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise. There is no comparison. You’re unique.
  1. I love you. I always will. – I will continue to discipline you. I will continue to lecture you. I will continue to point out your mistakes to you. I will continue to ask you to do your best. Because I am here for a purpose. I am here to support you. I am here to provide for you. I am here to take care of you. But all this does not and will not reduce an ounce of my love for you. I promise. I’ll always be there when you need me. I will always have my arms open and wide enough to let you curl into a ball within them.

I love you and I wish you enough.

Ummas and big tight hugs,

Mamma