Category Archives: Life

Yoga and Me

I recently had a rather startling realization that my public persona is very much defined by yoga. Our public life is now almost exclusively on social media, and around 80% of my posts on social media is about yoga with photos of me doing yoga.

And it is funny because none of the conventional yoga narratives seem to suit the relationship I have with yoga. I dont claim that yoga is both a physical and spiritual exercise (for me at least). I dont necessarily feel more at peace or connected with myself after doing yoga.  It is not even a social exercise any longer, because it has been more than two years since i stepped into a yoga class (or yoga studio, to use the new term which has even caught up in small town India), and for me yoga is largely a family exercise.

In fact I came into, and continued to practice yoga for probably all the conventionally wrong reasons. But here I am, with over five years of experience, so something must have worked for me.

To start with, I started practicing yoga based on the advice of a gynaecologist, who suggested that if I were trying to get pregnant yoga was a good way, since it generally keeps you relaxed and fit. I dont know why I latched on to this particular advice, since there were many other suggestions she gave which I ignored. A yoga class was happening very close to home, at times which were convenient for me (I never could stand early morning classes, so these evening classes suited me). So I signed on.

I know what I should have been doing was to focus on yoga and not worry about pregnancy. But that is exactly what I didnt do. I would constantly google about pregnancy related yoga, and try to learn and perfect all the poses which were supposed to aid in pregnancy. Yoga was simply a means to an end and I rather felt very self righteous that rather than go for any medical treatments, I was doing yoga to aid pregnancy.

This continued for many months. I did not invest in yoga for myself, but my body seemed to take to it very well. I used to slouch very obviously, and even though my posture now is not perfect, the slouch is much less pronounced (one friend remarked that I seemed to have grown taller). I felt good, even looked good.

I have never been a physically active person. As a child, I was pathetic at all games, and somewhere along the line I cultivated a self image that I never could not anything physically challenging. As an adult, I had had some forays into aerobics, hip hop dance and even swimming, but none of them lasted. Yoga seemed to be the only physical activity at which I was good. Yes, I know in yoga you are never good or bad, you just keep doing whatever your body permits you to do. But hey, we all have egos, and whenever my teacher praised a certain asana of mine or when I pulled off an asana, which other students could only gape at I preened like a peacock. Finally I was able to come out of the self image of being limited physically. Yes, I could be clumsy when it comes to certain activities, but hey, there were many at which I excelled as well.

This continued for a couple of years. I finally started enjoying yoga for itself and at one point even started wondering if I would miss yoga when I finally became pregnant and had a child. That was not to be, since we ended up having an alternate route to parenthood. Our daughter came into our lives at about a week’s notice, a wilful, independent 8 month old whom we adopted.

The adoption threw me off yoga for about a month. I think as a major life event, it threw me off life for almost a year. I had to suddenly cope with the needs of a totally different person, focus on her full time and in the initial days, I didnt have a moment for myself. Within a month, I had to return to yoga, and in that period, perhaps for the first time, I was doing yoga as it was meant to be. It gave me a space for myself, made me feel a bit relaxed and offered a temporary break from the hundred and one demands of motherhood which were suddenly on my head.

I continued to have anxieties and doubts about motherhood for a long time, even after I cracked the routine tasks associated with it. I was deeply insecure, kept wondering if my daughter would bond with me, and more importantly find me fun. To myself, I presented a dreary serious picture, hardly playing, hardly watching TV, hardly having fun. Why would a child ever like my presence, specially when I was also the stern disciplinarian in her life.

And then the answer came to me, and yes, once again it was yoga. Yoga was the one unique physical activity I could do which she could enjoy. Right from the beginning, when my yoga practice meant I could comfortably wriggle under tables and chairs and be with her and play with her, onto giving her rides on extraordinarily fit back, onto her being curious about the asana, looking at it from different perspectives, and trying to figure out their names (and yoga can be fun that way, crow asana, camel asana, lion asana, a veritable zoo of asanas), I was finally able to offer her something unique, something which we both could share.

My daughter is now 4, and we now have some brief daily yoga sessions, where she tries to match me. I like it that I am her role model in this one activity, and I like it that it is one activity we have taken to doing regularly as a family. Not because it is healthy (it certainly is), not because it is a symbol of glorious Indian civilization (it probably is, but I am not too concerned about it), but because it is a lot of Fun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A to Z Blogging Challenge : C is for commuting to work and getting some guilt free ‘me’ time

A to Z Blogging Challenge : Apr 3 C
Over the last five years, I have had the dubious pleasure of not having to commute to work at all. I work from home, or in a workspace which is abt two minutes walk from my home. The walk is picturesque campus. My daughter’s day care is on the way, so I drop her off while leaving for work and pick her up when I am coming back.

Now, considering how crowded and congested most major Indian cities are, isnt this a big blessing. Well I assumed so for a long time. Especially in the initial days, when I had just moved to Ahmedabad, and was fresh from long two wheeler rides to my workplace through the congested streets of Bangalore.

But very soon this began to pall. On those ocassions when I had to go to Bangalore and commute to work, I started enjoying it. My workplace was now further away, and I had to take public transport to reach it, but I would say this added to my enjoyment. I borrowed books from friends and colleagues. I would load books onto my kindle and read it on the way. Planning for what I would read during the long bus ride was an activity in itself.

Looking back, I think what I really liked about this time was the fact that it was totally ‘me’ time and I didnt need to give an excuse to anybody, least of all myself, to claim that time for me, to pursue my hobbies. I feel women who are trying to balance household as well as jobs are on a constant guilt trip on how they are underperforming in one of these roles, or perhaps both, and so even if they have time for leisure that is clouded by guilt. But when I sat on a bus to go to work, I was free from all that. No household work is expected of me while I commute (though many women in the local trains of Mumbai manage that as well), no office work is expected of me either. So I could read to my hearts content.

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30 Day Blogging Challenge : Day 1 : Five ways to your heart

I have accepted the thirty day blogging challenge, and so this blog will be busy for the next thirty days, and I will be writing on stuff, which I would never otherwise write about, definitely not on a blog.

This is going to be a random blogging vacation for me, where I push the boundaries of what I allow myself to write. Readers who will start wondering if the old Divya will be back, hold on, she will. Or possibly, this vacation will alter me so significantly that she wont.

 

Five ways into my heart

I think I have been married for so long, that I have forgotten how or why I fell in love with my husband in the first place 🙂 I remember long conversations, many cups of coffee and a shared tendency to continuously analyse things. And things have changed so much these days, we have no time for long conversations, neither of us have stepped into a coffee day for years and years, and the analysis paralysis frame of mind we get into is the trigger for some of our most intense fights. Yeah, things which seemed romantic to a young girl of 24 can seem like a waste of time for a harried mother of 31. But anyway here is a list of five things, which my husband can do to get into my heart. With a few variations this is probably a list which every harried mother will make.

 

1. Plan and execute a weekend outing, with no inputs or prompting from me, which is simultaneously interesting for two adults and a child of one and a half, and plan it in such a way that the child’s eating and sleeping schedule is not significantly disrupted.

2.  Coming up with ways to engage a child while eating, for long enough to ensure that she completes the meal (TV not allowed. The toys should be such that they are easy to play with while the child sits in one place and eats).

3. Random post dinner snacks, an ice cream, masala coke, frozen paan or anything unexpected

4. Willingness to spend sundays in a random way, playing in the garden with my child and the birds. Finding a way to overcome the sunday evening blues, which being anticipatory in nature are even worse than monday morning blues.

 

5.  Conversation on yoga and appreciation for the new asanas I am picking up 🙂

I thought when I started writing this list that almost all the things will now be about my daughter rather than me. But I realize that almost all the items on the list is actually about me and what I continue to enjoy. So yes, while motherhood has consumed me, I am still retaining a sense of self, of things which I enjoy. Three cheers to myself.

 

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Cultures and Parenting : How India offers freedom to its kids

Recently, my seven year old NRI nephew, who visited me, made a very pertinent remark. We were at a  restaurant, and my boisterous one year old daughter was running around and making merry. She was curious about the place and saw no reason to be confined to a chair. And all the waiters paused a minute to let her pass, did not reprimand us, and even made sure she was safe, when she went too close to a swinging door. One of them even volunteered to mind her as we ate. My nephew remarked, ” Its really nice to see waiters in this city seem to like children”

My nephew was born and raised in the US, a place where kids are expected to be in their best behavior while out. He has probably been shushed and reprimanded by waiters before. For him to see waiters volunteering to mind a naughty child was a revelation. 

Its not just hotels. When I take my daughter shopping, shop attendants dont really seem to mind her mischief. One of them even told me, this is the age when children are curious, dont stop her from pulling the kurtas out, we can always rearrange them later.

This in sharp contrast to an experience which my aunt narrated about her daughter, another NRI. Apparently when her kid did some mischief in a shop in the US, the shopkeeper told her she ought to be training kids better. 

I am not saying every shopkeeper or waiter in the US is a terror and everyone in India is an adorable person. And I agree that a certain amount of disciplining is needed, so that the child does not get unmanageable. But what I have realized is that in India, we are much more happy dealing with randomness and disturbances when it comes to children. We dont really expect our children to be automatons. Our education system may be placing importance on rote learning, but I feel, otherwise, to learn life’s lessons, we give our kids a lot more space. 

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Political Correctness or just sensitivity??

Political Correctness has become one of the most damned phrases in English language. It is taken to mean everything from superciliousness, hypocrisy, pandering to a minority to outright lying. Its cool to be ‘politically incorrect’, but of course we  never stop to wonder how politically incorrect we routinely are in much of our speech and interaction. 

Take an example, Manmohan Singh bashers jokingly call him Manmohini Kaur, presumably to show his powerlessness and obsequiousness to Sonia. But what does this mean, that ‘women’ are powerless and spineless and Manmohan Singh a man, is powerless and spineless and therefore a woman. Today, I heard that he was referred as Shikandi (Shikandi is a warrior in the Mahabharata, but in common parlance today is taken to refer to a eunuch). I saw a post on FB which said ‘Jab Tak Suraj Chaand rahega, napunsak PM tera naam rahega.’Again, does it mean that eunuchs are spineless. Without even realizing it, isn’t there a hierarchy here of the assertive alpha male, and the ‘submissive’ female and ‘gutless’ transgender. I know its a joke, I know we are not expected to over-analyse this, but if jokes routinely promote such stereotypes, what is the message we are giving.  

While on the subject of Manmohan bashing, maybe it is time for his critics to reflect on whether he draw so many brickbats because he, as the elected Prime Minister listens to Sonia, who holds no political office, or that he as a man and as a elected Prime Minister listens to Sonia, who is a woman and holds no political power. This is not to justify any of Manmohan’s or UPA’s actions, I am not politically astute enough to critique it. But as a woman, I am able to pick up the some element of gender bias in this.

Its not just gender, I am sure our everyday language is full of idioms, which, while not intending to be derogatory, paints a negative, or patronizing picture of some group. I have been lucky that I am a member of the majority community in my country, I come from Mainland India and I come from a relatively privileged socio-economic background. Apart from gender, I cant really pick out any of the other stereotyping idioms. But millions of others are not so lucky.  

Political correctness is a jargon, simply put, what it means is that we are sensitive to what other people feel. That if we truly aspire to be a society where people of all castes, religions, ethnic identity can interact as equals, through our words, through our behavior, we constantly reinforce our equality. Not just when we are interacting with people from the other groups, but routines, as a matter of practice, so much so that we are not really aware of it. Its not easy to do this, equality is not an inherent value for any of us. But can we start by reflecting on what kind of impressions- intended and unintended- we convey through our words. Can we stop making ‘political correctness’ a dirty word? Can we stop making people who are aspiring to be ‘sensitive’ feel like they are a bunch of hypocrites?

 

 

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2011: The year of small pleasures

When I realized I am ending 2011 pretty much exactly where I started it (personally, professionally or any othe lly which we can choose to evaluate ourselves on, as years end), I was in great danger of getting depressed. Now, this list is a therapeutic exercise, as I embark on my first new year resolution (first even new year resolution actually) of cherishing the small pleasures…….

1. Our young garden. I know zilch about plants. I dont understand eveb 10 % of what our gardener tells me. But I will take a moment out everyday, to see these young plants bloom. And we will attempt to create hedgerows resembling the ones in the English country side which we so admire in so many TV shows.

2. Yoga. Its the daily dose of challenge we need to keep life entertaining. For me yoga is not about releiving stress, or being in shape. It is for the moment when I acheive an asana which I have struggled for days to perfect. I dont aspire to be a yoga guru, just want to be a person for whom the bar is just out of reach, as I push my body to newer limits.

3. Books. Yes, I have always been known as a reader, but over the last few years, the reading habit has been slipping away. Thanks to Kindle, I have now reconnected to reading, and spent many enjoyable hours rereading old classics. And realized Jane Austen improves as you age.

4. Bird watching. An activity as ego crushing as gardening for me, which again highlights how totally oblivious I am to my surroundings. But with pigeons and peacocks and parrots running amok in our garden and adjoining areas, it is hard to miss them.

5. Cricket : Again something I lost touch with for a few years now. But as I followed many close encounters throuch website commentary, I realized the joy of unobstrusive, internet based cricket viewership.

6. Food. I am a street foodie. And we live in Gujarat. Need I say more. I hope the next year brings me more opportunities to explore local cuisines across the country, as I attempt a staggered food pilgrimage across the country.

Wish me luck.

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My Teachers Day Tribute………

I did not really think I would write a teachers day tribute at all, but yesterday, the status message of my friend set me thinking. Her message said, Dear Life, Happy Teachers Day. Its a sentence which captures what I have always felt about teaching and about life being the best teacher;  what is more underscored the fact that, in all my over 20 years of education, I am yet to find a teacher who has occupied a permanent place in my heart, who has taught me something which is valuable for life. There have been teachers who have stimulated intellectual curiosity, who have made classes enjoyable, or from whom I picked up small hints which are helpful in professional life. But someone who is close to my heart, I am yet to find. Perhaps that is why I assumed I will not write a teachers day tribute, because although I do wish my teachers on this day, I don’t feel the tug of the heart towards a special teacher, whom I absolutely have to wish.

But over the last year and a half, I have been married to a teacher, and from him, I have learnt there is so much more to appreciate in a teacher, beyond whether they taught us anything or not. So here is my teachers day tribute…

Dear Teacher,

I appreciate the effort you put in to prepare for every class. If we even half realize your efforts, we might have been shamed into putting in at least a little effort to match yours.

I realize the fact that if you have even a little amount of self awareness, you also probably realize that much of what you may teach us in class is superficial. But I appreciate the fact that you still put in the effort to make sure you teach that to the best of your ability.

I appreciate your courage in facing us day in and day out, with enough preparation, but always wondering when one of us will spring a question for which you have no answers. You face us with the constant dread that some day the students may knock you off the pedestal.  Most of us dread facing an examination at any point of time, yet you face us, your examiners, all the time.

And yes teacher, you have taught me something. Not something through your lessons or through your interactions with me, but through the fact that you are what you are. You are an integral part of the school called Life, and from your very existence, I have drawn lessons.

Happy Teachers Day!!!

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