Courage to be me #1 Mamma Mia

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As women, we are always taught to compromise, to give in, to adjust. And we do that so well. We give in to our parents, we give in to our husbands, we give in to our kids. We compromise and adjust so well, that at times we forget who we were to begin with.

And that has been happening with me too. But recently I’ve started becoming aware of the fact that the life I’ve been living has to a large extent been to please others, or at least to make sure that others were not uncomfortable around me, even it meant masking who I really am. A lot of the time I did this just to keep the peace or because I was too tired to fight anymore.

But now there seems to be a restlessness to find the real me again. I thought it would be easy. But old habits die hard and it’s not easy to rock the boat.  In this series of posts I will be writing about my attempts in my journey to try and be myself again. It called “The courage to be me” and the first in the post is “Mamma Mia” which talks about how as mothers we allow our kids to dictate our lives.

Mamma Mia!

A couple of months ago, I watched the movie Mamma Mia for the first time.  I was alone at home with a bottle of beer for company. It was one of those occasions when I was completely at ease with myself and my aloneness. What a perfect night to watch a movie like Mamma Mia!

And I loved it! I hooted, and yelled and drooled and sighed all through it!

I could so relate to the kind of friendship that Donna (Meryl  Streep) has with her friends Rosie and Tanya (Julie Walters and Christine Baranski). Today when I meet my gang of girls, the conversation flows pretty much in the same way. We all let our hair down and the talk does get centered around our sex life or the lack of it.  That is part and parcel of being friends for ever so long. You are so comfortable talking about stuff like this with them.

And the songs! Abba! Oh I grew up on them! They were around when I had my first crush; they were around when I fell in love; they were playing the night Jerry and I first kissed!  I learnt to dance to their numbers and I’ve sung their songs to my kids when they were babes. So when Pierce Brosnan  aka Sam Carmichael sings to Donna, I almost swooned!

That night I was not a mother. I was just a woman. Just me! Just Sunita!

A couple of weeks ago, they aired the movie once more, and I was prepared to enjoy it all over again. Only this time my daughter was at home and she said, “What a crappy movie! How can you enjoy this stuff!” And instinctively I started wondering if I was wrong and if the movie was indeed not as good as I thought it was. I started questioning my judgement.

This is something I have noticed myself doing a lot as I’ve started getting older. I’ve started losing faith in myself. I’ve started relying more and more on the judgement of my daughters. I want to be like them. I want to like what they like. Maybe it has something to do with the oft heard exclamation, “Mom! Don’t embarrass me!”

How many of us do this? As mothers we give in to our kids in so many ways. We give up cooking dishes that we like if our kids don’t like them. As our kids grow older, we give into their ideas of how the house should be done up and even what we should wear. (Mom! Are you really going to wear that!)

I actually started telling her what I liked about the movie and then… Pierce Brosnan started singing SOS. (Yes, he actually sings the song himself) And the utter sexiness of the man and his voice was too much! How could anything like that ever be crap! If it was, it was crap I loved! I suddenly realised I didn’t have to justify my likes or dislikes to anybody, certainly not to my children!

I was an adult and had my own life which was made up of so many experiences of which they had no idea at all. And they have no right to judge me or to shame me on trivial things like this.  More importantly, “I” do not need to be ashamed of my choices. If I choose to salivate over Pierce Brosnan singing Abba songs, that is my choice. It doesn’t affect anyone else in the least bit. I don’t need to be ashamed of it.

If I want to eat lady fingers or pineapple raita, I will make it once in a while. If the kids don’t like it, it’s okay. (I will deliberately not hear that, “why did you make pineapple raita? You know I don’t like it!”) They can eat the other stuff that is there. If I want pink curtains in my room, I will have them. If you don’t like them, don’t enter my room. I have decided that I am no longer living my life to please others. It’s my life, not theirs!

Strangely, life has actually become easier after this. The other day my daughter started to say something about a book I was reading and then said, “But I suppose you like to read different stuff. So it’s okay”   Yes. It takes a bit getting used to but it is definitely worth taking the courage to be myself!

Fred, the teddy bear.

This post is written in response to a prompt on Friday Reflections on  Write Tribe

The prompt was What if toys had feelings! I so enjoyed writing this one.

Fred, The Teddy Bear

20130919_165527She walked past me in the store. Then she doubled back and her face split into the most beautiful smile I had ever seen. She stood with her head on one side pondering, then picked me up, hugged me and gave me a quick kiss on my nose. “You will be perfect” she said and walked to the checkout counter.

She sat me next to her in the auto-rickshaw; she, a fifty year old or so woman, looking as pleased as punch and I, a giant sized pink teddy bear, trying not to look too anxious. Who had she bought me for? I wondered. Perhaps a grandchild. I wondered how old he or she was. To tell the truth, though this was what I was created for, I was quite nervous.

I remember the day I had been created. That night, before we could be packed off to the various stores, the Toy Fairy appeared to us and this is what she told us, “Teddy bears, remember you are special. You are created to give love. You are meant to give comfort and soothe souls. Every child needs that kind of unconditional love. Remember that. So go, there is a child out there waiting for you.”

And now that I was finally to start on my mission, I wondered, would I be capable of it? What if I failed? But of course I couldn’t voice these fears, and so I sat as straight as I could in the auto, preparing to do my best.

Once we entered the house, she sat me down on a chair and told me to wait till she put away the groceries. “Do people talk to teddy bears?” I wondered. Soon enough she came and stood in front of me and said, “We have to find a name for you, you know.”

“Wouldn’t that be the job of the kid I belonged to?” But of course she couldn’t hear me.

“Hmm I know! Fred! Yes, you look just like a Fred. I know you are pink, but I always thought teddy bears are male, you know. They are always so sturdy and comforting. They remind me of my Daddy, when I was a little girl. He never said much, but I could always run to him for a comforting hug when I was scared or sad. And one can do the same to a teddy bear no?”

It made me puff out my chest ever so slightly at that! I couldn’t wait to meet the kid I was to be assigned to, when I realised that the woman was still talking.

“You know Fred. I bought you for me. That’s right. Now don’t look so surprised. I’ve always wanted a teddy bear of my own and no one has ever bought one that was exclusively mine. As a kid I had to share my toys with my sisters and now that there is no one to share things with, I thought it was a good time to get myself a teddy bear. And so here you are!”

And that is how my life with her began.

Christie, that was her name, seemed to be one of those ever cheerful people. She chatted cheerfully with her friends and family on the phone. She greeted her neighbours cheerfully and besides occasionally patting my head she generally ignored my existence. I recalled what the Toy Fairy had said and I wondered if there had been some mistake. I was supposed to be there for a kid, why was I here? Whose soul needed to be soothed here?

Then one day, Christie put on some music and started dancing. She whirled around the room and laughed. She suddenly lifted me up and twirled me around with her, laughing even more delightedly. “Oh Fred! Isn’t that wonderful! Doesn’t the music just call you to dance? It doesn’t matter if you are alone! You can still dance! And now it’s even better because I have you to dance with!”

And though she laughed, I could see the hint of tears and the sadness that hid behind her words.

A few weeks later, it was raining heavily and Christie stood by the window looking at the rain, with a cup of tea in her hand. She was strangely silent. I was so used to her talking to herself or me all the time or singing tunelessly to herself that my teddy bear heart went on high alert. Something was wrong. Here was a soul that needed soothing, child or not. I had some work to do. But what?

Suddenly, Christie went to the cupboard and took out an old sweat shirt and held it to her face. She stood for a moment of two, inhaling its scent before bursting into tears. I just looked on, helplessly. Then she came and picked me up and said, “Do you know Fred, how long it has been since I have hugged someone? Really, really hugged someone. Not just those social hugs you give but a real loving hug.” She just sat there for some time hugging me with all the sadness in her heart, while all I could do was send her as much love as I could.

After a while, she sighed and got up, “That made me feel better.” she said. “That’s why I knew it was a good idea getting a teddy bear.
A couple of months later, I heard her laughing in the building compound. She was talking to the children who lived in the building.

“Aunty, for whom did you buy the balloon? There are no kids in your house.”

“I bought it for me, beta.”

“But you are not a child. You will play with the balloon?”

“Yes, why not?”

“Because you are so old!”20140304_152023

Her laughter rang out louder than ever, “Arrey beta, you must never grow so old that you lose the child in you. You won’t understand that now, but there is always a part of your heart that remains a child forever.”

And it was then that I realised that I was in the right place, because age doesn’t matter. You can always count on a teddy bear to soothe your soul, whether you are five or fifty!

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Going Back to School

The month of September always makes me feel nostalgic. It brings back strong memories of my school days. Not only did we celebrate Teacher’s day in September, but our school feast also fell on the 14th of September and that was a huge event for us.

We were proud to be students of “Holy Cross Convent” the only school runs by nuns in Thane at that time and the Sisters of the Cross as the order is called were really strict disciplinarians. Not only were the students mortally scared of the nuns, our parents were too and a summons by the Principal struck terror in the hearts of the bravest of the brave. Nails had to be clipped just so, hair had to be plaited; uniforms properly below the knee and blouses pristine white.

Many were the times when a particular Sister X would despair of our immortal souls as she could see horns growing on our heads and she would shake her head in sorrow as we would shake in our shiny polished shoes in terror. At other times we would be charged with the murder of English and sentenced hours of imprisonment working out clauses in our grammar books.

One would have thought we would have hated school, but strangely enough, we loved it. The perfection that we were expected to live up to seeped right into our blood, without us realising it. Whether it was planning and putting up a flawless performance for teacher’s day or getting out the school magazine, we were encouraged to do it all ourselves. We were given the freedom to make decisions and act on them. We were given opportunities to participate in sports, elocution competitions, drawing, drama, dance and a host of other creative competitions. We learnt to compete and we learnt to co-operate. We learnt to push and to let go. We learnt to critique and to appreciate. We got “educated.”

Our teachers were not just teachers of the subjects that they taught us, but were our mentors and guides as well. This was at a time when there were no “counsellors” in schools. But we didn’t need them. School was our second home.

hcc1A few weeks ago I had the honour of being asked to go back to school to judge an extempore speech competition. I was of course thrilled to be back in the spotless premises after so many years, but what elated me even more was the way the students carried themselves.

They spoke on topics like

“We only live once”

“The healing power of Nature”

“Man is known by the company he keeps”

“The Science of being Nice” and believe it or not those 14 and 15 year old’s speeches put a lot of grown up bloggers to shame.

hcc2Given the limited time they had to prepare their speech, their flow of ideas was amazing. It was thinking on their feet at its best. Their command of the language, had my “Wren and Martin” fed heart weeping tears of joy and when I had to mark them on diction, I actually asked out aloud, “Are you serious?” Except for their surnames, I couldn’t distinguish a Bengali from a South Indian or a Gujarati, or anyone from any other state for that matter. Their diction was flawless!

hcc3The entire programme was hosted by the students themselves; with a dignity that is ingrained in convent educated girls ,while the Principal, Sr. Anita and the senior most teacher, Mrs. Colleen Abreo, were just as much part of the audience as the other students and teachers.

Once again, 36 years later, I still feel proud that I belong to Holy Cross Convent School, Thane.

 

I Have Confidence!

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The other day, I was watching the movie, “The Sound of Music”. It is one of my favourite movies and I can watch it over and over again.  I love all the songs of course, but one that I particularly relate to is the one Julie Andrews sings when she leaves the convent for the first time.

The words, “What will this day be like? I wonder. What will the future bring?” reflect our own attitude and lives. I particularly love this line, “I have confidence in confidence alone, besides which you see I have confidence in me.”

Everyday we are faced with new challenges, new situations, new problems. Most of them are unexpected. Most of them we have never faced before. How does this make us feel?

The unknown and the uncertain always bring with them fear, insecurity and lack of confidence. Are we scared? Are we worried? Of course, we are! Who wouldn’t be? But this is where our attitude comes in. Do we approach these problems and situations and challenges with timidity or do we tell ourselves, “I have confidence in me?”

Life may not always give you what you want. But if you believe in yourself you will make the most of what life gives you. As the words go, “I have confidence in sunshine. I have confidence in rain.” So no matter what the barometer of life says, it is confidence that will get us through.

When you are confident you can face anything. You may not have all the answers; but you don’t give up even before you start. You use your resources and try to work things out.

So when you are faced with a new day and wonder, “What will this day be like?”, when you feel the butterflies in your stomach, don’t let them hold you back. Teach them to fly in formation with confidence!

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