Experiences, Gratitude, Introspection, Kids, Learnings, Little Moments, Milestones

Sunday school this year

Last sunday was my last day of Sunday school for the year. Like the past few years that familiar feeling of pang returned with gusto at dismissal. You know that feeling of missing out on the rest of the learning journey of a bunch of goofy, mischievous, argumentative, lovable, and affectionate bunch of little humans who have delighted and exasperated you.

This was my first year teaching fourth grade and how different the dynamics are from teaching second graders!  I loved the syllabus – dasavatharam, ramayanam and mahabhratha. In fourth grade, students are more engaged, contributing as much as learning, having strong opinions, likes and dislikes, and don’t miss a chance to challenge you with their accumulated knowledge. On the flip side, if you have reluctant learners, it takes a lot of effort and creativity to find something that resonate with them. Classroom management was tougher on some days because children are more brave about questioning authority. So there has to be clarity in expectations and boundaries.  I was fortunate to have had a mentor who is one of the creative teachers that has inspired me to get better at what I do. I learnt that kids learn best when they are actively involved in the learning process (opportunities to participate in class, hands-on activities, project based learning) than when they are in passive mode (listening to lectures). I had underestimated how little I knew of the mythologies but I would like to think that we learnt and grew together as a class. 

We ended last class with a class selfie and as we were wrapping up, one kid popped the question – “What is the most ridiculous thing we have done in culture class?” A few ideas were thrown in and the popular vote was for – talking about vegetable korma when we were discussing Kurma avatar… !  which had all of us break into peals of laughter. I could not have asked for a better way to end the school year. 

I am not sure how much of this year’s learning will stay with the children but if they have had few laughs and have associated learning with fun, I think the class has served its purpose.

 

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Experiences, Gratitude, Learnings, Me

Sharing My World

Thank you Cee for your questions this week.

When writing by hand do you prefer to use a pencil or pen? As a child, I have aspired for a better handwriting. I even used to have a notebook in which I practiced writing. Somehow, I never got better at it. I also write very slowly and can’t write well with some writing instruments (eg. ink pens or mechanical pencils).  For better or worse, the only time I write is when I am writing a check or a checklist. My instrument of preference is Reynolds Bold black ballpoint pen.

Would you rather be an amazing dancer or an amazing singer? I would love to be an amazing dancer with profound understanding and appreciation for music.

If you were on a debate team, what subject would you relish debating? The idea of debating does not hold my interest anymore. When it comes to debating, people come with the mindset to win, to prove their point; it is seldom about learning and seeing things from another’s perspective. On the other hand, I love to be part of discussions where things are analysed from different perspectives, where there is an opportunity to grow and learn. The kind of discussion that NPR hosts – Onpoint, Hidden Brain and Ted Radio. I would relish any discussion related to the human nature and the enigma that the human mind is.

What are you a “natural” at doing? Empathising comes naturally to me. It’s both the boon and bane of my existence.

Optional Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up? Last week was an emotionally draining week with a lot of things going on. I am very thankful from the bottom of my heart for Da’s calm, solid, unbiased, predictable presence in my life. This week, I am looking forward to coming back home after my business trip.

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Experiences, Hari Katha, Introspection, Learnings

Language Problem

I had noble intentions and grand dreams when I signed up Hari for learning tamil in sunday school. I thought I would push myself to learn to read and write in the language in order to be able to guide him. Turned out, this is one of those classic cases wherein the notion of doing something is more appealing than actually doing it. It was easier said than done. 

Hari has been learning tamil for the past six years and almost always, it has ended in one way – with  an SOS call to my parents or my friends with a plea for last minute help. Poor Hari! The child does not complain, the problem solver that he is, he resorts to google translation, and does his best to be independent. But there is only so much self sufficiency in an unfamiliar language.

Do you ask why continue then? I don’t know. I really don’t know. Seeing that this is going nowhere, a rational person would have let go. Somehow, both Hari and I are unable to let go. We have come very close to giving up only to go crawling back to square one.

They say, on the day of victory no fatigue is felt. When we read an essay we have written, an essay we were incapable of writing to begin with, one we struggled to frame word by word after referencing to google translation and generous help from family and friends, there is a part of us that feels hopeful and accomplished. And it is that spark of hope that makes us pick ourselves, again and again. 

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Experiences, Gratitude, Introspection, Learnings, Life, Me, Now, Wishes

Word of the year

For 2015, the word of the year was Discipline. The year taught me that I have a hard time being disciplined because I am an inherently indisciplined person. And I realized that striving for Discipline is a lifelong ongoing effort for me rather than something I can master in a year. So the quest continues.

For 2016, the word of the year was Detox. Relative to 2015, I did much better in terms of sticking to the intention. But I was unable to keep up the momentum in spite of having practiced it aggressively for the first six months. I knew I was slipping, I kept telling myself that I need to pick myself up. But somehow the mind has a mind of it’s own and it sabotaged my voice of reason. And that’s ok. It just means that I need to work a lot harder than what I thought.

For 2017, I am  choosing Mindfulness. I want to know my mind and if feasible, befriend it so I can help it to help me. I want to be aware when the mind is running helter skelter and gently bring it back to the present moment and to the current task.  I am also choosing this word because I am a big picture person, which has its pros and cons. Pros being I am generally easy going, I can take a step back from a situation with some effort and I do not sweat the small stuff for the most part.  Cons being I do not pay close attention to details, I can be blissfully clueless about so many things, and most importantly, I am not living life in all its richness. So I am going to give a shot at beginning the practice of living a mindful life.  

If you are reading this and if you feel up to it, I would love to know your intentions for the new year. Here is to new beginnings, opportunities, experiences and intentions. 

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Experiences, Family, Gratitude, Holidays, Introspection, Learnings, Life, Loss, Wishes

Reflections and Wishes

“Breathe in. Breathe out,” I tell myself.  I feel heavy hearted as I recall the events from this year. I scroll back to the entries since the beginning of the year by way of reassuring myself that this year too has had its share of joyful events. And I am not disappointed. There is plenty to rejoice about. Life is kind that way, it tosses bouquets even when it throws brickbats.

My mil’s health setbacks and her subsequent passing away this year has undoubtedly dented our lives. And just like that this year marked the end of an era for the family. We miss amma at random times for random reasons. Sometimes we talk about it and at other times, we just sit tight, keeping a low profile, waiting for the feeling to pass.

“Being Mortal” by Atul Gawande is the book that has had an immense influence on me this year. Human body is a complex and sophisticated machine and like any other machine, it is bound to wear and tear with time.  The book made me think a lot about aging and mortality and humbled me.  We can’t live life fearing the worst. Nor should we live life as though we have unlimited time on earth. We should strive to live our fullest in the moments given to us, with the people around us.  

This year has been a milestone year in so many ways. Da and I celebrated our 15 years of togetherness. Hari started middle school and Ram began kindergarten.  We became US citizens and voted for the first time.

I took up a lot of volunteering projects this year – at school, at the local library, and in Sunday school, and realized that there is always so much to do. The more activities I engage in outside home, the more motivated I feel to come back to my home, to my people. I experimented with cooking quite a bit this year, and loved practicing eating right and eating clean. I jogged consistently for the first half of the year, shed some pounds and felt like I took responsibility for my health, I tried my hands on meditation and was awed by the power that mind has over the body. 

My heartfelt wishes to you and your family in the brand new year.  I wish you clarity amidst chaos, faith and hope in the face of panic, strength and belief to fight setbacks, focus when distractions rule, interests and passions that fill you, family and friends to love and cherish, a healthy body, a peaceful mind and a sound intellect. Lightness, cheer and merriment. Happy 2017.

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Learnings, Life, Writing

Quotations – Day 3

The Sunday school is held at the local high school. Before going to my class, I generally stop by the “Collage of Voices” board where comments from high schoolers (from regular school) are posted anonymously. The theme seems to vary periodically and captures the voices of the kids on matters that matter to them. Eg. what stresses them and how do they destress.

Every weekend, I linger in that area to read and reread the collage by way of grounding myself in reality. Hari will be in high school before we know it. He will have enough stress of his own. The last thing that we want to do is weigh him down with our expectations and judgments. Easier said than done, which is why I go here often so I can internalise the messages that these kids are brave enough to voice out.

Today, the board had the following comments under the topic “Words of Wisdom”

voices1voices2

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Experiences, Gratitude, Introspection, Learnings, Little Moments, Uncategorized

Time heals and the power of NOW (Gratitude Journal – Day 4)

  • To err is human. I am no exception. I have made mistakes of all sizes – small, big, and everything in between.
  • Loss is inevitable. I am not immune to it either. I have gone through loss and experienced grief.
  • Failure happens. I have had my fair share too.
  • Disappointment, anger, frustration, and negativity of all kinds are part of being a human. I experience them too.

But thank god for the healing power of time, our lives are not defined by the mistakes we make, the losses that we encounter, the failures we experience or the negativity we go through. They are part of who we are but they are not the only fragments we are made of. Time creates space and distance. What seems monumental, shrinks in stature and enormity with the passage of time. With time, we forgive (ourselves and others) and sometimes forget. The drama of emotions is replaced by calm acceptance. Self criticism by self compassion. We see things in perspective, the enormity of the situation relative to the big picture.

Time heals and thank god for that!

On the topic of time, I am grateful for the concept of NOW. I mean this moment in time, NOW, has always existed. But the power hidden in NOW has appealed to me only in the recent years. I see so much truth and wisdom in giving everything you have to this moment of time, without the burden of the past or the worry about the future. So I try. The few times I succeed, I know I have lived a life of high quality.

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