Saturday, June 30, 2018

A fresh look at Marriage and Matching!

I was working on Environmental Studies Homework with my six year old daughter. ( Oh yes, it is nice to study some things again with a little student friend as long as it is not Algebra and Geometry, I can confidently say!)

"My Family" was the first lesson. The text read:

Tina is six years old. Her father is a doctor. Her mother is a teacher. She has a little brother. She likes to go for a walk with her grandparents. Tina has a pet dog. She loves to play with her dog. Her mother teaches her. Tina helps her father clean the living room on Sunday.

The lesson had pictures illustrating the whole scene in the house so the children understand how Tina was related to each of the family members, their roles in her life and how others in the family connect with Tina.

Beautifully done, I thought!...

The next day, my son brings a book from his Kindergarten class. The Homework for the week was to match the capital letters and the corresponding small letters. The next page had a list of pictures ( Example: Pencil) that had to be matched with the related things ( Example: Notebook).

Interesting again!!! The mind maps/matches things that the children know about, with the things that they can relate to in some way.

After all these homework books, a serious technical document or an article (even my own writing) seemed so uninteresting to my mind. How beautifully the kids are being taught some concepts! May be we learned the same way too, but the same concepts make a better sense today with a deeper meaning.

Later that evening, after the children's "End of Day", I was musing over the evening's homework, still amazed at how the concept of "Matching" was being taught in schools, and how 'matching' lesson has been the oldest, most effective, and the real lesson that has deeply affected/effected each of us in our social, personal, professional lives at large!

The mind that tried to match/map small letters to capital letters first, then learns to relate or connect stuff learned in Maths, Language, Bio-science, Social science, History and Geography over the years of schooling. Once out of school, the same mind (now over 17 years of age) in most schooling boards world-wide, is ready to map/match the people with their names, relationships, professions, roles, emotions, behaviours, attitudes, characters, traits and anything else I may have missed out, as it grows up in age.

These mapping/matching probably gives a sense of understanding to the brain that there is a certain unchanged connection, typical behaviour, expected result, relationship between the "left hand side of things" and the "right hand side of things or to put it simply 'two things/people/ideas/concepts'.

A pause here.... On a seeming digression for the moment, my mind asked "Could marriage also match with this theory of 'matching' given that 'matching-making' is a popular phrase in Indian households where 'arranged marriages' still happen!?" The marriage match-making websites serve as a platform to make available profiles that can be matched to preferences. The years of matching exercise finally has come to effective use - the idea of matching/mapping people for life!!!. May be 'Match the following' question is the single most important lesson in the entire school curriculum after all!

Don't you agree??

Matching is everything!! Trying to arrive at a 'Relationship' is the only way to match anything at all. From the first 'a' to 'A' lesson to 'Pencil:Notebook' lesson, we have come a long way in learning relationships.

Left hand joins the right hand in a 'Namaste', the traditional, Indian way of greeting people. The hands have to match in position at the chest level with eyes looking at the person in front. The receiver usually returns the 'Namaste' gesture in acknowledgement. The relationship between the two parties need not be a defined name. They may just have got acquainted or they may have known each other for ages!!! It is a mark of respect and the inner sense of 'knowing' the other person. There is no effort required here except to be aware of the courtesy.

In formal or informal handshake greetings, one of the hands brought forward has to be 'associated' with another hand brought forward to accept the greeting. If you shake hands with some one, the simplest relationship could be that of an acquaintance. There is no effort required here except that it is mark of respect to return a handshake.

Father, Mother, Brother, Sister, Uncle, Aunt, Grandma, Grandpa, Friend are all relationships that we learn without having to really struggle hard to relate, love, believe, and respect.

Since all of these relationships in life seem a very natural bond, over the years, the word 'Relationship' must have suddenly changed colloquial synonym to "The bond between a man and a woman in romantic love within or outside the marriage."

In the new meaning of relationships, suddenly the 'Matching' becomes crucial. A sudden realisation that dawns in most relationships is that our minds continually try to join dots, match attitudes, draw meanings, resolve differences to keep the relationship going.  We either let go or keep ego, forgive or assume that we forgive, expect or give, respect or disrespect, love or drift, make or break!!!!

In the school exam's question, there were things and we mapped them according to their relationship. In the real life's question, there are relationships and we are trying to change ourselves.We are changing the question to suit the answer!!! Exactly why the concept of marriage/relationship sounds complex. "So, do we have to change for the relationship really?" is the next big question that crops up!

Now, there are some relationships where the parties that form the part of the question - the man and the woman - do not want to change anything for the relationship. They call their relationship to be based on what is assumed as ' freedom ', 'understanding', 'accepting', 'broad-minded' and 'love-intrinsic' foundation. Very good, I would say. However, the fact remains that this does not live to see success for a long time in most marriages/relationships. The reason : The institution of marriage is such that it brings into your life the big word 'Responsibility'. With 'Responsibility' comes a parade of emotions/restrictions/differences/anxiety/challenges.

If you do not give up anything, learn anything from, accommodate anything new, tolerate anything at all, then what exactly are you doing for the relationship?? That seems a very emotional question, may be, but if you love someone, mean it and show it in a way that it really is felt. Now, that is what is going to keep the relationship going, in my opinion. Applies to all relationships, but very closely relatable to marriages, I would say. "Now, do we have to?" is the next question!

All the relationships that we are surrounded with do not need as much of a promise ( so much of grandeur, so much of over-expressed joy, so much of noise, so much of expectation, so much of glow, so much of emotions) as the one called "Marriage" does.

So, we don't want all of that to be blown off in thin air right?? May be all the excitement is because we match a relationship between two growing people who have come from different backgrounds and it is not an ordinary happenstance that it is seems to be(Everyday thousands of people get married!).

If you think about it, this real-time "matching" translates to dealing with variable things ( the man and the woman ) with varying moods ( we all know it!) and various mind sets ( Opinions change Morning, Noon, and Night) for which we are trying to draw a constant relationship line.

Its like the "Pencil: Notebook" getting changed to "Penquin: Notebook" suddenly!!! The word just got longer, but means different!! Penguin cannot match in anyway with Notebook! But we drew the matching line when it was still 'Pencil' and the answer was correct!!

When the Left hand side shows a changed thing, the relationship which we strive to keep constant ,no longer seems to match perfectly with the thing on the Right hand side.  In the real life situation, all of us in the relationship keep changing with various experiences!!! Change is constant. How are we going to explain our change and yet keep the relationship line constant with the changing other person too??

Exactly why the whole idea of marriage often needs a re-shuffle of thoughts, re-work in love, re-alignment of priorities, and re-affirmation of the purpose. Easier said than done, I think!!.

Deep-down, I believe that we must do all it takes to keep the relationship line steady in Marriage, as in life, the rule is to "Do". But, if we are interested in really knowing more about how to keep the relationship going, there are numerous sensible write-ups online and great marriage counseling help available too!

With sincere wishes and prayers that everyone who reads this is constantly working sincerely to keep their relationship lines constant and bright,


Thursday, June 07, 2018

A Mixer Jar’s story

I am new here today. The family is excited to run the Mixer for the first time. I am the eldest of the three jars. I am taller, my blades are broader but not as sharp and I can hold about 1.5 litres of stuff. I have a handle and a lid and South Indian households typically use me to make vegetable soups, batters of various  kinds for their dosa and many spice blends for their half a dozen varieties of sambhar.

I am sparkling clean and have this squeaky shine on me today. I am generally very happy and designed to be useful.

Here, the lady opens the lid and puts in about a kilo of some pulse mix in. Closes the lid as quickly and turns the mixer knob to full speed. My blades do the job of the grind and before I can even begin to understand what was the spice mix I just spent time grinding, she puts a spoon inside and ruffles the mix a bit. Another churn and I guess she is happy that the mix came out to her expectation. There seems to be a contented look on her face. Looks like it is Sambhar mix, as she immediately put a heap of it into whatever was cooking on the stove top.

She seems busy, so my lid is back on my head and I am left to sit in a corner of the kitchen table watching the scene of the house.

I see this woman walking in and out of the kitchen, and could hear the little children’s hustle and bustle , a distant bus horn and a noisy morning traffic too. Suddenly it all came to a sudden stop. I went off to sleep too.

I have been thinking about a quick wash after the sambhar powder business, but it didn’t happen. 
In the evening or probably around the time when I heard the vessels being washed in the kitchen, I was hoping that I would also be taken off for a quick wash. Another lady, quite a machine at her business of cleaning, picked me up gently and placed it in another corner of the kitchen table. I waited and waited and waited.

It was dusk I guess. I could hear the kids again. The lady of the house was busy walking in and out of the kitchen. She picked me up twice I recall, only to place me in a different pedestal. Wonder why these South Indian homes are always so busy making food!!!

Suddenly, the lights went out and I looked around to see that the little patch of sky that I could see from the window pane had turned dark too. Which can only mean it was night and that I am not getting the most needed wash today!.

I decided to sleep it off.

In the morning or I assume it was, because the sky patch was still dark and the lady of the house was already in the kitchen. She must be having an early start, I guessed. Otherwise why would she work like a night owl in the kitchen at eerie hours!!. It should be the wee hours of morning! She was not making too much noise, so I thought I could just sleep a little longer.

Suddenly I saw my lid being opened and the contents checked.  By the way, I forgot that somewhere during the mid-day yesterday, someone came by and emptied my jar and left me back in the same place!! and this lady had no clue too.

This lady was kind enough to ensure that I got a wash today. She put me in the kitchen sink with the other utensil friends of mine, so I got a few minutes of networking time!. The maid came by and washed me clean and I feel quite fresh now.

What is funny in the whole episode is that, people thought there was something inside my jar and kept moving it places on the kitchen table but no one ever bothered opening to check. When I was emptied, I wished that I could get a wash but was put aside too, only to be moved further by others in the house thinking I had something in!!!.

It seems a practice in this house to keep the kitchen utensils colander outside for some sunshine!. It feels good too!

"Good morning, Merry Sunshine!!! I sang”

Just like the Mixer jar being moved from one place to another assuming there was something in it, we all misunderstand/assume things about ourselves and people. We keep moving the thoughts, brushing aside the concerns, repositioning the emotions, dragging the problems, postponing the confrontations, and avoiding the realities.

It takes an effort to open the lids to the people’s mind ( mixer jar ) with their willingness, but it is definitely worth your time. Sometimes, all it takes to feel good is emptying of the mind’s contents, a good rejuvenating scrub of the mind with new perspectives, thoughts, healing touch/talk/words and few introspecting moments that can bring out the shine in our minds. 

Is your mixer jar clean and empty to churn again? Think about it!

Friday, June 01, 2018

Outstanding Grade - A Quick Counseling

On a conversation with a friend, I got to know that the Class 10 results are out and a common friend’s daughter was upset because she scored just a 95%. Apparently, she expected to top the class and missed it by 2%.

Yes, 2% is lot in Indian schools. A hundred people may have scored over-and-above your score. 

With three cheers to this obsessive compulsive disorder of worrying about scores ( I have once been there too!, I must confess.. in June 1996).

I am writing the following list of thoughts that flash in my mind:
  • Ask the value of a nanosecond to a Olympic runner. What matters is being the winner. The fact that someone ran faster in the race by 30 seconds, is a big 'Lost or Won’, number!!
  • Between 11:59 P.M and 12:01 A.M is just two minutes on the clock but two different dates, which means a lot when it comes to an admission in an extra-ordinary pre-school that admits kids born on or before 31st July, and your tiny tot was born on 12:01 A.M on 1st August!!! One year delay is too much and means ‘In or Out’ of the admission list for the school year.
  • Old Uncle around the corner of the street got delayed by five minutes in traffic on the way to hospital, and died just the minute his stretcher was taken through the Emergency Door!! Five minutes means 'Life or Death’ sometimes!!
Coming to think of these common place incidents (Yes, they are common place incidents and there may be many more such incidents that you can think of too!!!).

Are these really the fault of anyone??

  • Did the Olympic runner aim to lose by 30 seconds? 
  • Did the baby decide to come out at the transitioning hour of the calendar??
  • Did the old Uncle die just because of the traffic?

The answer to all of these questions is 'NO'.

The reason for these incidents is simply “It happened because it was meant to be that way!!

Now, let’s do a retake:
  • It is grand to have got a chance to run an Olympic race. A lot of people do not even cross the finish line in the school running race.
  • It is a blessing to have given birth to a baby. A lot of people are awaiting the blessing, even as we read this text.
  • It was good that people could do their bit to get an ambulance for the old Uncle. What if old Uncle had died in his sleep?

Just like these incidents, the most common place happenstance of an academic examination should be evaluated at its ‘face value’ which is just as an incident that happens in one’s life. 

The candidate scored 95% is a fact. There is no other significance attached to this number as far as the admission into Class 11 in school or Pre-University College matters, as it IS a score given by the evaluators.

Is it the child’s fault to have missed out on the 2%??? Definitely Not.

The reason for this incident is simply “It happened because it was meant to be that way!!

Now, let’s do a retake:

That she was able to study well, was able to write well, was able to score well matters!! There are people who do not clear the paper in spite of having done it well. There are others who are not even fortunate to write the exam for a hundred reasons!

Dear Child, Parent, and Teacher,

A 95% is an Outstanding score.

Class 10 board exams is a milestone which every school student has to cross. Sincere Effort (Hard work, Smart work), Sound Mind in a Sound Body, and Best Intent are the three things the parents and school have to instill in the children.

Can we get the parents and children and teachers to understand that scoring Rank 1 may mean ‘OUTSTANDING’ in some sense, but does not necessarily mean an ‘OUTSTANDING’ performer in Life?!!!!

It is just really okay to shrug off a class 10 exam score, if the basic responsibilities have been taken care of by the child/parent/teacher: Effort, Health and Intention

All parameters of the day (Sleep, Hunger, Fear, Stress,Score Anxiety, Peer Pressure, Health, Parents, Teachers, Home) define what a child can possibly write on the answer paper. Score is a MERE number that rates what is being written in the paper on a set date

Score is a number that does not :
  • say anything about the intelligence of the student
  • measure the teacher’s skill to teach
  • evaluate the mental health quotient of the student,parent and teacher
  • consider the hunger and sleep of the student, parent and teacher
  • rate the stress that the exam itself may have caused to the clan - student, teacher, parent
  • care about the student’s interest in the subject

And let’s stop giving too much hype to this little snippet of life (Class tenth board exams) that happens in most students' life.

After all, life is more than a school board exam! Life in itself is a bigger exam that needs a lot of your love and understanding showered on your children, giving them reassurance that ‘Its going to be okay’!. How many times you may have to say this to your child, is a number you may not even be able to keep a count of!!! But, yes, that is the real scoring sentence which will help your child live an ‘OUTSTANDING’ life.

If this read does not sound convincing, it is high time we sought the help of counseling services and counselors who will help us come out of the obsession on examination scores, thereby helping the:
- parents to avert stress
- children to retain their sanity  
- teachers to keep up their passion for teaching.

Seriously, think about it, dear parents!! 


With new opportunities also comes to fear and self-doubt. How can we navigate these very strong forces in order to reach our fulfillment...