Friday, December 27, 2013

Five gifts for my children

As parents, we make it our life’s mission to give our children the best that our purses and imaginations can conjure.

Nothing less than the best will do for our children, we tell ourselves. So fierce is our love for our children that it seems to consume us, making every other priority of our lives shrink in comparison.

We make spoken and unspoken promises to ourselves, regarding the sort of care we will give our offspring. We will give them the best to help them soar, to realise their potential and to enable them to hold their own in a world that, unfortunately, will not view them with the high regard that we do.

We get so fixated on our desire to give them the best that money can buy, we often overlook the need to give them the things that money cannot.

We get so carried away in our desire to give them the things that we didn’t have when we were growing up, we forget to give them the things that we did have growing up.

I’m not a great one for buying toys for my children. Having grown up in a SITK (Single Income Three Kids) family where the budget was often stretched thin, I have learned to regard thrift as a virtue. Reduce, reuse and recycle are not just some catchy mantras for me. They are credos by which I live my life. Credos that I seek to inculcate in my children.

Most of the gifting I do happens in honour of my kids’ birthdays. Of course, I do buy them things on impulse, things that I think they might like. Mostly clothes or books, or even small clips, crayons and drawing and colouring books and odds and ends that might inspire them with a sense of novelty.

But whenever the thought of gifting them something arises, both the Husband and I like to think big. Beyond a Made-in-China toy that might not live to see the morrow. Or an expensive gadget or remote controlled toy, for that matter.

A very famous quote, attributed to more than one person, goes: “There are only two lasting bequests we can give our children. One of these is roots, and the other, wings.”

This quote has had a profound influence on me. It has become the philosophy that colours my choice of gifts for my children. I believe that every big gift that we buy for our kids should make a substantial investment in their lives, and should give strength either to their wings or their roots.

Here are the five gifts that I would like to give my two children, known on my blog as La Niña and El Niño. 

1)  The most immediate gift I would like to give them is the gift of my TIME and PRESENCE. As children, my brothers and I were fortunate enough to have parents who were fully invested in our lives. They were interested in the small and big events of our lives, and were always willing to listen and talk to us about the profundities and inanities that occupied our minds. Their deep involvement in our lives and their unconditional love and acceptance have touched me deeply.

Children live in the here and now. They are too young to remember the past, or care about the future. They long to have their parents play a more active, vital and participative role in their lives. One that goes beyond buying them the basic necessaries and hoping they will amuse themselves with some trinkets and gadgets while the grownups go chasing after the items on their own to-do lists.

The way I play a more active role in my kids’ lives is by paying attention to them, by answering them every time they call me, by making time for them, switching off the TV and the computer and setting aside the mobile phone, each time they clamour for their Mamma to play with them.

   2)  The ability to LEARN and KEEP LEARNING would be my second gift for them. I wish my children to always want to learn, to know more, to drink in, with wide, greedy gulps, of the vast reservoir of knowledge that humankind has accumulated so far. But I would also wish them to realise that not all the learning happens in a classroom or a school. The most ordinary, unspectacular people can enhance our learning, if we learn to keep our eyes and ears open and our mouths shut.

As WB Yeats said, Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire. As a parent, I feel bound to teach them to consider themselves students of life and living as long as they are alive.

I would also like to equip them with the means to learn some skills of their own choice. Whether they choose to learn sewing, dancing, playing a musical instrument, baking, designing, swimming, cooking, painting, building or some form of martial arts etc, no learning is wasted. Every new skill can do wonders to an individual’s sense of self-discovery and ability.

    3)  The next treasure in my basket of gifts would be my BOOKS. My father introduced me to the world of books and instilled in me a love for reading. It was a love that opened my world view, and broadened my horizons. It gave me hours of sheer unbridled joy, and helped me to forget all my cares. It helped me learn from minds wiser than my own, and taught me to love the magic of words. It is a treasure that I have always sought to share with my children.

My books are some of my most valuable possessions. Many of these books I received from Dad. Over time, I have added to my collection. Always the kind of books I would want to read and re-read. The kind that expanded my mind and my heart and enriched my soul. I hope to share my small library with my children.

4)  The other gift that I would like to leave my children is one whose worth will be evident to them when I am no longer with them. I would like to make a WILL, so that, having sorted out all my assets, I am able to leave my tangible and intangible possessions to the two little people whose welfare is and always will be my greatest concern.

5)   The greatest gift that I would like to leave my children is a twin one. It consists of the MORAL VALUES that I learned from my parents and the FAITH in a loving God that they instilled in me.

The values can serve as a compass for a good life, helping them navigate the pitfalls that threaten impressionable youngsters. The faith can be the light that helps see them through the toughest times.

Living a life with faith is no guarantee for an easy life. It will not give them the assurance of having all the answers. 

What it will offer them is the assurance that things will work out alright, and that the doubts that rage in their minds will be stilled in time, if only they are willing to let go and let God.

I hope to be able to share with them my deep conviction that everything will work for good, if they allow themselves to move on meanwhile. To do the chores and the jobs that need to be done, while waiting for the answers to reveal themselves. And they always do.

These are the gifts that I would like to leave them.

Everything else is only pretty wrapping paper.

This post is a part of the 1001 Gifts Activity by HDFC Life in association with BlogAdda

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Blog Review: Memoirs of a Confused Gal

It promised to be a Secret Santa with a difference. 

Instead of buying gifts for someone who’d been naughty yet nice, Vinita, High Priestess at the FB sanctuary that goes by the name of Indiblogeshwaris, came up with the idea of reviewing the blog of a fellow blogger on our own blog. What better way to drive up readership for a deserving blogger, while making a new friend? That is the spirit of Christmas, after all.

The name that popped out of the Sorting Hat for me was that of Pankti Mehta, a relatively new entrant in the world of blogging. 

With a name like Pankti (it means sentence in Hindi), you would not expect anything less than sheer love for the written word from her. And that is just what you get.

She calls her blog, Musings of a Confused Gal, but there is little confusion here. Pankti’s talent is seen in  the range of posts in which she puts her pen (or keyboard) to good use. 

On her blog, you will see her short stories, poems, book reviews, musings, a story series titled, Anything for You, travel tales and photos.

It was her short stories and travel tales that I liked the most. Her short stories do a good job of reeling you, the reader in. She builds mood and atmosphere with as much ease and attention as she devotes to the building of her characters.

The story, Love Me, fills you with disgust and pity in like measure and that is its strength.

Faith is another story about a girl wrongfully accused at school and her sense of reassurance on knowing that her mother believes in her innocence.

Power play shows the depths to which people are willing to stoop when driven by ambition. Interestingly, this story reveals that the protagonist need not always be the polar opposite of the antagonist.

The Travel story details her trip to Sasan Gir, which is 400 km from Ahmedabad. This post was well written and showed both her love for travel as well as her sense of humour. It was in this section that I felt that she completely outdid herself. Pity there was only one post here.

A bookworm Indiblogeshwari, Pankti has reviewed books such as Chakra by Indiblogeshwari Ritu Lalit and Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom, a writer whose work I enjoy a lot.

This toddler in the world of blogging has set an example that I could learn from. So many of my posts sit patiently in the Drafts folder, waiting for me to come and wipe the dust off them.

Pankti, on the other hand, has very quickly built up a collection of 67 blog posts, even though she began blogging only in March 2013. The Indirank of 84 is certainly well deserved.

Jog over to her blog and check out more of her work. 

And have a lovely Christmas while you're at it.

May Jesus bless you with love and affection enough to keep you warm in spite of the cold outside.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Book Review: RIPPED

Title: Ripped
Author: Shelly Dickson Carr
Publisher: New Book Partners
Pages: 520

Ripped by Shelly Dickson Carr is a time travel tale that seeks to solve a mystery that has remained unsolved for over a hundred years. The finest minds of Scotland Yard could not solve the mystery at that time. More than 120 years later, the aura surrounding the mystery continues to baffle people and inspire speculation and conjecture.

It is in this spirit that Shelly has embarked upon her novel. Putting together the historical facts with elements from her own imagination, always a heady combination, she has served up this delicious story that courses along smoothly for the most part, with only a few glitches ending up affecting the flavour of the dish.

In the 21st century, the Boston-born Katie Lennox finds herself forced to re-locate to London and live with her Grandma Cleaves, following the deaths of her parents in a car crash. Her elder sister, Courtney, lead singer of the rock-chick band, Metro Chicks, lives a lifestyle unapproved by their grandmother. Katie longs to have a family life again, and misses her parents deeply.

On a trip to the Madame Tussaud Wax Museum, along with cousin Collin and his best friend, Toby, to see the Jack the Ripper exhibit, Katie also visits the London Stone, about which legend says that it has the power to grant three wishes of those who are pure at heart.

Even as she longs for her parents’, Katie inexplicably makes a wish for the life of Lady Beatrix, the last victim of Jack the Ripper, and one of her forebears. Her wish is granted and she is transported to the London of 1888, days before Jack the Ripper was to attack his first victim. Believing that Jack the Ripper was somebody trustworthy who could walk the streets unquestioned, Katie decides to find and stop Jack the Ripper and save Lady Beatrix and the other victims that he brutally murdered and mutilated.

But life in the late 1800s isn’t going to be easy. And Katie soon learns that getting what she wished for isn’t always a good thing.

Shelly has done a great job of descriptions and dialogue. Pedigree clearly shows. Her grandfather was John Dickson Carr, American author of detective fiction, whose characters Dr Fell and Sir Henry Merrivale are highly regarded.

The writing makes delightful reading, although there are some occasions that demand a little more drama that Shelly could have exploited to better effect.

Shelly manages to hold our attention with her characterisation of Katie, Toby (from both centuries) and Collin (from the 19th century). Katie, of course, is a feisty little thing, not averse to a little eavesdropping when the situation demands it and wholly game for adventure. And Toby and Collin from the 1880s show themselves to be real. Toby’s broken nose and Collin’s slickly combed hair are touches that bring them alive to the reader. On the other hand, too much attention is paid to the physical description of Lady Beatrix, who has precious little to do in the story.

Because this is the 19th century, Shelly cannot resist dropping names. So we have Oscar Wilde, a washed down, insipid, diluted version of him; James Whistler, the artist, Samuel Clemens, Bram Stoker, and a reference to Friedrich Engels. Shelly tries to make Wilde more real by putting his most famous quotations to use as part of his speech. 
Unfortunately, she doesn’t always manage to pull it off.

Despite the fact that I thoroughly enjoyed reading Ripped, there were some glitches that upset the story. That Katie and Collin are cousins today and that Toby is Collin’s best friend is clear. But that Katie should be the cousin of Lady Beatrix, one of her own forebears, who is a dead ringer for her sister, and that Collin and Toby should both be part of the household in the 19th century is just too much to swallow. And what a coincidence that the characters look the same and have the same names across centuries!

Also, Katie’s motivation for risking her own life for a distant member of her family from a previous century is weak. Particularly, when undoing her parents’ deaths was her main concern a few hours earlier.

And whatever happens to the real 19th century Katie from America? Initially, Toby tells Katie that she has changed greatly since she first arrived from Boston. However, after that neither Shelly nor Toby make the slightest reference to her. Did she disappear into thin air? Or did the London Stone transport her somewhere else?

The repeated and liberal scattering of Cockney slang, at the beginning and throughout the book, makes little sense, particularly when it needs to be set off with explanations. The slang could have been left out altogether. It would have made the book shorter and more focused.

There are continuity issues galore. The name of the 19th century Toby’s baby sister changes from Elsie to Emma a few pages later. Somewhere Beatrix’s name changes to Beatrice. Godfrey is spelt without the ‘f’ at one point. The needless fixation with the scenes in the movie versions of Harry Potter is evident, and wears down the reader.

Ripped is a good story that is weighed down by unnecessary slang and some unanswered questions. If only the book were ripped of that dead weight!

I received a free Kindle version of this book from NetGalley.


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