Category Archives: Uncategorized

What the little sprig of grass says to me.

There is a sense of beauty in everything around you. Look at the flowers, the leaves, the little blades of grass… it is all fascinating. The one thing that always makes me smile at the most unexpected times is finding a little sprig of grass growing amidst concrete blocks on the road, or a cracked cement wall. I have seen it quite a few times, but each time it reminds me of the never-say-die spirit of nature and the nature’s ability to overcome all odds.

The happy green sprig of grass reminds me not to take my troubles so seriously, to take the challenges of the moment in my stride, and keep marching on. As human beings, we often tend to think of events, relationships and things as coming to an end. We forget that every year, spring is followed by summer, summer by autumn, autumn by winter and amazingly, winter by the sweetest, gentlest spring. If only during our days of autumn and winter we could remember that spring is coming, our struggles would be lesser, our pains more bearable.

The fact is, during the cold dark wintry days of our lives, we experience the pain so sharply that it appears that the dark night will envelope us and our entire world. I invite you to look around wherever you are… look for that crack in the wall, the old broken footpath, the dark shadowy staircase… in each of these you will find nature giving life a second chance.

Sometimes it is a sprig of grass that has popped out, at other times – a wild flower that is just happy to bloom or a tiny spider weaving it shiny sparkling web catching the stray streak of sunlight.

Let these sights remind us that ours is a beautiful world, that each of us here is a wayfarer, journeying along with others who have boarded the same train. Soon, people will go their own way, the dark tunnel that seems to have surrounded you will soon be behind you and the happy bright sunshine will light up your days. Don’t let things get you down too much, for remember, this too shall pass.   

~ Bharti Athray

Committed to create

There is an innate need to build… build assets, build a legacy. In a beautiful story shared on the difference between Valmiki and Hanuman’s Ramayan (link given below for full story), I realized that as creative people, we all wish to create something that will make us famous, that will win us accolades. And when these are not forthcoming, we stop in our efforts to create, and choose instead to live the mundane life. But the true creator is like Hanuman, a soul with a true passion for something he loves and believes in with all his heart, creates as a gift to his muse.

For Hanuman, creating the Ramayan was a way to simply remember Ram. It was a process of meditation, creation of something beautiful to be dedicated to his source of inspiration. Unlike Valmiki who wanted to create a piece of work by which he would be remembered, Hanuman did not seek appreciation, or fame, or money for his creations. He created simply because he was inspired to do so.

This story led me to re-look at my approach to creativity. I have often begun writing stories and stopped halfway, finding the exercise meaningless, convinced nobody would ever want to read my stories. The story of the two Ramayans made me realize the error of my ways, and I have realized, I must create simply because I can.

I love the world, the beautiful creatures and elements in it. I am awed by the beautiful sunrise that lights up the hills outside my bedroom window, I make it a point to check out the light display of the sun each morning. I love watching butterflies flit past in the October sun as I wait for the signal to change amidst the traffic. I wonder what transformation these beautiful creatures herald.

I watch a poor beggar boy at the side of the road, trying on a party cap he has found by the wayside and acting like a little stage artist. The mischief in his body, the joy he finds in the discarded party cap makes me realize it takes so little to be happy. All of these are instances of inspiration, one for which I have decided to write… just as an ode to the wonder and beauty that surrounds my life. It does not take much to create a work of art, and we can create endlessly and dedicate it to the Universe. The rest will take care of itself!

PS: If you want to read the story of Valmiki and Hanuman’s Ramayan that has inspired me to continue on my creative journey, please check the link below:

https://dropsoftime.com/2017/11/09/whose-ramayana-is-better-hanuman-or-valmiki/

I also want to thank a dear friend who shared this story with me, Sunita Ramkumar of the Chembur Kindle Life group (Chinmaya Mission). Thank you, Sunita for the

For working moms with 7-12 year olds

I am probably the wrong person to be saying this, but this one is a message for young working mothers who have children in the age group of 7-12 years.

This is the time when you find your child becoming a little independent and being able to finally manage without you. For most us, it is like being able to breathe in peace after 8-9 years of having a little creature constantly hanging around us.

Please don’t get me wrong, I have two boys, one 17 and the other 10 years old and I love them to bits. I look forward to sharing their world with them, their stories of their school hours, about the unfair treatment meted out to them when they don’t get selected for the school team, the insights they get while playing their favourite online games… I love all of it.

Too much to do as a working mother
Yet, being a working mother, I have responsibilities at work, meetings to attend and deadlines to keep. At times, the endless trips to the school for PTA meets, open days, prayer performances can crowd my schedule to no end. When my first son was growing up, I often put his school performances and activities as a second priority, telling myself I would make it the next time.

“Will definitely make it next time!”

During his later school years, I realized the performances and calls to the school become few and far between. There are activities that you want to be a part of, but the school does not feel the need to have parents involved. Also, as children cross the 11-12 years mark, they prefer to hang out with their friends more than with you.

High school is a different ball game
They don’t want you interacting endlessly with their teachers, or friends. In high school, I barely knew my son’s friends, and had a nodding acquaintance with their parents. It is a different phase then. Your focus as a parent gradually begins to shift more towards your child’s academic performance and while in the early years of high school – sports and theatre are fun, you find yourself consciously shifting tracks towards academics.

Things will change soon!
The simple joyous relationship you have with your children while they are under 12, when you are still taking care of their studies, monitoring their books, having a close communication with their teachers – all undergoes a change in the higher classes.

Keeping these changes in mind, I strongly recommend that you attend as many of your child’s programs and events in the primary school as you can. It is the time you will see your child shine on stage, perform with no inhibitions, enjoy every moment of the activity without worrying about the fact that someone else got a better part to play than him. The years of primary school are precious, and if you have a single child, please do make time for your little one. If you have a second child, you will learn from your experience the first time around, and try and make up while the second one is growing up. I know I am doing that and loving it.

Why involvement is important
Your child will soon be a teenager, set out to define his / her individuality; and will begin the journey to being an adult. Sweet innocent moments of early school years are what will remain in your heart for life. So collect as many memories as you can, cherish them and celebrate them.

On occasions when you can’t make it, wear a smile, hug your little one and wish him / her luck for the Big Day. Remember for you, it may be one more leave from work, for the child, it could be his biggest performance till date!

Cheers.  

~ Bharti Athray

A morning with Sherry

The fresh morning sunlight glided into the office and there was a pleasant buzz around the space. The clock showed 9.30 am and slowly the staff started walking in. It is going to be a busy day, but a satisfying one, thought Sherry to herself. She loved this office, she has always been one of those people who was proud of the work she did. She was happy when there was loads of stuff to be done, articles to be written, poems to be composed.

She breathed in deeply of the fresh air as she looked out at the sea that waved to her from beyond her window. The sea took her back to memories of her earlier life as an advertising writer. It brought a wry smile to her face and she wondered why it has taken her so long to shift to creative writing. She could have done it at any stage in her life, and yet she had wasted so many years writing ads, and brochures – often rehashing some old content of clients. At the time, she believed that was what being a writer was all about.

But then slowly as a sense of disappointment, a sense of lack lustre routine began to gnaw away at her, something within her pushed her to create something new and she did. She began writing short stories as she had during her college days, she committed to creating a book of poems, a book of well researched articles on teenage suicides and why the teens are such a highly criticized species of the human race.

It was in these projects, these assignments that she discovered her voice, found the person she had lost touch with decades ago. She didn’t quite recollect when that last time was, but the more she wrote and easier it became to have conversations with this inner being. Silence was the secret. That was a huge challenge to Sherry; in her earlier advertising life, she was used to chaos and phone calls all day. She longed for a few moments of peace when her mind was not jumping around looking for things to do or say.

search-for-truth

But over time, as she opted increasingly to write for herself, to create in the true sense of the word, she began to find peace. She could work for hours at end without feeling the need to exchange words with her colleagues. There was a stillness around her, within her. She felt she had even begun to move slower afraid of disturbing the inner stillness that had been gotten with so much difficulty.

Slowly, her thoughts came back to her room, to the sea. Having had her fill of the lovely visions of nature, she got her cup of filter coffee, sat at her machine and began her day’s work.

~ Bharti Athray

Write your own script

Shakespeare said it, the Gita says it: All the world’s a stage and we are but actors here.
I think an important aspect of this saying that often gets left out is the fact that as actors, we get to write out our own role. You can choose the characteristics, the script, your response as you enact the role. What you do not have control over is the plot, so don’t worry about the plot. Just focus on how the character you are playing will respond to the various incidences and events in the plot, for what happens next in the plot will really be defined by your response.
Amazing thought, isn’t it? Talk about interactive movies and films, it does not get better than this!

The problem with this play of life is we get too hung up on the plot, we try to pre-empt the events in the plot and when things do not unravel as per our thinking, we get upset. We forget we are not in control of the plot, we are in control only of our character and how that character will interact and respond to the situation and to the other actors in the scene. We cannot influence the other actors in a very serious way either. They all come with their own ideas of how they want to play out their characters, and how they want to write their script.

When you come on the stage, you are a little lost and you look for someone to guide you on what needs to be done in the play. So you get to choose your mentors, these people become your parents, your siblings, your teachers and your friends. Slowly, you get a grip and perspective on how that play works, how it moves forward, and gradually you move away from their influence and their way of looking at the world. You form your own opinions and define your own script. And then you are on a roll, looking at experiences your way, responding as you see fit and so on.

We are but actors here.

The problems in the play begin when we forget that we are actors, we get attached to the props on the stage, especially when the plot defines that the props must belong to someone else in a given scene. Then we want the prop, and if the plot does not allow this, we get upset again.

When you are performing you need to keep reminding yourself that the things that you see on stage are merely props. Maybe in the next scene, you will get that pretty prop, or may be you never will. If you are able to successfully distance yourself from the elements on stage, get into character without getting entangled, play out the emotions well, you would have lived a rich life that also feels satisfying. But for those of us who mistake our roles for the reality, we are in for a bad time. It is like going to watch a tragedy and crying all through the film and continuing to cry even after you have returned home. Somewhere you have forgotten that this tragedy was merely a film and nothing more.

Every time you feel like you are in the midst of a situation that you can’t handle, remember it is just a scene and it will change soon. As for defining your character, pick characters from Shakespeare, Gita or history, find someone you resonate with and play out your role as your role model would. It just makes life so much simpler.

~ Bharti Athray

How to get your child off digital entertainment.

There is so much discussion these days on children being over-exposed to television and digital entertainment. There are constant discussions on how we need to stop our children from excessive consumption of these devices. I have found that if you clearly define the timings when your child can use the digital devices, and control your own consumption of these devices, it is not that difficult to reduce their usage of digital devices.
Give your children and their friends games that will keep them engaged, give them a challenge, and it seems they don’t really miss the idiot box. That was a pleasant surprise for me on one of the recent rainy evenings. Three young boys, full of energy sitting together building towers out of Jenga blocks, and not once did they mention the TV.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This incident made me wonder whether the fault lies in us, not giving them enough opportunity to play together, fight with each other… make amends, upset each other. May be when you put children together they no longer need other devices to entertain them!
May be instead of enrolling them for endless classes and tuitions, we should just let them hang out together, play with real friends, and build bonds that will last them a lifetime.
That short stint on a weekend evening revived in me the hope that all was not lost, and that our children are not really that different from us. They too, like we did at their age love being together, playing the fool, ganging up and enjoying each other’s company. To more such unplugged evenings and indoor playtimes!

~Bharti Athray

Is your teen’s art teacher stifling him?

Personally, I love drawing, painting and crafting things with my hands. I think that is what really makes me ‘Me!’ My teen has seen me do it, and as a child I always encouraged him to take up painting, even sent him to a drawing class that he thought was boring.

As he grew into his teens, his interest in drawing dropped completely, instead he nurtured a new interest in music, sports and took up parkour very seriously for almost 2 years. As the academic pressure of the higher classes set in, he had little time for the outdoors. Then, all of a sudden he began drawing – weird teenage stuff of course, but there he was… making pen and ink drawings in his books, telling me stories around what he drew and often referring to Dali, our favourite artist, for his inspiration. He would go through Dali’s coffee table book for hours, trying to understand the imagery and the connects. And days later, I would see some shadow of the great painter’s work in his own work.

No, he does not paint like Dali, a long way from there still, but he is trying to think like him, follow his thought process, connect different ideas and create a new piece. All of this happened after Std. VIII, when art was dropped in school as a subject of study.

‘So what exactly do your paintings and poems really say, kid?’ I asked him. ‘Oh, lots, they talk about how I am feeling in that moment, sometimes I try to write like my favourite song writers, other times I imagine I am writing for the next Spoken Word event, where I will perform my piece…’ he says passionately.

From the parent’s eyes

This was interesting for me to observe as a parent. You see, he was not a particularly good art student, could never colour within the lines, his water color paintings were often marred by patches of too much water or too little of it… and his human figures right through school were well… different. He and his art teacher did not quite hit it off, and he struggled with grades in the art exams. It was sad for me to see that as I had hoped he would grow up to love art as much as I did… but obviously, that was not to be.

So his new avatar where he began to draw and look up art books and try his hand at painting came as a surprise to me. During the last years of school when he was supposed to be studying and practicing for good grades in Maths and Science, he would buy himself sketch books and spend hours drawing, sketching and perfecting his art pieces. And with my love for the same, I could not help but sit down with him and guide him on how to get a certain angle right… not that I am a studied artist, but I have learnt a few tricks and tips along the way.

Rediscovering art

He recently completed a beautiful oil painting on canvas, it is gorgeous. He is proud of it too. This piece made me realize that in the last few years, he had been denying his creative expression through this medium. His relation with his art teacher and having been given marks that clearly showed that he was not ‘artistic’ had made him stay away from drawing, colours, paint… the works.

Once there was no judging, he found this to be a great way to express himself and found a voice all his own. His works have images combined with words and icons that he sees in his fav music videos all rolled into one.

I learnt: Art is a medium of expression, not just a profession

This experience has taught me that we ought not to judge our children by the syllabus that has been set out by the schools. There has to be a wider, more open participation and encouragement for the young minds and hearts to be able to express themselves. Not everyone is going to be a professional artist, not everyone needs to colour within the lines; but I do believe each child at every age must be encouraged to express himself through art. This is where they learn to discover themselves and deal with their emotions.

Where freedom of expression is threatened, thinking slowly dies

Let us remember that it is the dictatorial governments who stop their creative citizens from expressing themselves. The writers, the painters, the theatre performers, the singers  – they are the bravest citizens of a country for they dare to state things as they see them, for they have little to lose. These creatives are committed to their vision of the world, to have their distinctive view of all that is happening around them and they dare to say and do things that normal people don’t. The governments that are trying to control the masses, and stop them from thinking, clamp the freedom of expression; and societies where this is done face a slow down. They stop progressing, and over decades one can see a definite collapse of their social, economic and political systems (read: Communist Societies)

The future belongs to creative innovators, not repeaters!

As parents and teachers, we should take this aspect of creative expression seriously. What is taught in schools is what we already know : grammar for language, a certain method of writing, drawing singing… yes, it is important to learn the basics, but let us also use the creative spaces to teach our children to think for themselves, let them use these media to explore their personalities, to define what freedom really means to them… after all, the future really belongs to those who will be able to bring different ideas together, not those who can repeat that has already been defined. For that we have AI and bots…

I am glad my teen has gone from being a consumer of art to being a creator….