Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Legacy we are leaving behind

There has been a lot of coverage this week on First Lady Michelle Obama's speech at the Democratic national convention. My knowledge of US politics is more "House of Cards" and "Madame secretary", so I cannot comment on the political aspect of her speech. What stood out for me is what she said about us being role models for our children. 

"And make no mistake about it, this November when we go to the polls that is what we’re deciding, not Democrat or Republican, not left or right. No, in this election and every election is about who will have the power to shape our children for the next four or eight years of their lives"

She (or her savvy speech writer) turned the conversation away from politics and back to the one thing everyone is most concerned about i.e. our future, which is our children.

So that begs the question, what legacy are we leaving behind for them? What are they learning from our actions? Every time we show our road rage, or gossip about the neighbor, or speak rudely to someone, or keep quiet when we see something wrong happening, what message are we sending? 

Kids observe. Even when we think they are engrossed in their world, but they take in everything.

We complain about the gadget overuse of our children on whatsapp groups with other parents. The irony of it! We can't ask kids to sleep on time when they know we are out late every other night. They learn by watching us. 

There is a lot we have to teach them. From faith to honesty and hard work to perseverance. But here are four qualities we must make sure they imbibe as these are what the world needs most today.

1) We are all the same

Have you caught yourself (even if it's ever so lightly) making fun of someone's accent? Or an offhand comment on someone's body shape or size? We all have been guilty of such indiscretions at some point. And if it has happened in the presence of a child, rest assured the message they got is that it's ok to look at people differently. 

The message we need to drive home is that we are not that different. No matter our religion, or caste, or skin color, or nationality, or gender or even our gender preference.

The simplest analogy is the Shakespeare stage-actor one. Kids need to understand that each one of us is the same inside. Outwardly we play different roles, in various costumes, but that comes with the script we have been provided. Inwardly we all are the same. We all need love. We all crave affection. We all desire friendships. We all just want to be accepted for who we are. 

2) Being different is not a bad thing

Before we begin accepting each other, we need to accept ourselves and our circumstances. Today children don't lead traditional lives. Divorce, same-sex parents, third culture kids, these are all part of our lives.

Our children need to accept their circumstances and make the best of it. A tragedy cannot be used as a shield. A setback should not be reason for despair. They can only do this if we lead the way.

Do we compare ourselves to others and always see where our life falls short? Or do we accept what we have- the opportunities and the problems- to carve our path forward? Let them learn from us that they have deal with whatever life throws at them. And our individuality comes through our differences. 

3) Privilege has to be put to good use

Our children are privileged. There is no denying that. They have tons more than we had growing up, and lesser people to share it with. It's easy for selfishness to creep in. 

We need to constantly show them that they have to be considerate to the ones who have less than us. Whether it's giving part of birthday money to a charity or volunteering time at the animal shelter, we need to set an example. We have to be conscious of our conspicuous  consumption habits so they learn restraint.

4) There is no substitute for kindness

My first advice to Sanil about friendships was 'You don't have to be friends with everyone, you don't even gave to like everyone, but you ALWAYS have to be kind to everyone'. Don't allow your children to exclude other kids. Children can be cruel. We all have experienced bullying in some way, shape or form. 

Our children need to learn compassion. And it can only happen if we are empathetic towards others. 

So let's leave behind a legacy of oneness, of collaboration, of tolerance. As without these, our children will not have the kind of world we envision for them. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

We simply are not that apart

Your white is my red
My white is your black
Your green is my saffron
My duppata is your scarf
Your cross is my Om
My bindi is your kohl
Your eyes weep like mine
My child hugs like yours
Your prayer may be your work
My work is my main prayer
I worship an elephant
You a saint with a dog
I bow, you kneel
You raise hands, I fold them
And with these folded hands I ask
Look beyond these signs,
Look further from the symbols
Peep into the heart and you will realize
We simply are not that apart

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Invisible People of Singapore

We spend our bonuses, they count their daily wages
We see unwanted calories, they see much needed meals
We reside in luxury, they build in the heat
We admire the green landscaping, they nourish the plants

We command an uber, they walk miles
We Instagram every minute, they carry a family picture in torn wallets
We sweat once a week on the treadmill, they sweat every second at work

Herman Miller chairs for us, Harness with minimal safety for them
After work cocktails for us, soup kitchens for them
Walk-in closets for our shoes, closet-sized rooms for them to sleep
Warmth of family for us, pining for their families for them

Once in awhile step out of the privileged existence 
Look up at the shiny skyscraper and have a thought about who built it
Next time you pass them, acknowledge with smile, or nod
People of Singapore, be grateful for those who built your country

Offer gratitude for the invisible faces in our community
Because without them nothing would be as it is now

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Erasing Memories

I can't write you off the books yet
Or weave you in my life story
You are like that word that keeps reappearing
Sometimes completely out of context

My vocabulary has absorbed you
Like a term used daily
Was there ever a lexicon in my life
Where your name was not present?

May be your definition has changed
Or your meaning has lost its relevance?
Like an oft-repeated but old phrase
That's not kept up with the times

You like an Oxward dictionary word
That can't be searched up on urban dictionary
A single word with two different meanings
One which represents the past, and one that's alive today

My memory of your name is a lilting melody
A sensuous sound that easily rolls off my tongue
The word today sounds bitter, harsh even
Why then can't I banish it from my language?

I wish to erase your name, like words written on sand
That wash away with one tiny wave
That dissolve into nothingness
Without a trace, like they had never existed.