‘I hear you…..’

©2012 Nim Gholkar All Rights Reserved

Miscommunication has often been the reason why wars, in the gilded hall of history,  were won or lost…sometimes why wars began in the first place.

Closer home, i can think of one classic case of a complete hotchpotch of communication with hilarious, comical results. Till this day, i think about it and shake my head laughing about how a quintessentially simple conversation could possibly be so perfectly transformed into a complete comedy of errors.

Each Sunday morning i play Badminton with a group of friends. One of these friends, let’s call him T, usually goes shopping about once a month for indian snacks and savouries to the home cum shop of Lalit Bhai, an industrious chef who makes the most scrumptious indian delicacies. I absolutely adore the Kachoris (indian savoury snack) he prepares as they make a divine combination with hot ginger tea. Lalit Bhai being located at quite a distance from where i live, i usually am reluctant to make the trek, delectable though the kachoris are. T, being a true buddy, always makes it a point to call me or Ash (my other half) to say that he is on his way there and would we like to order something. Almost always we say yes please, we would love some more of those mouth-watering kachoris.

One Sunday after Badminton, i waved a cheerful bye to all my friends, T included, and drove off to the supermarket to do my weekly shopping. At this point it must be said that i play badminton quite early on a Sunday morning when the rest of my family is fast asleep (not because I don’t love my sunday morning snooze, but mainly because no other time seemed to suit the team). Choosing a trolley that did not wobble (now finding such a trolley is quite often a huge challenge), i began my systematic wander through the aisles choosing a favourite shampoo here, an ‘on-special’ box of cookies there and so on. I was barely ten minutes in the supermarket when my mobile rang. Looking at the caller ID, i saw that it was my friend T calling. That was strange. I had only just met him at badminton. What on earth could he be calling about? Had i forgotten the box of shuttles on the court? No, i hadn’t. So what could it be?

‘Hello, T? What’s up?’ I asked , momentarily distracted by the sight of my favourite bread being ‘sold out’, that too so early on a Sunday morning. This sure was the morning for strange things.

‘Hey have you reached home yet?’  asked T.

‘No, i have stopped at the supermarket. Should be home in an hour. Why?’

‘Well, I am going to Lalit Bhai’s this morning’, said T, ‘ and  I was going to call Ash and ask him if he would like to come along, or if there is anything you would like to order from there’

Now, my dear readers, please note, this is the crucial point in the conversation. Up until this point, both T and I are on the same track. After this point, we both went in opposite directions of the conversation, completely off-track and blissfully unaware that the other was no longer on the same page.

I thought for a few moments, wondering if Ash would be awake at this point in time. Highly unlikely. So with the smug confidence of a wife of over sixteen years i said in a prim voice, ‘ Are you going now? He will most probably be asleep’. I was of course talking about Ash, but T, probably exhausted after the strenuous game of badminton, thought confusedly that i was talking about Lalit Bhai. There was a tiny pause as he tried to assimilate this piece of information, thinking all the while how come i would know for certain that Lalit Bhai was still asleep.

But T bravely soldiered on. ‘Oh thats ok, I will call him after a while then’. (him being Lalit Bhai)

Me : ‘I know him well, T. He won’t wake up for another half an hour at least’ (still the prim voice. I was after all talking about my own husband whom i know rather well, or at least that’s what i like to believe).

Now T was completely taken aback. How come she knows Lalit Bhai so well as to know that it would be exactly half an hour before he wakes up, he thought, most probably shaking his head in disbelief.

I was blissfully unaware of the turn this conversation had taken and was happily tossing things into the trolley while talking to T. There was an even longer pause this time, while T mulled on this new piece of knowledge.

‘Oooo K’ he said hesitantly, ‘So when do you think i should call him?’

What came next  was the cherry on the cake !!! Thinking about the night before when we had dined out at a restaurant and returned home in the wee hours of the night, i said airily, ‘Oh, give him an hour or two. He had a late night last night’.

The silence after this was absolutely deafening. Looking back now, i can just visualise the look of absolute horror on T’s face as he wondered about this unimaginable turn of events. HOW ON EARTH DID NIM KNOW THAT LALIT BHAI HAD HAD A LATE NIGHT???????

I strained to hear what T had to say but there was….silence…at the other end. Gradually, almost in slow motion, my mind began to clear a bit and i blinked a couple of times to clear my head. Something was not right. I could not put a finger on it, but some thing was definitely not right.

‘Hold on’ i said suddenly, stopping so abruptly that a couple of shoppers behind me nearly collided with me and my half-full trolley. ‘Who have you been talking about all this while?’ i asked suspiciously.

T could only croak, so deep was his sense of confusion. ‘Lalit Bhai. Who were you talking about?’

I slapped my forehead as realisation dawned. ‘OMG, i have been talking about Ash of course.’

There was a moment’s pause and then we both burst into uncontrollable laughter. I had tears pouring down my face, and waved helplessly at other shoppers and shook my head at the same time as if to say ‘Don’t mind me. I’m crazy’

‘Thank goodness you clarified that’ T said, sounding relieved. ‘I was beginning to get a bit worried how come you know so very much about Lalit Bhai’s daily habits and lifestyle’.

That conversation has been so deeply engraved on my memory that i mention it, amidst giggles and hiccups,  at every discussion on ‘the perils of miscommunication’. Just as well i did clarify in the end that i had been talking about my own husband all the while. Can you imagine the deep confusion and horror if the air had not been cleared???


‘Look at that, little one’

©2012 Nim Gholkar All Rights Reserved

I have often chosen to walk to school with my kids. A twelve minute walk  if done briskly, i find it a welcome change from being constantly in the car. Typically though,  choosing the walk option means we have to leave an extra ten minutes earlier than usual.  As we walk, i can almost predict the order of questions i will ask the kids to make sure nothing is forgotten at home (which is often the case, I’m afraid). And so i begin by asking if they have remembered to pack their homework, their fruit, their lunch, their drink bottles, their hats, their library books…..The power walk continues at its frantic pace as i ask one question after another. There is a logic to this after all. Should we need to turn around and return home to retrieve the forgotten hat or homework, I would rather know while we are still quite close to home, rather than finding out that something earth-shatteringly important was left behind after arriving at the school gate.

And so, in quite the same manner as usual, we were walking (well, half walking-half jogging) to school this morning. The sun had finally peeped through the clouds and there was a welcome respite from the rain that had been coming down in buckets since yesterday. I began mentally ticking-off my check-list of homework, hats, fruit etc etc. In the middle of this check-list, i paused long enough to suddenly yell out ‘ OMG, is it your clarinet lesson today? We have forgotten to bring the clarinet’, only to be told calmly that today was not clarinet day. Phew. One less thing to worry about. And on we continued.

Just then, as i was about to take a deep breath and begin my next round of questions, I happened to look across the road and saw one of the loveliest sights in the world. A grand-dad was walking his little grand-daughter to school. Her little hand held his and they walked at a pace that was so slow and relaxed, it was simply a pleasure to watch them. The old man, although slightly stooped and tired-looking, nonetheless carried the little child’s school bag over his left shoulder. I slowed down my own pace so as to be able to observe them, only because i knew instinctively that here was one of life’s great lessons unfolding before me.

The pair continued walking slowly, hand in hand, with not a moment’s worry about how very soon the school bell was going to ring. I saw the grand-dad stop suddenly and point at  pretty pink and purple flowers that were  waving at them from someone’s front yard. The little girl (who could not have been more than five years old) paused and looked in open-mouthed awe at the nodding flowers. I saw her look up at her grand-dad and ask some question (they were too far for me to hear her) and i saw the grand-dad shake his head. I could have bet my last dollar that she had asked if she could pluck the flower. And wisely, since it belonged to someone’s front yard, grand-dad gently said no. I saw her face pucker up with disappointment as only a five year old’s can. But then, grand-dad bent and picked up a stray pink flower that had dropped to the ground from the branches, and handed it to the little child. Oh, the absolute joy on the little girl’s face. She began skipping down the road, still holding grand-dad’s frail , thin arm.  I forgot my own usual string of questions as i continued watching this amazing sight. The old man stopped a few more times. Once he pointed up at the sky, and the little girl looked up, squinting in the sun, and burst into a delighted laugh as she saw a bird swoop low and then soar off into the sky. The duo continued walking, stopping next to observe a little puppy that was dancing around his owner’s feet as the harried owner tried to walk a brisk morning walk.

Before i knew it, i had reached school and the bell was ringing loud enough to be heard all around Sydney. There were no doubt a few dozen questions i hadn’t got the chance to ask the kids. But it didn’t matter. I had just watched an amazing and priceless phenomenon. In today’s frenzied world, where we are all constantly rushing all day long from pillar to post, it was deeply touching to see a grand-parent’s bond with his grand-child.

I blinked away a sudden rush of tears as i saw him hug the little one and wave and wave and wave till she was finally out of sight.


Potluck dinners V/S ‘Hostess-does-it-all’ dinners

©2012 Nim Gholkar All Rights Reserved

Just as there are two sides to a coin, two sides to an argument, two sides to a bed (you can either get out each morning from the right side of the bed, or… well..the wrong side)…similarly, there are two sides to the ‘how to entertain’ dilemma. Two distinct schools of thought are operating here and the twain shall never meet.

Those who belong to the school of ‘potluck dinners’ (where each guest brings a dish) can seldom see the view point of the ‘hostess-does-it-all’ school of thought (where the hostess cooks every single dish, from the mouth-watering entrees, through the delectable main course, and right down to the sinfully delicious desserts).  And of course the vice versa holds true too. Those who believe in cooking it all often do not display much support for the ‘bring a dish’ way of thinking. As in most things in life, neither way is right or wrong…it is just a matter of what suits you personally.

Some of my dearest friends prefer cooking it all when they are entertaining. And some of my dearest friends uphold the potluck cause.

Although, on occasions, i have indeed  chosen to cook the entire meal single-handedly while entertaining, I must admit, deep down,  i am a ‘lets have a potluck dinner’ kind of person. My reasons are simple, straight forward and have been deeply contemplated. I am a ‘people’ person. I love entertaining. After an exhausting week where i have run from pillar to post to get all my chores/activities/ appointments completed on time, i do love to let my hair down on the weekend and catch up with friends over dinner (and may be half a glass of wine).

In a potluck scenario, a hostess only has to worry about two main things: a) making sure her house is neat and tidy, so as not to frighten off  her soon-to-arrive guests and b) making sure she has prepared the dish she has volunteered to make. (Of course there are the peripherals eg: preparing the side dishes like rice, or making sure there is enough pita bread- rotis are an ambitious project when one resides outside India, and definitely not for the faint-hearted-or sometimes, tossing up a quick and easy salad etc etc). But these are minor hiccups when one considers the bigger picture, and the knowledge that the remaining major dishes are being looked after by each of your friends.

I often find that i am far more relaxed when i know that the upcoming dinner in the evening is a potluck one where the responsibility of enjoying a wonderful meal is distributed. Also i enjoy tasting different kinds of cooking (and am often bored with my own cooking) and this is one of the primary advantages of a ‘bring-a-dish’ dinner.

The moment the door bell rings, and my buddies walk in carrying piping hot dishes hidden under silver foil, with yummy aromas wafting into the air, there are squeals of delight as each one peeps under the lids curiously  to see what the other one has prepared. Every dish has the distinct stamp of the cook and that’s what makes a potluck dinner replete with mystery and variety. Of course, it is a bit of a gamble as well. After all, there might some times be a dinner where the dishes do not complement each other at all, and it is all a bit of a mishmash. But hey, meeting friends is all about having fun. It’s about gossip and laughter and having a good time. Having a meal tossed  into the bargain is a bonus. And if there is occasionally a bit of misalignment in what could have potentially been the world’s finest dinner menu, that is a small sacrifice indeed.

Having waxed eloquent in favour of the potluck cause for the past few paragraphs, i must add that on occasions i have cooked the entire meal from scratch myself for my guests.  And enjoyed that in its own way too. The biggest advantage of this kind of cooking (according to me) is the complete autonomy to be able to decide which dishes best complement each other, and to carve out a balanced menu.

If i had been at debating practice, i would have at this point in time, taken a graceful bow and summed up my arguments by saying ‘Ladies and gentlemen, I reserve my adoration for the potluck cause; but i do care very deeply  for the ‘hostess-makes-it-all’ dinners as well.  Suffice to say, i would not have won the debate. For after all, you cannot sit on a fence while debating. You have to be either completely on one side of the argument or the other.

So, my dear friends, which side of the fence are you?


The sleepy story teller

©2012 Nim Gholkar All Rights Reserved

‘Tell me a bedtime story, Mum’.

This has been the favourite chant of my kids ever since they were toddlers…I sometimes think that the first word they mastered (after mum and dad of course) was ‘story’. Now, after a hard day’s work, having changed nappies a zillion times, i often did not have the energy to hold a big, hard-cover book with the world’s best fairy tales or bed time stories and would instead suggest that i would tell them the story without actually referring to a book. Delighted at this suggestion, they would snuggle under their quilt and wait for this brilliant story to begin. Stifling many a yawn, i would ponder in my mind which story was best suited to keep me awake ( I do have a tendency to fall asleep while in the middle of recounting a riveting tale!). I would some times make up fairy stories ( these, of course, being for my daughters. My son would roll his eyes the moment he heard it was to be a fairy story, turn on his side and would  be snoring within seconds. Only a tale about soldiers and attacks could possibly entice him to stay up and listen). Running out of steam only moments after having begun the story ( I had, after all, like most mothers, had a long day), I would quickly mumble something inane like ‘and the fairies are flying outside the window this very moment, sprinkling gold dust and peeping in to makes sure all the good kids in the world are already asleep’. This weak conclusion to what had started out as a brilliant tale would lead to loud protests of ‘Mum, that’s not fair. That’s SUCH a short story’.

I remember one particular incident when my youngest one was only about two and didn’t really know the intricate details of each bedtime story (now of course, she will stop me in my tracks if i mix up any of the characters). At the end of a long, drawn-out day, she said ‘story  please Mum’ . Pulling the quilt right up to our chins, i began what i considered to be the story of ‘Goldilocks and the three Bears’. It began rather well…I was pleased at myself remembering the exact order of events. Sammy listened enthralled as i started telling about Papa Bear, Mamma Bear and Baby Bear deciding to go out for a morning wander, planning to come back home for breakfast. A few sentences into the story, i began with my first couple of yawns (oh oh !).  I stretched my eyes open and blinked a couple of times to make sure i would stay awake at least until the poor bears had returned home. Sammy looked at me suspiciously. Even at that tender age, she had begun to recognise the sad fact that her Mum often fell asleep in the middle of bedtime stories.

I continued the tale with a most heroic effort. All was going well. While the bears were out, Goldilocks made her appearance. A couple of more yawns later I was still managing to recount the story with finesse and accuracy. My eye lids though were now starting to shut and open again in a slow rhythmic pattern which warned me that i was dangerously close to falling asleep while telling the story. ‘Who’s been eating my porridge? growled Papa bear’ i said in a loud voice. Sammy looked delighted. Clever Mummy!  Such good impersonation of the bears ! By the time i came to the bit about baby bear whining ‘Who’s been eating my porridge?’, my voice was just a croak ( i was about to fall asleep !!!)….

And then, everything after that was a bit of a blur….I woke up in time to hear myself say ‘ And the big bad wolf ate up Little Red Riding Hood!”

There was a moment of  confused silence while Sammy stared me, all of two years old, with bewildered round eyes, and i stared up at the ceiling trying to figure out which story exactly i was recounting. Hadn’t i been telling the story of Goldilocks and the three bears? I could have sworn i was. How come, then, the big bad wolf had eaten Little Red Riding Hood??? When had they come into the story? Hold on….wasn’t that an entirely different story altogether?

I hugged Sammy and said in my sleepy voice ‘Wasn’t that a great story, darling? Good Night’. She had looked as though she wanted to point out that there was some confusion, but at two years of age, any story is a great story.

I cannot even begin to imagine getting away with this trick of mixing up two legendary bedtime stories now that the kids are much older. In fact just the other day, Sammy said to me ‘Mum, can you please tell me a bed time story? And can you PLEASE  not fall asleep while telling it???’

It happened in Milan !

I love Italy ! Who wouldn’t?

Bursting with people… a kaleidoscope of sights and sounds and smells…. there is a kind of crackling energy in the air reminiscent of my homeland, India. Italy assaults all your senses at one go….leaving you emotionally drained and exhilarated at the same time. It really is one of my favourite countries and I honestly believe its people know how to make the best coffee in the world. (And that coming from someone who loves her coffee is high praise indeed !).

Although i have visited Italy a couple of times, it always dawns on me afresh how very similar it is to India. And what is the first thing one can think of when one thinks of India? The people…the crowds…the love in the air. Similarly, Italy has people everywhere…all you have to do to gain a bit of anonymity, is to step out of your hotel onto the cobbled streets and simply get lost in the crowds.

During our European sojourn over a year ago, we spent nearly 10 days in Italy, and grew to learn much about the  local culture, food habits, social etiquettes etc. We even practised our kindergarten-level Italian verbs and numerals, finally resorting to frantic sign language when the locals stared at us perplexed and bewildered. Driving around Italy is definitely not for the faint hearted, but life long practice at  dodging cars, humans, cats, dogs and many other living species in Mumbai can transform  the most nervous driver into a true professional. Each day, we would get into our hired car, and would navigate through the tightly packed crowds on the road, pressing the horn with a soaring sense of freedom, felt all the more keenly because hardly any horns are heard in Australia where we live.

Driving in Italy became synonymous with crowds….there was NEVER a street or an alley which was empty or devoid of masses of people going to and fro, blithely unaware of the hapless drivers trying to make their way through these unwittingly created human barricades. And then one sunny morning, towards the end of the Italian part of our trip,  we finally arrived in Milan.  Once again, we were totally bedazzled by the beauty of the cathedrals, the narrow roads bursting with cars and people, the roadside shops displaying some of the finest fashions in the world, the shoe and bag outlets with huge signs screaming ‘genuine Italian leather’. The kids were silent and awe-struck in the back seat, taking in the beautiful architecture of one of the prettiest cities in the world. I stuck my head out the window, stretching my neck to look up at the huge carved structures at the top of the buildings.

And then, all of a sudden, to our utter delight, we magically came upon a street where there were….hold your breath….NO CARS at all !!!

I looked around, my face creasing into a joyful grin as for the first time since we arrived in this gorgeous country, we were not surrounded by a million cars. Hubby dearest was thrilled too, not to have to constantly press the horn and make our way through at the speed of 5 kms an hour. We cruised along, savouring a street that was so well and truly…empty ! After a couple of minutes, i began to feel a faint sense of unease…something was not right. In the entire ten day stay, this had never happened. We had never seen a SINGLE  road or ground space where there were no cars. Where could all the cars have disappeared? Surely they had not all vanished from the surface of the earth. Surely they would all be somewhere around….But where???

Before i could ponder any further on where the entire Italian car population had disappeared, we saw to our horror, the Italian police slowly and menacingly making their way towards us. Some were on horse back (oh, they looked smart in their tailored uniforms), some on motor bikes and some in cars. They all came towards us from all different directions. I nearly choked on the wonderful chicken and vegetable pie i had been gorging on. What could be the matter? Hubby finally seemed to realise the gravity of the situation and braked abruptly. He rolled down the window and looked up in confusion, eyebrow raised, as one of the officers on horseback looked at us in disbelief. In beautifully accented English, he said ‘Sir, you are in a pedestrian ONLY zone’.

I honestly wanted the earth to open and swallow me that very instant. We went pale and gulped. I could see that all the officers were trying very hard to keep a straight face. Their mouths were twitching as they controlled, most heroically I must say, a desire to laugh out loud. We obviously came across as country bumpkin tourists who just couldn’t make our way around one of the most stylish cities in the world. ‘We didn’t see a sign’, i croaked, and had to clear my voice and repeat the sentence before the young officer comprehended what i was trying to say. He shook his head sorrowfully and pointed at a sign which glared at us from a distance. I peered up at it, and could not make out the message. It was after all in Italian. The one thing i have learned through my travels is to always smile and say sorry. That one gesture can bring about a million wonders. And so i said in a voice full of deep regret, ‘We are very very sorry’. Miraculously, they all smiled at us, shrugged away our profuse apologies as if to say stranger things have happened, waved cheerfully at the petrified kids and told us to keep driving. Of course, they did point us, diplomatically, in the direction of the streets where once again we could see with relief the entire car selection of Milan.

It was only when we were back on the ‘Pedestrian AND cars only’ roads that we finally heaved a huge sigh of relief. We looked around at the noisy crowds jostling their way past cars with angry drivers and felt a calming peace descend on us. We were back in the bosom of Milan. But it was a lesson well engraved on our memories forever.

We really must start thinking about taking up those italian language lessons. At least that way we will know (hopefully) in future to not go where even the angels fear to tread.

Cody and Me

I am and have been for as far back as i can remember absolutely petrified of dogs. And i am not in the least embarrassed to say that i also belong to that section of humanity that crosses the road on seeing a dog coming my way from a far-off distance. Oh yes, big coward. Thats what i am and have always been. You would have gathered, then, that bringing a dog into the house was not only a far-fetched idea where i was concerned, it was also an absolute no-no. For years, my children have been pleading to get a dog, and it was always me who said in my prim mummy voice “No, it’s not happening’. Quite often, i would voice the tired, limp threat of ‘its either me in this house or the dog’. Of course, this threat did not have quite the effect i would have hoped it to.

And then one day, we found out through a friend that his neighbour’s dog had a litter of eight and was handing them out to whoever wanted them. Out of the entire lot, there were only three left. The moment hubby and kids heard this, excitement bubbled to the surface and there were loud pleas of ‘Oh please please lets get one home’. I stood there with pursed lips ready with my usual arguments. But for some reason i will never be able to fathom, what i said was quite contrary to what i felt. I heard myself say to my own astonishment ‘Lets go and have a look’.

As hubby rang the doorbell, i stood at a ‘safe’ distance, my heart pounding in a manner only those who are truly afraid of dogs will empathise with. Out came a bald middle aged man, bare chested and wearing a pair of faded, threadbare denim shorts, his upper arm sporting a tattoo. Before we could say ‘Hello’, out bounded from behind him three of the tiniest puppies imaginable. Two girls and one boy. I stood transfixed, rooted to the spot, unable to move. Terror invaded my entire being as i watched in horror these three bundles of energy hurtle towards us. I put out my hand to hold on to someone for moral support. But there was no one next to me. The kids were cuddling the three puppies while I, their grown-up mother cowered in a corner, practically trembling, teeth chattering. My eyes instinctively were drawn towards the plumpest of the three pups…he had the cutest face and little white paws on an otherwise light brown body….the paws looked amazingly as though he was wearing socks. He came running up to me, and i stared up at the sky, praying fervently to all the external forces to keep me safe from this little terror. He cocked his head to one side and looked up at me. I was watching him from the corner of my eye. ‘Oh, please please go and play with someone else’ i mumbled, frozen to the spot. He seemed to sense that i wasn’t too keen and tumbled away into the arms of my more receptive children, who oohed and aahed in admiration over his little white paws.

At the end of about twenty minutes, i sighed….This was going to be one big and tough decision. But i knew that my heart had made the decision without too much soul-searching. ‘If we MUST have a dog, it can only be that one’ , I said in a barely audible voice, pointing at the little button-face with the white socks.

Within twenty-four hours, this little bundle stood in our backyard, encircled by a captive audience. He stood there trembling….the poor thing was naturally frightened, having now moved into a new environment. I watched him, again from a safe distance. ‘C’mon Mum, come and pat him’ the kids yelled. I cleared my throat, coughed in nervous tension and moved hesitantly towards him. He bent his head gently and i patted him for the first time ever. That very evening itself there was a vote for the most ‘liked’ name for the new entrant. After much arguing, when no one could come to an agreement of sorts, someone finally asked ‘How does Cody sound’ and there was a cheer of ‘Yes, Cody, that sounds good’. And that’s how Cody happened.

He and I are slowly getting to know each other.( after all, once hubby and kids are off to work and school respectively, its just him and me at home). I am still wary and still just a tad frightened….after all, a lifelong fear of dogs cannot be dispelled overnight. He seems to sense my uncertainty and doesn’t act quite as mad with me as he does with the kids. All day long, he follows me like an old man. He knows he shouldn’t jump , he knows he should’t be naughty, he knows he should wait patiently till the kids or hubby come home later in the day to act like his normal mischievous self.

Now that our backyard has been fenced and cordoned off, he is free to roam without constant supervision. Just the other day, i moved the glass sliding doors that open into our backyard and looked out, searching for him. Normally he would be in his little kennel or playing at the base of the banana tree or somewhere in the grass playing peek-a-boo with a frisky butterfly. But this time, he was nowhere in sight. My heart seemed to stop beating for a few seconds as i wondered frantically where he could be. ‘Cody’ I called out, softly at first and then in rising panic. ‘CODY’. Silence. I thought i was going to collapse with fear. Where could he have gone??? ‘Cody!’ I yelled at the top of my voice,  putting all the terror i was feeling into that one little word that seemed to resonate in the air. And then suddenly, he peeped out at me from behind some of the hedges in our backyard, with a look that seemed to say ‘Why are you yelling? Whats all this fuss about?’.

I walked up to him and although i am still a bit afraid, i sat down and stroked his little head. ‘You frightened me’ i said to him, as he nibbled nonchalantly on a leaf. He didn’t seem to have sensed how terrified i had been at not seeing him anywhere. And it was the moment i realised that although i had fought loudly against him being brought into the family, I had grown to love him in just a few days. And that, my dear friends, is the story of Cody and me.

Pearls of wisdom from a Kindergarten teacher

At the end of each academic year, my children would bring home plastic bags full of all the ‘work’ they had done at school that year….There would be piles of books and paper that each one of them would bring home. I would look at it in amazement and a small degree of dismay (for where after all was i going to store all this year after year?). Like most indulgent mothers, i wanted to keep every single thing they had worked on at school FOREVER !!!  It was relatively easy when it was just my first-born who was at primary school. But when his younger sisters joined him in the school campus, and also began bringing home their ‘work’ at the end of the year, i began running out of storage space. How on earth was i going to manage to store all these pieces of paper which i wanted to cherish forever and a day?

I was beginning to despair and nearly considered building a separate garage just as a storehouse for all the school work….There were little scraps of paper with funny faces drawn, then there were the maths books with 2+4=7, with a polite line drawn through the answer and replaced with ‘6’ by a patient teacher, there were  books with handwriting practice…the As Bs Cs written repeatedly till they got it right….and loads of other books with their scribbles. And of course i wanted to keep it all…..

My wardrobe shelves were groaning under the weight of all these ‘school memories’…surely they would want to see it all when they grew up?…all these papers and books would be a wonderful collage of their childhood…..but as one year melted into the next, the wardrobe shelves had no space left for any more paper….it was time to put on my thinking hat (which was gathering dust in some hidden corner) and come up with some brilliant ideas that would make life simpler…..

As luck would have it, one day i happened to bump into my son’s first teacher ever…his kindergarten teacher….each year she would ask me about him (and continues to do so till this day, even though he is now a big boy in high school )….i told her about my dilemma about finding enough space to store everything my children had ever written or drawn….She laughed indulgently, nodding at the same time to indicate that she knew exactly how i felt….’Nim, you cannot store every single piece of paper they bring home forever, no matter how much you may want to’. I waited to hear what more she had to say….She is one of the wisest people i have ever met in my life, and i couldn’t wait to hear what pearls of wisdom she was about to dispense…

‘The one and ONLY thing you need to keep is their imaginative writing….’ she said with a gentle smile. I had to lean closer to hear her clearly..she always speaks in such a soft voice….’Each week, they write about a topic. You must keep all these writings. Then you can see as the years go by the change in the topics and style of their writing’.

I took her advice and have been following it till this day. Sure enough, each year i read their writing, and it is always with delight and a pang of nostalgia that i notice how grown-up their writing seems compared to before…When they were in kindergarten, they wrote things like ‘I don’t like my best friend any more’ (of course with heaps of spelling mistakes)….it is very different to what my son would write today in high school…..Sometimes, just for the fun of it, i will hold his kindergarten writing in one hand and his high school writing in the other….reading it brings many a laugh….and many a tear too for a childhood that is slowly being left behind…..

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