Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Glorifying Motherhood

Motherhood must be an amazing thing.  One hears time and again in our society of women who speak about how they had to carry a life inside for nine months and the sacrifices made in the form of food, life style, pain and freedom and more during the period and beyond.  For those of us who have not gone through it, we can only imagine of course and listen to stories.  However, I know one thing for a fact :  man forgets that just like their own gestation time, the cow has nine months while the elephant has 18 - 22 months.   

All beings bring up their child, equip them with life skills and let them go free.  It is man who keeps an account of the bringing up as well as the training time, and demand their pound of flesh for the lifetime of the kids.  All other animals do the hunting and feeding, teach their kids life skills and then when the time comes, they let them go. Go Free.  In literature and poetry the nine months carried by a human mother is glorified while you don't hear a mention of the same with reference to other animals.  Instead, we can kill all animals that carry a child for food or for fun.   We savour eggs of different kinds.  An example is fish being cut open to take eggs when very much alive and thrown back into the sea to drown and die. The parts of unborn calves of various animals are delicacies and sought after around the world. Where is Motherhood ?

Then comes the part of rearing, the toughest part.  There are many a mother, who after delivering a child leave all the affairs to someone else.  How many times does one come across women who have more than one hand at home to feed, clothe, teach and help the baby poo.  Many consider breast feeding a chore and use storage mechanisms.  While all of the above are a necessity today where woman go to work and handle affairs beyond the home, one thing I fail to understand is how the mother takes all the credit slipping under the carpet conveniently of the many hands that help in bringing up the child.

My mentor, a researcher and a very wise man, sent me a line on the morning of Mother's day.  'Ayah care replacing Mother care.   Let there be an Ayah day.  In praise of all the Ayahs'.  This line touched something that has been on my mind for sometime now.  It is also very true.  I visit when possible the school to pick up two kids in the family.  Name the make and you can find the cars there.  Me the unknowing kind, thought that all the cars brought with them parents.  Instead, majority of them were ayahs and drivers who picked up the kids.  Simpleton ayahs, fashionable ayahs, english speaking ayahs, and the high funda ayahs. They said hello, hugged the kids, fed the kids a mini lunch, handing them juice or water, and inquiring how school was.  Kids tell them all the stories, happy for someone to listen to them.  Parents, have you heard a kid repeating a story more than once ?  I doubt it. Rarely, maybe.  So, the story of the kids life is in the hands of the ayahs and drivers, not with the parents.  Under the watchful and caring eyes of the ayahs and drivers, a kid grows up, loving them probably a wee bit more than the parents who bring them toys and gifts.  The most glorious time of a kids life is lost to the parents.

Still, motherhood is glorified.   Maybe because the mother is juggling many things and is a good manager, managing to find the kid a first-class nanny.  While the lower strata of society has a reason for not spending as much time with their kids due to the run for making money to feed and clothe, the other strata today has so much to do :  the work time, whatsapp time, facebook time, parlour time, kitty party time, and all else not to forget the 'me' time.  What time is left, is leftover for the child ?  To compensate and make up, the kid gets lots of toys and whatever else (s)he asks for.

Many a house has grandparents who are required to take up the role of rearing with boundaries that are unmarked.  They should control and instill good values but cannot punish, they cannot scold or beat but should accept the pinch or punch and still smile, and they should act mature and be magnanimous when the kids fault and falter.  This kinds life is strange indeed.  As if rearing one's own is not enough, going through another cycle and with no control ?  Just wonder about the havoc it must play on their nerves.

Then there are the fashionistas - the kind who talk very fashionably :  'I spend quality time with my kid'.  'I have compartmentalized my life so well that kids have quality time with me'.  Who decides how much is quality time, when and how ?  Was the timetable run through with the kid ?  Any quality control process followed ?  Any feedback obtained ?  Any correction mechanism ? What is enough for you, was it enough for the child ?

Then there are the kind who speak about 'making sacrifices'.  No kid asked to be born.  If you have a kid it is solely because you wanted one.  Where is the space there for sacrifice.  According to me, the only people who have a right to say they are making a sacrifice are those who have kids because a man has violated them, within or out of a marriage.  This because one has to overcome bitterness and grief to bring the new one to life and forget the pain and love the child no matter what - that is sacrifice.  This may also hold true of women who give themselves up to protect their children in war torn and drought hit parts of the world.  It may also be true of women who lay down their lives to protect their own in other circumstances.  However, remember, the latter two kind hardly live to talk about their sacrifice.  If alive, they would call it their duty.  All others who have a child have no business using the word 'sacrifice'.  

And still the mother is glorified.  All for the act of delivery which every other being on earth does without fanfare and without a day of glorification. Not to mention the countless ayahs who silently hands over all the glory and remains in the shadows.  And a bow to those who are fired in the line of duty, for being protective or for being too loving or loved all because the mother does not want to loose control.

There are countless women and men who go about bringing up their children telling they are blessed and privileged to be part of a kids life.  There are also countless who don't have time to think that way, but do what it takes to make their kids life a better one.  And all this with no noise or celebration.  I see videos of mother ducks waiting for her line of kids, protective and caring.  There is an amazing video of a mother cat who walked into the flames of a burning building more than once to rescue her kittens and burnt her legs in the process.  Or the women folk among animals who live in groups - like the elephants, gorillas and monkeys who take care of others kids as their own. None of these amazing mothers make a noise about being a mother.  So, it is sad to see those busy in their own world, who hardly spend time with kids nor take an active interest in their affairs make a hullabaloo this one day.  

So, a thought :  Whose 'motherhood' should be celebrated ?  Of the one who just delivered, of the one who delivers and does what needs to be done to the best extent possible, or the one who did not deliver but rears the kid, or the grandparents who are seeing life repeat itself a second time around without a say, or others who have no say but have to go through it.

I would say ,the day if it requires to be celebrated should be 'Motherhood of the one who gives up the best part of one's own kid out of necessity to bring up another's'.  Motherhood if celebrated at all is for all beings who take time to be with kids, their own or others, who contribute to their well being, who enjoy in being there.  Any other kind is a farse.

Disclaimer :  The above is of course not written to belittle motherhood as many may accuse because I am not one.  Also, I am an expert in hardly anything, especially in the area discussed.  What I have written is based on interactions with mothers and interactions with kids especially in the age group of 17-23 who speak about time they desperately want but don't seem to get.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Whither Animal Rights

Olympics and a Jaguar 

What is the connection of a Jaguar living in a zoo and the 2016 Olympics ?  Anyone would ask this.  Why should Juma, a Jaguar living in a zoo, denied natural justice be brought to an olympic torch ceremony.  In the spirit of the olympics which speaks of sportsman spirit, where the only way to fight is through healthy competition include a Jaguar.  It is a shame on the olympic movement which does not encourage bloodshed in any form to have committed this crime.  

Amazon jaguar shot dead after Olympic torch ceremony (picture courtesy Reuters)

The local olympic committee has guaranteed that there will be no more such incidents - what is the use ?

Maharaj Vs Forest Department

'Maharaj', a twenty seven year old elephant, called by forest officials and public as a rogue elephant was captured to be trans located.  The operation of tranquilizing him and using a kumki to load him into a truck was called a huge success.  Yesterday, he died - causes still being debated.

The above picture is courtesy of the Indian Express.  The file is named 'Rogue1.jpg'  Sad don't you think.  An animal born to live and rule the forest, tranquilized and bound, and finally killed.  I use the word killed because if this was done to a human being, that is exactly the word we would have used.  There would have been an uproar in the newspaper, an FIR, ministers visiting the family, and all the drama that ensues.  Just because Maharaj and his ilk are elephants, rather animals, there is nothing of the sort.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Social Service - the SSS way

A general feeling of tiredness got us talking about the need to check my sugar levels.  So, we decided yesterday night to go for a 'fasting sugar' test today morning at a hospital where we usually go.  I woke up this morning and dreaded the needle prick that I was to encounter in a few hours.  Have always welcomed an injection over gulping tablets; still, the prick of the needle is something I have never got used to.  

My better half was more enthusiastic about this morning schedule than me, having been the victim of more health related checks in the recent past.  And here I was, agonizing over the fact that the place was twenty minutes away and that we didn’t know a reliable place closer home as yet.  A mental check of health centers closest home gave a small list – many of them were easily rejected.  However, one was okayed as being very dependable – ‘Shanthi Social Services(SSS)’.  Despite living within 5km radius of this place, we have never been there, not for lack of reputation.  The organization’s reputation is impeccable.  Anyone will vouch for it, in terms of health services or the food in its canteen.  We ourselves can vouch for the services they provide in the Petrol Bunk as well as quality of gas.  We have hit the bunk early morning and many a times late night (11:00 p.m. and above) and have always found the employees friendly and cheerful.  Besides, George uncle, who we had met a month ago had vouched for the place.  The pendulum weighed heavily towards SSS.

This being just a simple test, the decision was quickly made – SSS, it is.  We decided to check the place to see for ourselves what we have heard from many.  As we entered the place, we found it very orderly despite being crowded at 8:30 a.m. in the morning, being a weekend.  The people, whether the watchman or at the counter were very polite in answering everyone’s queries.  The test by itself took as much time as in the hospital we used to go to.  The nurses were efficient – they didn’t search for a vein in my hand.  It was over in ten minutes and I was to go back after breakfast within an hour and half. So far, good as they did not have to search for my veins and I did not have to suffer multiple pricks before they achieved success.  I suggested we go home, which is a ten-minute drive while my husband suggested the canteen after which we could go back and give the blood sample.  Given the crowd I was apprehensive. 

The three queues had people filing in fast.  However, it moved slow and steady.  Availability of food was indicated on electronic display boards that kept updating quantity available and cost.  Within ten minutes we were at the counter serving food.  The place was neat and the tables were full.  People got their food(self-service) and found a place.  Water was served on the tables.  They finished, handed over their plates and left the place.  Supervisors helped people if required, and guided the workers in required cleaning.  None of them could be heard ordering or questioning.  They were smiling and getting things done.  One of the workers picked the card that had fallen from my pocket and gave it to me smiling - they were attentive in the midst of all that work.  Another fifteen minutes and we had finished our breakfast and were walking out discussing how they were running the place so efficiently.

Arun told me what he knew about the origins of the place.  SSS is run by Mr. Subramaniam who started the organization ‘Shanthi Gears Ltd’ that makes machinery - gears.  He is a first generation successful entrepreneur who today runs SSS.  They do not solicit or accept any donation.  And SSS runs like clockwork, maybe something he picked from his experience, I mused. 

The part I most liked about the organization is the emphasis on ‘service', their motto being ‘Service to humanity is service to God’.  This they achieve through quality, efficiency, humility and affordability.  The registration and test costs (sugar and haemoglobin) came to Rs.85/- .  More surprising was the food cost.  We ordered four sets of idli and two filter coffees (yes, we like our coffee the Tamilian way – nothing like the taste of filter coffee).  It cost us Rs.40/-.  Idli per set cost us Rs.5/- and per filter coffee cost us Rs. 10/- each.  I held the tokens and thought about the hotels charging for the same.  The idli was served with two chutneys and sambhar.  Of course, their running costs may be higher, but how much higher ?  For a common man, most hotels are not affordable due to high costs.  Further, food served cheap may not always be healthy and hygienic.  However, SSS was doing it, fulfilling both needs.  We had heard that there are many people who come in everyday for their meals, especially people from the surrounding (both business and otherwise).  The employee who manned the PR Desk, came in for breakfast, bought his token and joined the queue where food was served.  Another fifteen minutes and we finished breakfast.

Taking in the place, reading boards and looking at how things were run, we returned back to the counter to get the token for taking the blood sample (after food).  The employee, who had given me the earlier token looked at me and asked me, ‘How long since you had food ?’.  I truthfully told her that it is 25-30 minutes max.  She asked me to get back in an hour.  I told her that the nurse inside had asked me to get back within an hour and half.  Politely, she told me to get back exactly in that time and not before as one must wait for the test to be taken.  So, we went back to walking.

I have always avoided crowded places be it shopping, festivals or events due to the noise and the hustle and bustle that happens.  However, here, there was a crowd but there was order.  People were patient and those who were not, were directed politely to follow by the employees.  Arun told me that lunch time is very crowded and he has heard that the queue stretches outside the waiting hall some days.  

For colleges in Coimbatore who teach management, SSS is a case study that should be used.  Be it organizing, controlling, motivation or quality, one will find aspects in SSS that is worth being part of a case study that students can use to learn and be inspired.  For organizations, it is one to emulate.  Personally, it was a rewarding experience.  Of how one man aspires to do something good and works hard to succeed.  For behind the clockwork, lies commitment, diligence and hard work always.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Education Institutions - A place full of life

Walk into any educational institution, school or college, anywhere around the world and you will find that there is no other place like it.  The laughter, jokes, camaraderie, the running around, animated discussions, the spectrum of serious ones to the freaky type - all abound.  In total, it is a place that is alive.

However, come holidays or vacation, and the place signifies 'empty' like no other.  You miss the pulse that beats when students are present - even when they are in class or if it is examination time.

When college works, it doesn't matter whether you are a 70 year old or a 40 year old.  You will walk to the pulse and beat of the youngest - an eighteen year old.  Any academician will second this, but ask them to explain and they will find it difficult.  

The students bring with them an energy like no other.  The best day is one when you take a class that feels perfect; where you have given your best and students are able to appreciate what you have taken.  On a worst day, the moment you step into college, the mood changes.  Students take ups and downs so much better than us.  

My favorite time of the day is when I compete and try to keep pace when I climb three floors to get to my room.  In case I am slow, I pick up pace and when I am fast, I push the youngsters to pick up pace.  All of us have a good laugh and go our way.

So, waiting - waiting for life to resume in the college.