Mother and Child… Kruger, South Africa


When I was in my early twenties, my grandmother threw a gauntlet at me. She said, “You have grown so used to studying, working and being out that you will never be able to live as a fulltime homemaker or mom!” I was twenty-three then. A little over two and a half decades down the line that is who I am… a full time homemaker and mom.

As I review my life after completing more than half a century, I have no regrets over the choices I made.

Parenting has been the most daunting and challenging experience in my life and continues to be so. I grew up in a home where all the mothers had careers. My grandmother was my chief caregiver. She was the most unusual woman I have ever known. In the early twentieth century, she was a gold medalist in math and art, an unusual thing in our country then. She completed her schooling and then she married a man to who she remained devoted for life. My grandfather also loved her to distraction till he died. She said she could not die because I held her back by my needs. My sense of security and wellbeing was linked to her. And I think she died proud of me more than a decade ago, telling me, “You proved me wrong and I am happy to see you as a wife and mother.”

I had my children when I was touching the third decade and through my third decade. After more than two decades of parenting, I will say that this has been a more challenging and satisfying experience than interviewing miners in mafia areas in Bihar or winning awards or publishing books.

While I see young women around me revel in their careers and grow beyond the confines of their homes, I have a fleeting sense of regret for what they are missing out with the choices they make. Two decades ago when my friends and I were entering motherhood, we were jubilant about the babies we had. I have friends who were very successful professionals, like economists, teachers, journalists, engineers and management personnel, and opted to be full time mothers. For most of us, mothering meant a better future for our children. We were lucky to be married to men who supported our decision. Maybe, we would have been monetarily better off if we worked and had careers full time. But does money make love grow?

Does money make children grow?

To an extent money is necessary to put your children through a good education and a good life. But ‘how much’ is what parents get to define. How much money does fulfil your child’s needs and how much is used to fulfil your own needs? Do you need the kind of money and fame Bill Gates has to bring up a child well? As a parent, one has to put a hold on ones needs and discipline oneself before one starts to discipline a child.

My learning as a parent has been immense. My children have been my true educators. I found that I learnt to control my temper because my children were upset every time I got angry and shouted. They felt they did not want to see me demean myself. I have learnt to restrain my temper to some extent. They also taught me to be above biases. If I exhibited biases and made any statements that reeked of race, religion or nationality, they would be at my throat. Two huge learnings as an adult and for which, I am truly grateful to my two young men.

I had discovered parents need to work as a team through first hand experiences as a child. Otherwise, the child gets torn between the two. And it has served me well in my years as a parent. Though, I had a funny experience based on this learning. We had told my four-year-old son that his father’s word was the law in our home. One day he asked me,  “When can I be a father?” I asked him why he wanted to be a father that early in life, and he replied, “Because fathers are most powerful.” Of course, there will be those who will refer to biases created about male domination but, to me, it was an effective tool for enforcing rules. As parents, one really needs to transcend the male- female battle. You could have mom laying the rules. In our home, daddy laid the laws after discussions with mamma; mamma and son followed the law. But the ultimate decision was basically based on our child’s welfare needs. It was easier this way because daddy was working and not around to discuss the rules with the child. Persuasions by the young gentlemen were pointless. Whereas mummy was always around and, therefore, more open to persuasion.

We also discovered as parents we had to do what we wanted our children to do or emulate. I learnt that my children loved to ape my husband or me. After all we are from the extended ape family! One day, my sons pointed out to me that as my husband and I had a sedentary life style, it was unfair to expect the two them to be into sports and have an active lifestyle. We tried to be more active after that but it was already too late, I felt. I have an Italian friend who wanted her sons to avoid fizzy drinks, sugared juices and alcohol! So, she and her spouse took to drinking only water at mealtimes. If you want teetotaler children, perhaps you need to lead by example…My friend firmly believed children learn by example, not by advice.

In my years as a mother bringing up her children in varied cultures and countries, every now and then a parent in my children’s schools would ask me, “ How is it your child loves to read and study on his own?” I would respond by shrugging and smiling to be polite and to avoid sounding didactic. But the reality was we tried to create an atmosphere conducive for studying and dreaming. And believe me the dreaming and playing part is very important. It develops the child’s ability to think for himself or herself, to learn by themselves. If you have tutored play, it develops a child’s ability to follow instructions but not his ability to think. Some amount of both is necessary.

To create an atmosphere conducive to studying, we read ourselves at home. We stayed home on weekends. Luckily, we all love reading and dreaming. We held ourselves responsible for what our children did, critiqued our own parenting and made sure that the environment at home was relaxed and happy. Working and studying were not relegated as chores to be completed but as a way of life to be enjoyed, a part of relaxation. This was something my helper could not be asked to do. We also stayed more at home to do things we liked. When we did travel once or twice a year, it was with children and most of the time, we tried to include activities of their interest.

Our children today do refer to us as supportive parents… to me that is a big praise. Of course in their more fun filled moments, they remind me that my personality type matches that of Hitler! But, I take it that they can make the comparison only because   they feel free with me.









Towards Driving to a Century…


What was it like to wake up the day after having crossed half a century?

Did I become wiser, greyer, more dynamic or more decrepit?

I woke up looking forward to finishing the new play on Harry Potter co-authored by JK Rowling. It was again a racy read after many days. I also reached a new high score while playing Sudoku on my ipad and started writing this piece.

Many might say what frivolous preoccupations or how childish! But, believe me, nothing could be better than tucking up with a new Harry Potter at the end of half a century of earthly existence.

And an interesting earthly existence I have had over the last half a century…

The last decade I walked the Great Wall four times, wrote and published my first book, fought with publishers (a number of them), decided I preferred being labeled a mom and wife to all things. By thirty, I was a first time mom and by forty, I had two kids. Thirty to forty was a great decade…went frolicking with my twosome and did things with them, for them and appreciated handiwork by them. I tried being a democratic and docile parent and my sons appreciated it by telling me I had the makings of a great dictator! The thing is most kids would not tell their mother that they were like dictators. Mine could, did and still do!

Twenty to thirty was the period I fell in love. What could be more enticing! I also published poetry and many pieces of somewhat immature writing in newspapers, quit journalism in disgust…went to universities, did theatre, travelled on university funding (a profoundly happy experience). Ten to twenty…I grew up…climbed trees, broke rules, had fun, almost got kidnapped once, fell down a number of times, fought with people, made some fabulous long lasting friends who never forget to greet me on my birthdays and wedding anniversaries. Zero to ten… I dreamt, sang (a trifle off scale) sitting on trees with my best friend (who sang more out of tune than me), danced, played games and pranks, fought and generally thought I would turn into a blonde-blue eyed princess when I grew up.

I definitely did not turn blonde unless you can refer to my silver grey hair (which I dye dark) as ash blonde…and my eyes remained a steady brown but I lived my life the way I wanted, the way I thought was right, with personal integrity. I lived out my dreams…a trifle differently perhaps… always wanted to write a book on China and did.

I keep writing … have done that from grade three. I miss writing when I don’t the way you miss a favourite TV show.

Now, as I browse over the old Harry Potters and write about the magical completion of my fiftieth year, I wonder if Nicholas Flamel of Philosopher Stone fame felt as I do. Did he also think that fifty was the start of life? Did he want to learn on at fifty? After all …. I just feel I am at the brink of life in its prime. In some Asimov’s, there are people that are a few hundred years old. So, fifty is really sixteen for them! Even in Hobbits, adulthood starts very late in years compared to our current society. So, life does start at fifty and learning an essential skill at that age is just great! The essential skill that I talk of is driving!

One of the reasons I do not possess a valid driving license is that driving instructors do not quiet appreciate my skills. I am very considerate. I was one of those people who stopped in the middle of a road (in the training school) when I saw a trainee driver driving in front of me. I merely gave way to a newcomer. My instructor mistook my consideration for panic!! He assured me what others achieved in five lessons, I would not achieve in fifteen. He did not appreciate my concerns about the other driver’s nerves.

Obviously, the instructor did not know my father used to get jumpy when I drove at eighteen. I had a valid driving license then. And somewhere along the way it expired and I had my husband to drive me…Finally, when I went for a refresher course, my instructor lacked the necessary attitude to teach me! Then, because I was expecting a baby, the doctor banned me from driving. I think I saw my instructor heave a sigh of relief when I gave him the news. Then, we moved to China where we were not allowed to drive but were given a chauffeur driven vehicle 24/7. Being docile and obedient by nature, I was happy to comply!

The joys of being driven is great! You never need to know the way to anywhere. You do not need to know left from right. This has always been a challenge for me. My husband has his first ride on the bike with me indelibly etched on his memory… He was driving and I was directing. I was saying right and pointing left. He figured out early in life left could be right and right could be right too. And left could be left or right. After all these are all names. And as Shakespeare said in Romeo and Juliet:

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet.

My husband had it all figured out then itself…. more than twenty-six years ago….before we tied the knot.

He used his common sense. There was no right turn and he turned into the only available turning, which was on the left.

Now that I am out of China, I have resorted to taking cabs when I go out on my own. I figured out cab drivers are not familiar with Shakespeare. The problem with cab drivers is that they ask for directions and get angry when you give them your own directions. They seem to lose their calm if you say left instead of right. They get even angrier if you mix up names of places and roads!

It has come to a point where I am thinking of self-reliance as an option. What better age to start at than my present one … fantastic, fabulous fifty!

Surely, despite automatic self-driven cars, my newly acquired driving skills will be well honed by the time I hit a century!




A Happy New Year



A New Year’s Hope

Each morning, I am drawn
To the dawning of a new dawn.
Songs of hope and happiness ring
And each ray a line of joy sings.

Each new year, I watch for the morning star,
And wish on it for a wonderful, fresh start.
Lyrics of harmony on each lip,
Dreams of peace and plenty give.

This is my fervent hope.
Every heart find a home.
Every child find enough food
And a wonderful world that schools
To realise their dreams,
Creating vibrant streams
Of thought that freely flows
Towards enlightening souls…
Beyond borders and lines,
Bonds drawn by mankind.

To welcome the new, let us all rise
And with these dreams take flight…

On Nearing Fifty…


I have started pondering over my life as I head for the completion of half-a-century of my earthly existence. Do I reminiscence … look back in time?

I do miss my childhood a little bit…. But, at some point, I got stuck on the age of sixteen. My eleven-and-a-half-year-old son told me I was more like an eleven-year-old. My irritated neighbour in China once told me I behaved like a twelve-year-old. I myself prefer sixteen as the sweetest of all ages because that is when between the threshold of childhood and adulthood, life holds out maximum possibilities. One has not pinned down on what exactly one wants to do in life but one is getting there. One looks and feels energetic and beautiful. One feels like an empress who can conquer the whole world. There is nothing to lose by expressing oneself as one is. At the threshold of fifty, I feel pretty much the same.

Life with it’s endless possibilities is starting out for me again. My children are growing up into independent young men. I look forward to their future and revel in it. My eighteen-year-old is now like a friend. I can talk politics, literature, history, discovery and exploration with him. My husband started out as a good friend and continues through life as my closest one. I am like an empress in a household of geeky men who cannot manage without me. I pretty much feel as I did at sixteen, tyrannical and beautiful…give or take forty odd kilos of weight added on to me through my years of wisdom and truth.

The whole world is open to me. I can go where I please once my younger son is a little older. Right now, I travel vicariously with Marco Polo and with Captain Nemo. I read and dream without having the necessity to worry about my future. The three men in my life worry about theirs and mine too ! So, I live in the moment and carpe diem.

I am not in fact sure if I do want to travel physically to all the most scenic spots in the world as the plumbing and the hotels may not meet up to my stringent standards. For instance, Easter Island looks most inviting with it’s bare elemental beauty and the fantastic rock formations, yet the hotels seem more like seaside resorts by the beach. I know some do not have air conditioning. While some travellers wrote that they found a volcanic rock jutting out in the middle of their room exciting, I prefer to relish such things outdoor. I have dust allergy, need clean air and air-conditioning to be comfortable every night. So, such an excursion may not be my cup of tea.

I would love to go to the Antarctica base and shake the staid penguins’ hands/ wings. However, I would not want face the bone-chilling cold. I would love to travel in space but I do not want to travel for more than a few hours. So, travelling vicariously does very well for me.

I have developed a bad left knee that would not be an asset if I wanted to go to Machu Picchu or travel on camel back across the Egyptian sands to visit Tutankhamen’s fabulous tomb. There are so many places I would love to visit and see. I wish teleporting like in Star Trek were a reality. Then, I could visit all the fabulous places of the world from the comfort of my home.

I can eat what I like… Of course doctors tell you otherwise, but the ultimate choice is mine. When I was a child, my mother used to force me to down an egg, toast, fruits and milk at the start of each sunshiny school day. Now, I am free to eat what I like…black coffee at breakfast each day…and a sweet biscuit or a chocolate with it. I can try different kinds of cheeses on my toast and eat no fruit and eggs at breakfast!

Doctors would call me obese but I would call myself mature and plump. My doctor told me I had misused my knee…it is getting better with a herbal supplement that my elder son picked up at the supermarket, Shallaki or Boswellia. Maybe, I will do the steep ascent of Machu Picchu after all… Of course a good hotel near at hand is a must.

My threesome are very keen to visit and spend a few days in the Kruger National Park in South Africa. I am not. Some of our friends went there and hobnobbed with monkeys and foxes and whatnots at breakfast, lunch and dinner. My brother-in-law who lives nearby in Johannesburg found a lion lounging in a bathroom in Kruger Park. As animals are not my favorite creatures and I do not fancy dancing with elephants, I would prefer not to live inside the park…

The best part of closing in on fifty will be that I will get closer to sixty than I have ever been. I really want to hit sixty because a fortune teller in China told me I will be very happy and attain great things in the sixtieth year of my existence. Could it be success as an author or grandchildren or would I be thrilled to turn a silver blonde and leave my hair undyed? Which would it be? After all, hairdressers are the only people who ask me if I am thirty something! I can never explain to them I am sixteen at heart and forty-nine in real years…

I am sure an elephant in Kruger National Park would understand!


Starting out on a new journey or venture is always an exciting event…


Today is the day to celebrate.
Celebrate the morning sky.
Celebrate the rising sun.
Celebrate the pouring rain.
Celebrate the night on the run.
Today is the day to celebrate.
Today is the day I take flight
Leaving the past behind,
Take a fresh new stride
Into the adventure of life.
Today, I can see the morning light
Colour up the darkness of the night
With an explosion of pink and white,
Clouds of gold dust with silver lined.
Today, I know,
I can let my bondage go
And in exploding happiness glow.

The Start

A beating heart.
A hope, an expectation.
Today is the day
Of the first initiation.
This is the beginning
Of the end,
The test begins…
Has the plant blossomed well?
Will it give shelter to needy men?
Will it bloom and perfume the glen?
Will it serve the purpose well?
This is the first step.
This is the first climb
On the hills of time.
May blessings on you shine.
May you have all of the joy that is mine.
May you have a happy ride
And bring showers of joy and pride.

Short Story

The Journey

Prakash had tears in his eyes. All his classmates had stopped talking to him. He had been suspended for lying and beating a boy he really liked, Peter. He had wanted Peter to be his friend. Instead Peter was closest to Jayant. How complicated life was! Nine-year-old Prakash sat outside the principal’s office waiting for his parent.

Namrata had a son and a baby daughter. Her son was in trouble again. She was going to school to sort out issues with Prakash’s principal. Her heart ached. How could the school and the children be so ruthless! Prakash’s had been a difficult birth. It was a whole minute before he cried out as a new born baby. In certain senses, he was a bit slower than others. Everything took him longer. She wanted him, like many young mothers, to be the best at everything. And here he was suspended from school and ostracized by friends.

Namrata had reached school. She got off the cab and made straight for the elementary school office. She peeped in. There was Prakash, teary-eyed and phlegmy. As she entered, the secretary said,” Mr Lee will see you now.”

Namrata walked in.

Mr Lee, the principal, sat behind a blue tie and thick horn rimmed black glasses. He had a kind face and a happy smile. Unfortunately, it didnot look happy when Namrata entered. Namrata said,” Hi, I am Prakash’s mother. What happened?”

Mr Lee said,” Please sit.”

When Namrata sat down, he said,” It all started with Prakash verbally abusing the bus attendant. She asked him to put on his seat belt as the bus was leaving your condominium. He used abusive language and refused to listen to her. Peter, who was seated behind him with Jayant, told him to stop. Prakash grew more abusive and shouted back at Peter and Jayant. He was unmanageable. The younger children grew scared and started to cry. Things went totally out of control. You can understand his behaviour not only endangered his safety but also the safety of other children. Later, at school, he took the first opportunity to beat Peter. And then said Peter had abused the bus attendant and the teachers. Unfortunately for him and fortunately for Peter, the attendant and the other children in the bus spoke up for Peter. Later, Prakash admitted he had lied about Peter abusing the attendant and teacher as he was angry.”

Namrata looked down. She felt like crying but tried her best to look calm. In a voice that was almost at the point of breaking down, she said,” What are you going to do?”

“We will send him for counselling. We would also like him not to use the school bus for a week, apologise to Peter and write an apology to the bus attendant,”said Mr Lee.

Namrata said,” But the bus fees are already paid for the whole semester.”

Mr Lee was firm. Namrata was angry. It was unfair, a punishment effectively given to parents because they would have to drop and pick up their son to and from school. At least she didnot have to take him home immediately. She went to Prakash and told him,” I will take you home this afternoon.” Prakash was sent back to class.

In the evening when Namrata came to pick up Prakash, he seemed calmer. As he came out of the school, Namrata waved to him. He came towards her with a smile and they started their silent walk towards the metro rail which would take them home. Her baby daughter was being cared for by the live-in maid.

She told Prakash, ” See, how much trouble you are giving me. First, you fight with your friends, next you get yourself thrown out of the bus and I have to take you home in person. And every day you know, for a whole week, I need to drop you and pick you up.”

“Sorry mama,” said Prakash.

” What is wrong with you this year. First, you get chucked out of extended math. Then you fight with your friends and are forced to write an apology to the maid in the bus,”said Namrata.

“Mama the boys don’t like me and the maid just picks on me.”

“How can the boys like you? You did not skateboard as fast as them when I took you all skateboarding.No one likes slow coaches.”

” But, I was scared mama…scared of falling. It was so unstable.”

” See this is what I always say…you are always scared to try new things.”

Prakash was near tears. He had really tried hard to please his mother. Peter and Jayant were so much more confident and faster than him. They had mothers that did not push them to be the best all the time. They had someone to run to. His mother was always asking him for more and if he could not achieve her target, she would make him practice endlessly. In math, for example, he had to stay up till 1 am and practice so that he could score well enough to get into the extended group.

Prakash’s life was tough. He so wanted to play with everyone and be with everyone. But he knew he was slow. His mother said so. He tried his best to be fast but everything got muddled up when he was quick. Peter and Jayant were so quick and good at everything. Jayant was even in the extended Math group and Peter was outstanding in English! He wanted to be like them but he was too slow… At least that is what his mother said.

His teacher, Mr Marshall, was kinder. He didnot make demands of Prakash. He just let him be. Couple of times Prakash had manually tried to upgrade the grades in his test papers but his mother had caught him. And what a row ensued! Once, he had even tried to change the grades on his report card but, again, his mother’s fury knew no bounds. He had been grounded for a week. He had learnt it was pointless trying to hoodwink his mother. But, he was always nervous before and during tests as he was anxious to do well.

Namrata was reaching the end of her tether. The baby girl, Parinita, was pretty, winsome and smart, unlike Prakash, who was an awkward child. She was quick to pick up things. At nine months, she was crawling and gurgling ‘mama’. She had such pretty curls!

Namrata could not understand. In their family everyone was an excellent performer except for her son. The more she pushed him, the more he curled up and made a mess. Her husband was also always cross with her over the rearing of their son. He blamed her for everything! It was really not fair.

Prakash was a difficult child for Namrata. She loved him very much but he was always disappointing her. She knew he could perform and she wanted to show him off as did the other mothers, but she never could…

Next day, Prakash had to visit the counsellor’s office. The counsellor was a little, plump woman with a soft voice and infinite patience. Prakash liked and trusted her but he was too scared of his mother to say anything. He was scared that his mother would find out the truth about his being scared of her and punish him.

That night, Prakash had a dream… A dream in which the counsellor was dressed like a magician in a fairy tale. She was in a purple robe with gold embroidery and her hair looked like a halo of sunlight around her kind face. The magician counsellor took him by hand and blew some magic dust on him.

He felt as if he was sucked into a whirlpool and fast forwarded into a time where he was an adult. He saw himself as a scientist in a lab coat doing experiments with a large number of students looking on. Then, he saw himself walking down an alleyway to a large building. He was wearing a dark suit and a tie. He went to a huge auditorium filled with people. He walked to the dias and sat down with a bunch of other men. One grey haired man stood up and spoke into the mike,” We are gathered here today to welcome Dr Prakash Pathak and bestow on him an award for his scientific contributions to …”

Prakash felt himself glow. He was being sucked through a whirlpool again and then he saw himself sitting under the stars like a tramp looking at his toes peeping out from a torn shoe. He felt incredibly hungry and sad…

Again he was in a whirlpool and this time, he was back to his normal self facing the magician counsellor. She smiled at him and told him,” It is for you to choose the future. All you need to do is to stop being scared and anxious. Be yourself. Do the things you dream of. Believe in yourself and your dreams.” And she disappeared, leaving a whiff of freshness and happiness behind her.

Prakash woke up feeling elated. He looked happy and felt happy. He was not feeling apprehensive and scared, for a change. He knew his friends were right. He knew the way his mother treated their maid at home was not right. She was very harsh. Though he loved his mother very much, he could do nothing to alter her behaviour but he could alter his own behaviour and attitude, not just towards the maid and attendant but towards everything. He would stop feeling scared and try to find the strength and courage in himself to move towards his dream. It was difficult. But, Prakash had decided to start his journey towards becoming a world renowned scientist.

Short Story

The Perfectionist

Sheila had just returned from her son’s graduation ceremony. Samir had graduated out of his engineering college with flying colors. He had a job from Google in his pocket. Sheila was weeping, weeping for joy. Her eldest son had arrived at the doorstep of his dream!

“May he live through it! May he flourish! May every good thing I have done in my life pile up to add to his blessings and that of his younger brother! ” she prayed.

Sheila still recalled how 25 years ago, on her husband’s birthday, the doctor had confirmed her pregnancy. She recalled how excited and happy she had been. They had waited five years for this baby to happen. Samir was a happy baby… The only issue was feeding. He was a poor eater. He had too many important things on his mind. He was the cutest baby ever, thought Sheila.

Sheila was a high school teacher but it didnot take her more than a minute to decide to quit her job  once her baby was confirmed and the doctor suggested bed rest. Lot of her colleagues found it strange that she was willing  to throw up her career for a baby. ” You can take a year of maternity leave. After that, a maid could look after the baby. And with your salary keeping a maid would be a cakewalk,” said the head of school. ” Why do you really want to leave?”

“I want to take care of my own baby myself,” said Sheila.

The head let her go but found it hard to believe.

At home, her husband, Nikhil, said, ” A baby brought up by a maid becomes a maid’s baby.”

Sheila heartily agreed. That was why she was opting to stay at home and look after her baby. Nikhil worked as a general manager in an American multinational. His salary was more than enough to live comfortably and save.

Sheila became a housewife.

Many of her colleagues visited her out of curiosity. Then, they stopped.

Most people, including her own in-laws and parents, found her behavior inexplicable. They couldnot understand why she threw up a flourishing career for a baby. Most professional women looked down on housewives as in their opinion the stay-at-homes had no identity outside their own homes.Being a daughter, mother or sister was not deemed glamorous enough by women with brilliant careers. It went against the intrinsic values of fame and wealth. No one was awarded for being a good mother or wife but being an outstanding scientist or actress could earn anyone fame, accolades and money.

Sheila’s parents were both doctors and still practicing when she threw up her job. Her mother-in-law worked in a bank. Her father-in-law had died when Nikhil was only twelve. His mother’s passion for her work at the bank and her excellent career had ensured her son’s childhood was free of financial difficulties. Only Nikhil had grown up with maids. He found a wide breach between the way he thought and the way his mother thought. He left home while in university and went to visit his mother on special occasions. He had studied engineering and management and had risen fast, professionally. He lived separately as his mother and he did not see eye to eye on many issues, including Sheila throwing up her career.

Nikhil’s mother said ,” It is an unnecessary sacrifice on Sheila’s part. Why does she want to throw away her education?” Sheila felt it  was not a sacrifice but a choice that she made.

Sheila and Nikhil had their second baby five years after the birth of Samir, another bouncing boy, who they called Surya. Surya was also doing well. He had finished high school two years ago. Now, he was studying medicine.

Sheila believed that children were a gift from God and needed to be cherished and brought up with love. She had dedicated twenty five years of her life to bringing up her boys. It had been tough but also a great deal of fun. She enjoyed the boys’ childhood. Nikhil had missed large parts of the fun of bringing up the boys as he had to earn for the whole family. But, he had no regrets as he did get to see some of the fun and he enjoyed his work. Sheila encouraged the boys to understand that without Nikhil’s input, they wouldnot have the education and the life they had.

With Nikhil as their role model, both the boys picked up habits from him. They were very happy if people said they were like their father! Both the boys, like their much adored Baba, didnot smoke,drink or go clubbing. They had no girlfriends and were very focussed on their studies.

Sheila hoped now that Samir had a job, he would find himself a girl. He had said earlier,” I will look at a girl only after I get a good job. I do not want to take out a girl on Baba’s money.”

As the boys grew older and more independent, Sheila like to recall incidents from the boys’ childhood. Some had been an education for Sheila and some were just sources of pleasure. There were times when the boys fought with each other. Samir pulled Surya’s hair and Surya punched him back. Sheila would send them to corners, distressed. Nikhil would laugh,” They are boys. You cannot mollycoddle them.” There were times when Nikhil would ask Sheila not to step in when the boys made mistakes. He would tell her,” Let them learn themselves. Let them be independent.” Sheila had a tendency to tell the boys how to plan their schedule. Again Nikhil stepped in.” Let them decide what to do . You cannot guide them all their lives.” If they had issues with friends or school, Nikhil would insist they sort it out themselves unless the teachers asked for parental interference. Sheila found it difficult not to step in when the boys were hurt. But, as she knew Nikhil was right, she complied.

Sheila still recalled the day five-year-old Surya had come home from his school and had asked her, ” Have you ever been to university?” They were located in China then. Nikhil’s company had posted him there for four years. They went with three-year-old Surya and eight-year-old Samir. Both the boys had been enrolled in an international school. They had to learn Chinese as a part of their curriculum. The Chinese teacher was teaching names of professions in class. When few of the expatriate children expressed that their mothers were stay at home moms, the teacher said that was probably because they had not studied or been to university. All qualified women worked in her opinion. Sheila was appalled when Surya explained to her why he asked the question. Sheila told him that she had three degrees from two universities. Two in chemistry and one in teaching. She told him,” I used to teach eleventh and twelvth graders in an international school in Singapore before your brother was born. I gave up my job to look after both of you. Would you rather have me work and come home to a maid?”

Curly haired and chubby baby Surya rushed to his mother’s arm and said,” No mama. I want to be with you.” And Sheila showered kisses on the little upturned face. Sheila could never understand why some women thought it was a comedown to be a mother and home maker.

Surya adored his mother as did Samir. For both the boys, the day started with their mother waking them up and the day ended with her tucking them into bed. Their father had to work and go on tours and the maid did the housework. Sheila took care of all her children’s needs. She felt it was a privilege to be a mother. She felt valued at home.

Nikhil said,” Bringing up your children well with the right values and principles and setting them up in life is tougher than running a trillion dollar company.”

On the other hand, there were many,especially women, who were very critical of Sheila. They needed their identity from the people outside the home. Some pleaded financial constrains. One of her cousins said,” I do not want to do housework. Therefore, I prefer working.” A career was an escape from housework or bringing up kids.

With her convictions, many regarded Sheila as eccentric and strange. Sheila spent her life bringing up her sons to be good human beings.

” Getting very high marks and doing bad things is not a sign of success,”  Sheila would rebuke her sons if they behaved badly. If they did badly in exams and were sad, she was compassionate.” You will do well next time. One test means nothing in life.”

She was always there for them.

Bringing up the two boys had also been a pleasurable experience for her! Sheila loved having the boys’ friends over and partying with the youngsters. She loved the expression of wonder on Surya and his best friend’s faces as they experimented with dry ice and she loved the way sixteen-year-old Samir’s friends appreciated her cooking. Ten boys could finish up five kilos of lamb and chicken cooked by her! Her biggest awards were when her sons praised her. When eleven-year-old Surya told her, her cake was the biggest hit in the school party or Samir told her that he truly appreciated the fact that she was there for them, Sheila’s heart swelled with pride. The lovely flowers and card Samir bought her with his first internship money were priceless to her.

Nikhil said,” What can we ever do without you?” And Sheila felt happy and needed.

She enjoyed talking to youngsters. At fifty, she still felt sixteen in her heart…still, she felt her heart beat fast when she thought of Nikhil.

On the contrary, her friend, Lydia, who had a passion for teaching and had become the principal of the biggest school in Singapore, spoke of separating from her husband after twenty years of marriage

” You are so lucky, Sheila.You have two good boys and a wonderful husband. Your sons are so undemanding. You just stay at home and relax and they do all the work themselves. You never have to chase them up for anything and they do not want branded things. Look at my sons. They never want to study, want branded things and always try to go clubbing. I am really unlucky. I work so hard but no one appreciates me at home. See, I got an award from the government for teaching but my husband says I am a lousy teacher because I taught the boys nothing. Where have I got the time? I need to focus on my career to earn more money to meet their growing needs. And my husband…he is too much. He is always picking on me ,even if the maid makes a mistake. Everything is my fault. One of these days, I will leave him. I have already spoken to a lawyer friend… Oh my burdens are great! You are so lucky Sheila.”

For Lydia, her pride and achievement was the national award that she had received for teaching.

For Sheila, her biggest pleasure was seeing her family flourish and the boys do well. Her biggest trial was facing the criticism she faced from some housewives and women careerists without showing it hurt. They had no time for her. Some of them were rude to her.

Some of the outspoken housewives in her compound, told her,”You know nothing of latest fashions or trends, you do not party…what do you do all the time? Sleep? You even have a full time maid! Don’t you ever get bored?” The housewives loved to meet for parties, leaving the children and home with maids. What they didnot know was that unlike them, Sheila was a perfectionist and she ran her home to the best of her ability. At home, she cooked new dishes, read, thought and spent time discussing issues with her sons to help formulate their thought process. She also tried to ensure the boys read the right books so that they would have good values.

The critical careerists said,” You have wasted your education and lazed away your life as a corporate housewife.” As they gathered kudos from outsiders and flak from their own family, they felt Sheila had taken the easy way out.

Had Sheila really done that? If the purpose of degrees was only to impart knowledge, perhaps her critics would be partially right as she did use her knowledge to run the house efficiently. However, Sheila used the discipline and dedication she had gained from her university experiences to bring up her children. For her, it was important that while the children achieved their dreams, they still respected and valued less fortunate individuals than themselves. For her, it was important how they achieved their dreams. For her, it was important that her sons contributed to mankind’s progress towards a better future. It was not enough that the boys did well by coaching and cheating and then dedicated themselves to becoming rich and redundant.

Money was very important but it was a man made thing meant to make human life easier. It was supposed to be a tool for mankind ,not the God of mankind…

Samir came into Sheila’s room and gave her the degree. ” Can you put this away in the safe till I find the time to get it laminated mama?” He asked. Sheila smiled, wiped her eyes and stretched out her hand.

“Have you been crying mama?”asked Samir.

” These are tears of joy. My heart is full today. I am truly proud of you. I am so happy you achieved your dream. Now has come the time to dream bigger and materialise those ones on your own for the future, ” replied Sheila as she put the degree under lock and key. She gave him a hug and a peck on the cheek.

Sheila and Nikhil watched with happiness as Samir launched into the world, an independent player in the game of life.