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Everyone loves stories. Everyone has a story to tell.

Month

March 2014

Reach For The Stars BUT Keep Your Feet On The Ground

My son came for lunch this weekend like he does every weekend. His two little children and his lovely wife in tow. As we sat down for lunch he said “Ma, I quit my job.” As a concerned mother, I inquired what had happened. He had a plush job, he was doing very well for himself, he traveled places all the time, I could tell he was making a lot of money and he seemed happy. But what he told me left me surprised.
“I am missing on their childhood (pointing to his kids). I need to be there for them. Don’t worry, I have a new job. But it’s not so demanding and I do not need to travel at all. I think that is the best perk for me. I will get to come home and cuddle up with these kids every night.”
I asked my son “Are you sure you will be happy with your decision?” I looked at my daughter in law to take her opinion. A strong independent career woman herself. She also has a very practical and grounded approach towards life. She smiled at me. I could see they had both discussed it together and come to the conclusion. She was very much with him on his decision.
My son, a foodie, was more engrossed in his food than the conversation. He was also busy feeding his kids sitting next to him. He looked up just once at me and said “Ma, of all people I thought you will be one person who will not question my decision. You have been there. You should understand.”
He was right about that. I was born and raised in a very competitive house in the 1960’s. Though we lived in a rural part of India, my parents did their best to educate me and my siblings. I studied as if I was on some mission. I went to the Ivy League graduate schools and colleges in India. I landed up a job in a MNC and rose to executive ranks in the company. In 80’s, this was rare. A lady, Ivy League school, executive at a MNC were all unheard of. I was fiercely ambitious too. I wanted to reach the stars. I was unstoppable. In the midst of this marriage happened and a son was born too.
When he was young, I was hardly home for a fortnight every month. We had help. We had his grandparents to look after him. My husband did what he could but he worked as much too. We still found time to attend the parent teacher’s meeting, the school sports day and the annual function, go on picnics, go to a book fair or see a movie together. He was fond of my cooking so I cooked for him whenever I was at home. He loved board games and crossword puzzles. We would sit for hours doing it together. But to be very honest I was never mentally 100% there. I had a dream to chase, I had balance sheets to tally, I had sales pitch to articulate, I had my own ambitions to pursue. I loved my son. But I loved myself too, perhaps a bit too much.
When he went off to the college, it was then that it hit me for the first time that he did not need me anymore. He was independent. I would see him only over the vacations and we did spend a lot of time together. But I had lost on his childhood. I had lost the first sixteen years of his life. There is nothing I could do to bring them back. This is why my son believes that of all the people I would understand his decision the most today. He had taken a lesson from his mom’s life.
After lunch as we sat chatting, the son made tea for all of us. He came and sat next to me. “Ma, I hope you did not take it to heart what I said earlier. I did not mean to say it that way.”
“I am proud of your decision. And I am so happy to see you be such a great parent. You were right. Don’t miss out on their childhood. It never comes back.”  I said.
He hugged me and we sat there for a few minutes quietly. I sat there thinking I must have done something’s right to raise such a thoughtful and grounded young man. 
Our post from yesterday “Stooping For The Stars” inspired this very emotional story, a mother’s narrative of her life pursuing her dreams while raising her son. She tells us that her story is not about right or wrong. It is about a balanced perspective.
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Stooping For The Stars


A picture’s worth a thousand words. There is a story about every kid in that picture. Children are dreamers. Help them dream. Help them reach the stars. 

Keep your eyes on the stars,and your feet on the ground. – Theodore Roosevelt

Piano Lessons

Once upon a time, there was a girl named Lisa. She wanted to learn the piano. So she asked her mom if she could take piano lessons. He mom agreed and enrolled her for piano classes. Lisa loved learning to play the piano. Soon she was playing the piano all the time. She began to miss her school projects. She skipped her homework some nights. She could not finish reading her library books on time. All because she was too busy playing the piano. Her teacher noticed all the missed assignments and spoke to Lisa’s mom.  
Lisa’s mom then discussed this with Lisa at home. She was really upset with Lisa. Lisa’s piano lessons were cancelled and she was asked to concentrate on her school work.  
This made Lisa very sad. She started to really miss her piano lessons. So about after a month she asked her mom if she could go back to learning the piano again. Her mom said only if Lisa promised to complete all her assignments and homework timely. Lisa agreed.  
The piano lessons resumed and Lisa was very happy again. She asked her piano teacher to teach her a lot of new songs. Lisa learnt to play all the songs pretty quickly. Soon Lisa was ready for a recital. So Lisa’s mom arranged a piano recital at their home over a weekend. Family and friends were invited. Lisa invited all her friends too. Lisa started practicing for the recital regularly.  
However in her excitement she was not being gentle on the keys. She was banging on them pretty hard. Lisa’s mom asked Lisa not to do so. But Lisa did not pay attention. She kept on playing the keys really hard. And then, one of the keys came off the piano. Lisa noticed and began to cry. How would she have a recital now ? How would she show her friends how well she played the piano ? Lisa thought about all of that while she cried.  
Lisa’s mom came over when she heard Lisa cry. Her mom became really sad to see the broken key. But she did not scold or ground Lisa. She just hugged Lisa and consoled her.  
They had a recital that weekend with a glued key on the piano. Lisa continued her piano lessons but learnt to be gentle with the key. She also learnt that it was important to listen to her mother. 
Moral Of The Story : Never over do things. Take a balanced and fun approach towards learning anything. 
This story has been shared by a sever year old budding author.  She also wrote “Sweet Nothings!” for our blog. Her stories are inspired by and are a reflection of real life incidents. The Chatoveracuppa team is in awe of the moral from stories in particular. 

Down Memory Lane

 

Pizza !

It was 1985 and I was at Sydney on a long study tour. It was there that I heard about the Italian food “Pizza” for the first time. I tried it, but cannot remember if I liked it or not. After sometime, pizza became available at my small town back home in India at the cost of Rs.5. I tried it once again, but it felt hard like stone.
Some years later, during the Indian festival of Durga-Puja/ Nav-Ratri  we were visiting  our one and only one daughter at her graduate school in another city. She planned to surprise us and took us to a pizza joint  where it cost Rs.60 each. With the pre-conceived notion of the stone like pizza I had last time, I rejected her plan, spoiling her surprise, took her to a big fancy restaurant instead. 
As time moved on, Pizza Huts started appearing at every street corner. I actually started liking pizza, specially because of my grandchildren. I love pizza now, but can’t eat it in their absence. My emotion haunts me down the lane to that unforgettable episode and I feel uncomfortable. I can gift anything to them but can’t erase the incident from her Papa’s memory. What shall I do?
This story has been shared with us by a doting father of one of our regular readers. He is one of regular readers too. We have been asking around for stories and one day we received this very emotional story in our Inbox. It is an incident that the daughter probably does not even remember but the father took to heart and always kept it that way. It left us teary eyed. It made us miss our dads and wonder what they would have taken to heart in a similar way. How simple moments in life sometimes stay etched in the memory for reasons that you will not imagine.

We hope his daughter (for whom this is a surprise) has a box of Kleenex next to her. The Chatoveracuppa team promises to sponsor a pizza date for the father and daughter duo when they meet next.

Thank you !

Summer is almost here. I had picked my blue beaded sandal to wear that day. As I was waiting outside my daughter’s art class, I felt a little nudge on my feet. I looked down to find two tiny little shoes trying to fit into the curves on the side of my sandal. I said to the little boy who seemed fascinated by my sandals “Hi There, I think you like my sandals.” He looked up, his forehead covered with beautiful golden hair and smiled at me. “Hi There !” His smile was more radiant than the sun shining on us.
He kept trying to fit in his shoes on to the side of my sandals. I asked again “Do you like my sandal?” He looked up, smiled again and said “Blue Beads.”
Now when you have a young man appreciating something so much, you need to pay attention. I knelt down and began chatting with him. We still had five minutes for the class to get over. He was waiting for his sibling I was told. His Mom knelt beside me and we got chatting too. Soon the class was dismissed and we saw some children trickling out. We stood up. The little boy still playing with the beads of my sandals.
The mom said “Thank you for talking to him.”  I almost did not understand what she meant. I asked her again. She repeated. “Thank you for talking to him. Most people don’t.”
I choked. I fumbled with my words, not knowing what to say. Why did a Mom have to thank a stranger for saying Hello, giving a hi-five and talking to a precious little four year old ? Just because he looked a little different than others ? Just because he has down syndrome ? Is that reason enough ?
The mother told me that apparently it was. People would withdraw upon seeing him. And therefore when anyone treated her son like another child around, she made it a point to thank that person.
As a mother of two myself I can never imagine thanking people to just talk to my kids or saying hello to them. I take it for given. And I thought that we have come a long way and there is more acceptance in the society than before.Not really. Few days later, I narrated this to my friend and she had a similar story to share.
Her son had invited everyone from his class for his birthday party. He had called everyone. When the party wrapped up and the parent’s came by to pick their kids, she was saying her customary “Thank you for being there for my son’s birthday.” One of the dad’s replied “Actually thank you for having him. He usually does not get invited to such parties.” His son had special needs and was coping to be part of a regular elementary school. My friend choked too. She did not find the right words to respond. Neither she nor her son had felt that this little man needed a different treatment than the rest of the folks in the class. He had to be there for the party as anybody else did.
We talk about awareness. We are all aware, are we not. Can we really plead ignorance in today’s world ?  Eliminating discrimination from our minds is probably the first most basic step. We are so caught up in the notion that everything should look and be perfect that our hearts seem to have shrunk.  
People with special needs have a larger heart than people who do not have those needs. Probably because they do not care much for perfection.
This is for you my little friend. Thank you for the lovely conversation that afternoon. Thank you for the smile that made my day. Thank you for loving my sandals. Thank you for looking at life so impartially. Thank you for this and a lot more.
21 March is World Down Syndrome Day. This story came in a little later. But it had to be shared, it had to be told, it had to be read. This post is written by Piya Mukherjee, the resident author at the chatoveracuppa blog. Thank you to the little man who has prompted all of us to sit up and take notice of something many largely ignore.

Milkshake

This month for the first time since the state of California was formed Latinos became the majority population. It’s an ironic marker in an area which was originally populated by over a hundred different Native American tribes. But despite the fact that we may be living in a State that is now 39% Latino, it doesn’t always feel that way especially in Los Angeles, a city highly stratified according to race and income.
After having grown up on the East coast where a common question I’d face from strangers who couldn’t place my South Asian face was,’Where are you from?’ I noticed that in LA people stopped asking me this. I finally realized that it wasn’t because people were more enlightened here, it was because they thought I was Latino and didn’t need to ask. People would often start speaking to me in Spanish assuming I knew the language. None of this especially bothered me until I had kids.
My husband is, as my parents like to say, ‘an American’. Basically, he’s a white guy whose family comes from Great Britain — England, Scotland, Ireland. Some of his family came over on the Mayflower, others are members of the Mormon church. So, when I had my son he was a lot lighter skinned than me. He was so much lighter in fact that strangers often thought that I was the nanny. One time one of the moms at a toddler music class asked, “Which one do you take care of?” I quickly pointed to my son and said, ‘That one’.
One time I brought my 11 month old son with me to the mall to buy gifts for friends and relatives in preparation for a trip we were taking to India. My son sat in his stroller as I browsed through the jewelry section. By the time I left the store I had no idea that my son had accidentally dropped a necklace he had been playing with into his stroller. About 30 seconds after I left the store a security guard walked up to me and said, “Miss you left without paying for this” and he pointed to the necklace in the stroller. I was flabbergasted. It was the first time I noticed that it was there and I was completely embarrassed and apologetic and tried to return it explaining what must have happened. He refused to accept my story and told me to follow him. My son and I ended up in the store security department where they interrogated me and accused me of shoplifting. They demanded that I sign a document admitting to the crime and threatened to call the cops. I was so angry I refused to sign and told them to call the cops so I could explain my side of the story. My screaming baby may have had something to do with why they finally allowed to let me go.
I didn’t really realize how cold people were in LA toward my son and I until we moved briefly to Chicago. My husband was working there temporarily so the three of us left LA and moved into the heart of downtown Chicago. I’m not sure why but there are a lot of South Asians in Chicago and people in Chicago immediately recognized me as South Asian. People would actually come up to us in grocery stores and comment about what a cute baby I had — this never happened to me in LA. I easily made friends at the park as people were so much more friendly. I felt that I was no longer invisible. The contrast was eye-opening.
Even now that my kids are older we still face the occasional situation where I stop and wonder, ‘Would this have happened to me if I were White?’ It is a question that some people of color have on a daily basis. Like the time when my kids and I were in Chinatown and my 6 year old daughter accidentally spilled a drink outside one of the shops. It was a mess. The shop keeper immediately ran out and yelled at my daughter to clean it up. But how was she to clean up a spilled milk shake when there were no napkins? So the shopkeeper ran into her store and came back with two pieces of cardboard thrusting them at my daughter and telling her to clean it up. I interjected, “She picked up the container but she can’t clean that up. We can’t clean it up with two pieces of cardboard.” The shopkeeper yelled, “What kind of mother are you? You tell her to clean it up!” My daughter was getting scared as the woman and I went back and forth. We finally had to walk away and in my mind I thought about the countless times I’ve seen spills in grocery stores where the workers are mopping up spills that customers regularly make. Would that shopkeeper have similarly yelled at a white girl and her mom the same way she did at us? I don’t know. 
The only reason why I’m in this country is because of the 1965 Immigration Act which opened the doors to so many immigrants from Asia and Latin America. I’m glad to be here but I realize that a great deal of discrimination still exists. Hopefully we will make progress as more Latinos and other people of color become the majority in this country.

This story is based on a real incident and has been contributed by a parent living in California. It may be just a perspective. But we believe there is an important question being asked here.

The Birthday

‘How do we get our Gross Margins up by five percent?”, the dimly lit study was filled up by my CEO’s voice. 
It was a global management call and I could sense the rapt attention of all my colleagues, dialed in from all across the world as I prepared myself for the answer.
‘Can you get the ladoos now …’,  I looked in horror at the smiling faces of my eight year old daughter and her best friend. ‘… lots and lots of them …‘
I struggled to mute my speakerphone.   
****
It was Janmashtami and the kids had a day off from school.  The birth day of Lord Krishna was being celebrated across India with reverence and gaiety. In our house in the suburbs of Bangalore, however, it was somber corporate quarter ending.
Both me and my wife work from home. We have our own home offices in our tree shaded villa in the outskirts of Bangalore.  Her’s in a corner of the master bedroom suite , and mine, more isolated on the first floor. 
‘I am bored’, my daughter had come up into my office earlier that day.  Born and brought up in the US, she was beginning to build up an Indian accent.
‘Today is Krishna’s birthday’, I had winked at her, ’Why don’t you celebrate it?’, I suggested. A celebration with dolls would keep her out of my way since it was going to be a busy work day for me.
‘I will get you some sweets – you know- Krishna loved sweets’ I made a mental note to pick up some laddos on my way to getting the new ink cartridge for my printer.
Her eyes lit up. ‘But I will need Gauri’s help for the party’, Gauri was her classmate, neighbor and best friend.
I had patted my back at the inspired idea as I imagined my eight year daughter staying busy, learning about culture, and more importantly, staying out of my way.
****
‘Sorry..I am having some problem with the phone line – give me five minutes … ‘, I mumbled and muted the phone. The study had now filled up with the chatter of small girls.  A LOT of small girls. There were at least twenty five of them standing outside my study
‘We are having a great time, uncle’, Gauri chirped,  ‘ We put up Krishna pictures on the walls, sang Krishna songs, even had a Krishna quiz  !’, she said pointing at  her iPad.
‘I won …  a cute little girl with braids raised her had’
‘Now we are going to have a dance for Krishna’, my daughter quipped in excitedly ..’ , It is on the song  You belong with me by Talyor Swift …. we are all singing it for Krishna not for a boyfriend or anything .. you have to come down Baba..’
My lips curled into a smile as I glanced down the mezzanine floor into the living room. The room was filled up with more girls. My wife was sitting on the couch surrounded by an eager battalion of six to ten year olds from our neighborhood. She looked at me and rolled her eyes. I had to struggle not to laugh.
‘Give me a second’, I stepped back in the study and unmuted the speakerphone. ‘Guys I will have to dial out now – some unanticipated emergency at home ..’
‘Hope all is well ….’
‘Cannot be better’, I thought as I hung up the phone and ran downstairs with the chattering girls.
Author 

Prithvi Raj Banerjee is a technologist and an aspiring author. His collection of stories, inspired by incidences from around the world, can be found at http://pbnerge.blogspot.com.

Reading Ms.Jones


I have an early reader at my home. When my four year old had started reading on her own, it was the most exciting thing to experience. We would pick books together, she would read it to me and we would chat about it later. Things have changed since.
She now gets home one book from school every weekday to read. She picks it on her own. It is part of the homework curriculum. Everyone is reading chapter books now and Junie B Jones is supposedly quite popular. So two weeks ago, my daughter brought home the book, Junie B Jones and a Little Monkey Business. We usually read the homework books together. It gives us an opportunity to work on the punctuations, expressions, the difficult words and help her understand the purpose/moral of the book.
The Junie B Jones book did not go well. Page 1, It had use of the “H” (Hate) word. My daughter exclaimed that it was a bad word. A word not allowed to say in the school or anywhere for that matter. She asked me why Junie was using that word and I responded by pointing to her how Junie is corrected by her mom on the next page. As we progressed further through chapter 1, there were phrases that I felt strangely awkward with “Dumb Bunny Room” “Stink Bomb” and addressing the parents as “You Fellas”. To give you some context here, Junie B Jones is a Kindergartner and so is my daughter. I hear the argument that she is a kindergartner and is learning good versus bad.
My problem though is the message from the book and not just the choice of words, I had a tough time explaining the meaning of the sentences to my daughter. For instance, Junie is going to have a sibling in the chapter that we were reading and the reference to “Stink Bomb” was in reference to how babies smell. My daughter has an infant sibling that she is extremely fond of and helpful with. Their association is of love and innocence and such opinions do not exist. I am sure this is not the case just in our home. So why would even plant such a thought in innocent minds ?
And by the way, which kindergartner talks to her mother like this  :“You did not get me a darned thing, did you?”. We read just one chapter and did not proceed further. I could tell my daughter was not exactly fond of the book. She even told me she would likely not get a Junie B again.
Peer pressure starts pretty early. Junie B did come back home this weekend. Junie B and the Party Animal. My daughter handed me the book and asked “What is a party animal?”. I read through the first chapter to see how this book compared to the previous. Chapter 1 was enough for me to decide that we had to tread through this book carefully together or not read it at all. Junie B and her friend discuss how their grandma’s were “Losers” “Duds” because they did not own a fancy car and a big house. I tried but could not explain the meaning to my daughter. May be I just did not feel the need for it.
We instead read another one of Dr.Seuss.
Am I the only one who cannot comprehend the sense behind this extremely popular series ? Am I missing on understanding the concept of this series ? How is this book appropriate for this age group ?
I have more questions than answers this Sunday evening. I will be curious to know what other parent’s think. 

This post has been shared by a Mother of a Kindergartner who loves to read and reads whatever she could lay her hands on. This is our first story in the series of “Reading Along With Our Kids”. 

Sweet Nothings !


Once upon a time there was a little girl named Corey. She loved to eat junk food. One day, when she was hungry she went into the kitchen and looked into the cabinets. But there was no junk food to eat. So she told her parent’s that she was hungry. They asked her to get the grapes from the fruit basket. She took the grapes and ate it but she was not happy. 
The next time when she was hungry, she did not go to her parents. She got some more grapes, some strawberries and then she opened the refrigerator. She found cupcakes in there. She got two cupcakes and put them on the plate next to her grapes and strawberries. She took the plate to the garage so that no one found out about the cupcakes. She sat on the garage floor and finished her fruits and the cupcakes. While she was eating one of the cupcake, the frosting from the cupcake fell on her shoe. She still kept eating and did not worry about cleaning her shoe. 
The next day when she was going to the school, her mother found some green icing on her shoe. The little girl was grounded for one whole week because the mother found out about the cupcakes. 
Moral: Never try to trick your parents. Never eat junk food.

This story has been written by a seven year old and the moral of the story has been suggested by her five year old friend.  The girls were provided with the picture above and they came up with the story impromptu. We loved it so much that we have published it here as-is.

Moral For The Parents :  Your children know more than you think they do.

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