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Dr Tanushree Singh

A Book Lover Sets Up A Library For All

Living Your Dreams – Story #1 

She is a bibliophile (a book lover), a storyteller, a writer and a dreamer. Her dream is simple – books and stories should be accessible to all. But she lives in a city that did not have a library. So our storyteller Tanu Shree Singh dreamt of building one for her city, Faridabad, India and this is her story. 

Tanushree at a storytelling session at Reading Caterpillar, Delhi.  


Earliest memories of stories and books …

Stories preceded books. I remember being hauled up on my grandfather’s shoulders when he went for long walks. He would create these stories about animals on a train and keep me mesmerized for hours. Then my father would tell this yearly story about bears, a lion (who can fly a plane) and a trip to the moon. That was my first engagement with words. Then came the books that my grandfather would get for us and we seamlessly shifted from hearing stories to reading them.
Early reading habits and now..
We had fairly limited choices back then – Lotpot comics, Chandamama magazines and the Classics from the local library. An occasional Tintin or Asterix by way of a birthday gift was treasured.
A distinct influence was my nana /grandfather. He introduced us to the world of books, and my parents encouraged it further. Summer holidays meant trip to the local library to get a pile of books to scavenge through. Today I read everything.  Picture books, middle reader series, young adults, grown up literature – I love it all. In fact the three of us are often found gushing over the latest Picture book additions to our library. So to pick a genre is not possible.
Online reading group, storytelling and drama …
ReadingRaccoons is a FB page where people talk and discuss books and ONLY books. With over 7000 members it is a very active group of parents of young book lovers.(And now there is a page for the senior raccoons too).
The storytelling sessions are basically a medium to spread the love for books. The idea is to introduce children to a variety of literature. I try to explore authors beyond Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl and genres that otherwise are buried under taboos like appropriate age groups. So from Picture books to poetry – everything is read by a bunch of children with age groups ranging between 4 and 14.

Her storytelling sessions are super fun. Usually involve a art work related to the story. 
Tanushree at Karm Marg (A Children’s Home) after a storytelling session- Stories and Books should be accessible to all 
The play is an interesting experience. This time for the Annual Storytelling Event, Pratham books chose “Ladle ka Dhol” which is a play. My group of children performed at Savera (a school for the economically disadvantaged) and Karm Marg (a children’s home) and it was a roaring success.

The dream of setting up a library…

The books coming in for the library 
It had always been there. One day I saw the children of my mother’s help react to books upon being read to. All I did was leave the books there. My Mum would occasionally read to them, and before we knew it, three of the kids started hurrying through their schoolwork to be able to read. That is when I knew that I had to do it. Library is the only way a book can be made accessible and my city had no good, accessible library for all.

The journey so far…

A library needs a space, shelves and books. This is where Tanushree’s library is going to be. 
The work in progress library. The shelves are getting made. 

My father is a dreamer like me and so he takes my dreams fairly seriously. I mentioned it to him in passing and he bought the idea of setting it up in Kisan Bhavan. I was expecting a corner and they gave me a room!  Shelves are being put in. The books are ready. Friends, and publishers have graciously donated enough to at least get it started. Initially I would come back from work and sit down to catalogue them all alone. Then I got lucky and two of my friends pitched in. So now they are all catalogued and ready to be shelved. 

Books lovers can contribute…..
We have a wish list up on amazon which we constantly update. The books can be ordered from here http://www.amazon.in/registry/wishlist/1MGGZPIRSP3MUOnce ordered, the order confirmation should be sent to ReadingRaccoons@outlook.com so that books can be removed from the wish list. There is no minimum order, each book counts and matters. Each book that reaches us ensures that a bookworm is created.

If you have used books in good condition and are willing to donate, send them to – 

Reading Raccoons Library, Kisan Bhavan, Sec-16, Faridabad-121001 (Haryana)

On living her dreams…
Dreams remain just that – a fine swirling mist unless they are firmly held on to and worked upon. And dreams are often ridiculed. So the idea is to be fairly block headed and going ahead and do it. I think fear of failure holds a lot of us back. I fear not having tried. So tomorrow, if at all it fails, I’ll be content with having given it my best effort. So anyone out there who has that strange dream which half the world laughs at, while the rest dismisses it, they need to grab it and make it real.

Tanu Shree is a frequent storyteller at Chatoveracuppa. She is a parent to two boys, a lecturer in Psychology, a storyteller, a bibliophile, an artist and a baker among many of her other talents. She blogs at tanushreesingh.wordpress.com and at Huffington Post India. 
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RED

“Once upon a time in a country called India…” She paused and rubbed her severely wrinkled forehead. The children sat around her patiently. Everyone knew you couldn’t rush a story out of Dadi.
“No, not India. In Pakistan. But at that time those houses were in India.” The children were all very quiet, even the youngest lot. 
“It doesn’t matter. There are no houses anymore. At least not there.”
 “Amma! They are too young for this!” Shanno turned her attention to the little ones, “Chalo! Run home! School tomorrow. You too, Sheetu.”
The others ran away and Sheetu pretended to snuggle up and sleep. Once Shanno was out of earshot, Sheetu sprang up.
“Who lived in those houses, Dadi?”
Dadi coughed and whispered, “Sleep, child. Your mother would be back to check on you.” Sheetu used to share Dadi’s bed on the terrace that overlooked the village.
“Did you live there?” Sheetu ignored.
Dadi didn’t answer. She continued instead. “There were eleven houses in the tiny village and every evening children from those houses wrecked havoc in the fields. From stealing mangoes to chasing donkeys through the field, they kept all elders on their toes. And all of ten, she led the gang of the little rascals. Junaid was her best friend out of the lot. Religion had never mattered there. Their families had lived together in the tiny village forever. They had never tasted slavery and so didn’t really understand freedom. The English had never travelled to those parts.”
“They didn’t even know about Britishers?” Sheetu’s eyes widened. “I know about British rule and I wasn’t even born back then.”
“Once a year,” Dadi smiled and continued, “Junaid’s abba would go to the next village, Bada Gaun, and sell the produce. He would then buy provisions for all houses. No one needed to go anywhere for anything. She would always climb on the last tree right at the top of the hill and watch him disappear into the forest across the railway tracks.”
“What was her name, Dadi?”
“Whatever you want it to be. It doesn’t matter. Not anymore. She was busy climbing trees with Junaid and the other children when the rest of the country was gearing up for Independence. The last tree was the most coveted one because that was the only one which gave a clear glimpse of the train that passed through the next village down the hill, across the patch of forest, every fortnight.”
 “After a long day of running aimlessly, the children knew it was time to go home when the crickets started rubbing their feet to invite the moon. On that night, the air was different. It smelt different. She noticed it and so did Junaid. The rest of them were too busy chasing fireflies. Junaid’s Abba stood with the rest of the men, listening intently to what Hari chacha was telling them. Junaid signaled to her and both slipped away from the rest of the bunch and inched closer to the elders. No one seemed to notice two shadows behind the Chaupal.
 “So where are we now?” Her father asked Hari Chacha, the postman from Bada Gaun.
 “I don’t know. The village didn’t figure in the list on the Indian side. Maybe you are in Pakistan now?”
 “Hmmm. Does it matter? It hasn’t so far…and bodies, you say?” Junaid’s Abba shook his head.
 “Uncountable bodies, Khan sa’ab, unimaginable. I suggest that you do not go to Bada Gaun this year.”
 “Arrey? If we don’t, who will negotiate the crop prices? That is what carries us through the rest of the year and I have to go as soon as possible. Nothing will happen. Those are our people. All these things happen in big cities where people have lots to loot and kill for.”
 Junaid pulled her away. Abba seemed relaxed. He assumed there was nothing to worry about.
 Next morning, all the little ones raced to the hill. It was time for the morning train. Junaid was the fastest runner amongst the lot but not as fast as her. She outran him and quickly climbed to the very top of the tallest tree, and perched on the thick branch facing the valley. Junaid grumbled and got on to the lower branch. From where he sat, he couldn’t see her. That was another reason why everyone tried to get on the top – the thick maze of leaves made it a perfect hiding space.
TOOOOOT! All kids held their breath. The train chugged nearer.
Da Dhak.. Da… Dhak…… Da….. Dhak…… Da…………. Dhak.
 It had slowed down. The children exchanged puzzled glances. It never slowed down here. But that day, it stopped. Junaid looked up. He still couldn’t see her. The air smelt different again.
They could hear people shouting at a distance. Tiny specs had spilled out of the train and were making their way up the hill. The children sat rooted in their trees. Soon the specs turned into people, and soon the people were clearly visible – complete with blood shot eyes, blood stained clothes, carrying bloodied swords and air that smelt different.
Junaid fell out of the tree just as the first of the bloodied lot reached the top. She was too shocked to let go of the branch.
A moment’s silence was followed by a sickening whoosh of the sword. Then they shook trees. The other trees were smaller, and one by one the little ones fell.
Swoosh. Slash. Silence.
 She still held on.

The crowd moved on. She still held on. Shrieks rang out behind her. She recognised each one of them – Babaji, Abba, Junaid’s ammi, Ma, bhaiya, Kaka, bhai jaan – one by one she recognised them all.
The bloodied people returned. The dried blood was replaced by fresh stains, and ground below was now darker and wetter. She still held on. 
TOOOOOOT!
 The train chugged along.
 Da…………. Dhak. Da….. Dhak…… Da… Dhak….. Da Dhak.
 She still held on.
 That evening Hari Chacha returned.
“Arrey Khan Sa’ab!” He hollered. “I have found out! We are in India! Look, I even brought a flag. Khan Sa’ab?”
She could hear his crazed screams as he ran from one house to another. Then the screams got nearer. She let go.
Junaid cushioned her fall. Now she was drenched too. The pale pink in her clothes took on a darker, more sinister hue. Junaid’s blood – on her clothes, her hands, and in her head.
Hari chacha scooped her up and ran down the hill towards Bada Gaun. He was still clutching the flag. Colours were swimming in her eyes – saffron, red, white, red, green, red.
 Dadi went quiet. Sheetu’s throat went dry and her eyes were moist. She found her voice after a while, “Dadi, what happened to her? Who killed them? Why?”
“She breathed. She died that day but she kept breathing. The day the country got free was the day that she was lost forever. If only she had let him win that day……If only she had let go in time, she would have been one of the dark stains on the earth below the tree. But she lived. And she never forgot the flag. Never celebrated it, and never forgot it.”
Somewhere, someone burst crackers. It was midnight. 15th August was here.
A single tear rolled down Dadi’s cheek and she murmured, ‘Saffron, red, white, red, green, red.”
Story Credit : Dr.Tanushree Singh. Tanu Shree is a frequent storyteller at Chatoveracuppa. She is a parent to two boys, a lecturer in Psychology, a storyteller, a bibliophile, an artist and a baker among many of her other talents. She blogs at tanushreesingh.wordpress.com and at Huffington Post India. 

Photo Credit : Soumi Haldar 
The story was originally posted at Tell a tale as a part of #myindiastory contest. Participants had to write a short story about the India they know, the India they think existed or the India that should be. The story was to start with the phrase “Once Upon A Time In A Country Called India… 

A day of empowerment. Hmm.


This post was written by Dr. Tanu Shree Singh on her personal blog around Women’s Day and all the hullabaloo around it. A day meant to celebrate empowered women ? Women empowerment ? Most of the shenanigans around that day do very little towards any of that. Another facet of domestic violence on how we the educated and the more privileged could do so much more without being trapped into societal norms. Why just celebrate women once every year ? Why not respect them and treat them as humans, every single day of the year. 


Last two days, the mailbox and the phone SMS list have been getting more than their share of messages. Most of them, declare attractive, exclusive offers for the women’s day – discounts, two drinks for the price of one, free make overs – you name it, and your empowered self can have the entire world laid out at your footstep – for a minimal charge of course. The Google doodle celebrates us, and so does the deluge of whatsapp messages. Everyone I knew took extra care in getting dressed for work today. All of us wished each other with a broad grin and the customary ‘ Happy Women’s day’ and a ‘You look lovely!’ A few charts have been put up in the hope that some of the girls will feel empowered enough.
Having been raised in a family of strong- headed, fairly empowered women, I somehow do not understand the frenzy. As soon as I say that, the decked up women, ready to max out their credit cards on the must have deals, scoff and shake their heads disapprovingly.  ‘It is not about you. It is about the million of rural women out there who suffer and lack the confidence in themselves. It is about bringing a change in their lives.’
Hmm. So air-kissing and putting up a plastic smile every time someone wishes me today, is miraculously changing the life of a woman somewhere in the interiors of the rural India. The shaking heads also imply that we, the urban, upwardly mobile women, are empowered right down to the last strand of our blow-dried hair. I usually make a hasty exit when caught in such a debate because over time I have learnt that it is futile – futile to argue, futile to present statistics, and in fact perilous to disagree.
I avoid it because I have seen these very faces turn away and buy the explanation that the maid gives for the badly bruised face, and in hushed whispers condemn the young girl who is hesitantly relating her ordeal post-marriage, by saying, ‘Who knows what this girl has been up to.’
Last year, around this time, over a cup of morning tea, I asked the maid, ‘Do you know tomorrow is Women’s day?’ She didn’t pause to converse. She never does. Most of our tête-à-têtes have happened over furious mopping or sweeping.
‘So, what do you think?’ I continued.
This time, she paused and looked up. That is when I noticed the blackened eye.
‘That’s all for the educated well-off people, Didi. For us, it is work and a night’s sleep without getting beaten up.’ She grinned her stained smile and went right back to her fight with the mop.
After that I followed her around from room to room trying to convince her to lodge a complain, go to a women’s cell or something. She stopped only once the floors were gleaming and threw back two reflections – one of a bruised woman in a sari tucked to expose her worn out knees, and the other with a newspaper tucked under her arm.
‘Nothing will happen. What will police do? And getting beaten up is no big deal. He is fine when he is not drunk. It is only when I am caught off guard that problem occurs. Otherwise, the kids and I usually crawl behind the sandook and sleep.’
That shook me. Not the fact that there are people capable of being monsters but the realisation that most women took it as an inseparable and perfectly acceptable part of their existence. They have learnt to be helpless. And they are reluctant to do anything about it.
The reluctance, however, is well placed. One trip to the police station, or the women’s cell and you’d know where the sympathy lies -Definitely not with my maid who has more bruises than clothes to cover her body, and not even with the educated, empowered woman in a bad marriage who goes there as a last resort. They are both told, sometimes blatantly and sometimes subtly, to hold their chins up, take blows and live with it.
So who is benefiting the celebration? Call me skeptical, but I honestly do not see the loud, all encompassing, and empowering message of the day trickling down to the people who really need that push. But you cannot call me a pessimist either, for I do cling on to hope. When I hear my mother talk about the house help’s daughter eagerly waiting for her every evening to read her share of books, I see hope. When I see the bruised maid losing her head because her daughter missed school, I see hope. When I see my students daring to dream, I see hope.
And this hope has nothing to do with the last message in the inbox from a superstore that declared I get to choose the discount I want since I am an empowered woman.

I Give Up

Dr. Tanu Shree Singh, a mom, an educator and a blogger. She writes about the
time during the school tests and examinations in India. The thought behind the
post applies globally. A must read for all the parents, we think. We recommend. 

I give up. I do not fit the popular definition of an ideal parent. I admit. It is that time of the year when most parents lose sleep. Exams are here. Televisions have been shut, remotes hidden. I tried. I honestly tried to get them to study as if their life depended on it. But I couldn’t prevent them from reading their choice of fiction during exams, or making their share of origami and scoubidou string rings. Thing is, I have not forgotten my time. I never took exams seriously. And I seem to be doing fine. So how do I pretend? I cannot. Hence, I give up.

Also, I apologised to the elder one today. I had been telling him that he wasn’t studying the way he was ‘supposed to’. Then in a rare introspective moment, realisation hit me- I was no one to judge his system. For all you know, it might work. Just because the convention demands that he study continuously does not mean that his system of getting up from the desk every 20 minutes, doesn’t work.  He is still at the stage of working out his method. Hence apology was in order.
Exams are made to be a bigger monster than they are. And I am in the process of learning that. I tried to be The Mom – the one who worries, takes furious notes, writes out assignments for the kids, and panics every time the word test is mentioned. I failed. How long can you pretend after all? I was never an organised child and frankly, the lessons that mum tried to impart turned me against the whole idea of being a studious kid anyway. She tried. She tried to be The Mom. She somewhat failed too. So I leave them to their own devices. They study – sometimes at the last minute, and sometimes in a way more disciplined manner than I could have ever dared. 
When I get after their lives, am I ensuring success, or am I preventing them from learning from failure? Does my bugging them motivate them to do better? I think not. There are other ways to motivate. So I made my decision today. I am going to let them shoulder their burden. If it is success – it is theirs and if it is failure -it is their own toast to raise. That is how they will learn. A huge part of exams, I believe, is not categorising us in neat packets labelled by the marks we get; it is to gauge our strengths and weaknesses. It is to pave a way forward – not to get flogged for getting half a mark less than the highest, or for that matter flunking.
So I give up. For I want them to fail. Failure is the only way they would learn to cope. Life doesn’t ensure success. Hence they need to learn. When they prepare for the mid-terms on their own, and give it the importance that they feel is due, they earn what they deserve, and hence get presented with an opportunity to learn. That is where I choose to step in. I choose to sit and analyse the pitfalls with them rather than making sure that they learn the answers word for word.
I give up on obsessing about that one word answer that they seem to have missed. We never talk about how the fifth part of the third question went. I’ll know how they did in due time when the results get declared. There is no point in dissecting the question paper the moment they step inside the house after an exam. I never did that as a student. So if I did now, it would be hypocritical. We heave a sigh of relief when the exam is done and leave the rest to the results. When the results come, we gauge them against the last time’s performance and see what can be done in the future. And then we discuss the book that we want to read or the flavour of ice cream we want to try.
I am still confused about the efficacy of our system but deep down it feels right. I can be the pillar they lean on, but I cannot be the staircase they use to climb up, for I am dated. When they run out of staircase, then what? I cannot let them fall into blind dark abyss of failures after that. They have to make their own paths, hitch up their own ropeways. So when they fall below their own expectation, or for that matter fail, I smile – not because I am the proverbial wicked witch mother, but because I see an opportunity for them to learn. 
 Tomorrow they are facing their last exam for now. The older one says he is done with the entire syllabus except one chapter. I have no idea about the number of chapters he was supposed to mug anyway. And the younger one says he is halfway through and is cool about it. He says he’ll manage. That is not possible – I know it. If, however, he manages – good for him. If doesn’t, we will hopefully learn for future.
So while my peers live through a curfew, ours is a fairly regular household – music still blares sometimes, I still steal cups of solitary coffee, I do not listen to them rattle off answers, and I try not to freak out over the last minute preparations. I have fought my set of battles. This battlefield is theirs to tackle. I choose to be an observer, a motivator, enforcer of basic discipline, and an anchor. They know I am here for support, and they also know I am not their navigation system. They know I will arm them, but I will not fight their battles. If they fall in a ditch, I shall pull them out, and try to set them on course again. I might warn them about ditches, but I will try not to lay planks over it for them to cross. They have to figure that bit out. And when they balance, and make it across, of course I’ll secretly let out a sigh of relief. I am a mother after all.

This post is authored by Dr.Tanu Shree Singh who has previously written many a times for Chatoveracuppa. This post of her’s first appeared here at mycity4kids.com.  We read it and realized this is exactly what we wanted to read, write and share with all of you. An important perspective on education that many of us believe in but not not many are talking about it. We are glad this mom did. 

Thank you to mycity4kids.com for allowing us to cross post this article here. 

My Daddy’s Day

My mobile phone screen flashed the sixteenth message declaring an unmissable offer for the Father’s day – a discount of ten per cent on a day spa, a free glass of wine, shirts, bags – you name it and I have it in the inbox. I just checked the latest one declaring a complimentary stay at a hotel exclusively for fathers and put the damn thing on silent mode. The screen continued to flash. Father’s day – one day marked on the calendar exclusively for dads. I peep into the boys’ room and I find them making greeting cards, evident from shreds of paper and open bottles of paint strewn all over the floor next to a sleeping dog with a tinge of blue in his fur. I quietly leave as I didn’t want to be flooded with requests for being their art critic of the day.
It is Saturday, and I have missed all last minute enticing offers for Father’s day tomorrow. I am not a cynic. I do not turn and scoff at all the days that have cropped up in our side of the world during the last two decades or so. In fact I think it is a nice idea to stop once in a while and thank the people who matter, make them feel loved and in case of Father’s Day, make them feel like the Marvel Superhero that they are.  As far as the discounted goods are concerned – I shall give it  a miss. Do fathers really need gifts? Of course not! A superhero just needs his cape. Gifts are to make sure a bunch of companies do not shut shop.
‘So what are you going to give nana, mum?’ Vivaan asked without looking up from the final piece of a quilted flower that he was sticking on to his card. ‘What do you think? Will papa like this?’ He didn’t wait for my answer and I ended up where I didn’t want to be – the critic who couldn’t truly be critical. As he ran off, I thought about his question – what was I going to give him? What could I give him? Can any discount coupon or a complimentary spa day really thank the one and only superman there is?
The proverbial ‘our times’ never had a special day designated to celebrate the man who mattered the most. Moms always got the cuddles but fathers mostly hid behind knitted brows and a bushy mustache. But every once in a while the cape showed and they saved the world – like the day I came back with all limbs scratched from a bicycle race that had happened too soon. The boys had sped past and jeered at my wobbly pedaling. Obviously I chased, sped past but couldn’t apply breaks. Papa’s favourite medicine for scrapes and cuts was the Old Spice After-shave. It stung. His remedy– he’d give us his hand to bite on. The more it stung, the harder we bit and he quietly dressed our wounds. As we grew older, he got many bites.
Having grown into an obnoxious teenager, birthdays were more resentful than fun. On one such birthday, mum and dad decided to take me shopping. Halfway through south extension market, mum and I were not talking since I couldn’t make up my mind about what I wanted and worse appeared mostly disinterested. The superman, however, believed (and still does) that birthdays are special days even for the kids who were bent upon being a pain in the backside. So from south ex we went to Karol Bagh and anyone who knows Delhi would understand that parking a car there required a particularly high level of commitment to the cause of shopping. That was equally disastrous and the two women bickered more but he very patiently drove us to Connaught Place. And the disgruntled teenager was suddenly transformed into a wide-eyed six year old. He bought me my first aquarium. That one smile on my face seemed to have erased all that I had put them through. So how do you thank the man for being so patient and resisting whacking me that day. I know now that I would have driven my boys back home from the first shop they acted like brat. But he didn’t – birthdays had to be truly special.
Last evening while driving back, Ishaan asked, ‘Mum who is going to teach me how to drive?’ He likes to have all things cleared way before hand.
‘I will or maybe papa can. Nana taught me, you know.’
His groans of disapproval were drowned by the smile that found its way on my face. Grand Trunk Road, twenty years ago, he sat beside me as I drove at barely thirty km/h . The honking from the cars behind me was making me nervous and he calmed me down. I still remember the confidence in his voice when he said , ‘Bebu, You keep driving, Whoever is in a hurry can always overtake.’ I will never know if he was freaking out on the inside, as at that moment all I could see was his cape.
All it takes to brighten up his face is his children. You need to see his eyes that easily brim over on hearing anyone mention how great his kids have turned out.  He’ll never admit it though. Supermen are tough that way. From baking a chocolate cake in a pan to buying the hottest trend of the times – a balloon skirt – he has done it all. He has never written elaborate cards and rarely reciprocated ‘I love you’s ’ with ‘me too’ – it is mostly a hesitant ‘thanks.’ Yet, I know that for him the only people that matter may be a tad bit more than his two kids are his grand-kids. Yeah, those four buggers are blatantly stealing our thunder now. Nevertheless, I remain his princess and bhaiya(brother) his shining star. The younger lot are more like the adorable pixies.
Then, is a day enough to thank the belief he has in us? We could fall, stumble, scrape our knees all over again but we will never be afraid for we know that there is a man standing behind us (with his cape flowing behind him) who believes we can reach the farthest star. No, a single day is not enough but it sure is a nice way of letting him know all over again that he is the best in the business.
So while the pixies are painting an elaborate card and planning an exquisite breakfast for their father, I am doing nothing. Like every year I will call him and wish him and he will say ,’ What Father’s day? It’s all a gimmick!’ followed by a whisper of a thanks when I tell him , ‘I love you papa.’

Story Credit And Photo Credit : Dr.Tanushree Singh. Tanushree is a frequent storyteller at Chatoveracuppa. She is a parent to two boys, a lecturer in Psychology and has a very interesting perspective on bringing up children and is a blogger herself. She blogs at tanushreesingh.wordpress.com.

Momster In Law ?


As we continue to celebrate mother’s this week, today we talk about the most infamous and most spoken about person and relationship in this world. The Mother In Law. Unfortunately, this mother is mostly spoken about in a bad light. So here’s a refreshingly balanced post from Dr.Tanu Shree Singh that we thought was apt to post this week (previously published on her blog). Take a pause, read it and we hope you celebrate this Mother’s Day with you mom and also with the Momster In Law.
Picture a woman with a halo and angel wings. She has the most benevolent smile, love dripping from her honey sweet words, and her soothing shadow forever protecting you from the harshness that life has to offer. That’s mum. Now add the suffix ‘in-law’ and poof! The halo disappears, and horns take place. A forked tail whips about and the soft wings are replaced by batwings. The smile is there, albeit a crooked one, exposing fangs. This is the true picture if all the rants on social networking sites are to be believed.
Before I proceed, I would like to dispel any notions that you might have about me as a daughter-in-law or for that matter, my own personal devil – the ‘fanged’ mother-in-law. I am nowhere close to the ideal bahu(daughter in law)as projected by the multiple soaps on the television(reference to TV shows in India), nor am I as evil as shown by some. I do not sport make up at bedtime, and do not sleep with a ton of jewellery. I rarely cook, do not embroider or knit, and light a diya(lamp)in the temple only on Diwali. Now for the mother in law – she doesn’t have a piercing gaze forever fixed on me trying to keep me away from the apple of her eye. She loves to cook and secretly hopes that I’ll someday learn to cook like her. Her sole purpose in life is not to make my life miserable and neither is it to find faults in whatever I do. So does that make us the ideal pair? Of course not! But does it make either of us as evil as some of the online rants claim us to be?  Sigh, nope. No drama on that front either.  
I am no crusader and if I haven’t emphasised enough earlier, not even remotely close to the idea of the ‘good bahu.’ And my mother-in-law hasn’t sprouted angel wings either. However, we are good together. We can gossip about the most inane stuff over tea, disagree over just about everything and be at loggerheads. But one thing that remains undisputed is that we both love the poor man that connects us, a hell of a lot. What I fail to understand is why the love takes the shape of an Olympic event for a whole lot of women out there? Really? You think the mother-in-law wants to win over the man and is forever coming up with schemes to do just that? That, I am afraid, is probably a misconception in most cases- she doesn’t need to compete. Period. And then, there are some more blunders that we choose to commit everyday:
The first mistake that we make: Compare. Do you compare your children with each other? Or (if there have been) ex-boyfriends with the husband? Then why compare the poor mother-in-law with your own mum? That is an unfair competition that she has already lost before even attempting to compete. Why can’t she be respected, loved or at least tolerated for being your husband’s mom?
The second: Expect.Women have this magic beanstalk of an expectation from the mother in law. The more you climb it, the taller it gets. If she helps you care for the little one, you do not like her ideas and ultimately end up making fun of her on public forums online, or endlessly gossiping to your friends about how she thinks coconut oil is better than the baby oil for massage. Just rub the damn oil, woman. The brand/type of oil is not going to determine muscle strength of the scrawny bundle. And God forbid, if she decides to give you your space, or plain and simple refuse to pitch in and be the unpaid maid – she just sprung an extra horn and spikes to go with it. She is the mother-in-law after all. Damned if she does and damned if she doesn’t. 
The third: Differential treatment. So you think that your mother -in-law can never be like your mum? Bull’s eye. Thing is, if you make a mistake, your mother can shout at you, put you in the naughty corner or skin you. But all hell breaks loose the moment the husband’s birth-mother even points a shaky finger (or for that matter a firm one) at anything. Your mum could gift you crap but you’d frame it, and nail it to the most visible wall and sigh every time you pass it by.  The mother-in-law’s gift would probably languish in a corner unless you have already given it away to the maid.
The fourth : Narcissism. Really? Just because you are a new mom, or a mother of two wild toddlers, the world should revolve around you? One look at the multiple forums on networking sites and you can draw these neat statistical charts – proportion of the poor, tortured Daughter-in-laws versus the pampered ones. The latter, is a thin line hugging the X-axis if you were to make a bar chart. And why do you need to be pampered exactly? Ah! Because you are the daughter-in-law. Yeah.
I can go on and on. But most of you have already drawn up red flags, or stopped reading beyond the first few lines. If you are still here with me, shout out so that I can duck to avoid the brickbat. The fact still remains – no one is perfect. I, the daughter-in-law, and her, the mother-in-law – we are both normal human beings, full of flaws, opinions and attitude. But would we ever hate each other, ridicule each other on public forums, or think of novel ways to hurt each other. Come on! We do have better things to do! If anything, I sympathise with her. Ask my mum. I was a tough cookie to raise. They must have done a secret happy dance the day I got married!
I am not saying that all people with the suffix ‘in-law’ attached to them are angels sent from heaven but then, neither are the ones without any such honour. We have all sorts of people in this world – but to discriminate against them based on their designation or membership to a particular class/group is called…? Yup. That’s right.
Next time, when you have this overwhelming urge to tell the entire world what a vile, scheming character (though the adjectives I read online are nowhere near this civil) your mother-in-law is, stop. Think. She might not be perfect, but she gave birth to the man you decided to marry….hang on! Maybe that’s it. Ah! So that’s what the grudge is about!

Are you a Bibliophile ?

 

Photo Credit : Soumi Haldar For Chatoveracuppa


After a fortnight of constant hammering, electric saw working at eardrum shattering levels, two grinning carpenters who forever reeked of cheap tobacco, and endless arguments with one of them about the finishing, it is done. Our book corner is ready. The elder one put his arm around my shoulder (he loves to do that now that he is my height) and said, ‘I think I’ll have just two empty shelves once I am done organising all books. Don’t worry, ma. We’ll soon fill those up too, won’t we?’

Sigh. Yes we would. We are in love – we swoon to the smell of the book, run our fingers over the page to feel the illustrations, listen to each other go on and on about the ones we loved reading, talk about them to every willing (or unwilling) ear, and are forever wide eyed when we enter a bookstore.

We are addicted. And as a service to mankind we decided to list, as objectively as possible, the symptoms of this addiction which so far has seen no cure. You know you are hopelessly addicted to books if:
  1. You get the excerpts from various books for a writer’s workshop, and you spend the next hour ordering all of them online.
  2. You always have books in your shopping carts across different online shops, waiting for you to finally break,  and reconcile with that grand total at the bottom, and click on the order button. That, at most takes 12 hours.
  3. To make matters worse, the websites keep sending you mailers listing the ‘books you might love.’ They are mostly right about your choices, resulting in more books in that online shopping cart.
  4. The bookshop owner lights up the moment he sees you.
  5. You can never return from a bookstore empty handed, although the book you were originally looking for is still unavailable.
  6. Your friends know from your tone over the phone, if at all you take the call, that you are buried in the pages, and are either chasing a beast, or are about to be murdered.
  7. After reading a great book, you frantically look for people you can recommend it to, or shriek with, while bouncing around.
  8. You have more member/discount cards of bookstores than you have credit cards.
  9. No book ever seems expensive though at the end of the month you end up wondering where your hard earned money went.
  10. You never have enough bookshelves.
  11. When someone mentions a great book, you either jot it down if you are smart, or if you are like me, you sheepishly mail or call that person the next day for the names again.
  12. You realise that the telephone company has disconnected your internet due to non-payment only when you try to log on to buy more books.
Prognosis : Bleak. Very Bleak.

Note: If you have observed one or more symptoms in yourself, do not panic. Just design that reading corner, grab a bean bag, pick a book and surrender. Resistance is futile and cure unknown.

We know many of our readers are book lovers and voracious readers. We are sure you will love reading this piece written by Dr. Tanu Shree Singh and has previously been posted on her blog. She is a parent to two boys, a lecturer in Psychology and has a very interesting perspective on bringing up children and is a book lover herself. We are thankful to her for being so gracious in allowing us to share her post here again. 

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