Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Doing Absolutely Nothing

Sometimes you get a slight breather from the myriads of stuff you've been tangling with over the years. And it is kind of interesting and instructive to look back....

She was one of those active types as a child. The type that rushes headlong into stuff because she needs to tryout what everyone else is doing. Including stuff , no one else is doing, because she thinks its so much fun.

Like when she learned how to cycle, from her brother, and was so thrilled with the balance, that she pedalled and pedalled , forgot the brakes, and stopped after she went headlong into a bush. Like the time she noticed that she could perform single-bar-somersaults on some restrictive bars put up at the lake side water entrance, and entertained all and sundry evening walkers with performances , till she once lost balance, fell down, and someone brought her home with a chin injury that needed stitches. Which of course needed two people to hold her, and one, a new male hospital attendant, fainted seeing all the stitching and blood, creating a separate crisis.

She took part in many annual days at school, besotted with the costumes, till swimming classes happened. And the excitement continued, but the venue changed. She took part in everything, fooled around once the classes were over, and once challenged her mother's friend to sit cross legged in water at the deep end, something she had been practicing. Her mother's friend got alarmed, and the lifeguard ended up putting a stop to this, explaining to her about the dangers of not being able to disentangle ones feet 15 feet below the water. She'd come home from workouts, and try lifting various people in the house, just to see if she was getting stronger.

Of course there was school. She loved things like English and history, and thought physics and algebra were a curse on mankind. It didn't help that the teaching was targeted at making smart people smarter and it ignored the folks below. And so she developed this thing, of not saying much in front of the teacher because she really didn't understand the lesson. The teacher added to that by making remarks like ,"You won't amount to much; you are no good at anything....etc"; difficult as it is to understand by us.

By and by, the school, as is the fashion today, got itself a counsellor person. And one day, her parents were asked to come see her.

Serious faces, some trying to read the mother, some, who knew the mother as a forthright person, secretly wondering how she would take this. And the counsellor very seriously said that her daughter was showing signs of "depression" ! When asked how she reached that conclusion , it seems the daughter remained quiet and uncommunicative in class. And wasn't very forthcoming in conversations with the counsellor. To the mother, who knew her child, this reeked of certain inabilities on the part of the counsellor. Did she study the child's history as a very young girl ? Did she talk to her friends ? Did she talk separately or otherwise with the parents ? NO.

It was time to move on. Explore other academic avenues. And Open Schooling gave an answer. The move was made, with the child's self esteem a bit scratched, but still intact. Sometimes, an ability, to not think too much about things, is a very useful thing. And the little girl was blessed with it. She thrived and flowered in the open schooling. She loved the mix of subjects and the way the knowledge was presented, and although the subjects were tough, she had immense motivation to study them. There were no ranks in class. The teacher would address the child as beta (=son), or beti (=daughter)....

School boards and college happened. She did well in the school boards. Percentages were useful and welcome but not the only important thing , and it was just fine that you put in, what was your best. Honestly. Which she did. College again had some very new subjects. And she found that although Maths was her Enemy no 1, the sort of maths she needed in the Food and Nutrition class , was interesting, and they allowed you the use of the calculator; they weren't testing your maths abilities, but your ability to decide how to get an answer to a calories calculation problem, something that you faced in real life. And so she excelled at the need based maths.

She has just got her final year results. And she has passed. She is now a graduate. She is also getting trained in some computer related software skills as well as skills that allow her to teach small children. Its a virtual weight of her parent's mind.

Our society, its mind spread thin over old thinking, rituals, age-old standards, new fangled opportunities and technologies, still thinks , that in any nice middle class home, having children who have graduated from college is the gold standard. Inability of someone to graduate is a cause of raised eyebrows. And discussions behind backs. Sometimes, changing your life to prioritise and help with your child's education problems, is questioned, and adversely commented on. Sometimes this concern shares space with time given by, say, the mother, to elder care in the family.

And so one learns to be strong, and focused, and recognize the wheat from the chaff.

But one wonders what would have happened, if the parent, on hearing the Depression diagnosis from a supremely unqualified unfortunately designated counsellor type, had subjected the child to medications and therapies . These kind of drugs can play havoc with your mind if one is unaware of the fact that they cannot be abruptly stopped and so on. In this case, the parents were lucky that they were medically bit more informed and educated since they read a lot and discussed things with their doctor friends routinely. And they knew their daughter. Well enough to ignore the errant counsellor person.

Which is not to run down counsellors, in general. There are some very outstanding counsellors around who do yeoman service in schools, instill confidence and self esteem in kids, and are full of useful knowledge and empathy. But schools seem to employ just anyone, without worrying about the quality, experience and their students.

But the most interesting comments upto now, have often come from those who are so completely immersed in careers, or in a life of such leisure, even the common sense emerges slowly.

The mother left a busy job after two decades and more, as it was then necessary to give more time to the young daughter and old folks in the family, simultaneously. As she now settles down, albeit slowly, to a slightly more relaxed life, one more responsibility in life sort of seen through, but several more on the horizon, a lot of those who criticised her decision to leave, thought her stupid to give up a source of income, often come up and ask, "But what do you do the whole day ?" ......

( Typical question from career types to housewives. But she has seen both sides. And equally enjoyed both. And been very busy at all times, particularly physically, within and without a "career" . After a long long time, she now treasures moments that allow her to read, meet friends, write, travel. Sometimes sleep. Spend time on hobbies. Sometimes just do nothing. She knows the problems are never over. But one must remain in balance to face whatever is served to one in life. And work honestly to find a solution)

But it's a typical question, asked by those, who despite "working", don't really know, that work isn't what someone else gives you, it is what you decide you need to do , and what you do, to solve a problem you face.

And so she, takes a deep contemplative breath, looks at her busy , questioning friends, gives them an evil grin, and says ,"Me ? Absolutely nothing !"



  1. Well said.

    I shudder to think what would've happened had the "diagnosis" of depression had not been questioned by the mother.

    Pills! The answer to everything, yes?!


  2. Medicine seems to be the key these days. I remember Mom telling me that if my brother was born in this day and age, the school would have requested him to take medicine, because he was always wanting to move and never focusing. The true problem was that he was bored. School was too easy for him and he needed to be challenged.

    A good friend of mine has a daughter and son. Her son has aspergers. He was failing at the Catholic school. My friend wanted to move him into a Baptist school, where the classes are small and there's more individual attention given to each student. My friend's husband was the biggest issue. He fought long and hard to keep his children in the Catholic system. Eventually, though, with near failing grades, he relented and their son is in the smaller Baptist classes. Their son is excelling and has become more social.

    Children aren't robots and shouldn't be treated as easy to medically "fix."

  3. You have touched on subjects close to my heart in this post. The issue of depression and other "diagnosis" is something I struggle with (thanks for your comment, BTW). These things are very subjective, I have to remember to trust my mother's heart.

    But I'm saddened by the divide women make among themselves about working and mothering. Why can't we support each other, instead of judging. That is such a personal decision, different for everyone. I can picture your daughter saying "nothing" with a swell of pride. A good answer to a silly question!

  4. Yes ! Nothing indeed !

    There are ever so many teachers who are downright depressing. And there are those that inspire !

    yet again, there are parents who drive kids to pressure valves and there are others that help them grow by letting them be !

    many many congratulations to you and to her !

  5. You know UK, I hope I remember this post if I am in a similar situation in say 15-20 years. The pressure of society kinda lets parents believe what the system tells them no? I really appreciate the courage you and your family showed! Kudos.
    And congratulations to the little girl who is now a graduate :)

  6. Thoughtfully written and very thoughtprovoking, too.

    One shudders to think how many young people may be wasting their potential because they do not 'fit' perfectly into a mechanised 'system' of education.

    Congratulations to both of you!

  7. '........that work isn't what someone else gives you, it is what you decide you need to do , and what you do, to solve a problem you face.'

    well said. As for counselors they mint money for filling parents minds with fear and concern about their child. Sometimes an only one.Their verdict needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. Like a senior paediatrician told me that my son was an adenoids baby and would be a slow learner when all he had was severe tonsilitis. I took him to an ENT specialist who was surprised that a doctor of her stature and experience should have said something like that. I cannot easily forget the sleepless nights that followed after the verdict was guven. She was actually trying to impress a bunch of interns who, thanks to her would neither recognize the symptoms of adenoids nor that of tonsils.

  8. Well said! :)... whose story is it? urs? :)

  9. Their son is excelling and has become more social.

    Work From Home

  10. That was so thought provoking! and so beautifully written.

    'But it's a typical question, asked by those, who despite "working", don't really know, that work isn't what someone else gives you, it is what you decide you need to do , and what you do, to solve a problem you face.' - Absolutely! I could not agree more!

  11. Hey UK,

    Sometimes, I seriously wonder what they mean by education... like in the above post there are so many people who are illiterate but are educated, their knowledge of things is par excellence

    And to think of teachers, well reminded of Tare Zameen Par where non of the teachers nor the parents could diagnose the problem of the child. Strange! even after medical science has advanced to such an extent, It's shameful

    And that question about what I do all day is one I get almost a dozen times a day!! Well that's the best answer to keep them shut and see green at the same time


  12. PearlUnfortunately, most people think like that.

    Aleta So true. Children are never robots....

    Lou You said it. Its all about being sensible and trusting a mother's heart....

    KaviThank you. Honestly, this was a huge step....

    GThank you. And if I am around after 15-20 years, I will be glad to help you out...:-)

    Manju Thank you. It really is celebration time. Nicer because its so hard earned...

    HHG Just be grateful you decided not to believe the first doctor. Sometimes degrees and status of the doctor kind of impress you, but a lot have no empathy for patients.

    Maggi :-)

    Nishant ??

    wordsanddreamzThank you.

    PNAThank you.

  13. My mother is a housewife and the istriwallah bhaiya once asked Aai on his routine delivery runs - Aunty, aap din bhar kya karti ho? :))

    I am a young mother but this post makes me realise to believe in my mother's instinct and know my child well...Am so glad everything worked out okay for the girl..

  14. Very well-written. I especially loved the part - 'work isn't what someone else gives you...'. Probably because it is very relevant to me at this point in time. I shall quote you the next time someone asks me !