Much Ado About Ahmed

At this time, if you Google Ahmed the results that will come flying are only about the teenager who was mistaken for a terrorist by a supposedly over-cautious, over-anxious, overzealous school. But it seems to that there are again, two sides to every story.

Ahmed Mohamed. Who is he? Just a person of color? A teenager? Or an individual from a religion that’s widely misunderstood, reviled and feared? How about we put them all together and add a device to the mix which does look like many bombs I’ve seen in papers or on television and you have a huge faux pas which is trending on social media and making an unlikely celebrity of someone who should be playing ball like other kids his age and not have to shoulder this media circus.

Now this is my personal viewpoint entirely. Was he wronged against. Yes. Undoubtedly. That’s been proven. Was the school too hasty in branding him a terrorist or even thinking of him along those lines? Again. Yes. Were they wrong in thinking what they did? Now that’s the gray area I can’t skate over.

The last few years have seen a devastating rise in school shootings, racial profiling and anti-Islam propaganda in the United States. How do I know this? Well pretty much every source of communication is putting that message out real-time.

Teenage perpetrators of hate crimes, homicides are inexplicably on the rise. So from where I stand, when a child of a religion that some loonies seem to speak for and act as vanguards of; makes a “device” which looks less like what an innocuous clock ought to and more like pictures of bombs left on sidewalks cafes, libraries, parks across the world; it is understandable that his gestures, his actions, and ultimately he and his device will be feared and misunderstood.

I mean didn’t the Commander-in-Chief of the United States attack a country that left thousands dead, on intel that’s yet to be proven accurate, about weapons of mass destruction?! Fear psychosis or just plain old fear of the unknown is a terrible motivating force. Unfortunately, Ahmed became a casualty to it and underwent things he shouldn’t have. But let’s not be in too much of a hurry to condemn those who suspected or misunderstood the boy. They haven’t crossed the point of no-return just yet.

Maybe they should have tried to be the  adults that they are and tried logic, relied on their knowledge and understanding of the kind of person Ahmed is. But the times we live in warp a lot of things even if they are benign and warped they may remain.

When I mentioned my point of view to my husband, he smirked and said I would fit in well in Texas. His minimalistic way of saying that I exhibited trigger-happy, redneck inclinations. See? Stereotypes are alive and kicking every which way we look.

But I still believe that while reparations may not be enough or even possible for Ahmed from the town of Irving or his school, as he grows up he might eventually understand what led them to treat him as public enemy #1. If he doesn’t, he might consider asking his parents to fill him in seeing that they are from Sudan. Even if they might not have lived in the ‘shoot-first-ask-later’ conditions, they will still understand turbulence, in the world and in the human mind.

Bengali Parents: A Glimpse Into The Paaglaami

‘Paaglaami’ is a favorite word of the Bengali people. It means madness. The word paaglaami is derived from one of the uber favorite words of theirs as well…”paagol”. This word is never said in a droll, flat manner. Oh no..the word paagol is uttered in a manner which reeks of food being relished and tasted thoroughly before it goes down the gullet.

Why did I start the post with these particulars words? Well today at lunch at a restaurant we frequent, well…frequently…I eavesdropped on a youngish Bong couple who had a cute little daughter who was being a typical toddler. The father was incessantly trying to get her to behave…a losing battle if there ever was one. But the specific verbiage that he was using made me realize that Bongs really are a very peculiar kind of parents on the whole.

Right from the birth of the baby, the obsession with the kid catching a cold is apparent. Ergo the crazy knitting of booties, mittens and horror of horrors…the blasted monkey cap aka a balaclava. Each family will have legions of old women who have foisted these elements of torture on their own offspring (and will swear by it till their dying breath) and who voluntarily knit these caps for the newborns and toddlers and insist on pulling the itchy and scratchy wool onto their heads and don’t let go till the kicking and screaming kid (who looks like a banker robber in the making) is thoroughly uncomfortable!

As a Bong parent myself, I have to admit that the urge to discipline and have your kid heed your words is nearly an overpowering one. It’s almost as if it’s a motto- Am Bong. Must Scold. Loudly.

Take today’s couple for example. What the heck is a toddler to do at a restaurant but play with the cutlery and the place mats and basically turn things topsy-turvy?

The father, who clearly envisioned himself in the role of the Lord and Master, kept telling his wife rather pompously “ekta thaapod lagao toh”. Translation- smack her one! Now this wasn’t seriously meant. This was just for the kid’s ears. And that’s the oddity that makes the Bong parents who they are.

The child must be made aware of all the potential spanking that lurks in its present and future. This is parenting 101. Then come the non-verbals. The non-verbals are rather short-lived because Bengali parents can’t go too long without being verbal. It’s a disease. But they can’t be silent. Call it a gene mutation if you will.

Even if one of the parents resorts to silent treatments, the other circles the child like a hyena closing in for the kill and starts muttering what the immediate future will hold viz spanks, red cheeks, and threats of all shapes and sizes and in ever increasing theatricality.

The father I saw today was hilarious! He kept trying to give his daughter the “eye of shame” but clearly he hadn’t cottoned onto the fact that pre-preschoolers won’t really maintain eye contact especially in a public place where there’s so much going on all around them. Seeing that his daughter wasn’t responding well to the unspoken rebukes, he repeatedly told his wife how ‘dushtu’ (naughty) their daughter was and” uff bhishon badabadi” (another favorite word meaning something is being taken to its limits!) was taking place! His entire speech was highlighted in bold and he had clearly got a good deal on exclamation marks as well!

The mother placidly mentioned that their less than hyper daughter (Hey I know hyper…I have a boy) must be sleepy ‘eyijonye..,nahole eto paaglaami kothay korey’? Meaning…she must be sleepy else why would she be acting up this way.

The response from the daughter? Banging the fork and spoon together. Yeah…that’s lunacy for you! Someone get the Adderall!

So during the meal that was punctuated with “aar paarchhina re baba eyi meyeta ke niye” (can’t manage with this girl anymore!) I noted that more and more Bong parents tended to express dissatisfaction even if the situation wasn’t quite so dire.

Rationale? Maybe if things are envisioned as being tougher and more difficult but they fall short of the mark, the result is a happier situation for the parents. Who knows?

But Bongs will scold. And happily so.

Even if it’s a kid who acts like a mini-hurricane or a rather placid little girl who is behaving true to type, the paaglaami we see and express is truly of a ‘orey baba’ extent!

That’s how it’s been for generations and so it shall remain. For that’s who we are. Proudly so.

Eeesh!

Note: the author is a Bengali. Descended from Bengali parents and basically an affectionate observer of all things Bengali. Never a critique..oh no! Lokey ki bolbe?! (what will people say?)

Yet Another Epiphany

I had another Ah-HA! experience this morning while “attempting” to explain to MLM why something is desirable and why something isn’t. People (parenting experts, those whose kids are no longer a pain-in-the-ass and those who are blissfully childless) usually say that it sets a bad example to communicate with a growing child using largely negatives viz “NO”, “NOT”. “DONT” et al. However, given that the vocabulary of most children who aren’t prodigies or savants of some kind are largely rudimentary till the middle school years, it becomes a tough job navigating the world of communicating what you want with what your child can comprehend.

But I have finally realized the biggest challenge I face day in and day out while trying to bring this boy up- I have to be an adult in the face of his childishness. And therein lies the rub. I no longer know how to be a child and he’s not reached that stage where he knows anything else but how to be a child.

Just a few minutes back, I had another locking-horns session with my offspring. Reason? He’s been using a turtle stencil to draw outlines on an otherwise pristine ivory colored wall. Again.

The first time this was noticed and commented upon, he apologized. In a flash. And went off to do whatever it is he does when one road to mischief has been shut down. Today when I noticed the second drawing I called him to ask why he had drawn on the walls again when he knew it wasn’t appreciated at all. He simply replied that he wanted to. No defiance. No attitude. Just a simple statement of fact.

And that in nutshell is how children usually are. While some are more compliant, for reasons known only to them, others are more willful in the sense that they are guided largely by their whims. A state that many older people fall back into in their advanced years.

But try as I might, I couldn’t explain to MLM why I was upset. He finally came up with a solution of wiping it off with water. But the crux of the problem escaped him and it entirely escaped me how to clue him in.

As adults we live with and in cliches. We stay in the lines. It starts by learning to color in them, writing within in, standing in them and also driving in them. We don’t always turn into lab rats or hamsters in their wheels but we become regulated. And can also see the benefits of such a life for its opposite is chaos in some form or the other.

But a child, especially one right out of early childhood is all about seeing his or her environment as a giant canvas, playground or anything without boundaries. They want to color furiously all over the paper. Never mind that the dam fruit they were to color got buried under the strokes. They want to scribble on walls because that’s the largest unending surface that surrounds them everyday. They want to climb higher, use the bed as a trampoline because everything that gives them a sense of freedom, even briefly, is exhilarating. Never mind that you’ll be replacing the mattress or the bed springs will poke through before long. It’s just so much more fun than just calmly lying down somewhere and sleeping.

And this is why I blogged this. Right here and now. So when I’m about to have an aneurysm tomorrow or day after from whatever my son wasn’t supposed to have done but did so anyhow; I can take a quick peek at this post before my head blows up. Hell! I’ll have to clean up that mess too so I might as well read these pearls of wisdom and count to a 1000 and keep telling myself there’s always school and the next summer holidays are a year away.

Amen!

The Blessing Of Being A Daughter’s Mother

Now let me start off by saying that having a son isn’t a curse or a non-blessing either. Even if mine does make me long for Valium on most days, he is truly the light, noise…err..sound of my life.

But back to why a daughter specially, is a blessing. A friend and ex-colleague of mine whom I have unfortunately not been in touch with for too many years has a birthday coming up. A landmark birthday in fact but the number will not be revealed…a woman has to have her secrets after all 🙂

Her daughter got my number from her and called me up a few minutes ago to tell me that she’s making a memory jar for her mom with the same number of friends that the age her mom’s turning.

It’s a total surprise and all her mother knows is that her daughter has access to her phone book and is probably calling some friends over for a surprise party…NOT!

With my friend’s birthday falling on a school night for her and her daughter and a Ph.D looming up in the horizon, a party is totally out of the question on her big day. But she’ll be spending it reading all the stuff her friends have penned down for her.

Who else but a girl would have thought of something like this? And the child is probably all of 15 going on 16.

Jeez…people have got to have more girls! And this girl has one helluva mother!

There’s A Dinosaur In My Bra!

No. I’m not high. Yes, I wish I was. And yes, I have a child. Ergo the weird things ending up where they ideally ought not to.

Sitting down and finding a clothes pin jammed up in your butt crack is passe. Stepping on Batman and theoretically emasculating him when you get up to pee at 4 in the morning is also so-been-there-done-that.

Now, having a wee serpent stare at you balefully while you rub the sleep out of your eyes and cope with an imminent heart attack is the new definition of normal. And while your nervous system gets even more nervouser and tells you to flee, the mother part of your brain tries to calm it down by saying, “There’s a 5-year old on the loose. That’s all.”

Having kids is honestly an adventure. And for quite a while, you’re going in blind. It’s a war on some days but for the most part it IS fun. They can wake up one morning and tell you they want to see stingrays and whale sharks (making you think you have a mini-Animal Planeteer on your hands and feeling good that the boy is growing up) and by evening on the same day they are watching the television upside down because apparently Pink Panther looks better that way.

And that’s what I’m going to tell myself while I fish out the mini-extinct lizard from my cups and set it down carefully next to the Triceratops, the hotwheels car and the Batman who has his head on backwards.

Never a dull moment!

Zero. Dark. 2:37 AM

I wanted my first post in the new year to be witty, funny, tongue-in-cheek but I guess I’ll be falling back on my old form of ranting about my kid. My forte in life et al.

This morning my darling ray of sunshine switched on all the lights in my room at 2:37 am and tapped me on my face till I woke up; to tell me he could feel the germs in his stomach moving around. Yikes.

I thought it was time for a visit to the loo and suggested as much, while scrambling from the bed and trying not to fall over the Batman figurine that mysteriously ended up underfoot or getting tangled in the bed sheets. But no. Apparently it wasn’t about going to the loo at all. My brat couldn’t sleep and had been thinking about the rumblings in his tummy and decided that a middle of the night bout of calisthenics would ease his mind and body.

So there I was, puffy eyed and puffier-faced with a severe case of bed hair, trying to focus myopic eyes on a 5-year old who was exercising in front of me and who wanted to discuss his tummy germs at length.

After pondering about tossing him out of the window and eventually nixing the idea, I managed to get him back into bed so we could discuss the way ahead. It seems he knew the course of treatment- no doctors but quite a bit of medicine, the yummy kind. And of course, no school. NATURALLY.

Kids are funny creatures. Their minds work in mysterious ways. They process information, look at things in a manner which is unique to their ages and bent of mind. Those were the things I was trying to tell myself as the hands of the clock crept closer to 3:00 am and the verbosity of my kid kept increasing.

Finally, I did the only thing that made any sense. The only thing that was a viable and legal resolution to the entire situation- I woke up his father, passed the buck and went off to sleep in another room.

I think that’s what I’ll try to do in 2015 more and more- react less. Not fight against the inevitable or the inexplicable. I’ll figure out how to tackle things and if I don’t succeed I’ll pull in an unsuspecting person and pull an escape routine on them 🙂

But seriously. Happy New Year blosgosphere peeps. Have an excellent year. May your thoughts and words never fail you and may you end up on more and more people’s’ reading lists as time goes by.

Salut!

Reblogged: What You Say Vs What They Hear

I keep wondering what is it that makes my kid do the opposite of what I ask (read threaten/yell) him to do.

These are the very regular occurrences in our house:
  • Stand still gets interpreted as be anything but still.
  • Be quiet or HUSH= keep chattering incessantly.
  • Just a minute/second= I want it NOW!
  • Give me a minute to catch my breath= peppered by demands.
  • No iPad/TV = GIVE iPad/TV NOW!
  • Let’s eat dinner= I want JAMP (jam).
  • Let’s each lunch= I want chips!
  • Let’s brush your teeth= eating the toothpaste.
  • Rinse your mouth properly= water trickling out of the corners of the mouth with zero rinsing having taken place.
  • Enough ketchup= squeezing out another massive glob of it.
  • Eat properly with the spoon= eating with both hands in one go and looking absolutely simian in the process.
  • DON’T=DO
  • ENOUGH= NEVER ENOUGH
  • I’M ANGRY WITH YOU= thousands of kisses rained on my face as a bribe.
  • GO STAND IN THE CORNER= slowly inching away from the corner and smiling like an evil monkey.
  • Let’s not put the Play Doh on the sofa= rubbing it even more into the fabric.
  • Don’t write on the walls= put handprints with paint instead.
  • GO TO SLEEP= STAY UP AN EXTRA HOUR JUST TO SPITE ME.
See what I mean!
Clearly I live in the Land of Opposite and MLM is King!