Categories
Musings

Pause. And resume.

(A conversation on ‘hope’ between a mom and her 14-year-old daughter)

By Nidhi Mishra

Yesterday, someone shared with me a video by Serena Williams that went viral last year, where she is emotionally urging her little baby girl to grow up and take to a sport, ANY sport, but some sport. I remembered watching it together with my young daughter — in fact, many times over.

But, somewhere, during the repeats, I wondered what it was about this message from Serena that moved me so much. I have never really played any sport myself. I did inherit the family culture of an impeccable and exhaustive viewing of all Tennis grand slams, but it did not impact me any other way personally.

My daughter loved the video and gathered that I was trying to relay to her Serena’s message about the life lessons from sports. But seeing a tiny tear curl up in the corner of my eye, she figured it meant something more to me.

“Why are you so moved by this video?” she pestered, not happy that she was missing some point. The lack of a response from me made her venture to guess why Serena seemed important to me right now, while our lives seem to have come to a standstill.

Was it the daunting speed of Serena’s aces or the power of her backhand?

Was it the unmatched records of her Grand Slam victories?

Or was it the emotional appeal in the video, Serena trying to pack her life’s wisdom in a two-minute video, for her baby?

The answer I gave seemed terribly simple for all the flush of emotions I had been displaying.

“It is because she is a mom,” I said.

I could see my daughter had a loud “So what?” written all over her face.

“It is just that she is a mom,” I continued. “A returning mom. Doesn’t matter that she is returning to sport. It is the overpowering image of a mom returning to her life, reclaiming her life, the life she always knew before she hit pause. You won’t understand it. But every mom will.”

After some moments, my daughter replied, “You are right Ma. Yes, I get that it is hard. But I may not get HOW hard. I do understand now that when we talk of or watch Serena, it is not just her game.

 “I am conscious she is ‘getting back’ to her game, which is very different from ‘getting on’ with her game.

“It mustn’t be easy, after going through the life changing experience of becoming a mom. I don’t claim to know how much it means to young moms out there, but I do understand it means something. Someone to look up to. Someone like you, who pulled through. Some one who gives you hope.

“And I know what you will say now Ma, more than the game and the technique, Serena is sending out a message. As a mom. To another mom like you. And to any young girl like me, who is told there are so many reasons why women can’t take up the demands of a life-long career, sports or not. Well, there is one reason less now.”

There was something reassuring about hearing my daughter talk that way. It doesn’t take an expert to glean through and pick a few drops of hope from someone else’s story, someone else’s experience, however unknown their territory.

Now is not the time to convince our young ones that we have faced hardships. Now is the time to tell them that we lived through hardships and will do so yet again.

For now, I would only like to tell myself and all people out there, moms or not, working or not —

Many of us have hit pause before in our lives. And hard as it was, we always managed to resume.

There is no reason why we wont, this time.

Serena William’s video message for her little girl

Nidhi Mishra is an ex-banker who pivoted from a 10 year banking career to her passion for reading and luring others to read through her startup Bookosmia (smell of books). Bookosmia, a children’s content company has grown at a furious rate in the last two years, building an enviable bank of 270+ Intellectual Property, focused on bringing. She went to Lady Shri Ram College , Delhi University to pick up an Honours in Mathematics and a feminist flair on the side. An MBA from IIM Lucknow took her to a decade long career in the financial sector, finally quitting as VP, HSBC as she suffers from a (misplaced) sense of satisfaction and a drive to do something meaningful with her time. You can write to her at nidhi@bookosmia.com. Nidhi’s first children’s book “I Wish I Were” is retelling of an old Indian folklore in partnership with Parvati Pillai, ex-design Head of Chumbak received much global acclaim and is available on Kindle. 

Categories
Musings

Corona and my uncle

By Archana Mohan

Apparently, my 75 year old uncle, Kailash, is immortal.

His astrologer, the one whose perennially hanging VIP undies on the terrace are a Google Maps landmark, told him so.

I quote my uncle verbatim. “My Jupiter is in the 6th house and even if I want to, I cannot get killed this year.”

And so, whereas we ‘snowflakes’ stay at home and wash our hands till the fate line disappears, cool dude Kailash walks around the empty streets every evening without a mask or care in the world.

Do you know a Kailash? You probably do.

Do you mutter under your breath when they wash their hands and fail to do a rotational rub of their thumb clasped in the other hand’s palm? Ah! Newb.

Do you roll your eyes when they dismiss it as a ‘made in China’ defective virus?

And when they send you forwards on Whatsapp about the power of raw ginger juice in keeping the virus at bay, what do you do? Do you smirk, ignore and go back to the Mexican drug cartel show you have been binge watching?

Congratulations! People like Uncle Kailash aren’t the problem. You and I are.

We mock these senior citizens about being PhDs from Whatsapp University but forget that the same university sends them gory images of victims and statistics that probably scare the daylights out of them.

They know that people of their age, especially those with underlying health conditions are twice as likely to develop serious outcomes from the corona virus as compared to otherwise younger, healthier people.

And that is why they forward messages that claim to know ‘nature’s cures’. They aren’t stupid. They are scared.  And raw garlic, gives them hope.

The virus wasn’t made in China. It is being made here, at our home, everyday. For when an ‘Uncle Kailash’ acts out and refuses to conform to the lockdown, he isn’t ‘pig headed’. He is scared.

Scared that 200 people in your area have been quarantined. Scared that he and his family will be one of ‘those’.

He doesn’t have the luxury to switch off from the crisis and ‘work from home’ as you do. He cannot meet the friends who sail on the same boat as him. He struggles with video calls. He is worried sick about his daughter in the States. He keeps checking his medicine cabinet. Anything can happen.

He hasn’t told you but he knows that even though his astrologer says he is immortal, he really isn’t. He knows that life is like a mutual fund investment. It is subject to market risks and even if you read all scheme related documents carefully, you could still get burnt.

He is so petrified by what is going on, that he cannot sleep. He has questions. Many, many of them and he is afraid to know the answers.

He is dying to speak. To unburden. He yearns for a kind word. A reassuring pat. A kiss from a grandchild. A cup of hot tea, with extra ginger. New gossip about the neighbour. Anything. Even an off-color joke about his favourite actress just to lighten up, to take his mind off the fear. Even if, for just a few minutes.

But where to start?  He sneaks a look at you. You are wearing headphones.  Your eyes are glued to your device. You are probably busy. He really doesn’t want to intrude. He backs off.

Later that night, he sees that your phone is charging. Perhaps he could try one more time. He gathers courage and sends you a forward.

Ting!  A new Whatsapp message.

‘Congratulations! UNESCO has declared ‘Jana Gana Mana’ as the best national anthem of the world,’ it reads. You read it but don’t react. Old Uncle Kailash at it again. These oldies! The worst mistake we made was introducing them to Whatsapp.

87% charged. That’s good enough.

You plug the phone out from the charging cable and get back to your binge watching.

You are watching ‘Contagion’, a 2011 movie about a deadly virus that is about to cause misery to the entire human race.

Unknown to you, there is a deadly virus in the other room eating up an old, terrified man.

It is called loneliness.

Archana Mohan is  the co-founder of Bookosmia (smell of books) a children’s content company that delivers brilliant content to the world through Sara — India’s first female sports loving character. Her book Yaksha, India’s first children’s book on the dying folk art form of Yakshagana received wide acclaim. She has worked as  a  journalist, corporate blogger and editor working with names like Business Standard, Woman’s Era, Deccan Herald, Chicken Soup for the Soul and Luxury Escapes Magazine.  She won the Commonwealth Short Story contest’s ‘Highly Commended Story’ award in 2009. She loves interacting with budding writers and has conducted journalism workshops in colleges.Do check out Bookosmia’s website https://bookosmia.com/about-us/ for more information.

Categories
Musings

Corona in a teacup!

By Nidhi Mishra

As I write this, I am sitting at my workstation at home, a cup of hot green tea in hand, like any other day. But that is where ‘like any other day’ ends.

My husband is working from home, no longer out on his weekly tour. The kids are no longer at school. We are watchful of every sneeze, alarmed at every cough. At least, three sanitisers would greet you on the way from my apartment, down the elevator to the ground floor reception. An email from Google is asking me if my business is affected because of corona virus; forwards from well meaning (and often ill-informed) relatives detailing baffling ‘facts’, even the magical cure of ginger garlic. WhatsApp groups are full of passionate debates about the ‘right’ degree of panic this should evoke. I myself am struggling to find the ‘cool’ response to this crisis, while chiding a friend in Philippines for not panicking and taking the next flight home, even though it will mean fourteen days of quarantine for her. Tom Hanks contracted the virus. The Canadian Prime Minister’s wife also did.

I am terribly hooked to Stephen Colbert’s daily monologue at the Late Show. It works like a wonder to cheer me up on my worst days. Today, as I turned to my daily dose, it took me steeply downhill as the host put up the gloomiest narrative, struggling to do a live show where a live audience is no longer allowed.  This was it for me! I do not know if the virus has physiologically affected one or not, it certainly has in every other way — professional, parental, societal. It seems to be everywhere.

Some of my friends love to read and exchange pieces of thoughtful good writing. A few days back, we discussed one such piece and immediately agreed how cosmologists have the most beautiful commentary on life, as they can distance themselves from the myopic view of daily human life and zoom out into the universe. It must be easier to lose that momentary angst when you realise what a minuscule spec you are on a little dot.

I often say I am not as good at writing as I am at reading. So here is a bit by physicist Brian Green that I particularly loved. “Most of us deal quietly with the need to lift ourselves beyond the everyday. Most of us allow civilisation to shield us from the realisation that we are part of a world that, when we’re gone, will hum along, barely missing a beat. We focus our energy on what we can control. We build community. We participate. We care. We laugh. We cherish. We comfort. We grieve. We love. We celebrate. We consecrate. We regret. We thrill to achievement, sometimes our own, sometimes of those we respect or idolise. Through it all, we grow accustomed to looking out to the world to find something to excite or soothe, to hold our attention or whisk us to someplace new. Yet the scientific journey we’ve taken suggests strongly that the universe does not exist to provide an arena for life and mind to flourish. Life and mind are simply a couple of things that happen to happen. Until they don’t.” That last line in there is the only truth, the only take away, the only lesson. It is the same for all of us. Whether you are in Italy or India or Iran.

Corona virus has taken our nationalities, religion, colour, all away from us. It has levelled us all as equals, trying to make sense of a common enemy. We are now the same. Of course how we deal with it may differ, but only in degree. We are the same parents who worry for their kids, the same tourists who feel unwelcome, the same travellers who long to make it home, the same businesses that suffer, the same patients who are isolated, the same clueless heads trying to figure this out.

Corona virus has rendered us all the same — the human species – what we were when our kind started inhabiting the Earth.

Almost every industry in the world has been impacted — from sports to the financial markets. But through it all, we still turn to our phones to see that message of concern from friends, that well meaning (maybe ill-informed) forward from relatives, that email from an employer on how to keep yourself safe, that beautiful write up from a psychologist, that Google alert on the latest celebrity to contract the virus.

The talking. The reading. The communicating.  

Never has it seemed more important than today, to keep that conversation going, to make that long due call, to show that concern, to fuss over that loved one, to accept that helplessness, to find that common ground in not knowing.

Nidhi Mishra is an ex-banker who pivoted from a 10 year banking career to her passion for reading and luring others to read through her startup Bookosmia (smell of books). Bookosmia, a children’s content company has grown at a furious rate in the last two years, building an enviable bank of 270+ Intellectual Property, focused on bringing. She went to Lady Shri Ram College , Delhi University to pick up an Honours in Mathematics and a feminist flair on the side. An MBA from IIM Lucknow took her to a decade long career in the financial sector, finally quitting as VP, HSBC as she suffers from a (misplaced) sense of satisfaction and a drive to do something meaningful with her time. You can write to her at nidhi@bookosmia.com. Nidhi’s first children’s book “I Wish I Were” is retelling of an old Indian folklore in partnership with Parvati Pillai, ex-design Head of Chumbak received much global acclaim and is available on Kindle.