Saturday, January 5, 2019

The Artificial Smart(ASS)ness

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I cosily laid down on my bed with my favourite book as the night slowly crept deeper and deeper into the darkness. "Just one more page and I will go to sleep", I said to myself. Was that so easy to stop reading a book you are hooked into? Any book lover will respond, “EASY?? Are you crazy or what? It is impossible to stop reading once you get going. It is not like a breakup with people for God’s sake!”
Usually, I got engrossed in a book until I finished reading the last page. Now, lay ahead of me the toughest job of getting up and switching off the light which I did not even notice so far. In those days, the switches were located near the door so that we could switch them on when we enter the dark room. Now, after laying around and reading for hours together I was so lazy to get up and walk up to the light switch. There were times when I would actually wait for someone to wake up for ‘Peeing’, or make some slight noise to wake up someone so that I could get them to switch off the light and go to sleep. There was a lot of drama involved when someone would actually wake up to find a bright bulb burning in my room. First they would call to check out if I was awake. I would pretend to be asleep. They would grumble, mumble and curse the girl who forgot to switch off the light and do the job. Morning I would stand hanging my head in shame when I was accused of running electricity bill high, being the cause of power cuts and many more things of which I am sure I was not responsible for; but, I kept quite without arguing the usual way so that they would actually do the job when I needed it next time. Honestly, many people fall the bribe of getting a chance of berating someone very easily.
Then came the time when the switches were shifted to easier location when I could reach them a bit more easily. Never in those dramatic days did I even imagine that there would be a #SmartHomeRevolution with Smart lights where I have to just say “Ok Google, switch off the light” and it would actually happen. Off course I may have to work a bit on my accent. Today, as a mom of a daughter with special needs who has mobility issues, the #SmartHomeRevolution, envisioned by Flipkart to encourage every home to use Smart Home solutions to simplify mundane tasks with a click gives me hope that her life will be easy when I am not around to help her out.
My advent into the world of AS (artificial smartness) started with a gift of calculator for basic mathematic calculation. I was surprised with the speed and accuracy of this tiny box which was calculating at such a speed. Today, I have come a long way from there.
Computers, internet and mobile phone changed my life forever. I cannot say all the AS I have around me are for good. The benefits of Smart Gadgets depends on how I make use of them. The Smart Ass Gadgets and Gizmos have been either hindering or helping people, but there is no denying their arrival with a bang.
Entertained without getting out of bed..... Not good!
The curse of the smart gadgets is how they are affecting the lives of our children (especially the toddlers). Recently, I was discussing with a 7 year old, how I found it very difficult to feed children. I often allowed my children to eat on their own even when they were very young. She responded by saying, “Aunty, it is very easy to feed children. Just keep a mobile in front of them and put food in their mouth. They will eat food without any fuss and even grass if you feed them this way”. It not only shocked me, but also hurt me to hear this version of feeding children. As I started talking to parents of toddlers, I heard it is true. They usually whined, “What to do? He/she won’t eat at all throughout the day. Finally we have to give in and feed them this way”. These are the times when I feel, AS is making us behave like an Ass. We are losing our parenting skills and also our creativity.
These creative moments are replaced with people each having a mobile phone of their own
Another challenge that comes with the AS is fitness. There were times when we felt bored and went out for a walk, to visit a friend. Now, surrounded by these smart gadgets there is not a dull moment in our lives. What about the exercise? Often we do that by watching fitness videos on YouTube. The TVs are becoming thinner when people watching it are getting fatter. This is when I feel AS is making a fat ass out of us. 

Will our memory become weak with time? Who wants to remember phone numbers, address, names or information anymore? Aren’t they available at the click of the button in those tiny mobiles in our hands?
Sometimes, I am amazed how much I am dependent on my mobile phone for everything from shopping, managing my business, banking, keeping in touch with friends and family and many more.
The virtual world has become so fulfilling and competing with what valuables we had in past, that I am afraid in not so far future - pets, relationships, and children as well as, may be even parents will be substituted out for smart gadgets.
One of the main attractions about AS gadgets and gizmos is they do not leave behind residue of guilt at all. Remember the time you forgot to feed your pet, water the plants, take good care of relationship? 

Don’t they leave behind a strong residue of grilling guilt for you to deal with? In olden days we had some affection and tiny place in our hearts for the gadgets, but now we cannot wait to replace them.

We have to be smart along with the smart gadgets we use to make the best of our relationship with them. It is like fire. You can use it for your benefit or for destruction.

There were times when we had to stand in front of camera for hours in poses before the button would finally click. Today we don’t even know when we are being shot (by cameras I mean). Though it is scary to be caught unawares by those smart phones, it is such a blessing to have Smart Camera in my life.
When I started a Preschool and Daycare centre, the biggest challenge I faced was that of security of my tiny tots. Having a smart camera watch every move of the people in my daycare and preschool gives me peace of mind. 
With lurking dangers for children around every corner, they act as extra eyes for me. As a mom of special needs child, again this is blessing. I have said goodbye to most of insecurities and apprehensions by knowing through the smart camera what is happening, rather than allowing my imagination to take flight. Another good thing about this is that there are such wide variety of smart cameras we can choose from within our budget.

Recently when I participated in Shero Trek by Pinkathon, a meeting with Milind Soman, reminded me the days when I was fit and could walk nearly 25-30 km in day. Those were the days when I could carry my daughter Farheena wherever I went. 

Slowly, she became heavier, and I could not do it anymore. Being a special needs child, she could not walk much and I had no heart to leave her behind, so I started taking auto, cab or rides to places I wanted to go. Within few years, I lost my strength to walk long distances. The meeting with the man who promotes fitness, gave me an insight into what I had lost in time and also encouraged and inspired me to get back to fitness. 

Seeing the Sheros created by Pinkathon is an inspiration for people like me to grab what we have lost in time. Is it easy to get back to fitness? I don’t know. I am definitely going to give it try.
Like diamond cuts diamond, the smart gadgets that have made us move away from fitness and healthy lifestyle, can help us get fit as well. Since we lose track of day when immersed in the virtual world of gadgets, keeping track of our activities and exercise we get is going to be the first step towards our fitness goal. Time to spend some bucks on my health now with those geeky  Smart Wearables to save spending it paying hospital bills later. Time to #GetFitWithFlipkart. 

Honestly, I haven’t bought any device, gadget, home appliances, furniture, clothes or groceries from a shop for a long time now. Like nearly half of the Indians, I am addicted to online shopping. These are the days of smart shopping of smart devices which can create space and time in our lives to do what we love to do, rather than wasting our time on those mundane tasks we loathe doing. Especially, when you are living in a city like Bangalore with heavy traffic jams, saving on travels means a lot.
Just 30 years ago, life was so different for me. I don’t even know how many youngsters today can imagine a time when we went to library and spent days scrolling through books for some information we needed. Or, having a telephone laying in one corner, without any screen. 

Today, the gadgets have become a part and parcel of our lives. Rather than being scared of them, let us use them the smart way to live a better and beautiful life.  Let us not succumb to those flashy gadgets and become victims but rather come up with a more efficient way of achieving our goals, whatever those might be through the means of them.

Monday, November 5, 2018

The Best Picture of My Life

I wanted to have children and play with them even when I was a little girl myself. No wonder when I had children of my own, I loved painting, walking and playing with them until cancer happened. The shock of being diagnosed of Breast Cancer, Stage III at the age of 29, took some fun out of me. Chemotherapy, surgery, picking up broken pieces of life, dealing with relationships, managing finances and other challenges that come with cancer took its toll and I was not the same person I used to be. Somehow the fun activities were pushed into background, despite the fact that I was always there as a caretaker for my kids. Though not a big deal, coping with total hair loss was tough on me and so was losing the symmetry of my body. 
One day my son, who was sitting alone and creating some painting on his own asked me, "Maa, is our lives changed forever? Can we never paint together again?” That was the day I snapped out of my self-pitying role and climbed out of the pit. Nothing was going to stop me from having fun and living my life, especially I was determined not to allow Cancer to steal the love and enjoyment I could share with my children.
It was time again for long walks, games, carom, book reading, and off course painting.
This picture is my favorite photograph because it was captured unknown to us, when we were drowned creating our masterpiece and were totally unaware of the world around us. This still inspires me to snap out of tough times, as I had done earlier. It tells me that happiness lies in small things we enjoy with our family. Since then I have never allowed anything to stop me from having fun and enjoying life to the fullest. It gives me hope and tells me the battle we fight in our lives are really worth it. 

Monday, August 20, 2018

Wish You A Great Year Ahead

Happy birthday Rayyan. 

Rayyan, my wonder boy turns a new leaf in his life today. He is celebrating his 27th birthday by joining BYJU'S, a wise career choice he made keeping in mind how he can be useful to society. He completed his project with his previous company, where he loved working. I am so happy that I have lived to see him grow into a wonderful human being. As I reflect back on the years he has been with me I feel so overwhelmed by his character. He could set a Guinness record for behavior. Never has he fought with anyone, never landed a blow on a single person or animal, not once has he fought with me, never pestered me for anything he needs (he always would let me know what he needs and then will wait until I can get it for him or else we talk and then he will realize I cannot afford it and lets it go at that). Today when he is earning and is financially independent, things haven't changed much  The ‘never’ here is not a general once in while never. It is zero actually a zero score. Am I lucky? You tell me. A young man who will never be awed by someone others will consider big nor will pretend big to someone who others consider small. A sense of equality Rayyan possesses makes me feel guilty. He has changed me a lot in the past 26 years. My daughter has been the reason why I fought cancer fiercely but Rayyan is the person in my life who helped me fight cancer. Even as a young child he would be there to comfort and encourage me. The worst emotional trauma for him was to watch me go bald very soon after I lost my sister. It was too much for a 5 year old to feel he may lose his Mom like he lost his aunt. It was very scary. He was very close to my sister and he loved her very much. He never let me feel hurt though by asking questions or making fuss about how he felt. He suffered silently and I was worried about him. No other child could have dealt with his father the way he does. He is understanding , patient and comforting to him. He is smart enough not to argue with his father like he does with me, my friends and his friends. LOL. He knows which tree bears the fruit. He has a talent for coming up with some wonderful quotes at times which makes sense perfectly for the situation which has me rolling in laughter. I think he is compensation for all the rest of the shit I have in my life. Thank you Rayyan for being such a wonderful son any mother would be proud of. Never once have I regretted having you as a son nor once have I been frustrated. I may never have dared to ask for such a wonderful son ever. Thank you God for considering me worthy enough to have Rayyan in my life. I may have given him birth, but he has given me my life back  He makes such a huge difference to me…………… Happy birthday dear boy.. or should we say man? May you have many more. Love you.


Monday, July 16, 2018

The Smile Farmer Speaks ....

Life has not been easy or smooth for me. Born with a disability which I completely ignored, diagnosed with 3rd stage breast cancer, unsettling marriage, a special needs child and many other spices made my life challenging.
But with guidance from Rayyan, my son and wisdom that came with life experience, I made some right choices in later part of life and settled down. Good job, financially secure and a bit bored. In January 2017, I put aside some money for my USA trip to meet my sisters in survival. This is when I came across a place which was barely suitable for starting a preschool and day-care centre. I had to make a choice. Go ahead and meet my sisters in survivals after a decade of our first meeting or start with my dream project.
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After discussing with few people who matter, especially my friends from USA the ladybirds, it was decided I start a school first and then can plan my trip when things settle down here. Once I started the project, the old place just started sucking in all my funds. The drains were blocked, most of the things around looked rusted, the floor was rough on the skin, hygiene factor was very low and many more things needed to be settled. Blinded by my dream, I had overlooked a lot of things and also until I moved in some of the problems remained just hidden.
No matter how much I did, something remained to be completed. Not just all my funds which I had kept
aside for my tour of USA was sucked in, but also some of Rayyan’s funds. Yet the place did not look good enough for a day-care and preschool. So finally I gave in and looked out for someone who would join hands with me in my venture.
One of my friends, pooled in some money and joined me.  Finally my center, Giggle Garden opened on 15th June. On the first day, 5 parents who had known about the opening of our centre walked in for admission. One of them was with a child with Down’s syndrome. 3 parent’s objected to her admission, with just one parent not objecting to it. This was a tough call for me to make, but I did the right thing ethically though it may not be right financially for My Giggle Garden. Today, a year later when the child is making eye contact, greeting me, having food on her own, is playing pretend games and identifying colours with tremendous improvement in her speech, I know I did the right thing. Anyway, being a mom of
special needs child, I really did not have an option there. Today, if feel so grateful to the parents that even when her father was transferred, her mother stayed back alone only for her daughter to be in our school even though it was difficult for her with lack of Kannada knowledge.
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Pick the odd one out. You cannot because they all are unique and same ....
2 more students joined us and we had another for day-care. I kept working at my job to fund the centre and it kept chugging away.  The first major issue that came ahead me was when my friend announced she could not continue due to health issues. She had to back off and I had to return her funds as soon as possible. She had trusted me and invested in the school without any proof or written document. I could
not hold on her payment for long and had to pay her back. Thankfully Rayyan stepped in and helped me return her investment and also make some more improvements in Giggle Garden. He also helped me buy few more required materials and improve the centre.
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Our little chefs busy in preparation of breakfast for Gigglers
Giggle Garden moved smoothly until another hurdle was thrown my way. I had taken the whole premises with two floors. The school and day-care was on the ground floor and we stayed on the first floor. Due to unavoidable circumstances and marriage in the owner’s family I had to give up my home on the top floor. I had not checked and verified the document properly which was a mistake. No place to go, my family had to shift into an adjacent room to the school temporarily, until we found a place where Farheena could walk into easily. By then I had a sprain and tore my tendons. Not knowing how bad I injured my foot, I walked on it making things worse. I ended up with a foot support and walker. My two employees were on leave for a month. All took its toll on this year's admission. Adding to it, once people with funds and place
nearby saw how preschool have good business, competition came up in form of three new schools in our vicinity.
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Freedom begets work. Gigglers turning Scribblers
People were skeptical with my choice of having special needs children working on Montessori materials along with regular children. They doubted that I would ever walk and be active with children. I saw the fear of seeing a person with walker in people very clearly. They were doubtful about the safety with my family's presence in the school and there I was with them. I am not in favour of that either.  CCTV is
of no use to chase the fear in parents about their loving one's safety. Rayyan stepped in again and we could shift to a flat next door to our school.
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Adding to my challenges were parents who would not discuss their plans clearly. I made plans for students investing in manpower and things required, but some of them were in vain. I was making decisions emotionally rather than rationally which was required to make my business successful. Clearly I saw that I was failing as entrepreneur and businesswoman though I was very successful as a teacher. My students have excellent communication, social, play and academic skills. A two year old is able to lead us in her prayer. Our child who did not utter a word is able to recite rhymes and stories in 8 months’ time in giggle garden. Gigglers are doing great.
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I was having tough time without my regular job which I had to give up due to workload, sustaining a new business, paying rent, paying salaries and taking care of things required. I could not ask Rayyan for more because he was running out of resources as well and I went through terrible guilt. I had no right killing his dreams to pursue mine.
I was regretting few decisions I made, but some though not profitable, I still stand by them. My centre will always be open to all students no matter what. Only, hygiene and cleanliness will be a factor that will be decisive. This makes it neither a profitable business nor an NGO or charitable institution. But yet, I have faith that it will work out for me.
But no more falling for temporary admissions, temporary waving of fees, no more temporary day-care facility for those who can afford but take advantage of my trust. Rules will be strictly followed both for school and day-care.
Gigglers are learning and I am the foremost of the Giggler to learn my lesson. It has been stressful for me managing last three months, especially with the excruciating pain in my foot which was debilitating. I was
feeling like a loser though I did not want to show it out. I was wondering whether I made a right decision.  I could not make proper plans nor could I take up proper promotions of Giggle Garden.This is the first time I have crippled both mentally, emotionally and physically by pain. Did I really need this when I was at the peak of my career earning handsomely from the comfort of my home? I am not sure. But we have a
purpose in our lives and I think my purpose of life is somewhere this project.
I started looking out for ways to make this work out and found that a cancer survivor has more challenges in procuring loans and help. Partnership did not work out because they wanted the special children out of
centre. Most of them were clearly seeing only $$$$$.  I want our future generation to be different from what I see today. I want people to understand that just because some people have special needs does not make them dangerous or outcasts. So, I stood by my decision. My children have responded beautifully to my own daughter as well as to other's whose needs are a bit special.
Kathleen had once mentioned fundraiser for My Giggle Garden which I had not taken up back then. Asking for help has never been easy for me. After a lot of discussion with ladies I trust, I made one of toughest decision of my life and went for a fundraiser to make Giggle Garden a better place. I have to make this better and working or back off which means I lose all and have to start from scratch.  It also means letting down people (especially Rayyan) who have stood by me so far. Nothing in the world would allow me to shut door on the children for whom other doors were shut already. 
Impactguru stepped in and allowed me to raise a fundraiser on their site. I am touched by the gesture of my cancer survivor sisters from across the globe who got it going though they do not have much to spare. This shows the trust they have in my concept and project. This just made Giggle Garden my third child who I will take care of until I am there for Farheena and Rayyan.
Someday, I may build a place of my dream for children where they will enjoy learning. I am settling down as a Smile Farmer and I am going to nourish and nurture My Giggle Garden and grow smiles here.
For now I need help to grow smiles in my Giggle Garden. This was not easy to put up in open, but then I have learnt in my life that being transparent is what makes you liberated. So here it goes. This is my


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Monday, July 9, 2018

I Have A Dream..............

 I have a dream. I have held on it throughout my life. I am sure that someday smiles will grow in my Giggle Garden and it will be filled with little Gigglers happily enjoying their time as they learn. I will be Smile Farmer.

My dream job in my childhood, like every child, was to be a teacher. Though for many children, the dream fades away as they come across different lucrative careers, for me the dream became stronger and stronger with each passing year.

When I was in 5th Std, I started coaching my classmates in Math and Science. That was the beginning. Then I started helping my brother with coaching for his exams. Few other children joined. I don't even remember how and when I became a tuition teacher for children in different grades.

Teaching has been a part of my life for a long time now. Being a counselor, I have heard complaints from students regarding the work burden they have in school. My coaching has never been dull or boring for my students and I have always received excellent feedback. This encouraged me to dream big of running a pre-school of my own.

My dream slowly turned into reality when I came across an affordable place which could be converted into a school. Many tell me, it is only me who could envision a school in this place. May be they are right. I did and I went about my job of making "My Giggle Garden" come alive.

I envisioned this space as a Big Sand Pit....



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I saw this room and envisioned as my office room


This plain hall as my heart of Montessori working place



As I took up the mission of starting my school in a place which was used as go-down and factory earlier, the task became overwhelming for me. The drainage was blocked due to wastage dump and rats making it their tunnel. Sometimes my heart would sink and I wanted to give up, but then there was a strong urge in me to make it happen. This was chance to live my dream. Either it would happen now or never. Being caught in the work and taking care of my family, I may never dream having my own Giggle Garden where I could grow smiles. I persevered and toiled for 3 months and then finally I was ready to invite parents for admission. Slowly admissions started trickling in. 

We enjoyed some very good parties celebrating birthdays, functions, festivals and special occasions with our children. I am not sure who enjoyed more, me or the children. 

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The best part of My Giggle Garden is that no smile is stolen. Every child, even those with special needs who can fit into the Montessori program will be given a chance.

I will hold on to my principle of giving respect to the child and involving them in discussion and decision making. Their emotional need will never be ignored.

Running a business out of blue is not easy and I have my shares of struggles. There are times when I wonder, did I do the right thing, then someone gives me a smile or a hug and I know "I did what I am meant to do".

Someday, I plan to have a huge garden growing giggles and smiles. My plan for the building is ready. My curriculum is ready. All I need is a place and fund to make my dream come true. One dream has come true.  With time may be the other will come true as well.


Rayyan Lost in Laptop

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