An original story by Rumi 

For some time now, Rumi has been stringing sentences together and trying to make up stories. It is the most entertaining thing in the world to listen to her stories and I marvel at the vast sky of her imagination as well as her ability to switch between languages. In this little story, she talks of flying to visit her cousin Nina and then gets chased by a tiger! Kids are born actors; Rumi sighs and gets scared of the tiger and changes voices for different characters! Happy viewing 😊

https://youtu.be/XqW16jWVqfs

Raising a “creative” child

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For 25 out of the (almost) 30 years of my life I held some very fixed notions about creativity. To me, creative people looked a certain way: crinkly cotton skirts, scarves or stoles, lots of silver jewellery, kajal and a jhola bag. The older ‘Creatives’ wore beautiful saris and blouses and sometimes, these big, pretty bindis. I marveled at these Creatives and I knew without a doubt that I wasn’t one of them. I would look at my plain-Jane, T-shirt clad self in the mirror and wish with all my heart that I could be one of ‘them’ too. To me, creativity was a genetic disposition, something that some people just inherently had, just like I had straight hair.

Then, about 6 years back, two things happened that swept me off my feet, turned me upside down, shook all these thoughts out of my head and made me feel light-headed and clear and dizzy, like a new me. The first was that I met my husband. I would not say that he is the most creative person I know, but he is definitely one of the ‘free-est’ beings I’ve met. Free of rigid notions of how things should be and free of being ‘correct’ and ‘appropriate’. I would watch him dance and sing and act and mimic and paint and do exactly whatever the hell he wanted, without being conscious of anything else but his own pleasure and joy. He would encourage me to do theater and to send out my stories and when I would self-consciously say “ME??” he would always reply with an earnest “Yes” that made me feel like he saw much more of me than I even knew there was. Very slowly, I started becoming that person he saw.

The second thing was a book called ‘The Artist’s Way‘. I first read about that book in Robin Sharma’s ‘Who will cry when you die’ as one of his “things to do to make your life better” recommendations and being the self-improvement junkie that i am, the book landed up in my hands. The entire premise of the book is based on the simple ‘fact’ that each and every one of us is creative. A very simple statement, but one that made my eyes almost pop out of my sockets and pulse quicken. “She actually means that I am creative too! Is that possible? What if that’s true?”

I worked diligently with the book and to say that it changed my life would be the understatement of the decade. This blog is a direct outcome of that. So is Fabric Fables. Although old habits die hard and I still refuse to believe it when anybody says I’m creative, I am learning to be more comfortable with the thought every day that all of us are creative and that creativity can be uncovered and practiced. It is not a privilege gifted to a few but a basic tenet of living; you are creative and meant to create, simply as a virtue of being born and living on this earth.

Because my own process of unearthing my creativity was long and arduous, I take great care to make sure that Rumi knows how creative she is and that she grows up feeling free to create and make and be whatever she wants without a voice in her head constantly reminded her to ‘get real’ and ‘get a proper job’ and so on. As a child, her creativity flows naturally and freely but all this can and normally does quickly change, if we are not careful to safeguard it and nourish it. Out of all that I’ve read, experienced and gleaned over the years, these are some things to make a special note of while nurturing your child’s creative spirit:

  1. Avoiding Tags and Labels as far as possible

Nothing damages or bruises the creative spirit more than the voices we hear in our childhood, that say well-meaning things like “Looks like your brother is the artist in the family” after the child hands you a drawing or “She’s a good dancer but her voice is another matter altogether”. Labels. We are so quick to label and categorize. She’s good at arguing; “Lawyer honar ahe”, she does not like frocks: she’s a ‘tomboy’ and so on. They seem harmless, and to some extent, unavoidable, but when they are repeated to your child or even to other people about your child, they create a conviction that is hard to argue with or change later. If you try something with your child that he does not enjoy, just try again a few days later.  Let likes and dislikes be flexible and ever-changing and let your child know that he is allowed to change, grow into or out of something. Perseverance is very important, but not at the cost of removing the enchantment and pleasure of the sound of the violin or a foreign language altogether.

  1. Leaving lots of time for free play and boredom

With school taking up most of the day, and an after-school activity or two, children hardly find free time pockets to just play or do whatever they want. Sometimes, even play-time is carefully planned by parents who want their kids to put their time to good use instead of just sitting about in front of the TV or Tablet. But it is in this time that a new, fun, language or game gets invented. Also, toddlers don’t need to be provided with state-of-the-art toys. A spoon and vati from the kitchen can become a musical instrument, old shoe boxes can become a toy train – the lesser you provide, the more leg room there is, for their imagination to stretch out.

  1. Allowing the ‘Why’

Sometimes, it can be very exasperating to hear everything you say countered with a ‘why’. Sometimes, you find the time to answer the why, and at other times you just respond curtly with a “Because I say so.” Which is also perfectly OK because there are only 24 hours in a day, and dinner to be served, and laundry to be done, and a million other things to organize. But as far as possible, allow the why and allow the self-discovery of the answer too, as long as safety and hygiene allow it. “Why should I wear my shoes?” “Because your feet will get dirty otherwise and you’ll get hurt.” If your child does not fathom this, maybe you could allow a few shoe-less steps and let them see? And this grubbiness that makes most of us cringe, brings me to my last point of:

  1. Getting dirty

This is not to say that all the standards of hygiene and cleanliness in the house must be dropped but it is important for kids to indulge in some messy play and also for them to know that you are OK with it. Let them experience different textures with their own little fingers. For instance, you may want to allow them to mix their own dal and rice with their fingers, let them ‘help’ in the garden by digging up all the mud or ask them to squish the tomatoes for soup. Most dirty stains can be removed and most surfaces wiped down clean, so roll up your sleeves and get dirty too!

If you have any more inputs or other thoughts on creativity, I’d love to hear them!

Wait for the morning

At about three years of age, Rumi has started to acquire a sense of propriety and possession. She likes things to be just “so” – she, for instance, hates it when I wear “Baba’s” T-shirt or Baba’s slippers. She almost cries in frustration, “Pan te baba cha ahe, tu ka ghetla?” (It belongs to Baba, you can’t just take it!). It upsets her if the blanket has a crease where it shouldn’t or if the furniture is moved about and changed from its usual place. My heart aches to watch this because this is exactly how I remember being. This is one of those traits that I had fervently hoped to not pass on to her but she seems to have genetically imbibed it.

I work well with Black and White. This is this and that is that. When things fall in their prescribed order, I thrive. I need to be ‘clearly told’. I do not interpret, derive from context or read between the lines well. But life, I’ve been thinking, is mostly grey, be it the complexities of various relationships, what your boss promised but did not do, how you feel towards your own parents, what you should do next if you decide to quit your job.

I was very simplistic earlier. Hurt your feelings = bad. Ignored the husband = bad. Spoke kindly to Rumi = good. Lied = horrible. But I realized in the past couple of years that if I continued to operate out of my previous black-and-white vision, I would barely have people left in my life, because people are complex and so much more than one gesture or one careless word and have the ability to surprise you all the time! Like when you’ve judged somebody for being harsh in the past but they show up when you’re in trouble. And while I still believe that little actions add up, I have become much more tolerant and forgiving.

Growing up, I remember being mad at my parents whenever they would take decisions they didn’t really want to with the mantra “Karava Laagta” (There are some things you just have to do!). My brother and I would watch in bewilderment as a party meant for 20 guests would go up to a hundred people, but now I find myself saying the same words to my husband whenever we plan an event!

I can’t even recall the number of times I’ve thought in retrospect, “Oh, he should have just told me!” “Why can’t they just tell him it’s wrong?” “Just tell”. There are very few people who “just tell”. What you mostly need to do is expertly navigate through a fluffy cloud of a combination of other people’s thoughts, words and actions and trust your inner voice to guide your boat right. I was never big on the inner voice. My inner voice is mostly silent, except for an occasional timid plea of “Can someone tell me what to do next?” Then I generally grab the phone and dial “Mom”.

But with Rumi, I’m learning to trust my instinct more and more. The voice inside has become stronger, more confident. But it is definitely NOT a movie-like dialogue with another me in the mirror, knowing exactly what needs to be done. Mostly, when there is too much chaos and ambiguity to deal with, I just hit the sack. I can sleep anytime, anywhere and I always feel better and clearer after a nap.

Now I am almost embarrassed that almost 30 years of life experience has been distilled into this banal advice to my child of “take a nap”. It is not a gem, I know. But all I want to tell her is to wait for the morning. It is tempting to respond with a sharp word when you’re agitated. It is tempting to ‘unfollow’, ‘block’ and write a curt comment.

But if you just wait for the morning, you may feel like you don’t want to. That ungainly crack on the wall that made you burst into tears last night, may shine in the sun and not look bad at all. You may have a solution to that problem you were fretting about. You might even laugh a little at yourself at how that ‘little nobody’ upset you so much yesterday.

So Rumi, whenever, you feel heavy and confused and worried about lack of clarity, just wait for the morning. When you can’t figure out, what that person meant when they spoke nicely but in a ‘weird’ tone, just wait for the morning. When you don’t understand the ‘why’, just wait for the morning. On most mornings, you’ll have the answers. And if you don’t, you can always speed dial “Mumma”.