I celebrated my birthday two days ago and it was heart-warming to see my friends and relatives trying to make it special through their messages, calls and wishes. My family made it memorable through cakes, gifts and gastronomic adventures. had been a great but hectic month for me as I wrote daily for the A2Z challenge. I had decided to allot more time for reading in May. There had been a sense of restlessness in my heart for the past few months and I decided to finally attend to it.
In the recent past, there were times when I felt stuck in my writing journey and couldn’t concentrate on reading either. Instead of identifying it as just another phase and waiting for it to get over, I have chosen to face it heads on by taking a professional decision. This June, I am planning to get back to academics once again as I commence my third masters degree program. After a M.Sc & a MBA degree, I have decided to enroll for an online MFA course in creative writing.
For the last five days, I have had conflicting emotions. On one hand, I was relieved that the crazy month of April was over and I didn’t have to work at odd hours to schedule my posts. On the other hand, I missed reading and interacting with fellow bloggers who have now become a part of my extended virtual family. To spare myself the state of confusion, all that I have sincerely done since 2nd May is to catch up on my sleep. Today morning, when I saw the link for a reflection post, I jumped in to share my experience of an eventful A2Z challenge this year.
After my first successful Blogchatter A2Z challenge last year, I had written about my experience through a post filled with learnings, gratitude, and nostalgia. Last year, I had no plans in place. I was undecided on the theme until it was time to reveal it. Not a single post was based on predecided topics or written in advance (I didn’t even know that there was an option called schedule). This year I had decided to be a bit more organized in my approach since I had been waiting for the A2Z challenge for months together. I wanted to have a theme ready, wished to sort out the topics of the posts and even considered writing a few of them in advance. But old habits die hard. The plan to plan my posts stayed only in a state of planning as I dashed towards my usual last-minute execution mode.
When I started thinking about a theme two nights before the day of the theme-reveal post, I considered all the possible categories that I write about. Unfortunately, nothing seemed interesting. It was Sr. T’s idea that I write about the most relevant situation in my life at that moment which was all about Tuneer’s school admissions. I didn’t want to make the articles sound boring or coated with advice. In fact, I am the kind of flawed mother who would perfectly fit into that category of clueless parents seeing advice from the experts. So I thought of turning my harrowing experiences into humorous ones. All that I was worried about was how to stretch a topic so narrow into creating twenty-six posts. Yet whenever I sat down to write my post of the day, the fun element in reminiscing those memories helped the words flow effortlessly into a draft.
I feel a mixed bag of emotions as I write the last post in the A2Z challenge 2019. I had finished my first A2Z challenge last year by balancing my writing with the needs of a toddler who started preschool in the first week of April 2018. This year, it became a little more difficult as the toddler moved on to a new school and I was left juggling between multiple tasks. Between getting the kid ready for school, preparing his breakfast and dropping and picking him up from school, I was left with limited time to write my posts daily and read some great pieces from my fellow bloggers. Probably that is why I feel an extra dose of happiness on reaching the finishing line for the second consecutive year.
When I chose the theme of school admissions, I had no idea if I had experienced enough number of situations to convert them into posts for twenty-six days. I must mention that none of these real-life stories seemed funny when we were going through the experiences. My father often says that when we look back at life in retrospect, we often find a lot of instances that could have been handled in a very different way if we could have added a pinch of humor to them. I realized the depth of this statement only after I started writing this series. There are so many times when I published a post and then thought to myself, ‘What made me react so much to rejection?’ or ‘Why was I affected the most by this new phase in Tuneer’s life?’
The dictionary meaning of Yin and Yang stands as two complementary forces that come into play to balance and create something bigger and better. When I began writing this school admission series, I had mentioned the protagonist as my 3.6 yr old son Tuneer along with Sr. T and me as the supporting cast. Through the last twenty-four posts, I have written about our experiences and emotions related to this phase. Today’s post is dedicated to those who bring equilibrium to Tuneer’s life filling it with joy, love, affection and protect him from those who might be the reasons for stress and undue pressure (yeah me!). Introducing his lifelines –
1. Babai aka his father –
I have an exclusive post dedicated to this man and his adorable equation with the kid. Yet I need to reiterate the fact that the boy had the maximum escapade from my scoldings because of his father. According to him, there’s nothing that the boy could do wrong. It didn’t matter if the boy refused to answer any question, showed no interest in picking up English or denied his knowledge about my name. His standard reply to any exasperated statement of mine went as “But he’s such a sweet boy”. The apple of his eye is getting so sweet every day (read naughty) that I’ve started fearing for our enhanced blood sugar level (read stress).
2. Dadai aka his paternal grandfather –
Until Tuneer was born, I had always been a favorite of my father-in-law. He was more supportive of my decisions than those that were taken by his son. Equations changed between us the day he became a grandfather. His unconditional support towards his only grandson exceeds all limits. He refuses to listen to anything against the ‘innocent’ child. He was the toughest to convince about the interview preparation. As per him, any school that considered English speaking skills to be a selection criterion for nursery admissions deserves to be trashed by every single parent. According to him the fact that Tuneer could answer his name and recite a rhyme should have convinced every interviewer about his intelligence level. No amount of argument could convince him otherwise.
As we race towards the finishing line of the A2Z challenge now, I thought of touching upon a different topic related to the admission frenzy. I have often spoken about my anxiety and stress related to the process in the initial days, especially when Tuneer faced a problem of the language or before his first interview. While Sr. T seemed unfazed on the surface, I am quite sure that I had successfully managed to pass on a bundle of my worries to him. Tuneer was trying to balance his preschool life while riding on the roller coaster wave of admissions. Just before the winter break arrived, all three of us were physically and mentally exhausted beyond the limit (kind of what most of the A2Z participants feel now).
By the time the holidays started, the kid had already faced two interviews and one rejection. We were sure that the only thing that could lift our spirits up was a family holiday. In the X post of my last year’s A2Z challenge, I had written about the way all of Kolkata comes together to celebrate Christmas in a grand way. X’mas, as the city still prefers to call Christmas is about midnight mass at St. Paul’s Cathedral, eating cake from Nahoum’s, trying out street food delicacies on Park Street and visiting Bow Barracks on December 25th. We have done all of these for the past two years and it wasn’t meant to be any different this time as well. But a desperate need for a mini break landed us at my in-laws’ house in Berhampore this December end.
During one of our classes in B-school, I was introduced to the concept of 5Ws and 1H. While creating a blue draft of an entrepreneurial idea, we had to come up with a solution to the questions related to why, when, where, who, what and how. I was so fascinated by this streamlined process of questioning that any conversation related to the most inane of things had me asking queries in the format of 5W and 1H.
For instance, when the college canteen had managed to churn out yet another bland meal on yet another regular day, I walked up to the canteen manager and thought of bringing a direction to my pattern of questioning. So I asked,
“Who prepared this food?”
“Why is the canteen food always tasteless?”
“When was the last time that you served a meal that didn’t deserve to be trashed?”
“What will make you feel that it is essential to serve an edible meal?”
“Where do you see yourself next year, if the quality doesn’t improve and we refuse to let the management renew your contract?”
“How many more complaints do you need to take an action?”
The man was too stunned to even consider a reply. Before I could unleash another layer of 5W and 1H on him, my friends had dragged me away from the canteen. Needless to say, the canteen served an equally bland meal the next day. Just that the man at the counter went missing after spotting me entering the canteen.
This went on for a few more days before I found my next subject of interest in the form of SWOT (strength, weakness, opportunity, threat) analysis. Life eventually moved on from those classrooms to office boardrooms. The questions turned more relevant and job oriented.
It was only after Tuneer started talking that I was reminded of 5W and 1H once again. From blabbering gibberish to uttering first monosyllables and then broken sentences, the boy picked up communication very fast. Like I have mentioned in one of my previous posts, this verbose nature was reserved only for the house. For the world outside these four walls, he was a very shy and quiet child.
After a thought-provoking post yesterday, I thought of getting back to recollecting a few more hilariously unavoidable misadventures in the admission season. As we draw near to the finishing line in this challenge. I am often left baffled at the thought of the next topic in this series. Today I was wondering if there was anything more I could write about that has already not been mentioned in any of my earlier posts. I suddenly remembered those scary sleepless nights that became a part of my life for the first quarter of this year and brought my writing to a standstill.
The admission season, as mentioned in my first post started in September 2018 and was officially declared closed only in March 2019. The first three months of this season were all about standing in queues to pick up forms, submit them and then attend the interviews held in this duration at a couple of schools. I would say that we managed to sail through this period despite the turbulence the boy managed to create through his resistance towards the process initially. His preschool had declared winter break from December 25th until January 4th.
In the second week of January, Tuneer returned from his preschool with a sore throat. Ever since he had started preschool, it had become a routine for the boy to fall sick at least twice every alternate month. If I ever brought up my concern of his poor immunity (I was of the opinion that his resistance towards diseases was getting lower because of falling sick so frequently), both the medico husband and the kid’s pediatrician enlightened me with their knowledge about the boy’s developing immune system. I had somehow managed to keep the boy fit and fine enough to glide through the months of November and December but all my efforts went in vain as he developed his first viral infection of this year in January.
From a sore throat, he went on to develop pharyngitis, cold and cough and high fever. This was his usual pattern of falling sick, step by step. Before I went back to calling the pediatrician seeking his appointment yet again, my heart skipped a beat as I thought of the interview scheduled the next week. The following week passed by in taking care of the sick child, giving in to all his demands as I struggled to feed him a single bite of food. We survived the week and went on to face the interview next week.