THE ROAD LESS TRAVELLED…EMOTIONAL & MENTAL SUPPORT DURING COVID-19

“Everything can be taken from man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude under any given set of circumstances.” Viktor Frankl

I am reminded of this quote every time I hear a TV anchor announce one more person tested COVID 19 positive. There is an increasing feeling of dread and disaster when someone is infected. What I hear is anger about the person infected.

I would like to state upfront that I am not condoning the actions of people who have not followed precautions or directives by the government or healthcare professionals. They deserve to be treated accordingly. However, there are many who had no idea they were infected and discovered they were carrying the virus only when they tested. We have all read numerous accounts on social media about how people have contracted the virus. It was not a deliberate attempt for them. They were in the wrong place at the wrong time – just sheer bad luck.

Having said that, how do we treat people who have tested positive in our own family, friends circle or neighbourhood? Yes, physical isolation is a must, to keep everyone else safe. Is emotional isolation warranted? Do we have the right to treat affected person/family like pariahs at an emotional level?

No. We do not have the right. Remember, it could have happened to any of us.

A National Crisis

COVID 19 is a national crisis, a global crisis. It is a war that humanity is waging against a virus. I am not getting into where it came from, which country is responsible for spreading it, how & why. I am looking at our collective ability to help people deal with this trauma when they discover they are infected.

A crisis can occur on a physical or psychological level. The physical aspects of a crisis tend to be obvious, particularly if they involve human injury or death. The psychological aspects of a crisis tend to be significant and more widespread. However, the psychological aspects of a crisis are hard to identify and often overlooked.

A crisis is defined by three factors: negative events, feelings of hopelessness, and events beyond normal control. Crises are perceived as being negative events that generate physical emotion and/or pain. People who experience a crisis, experience feelings of helplessness, powerlessness, and entrapment. Those who have lived through a crisis also feel as if they have lost control over their lives. Crisis events tend to occur suddenly and without warning. The lack of time to adjust or adapt to crisis generated problems is what makes the event so traumatic.

COVID 19 presented us with such a crisis. The containment process itself is stringent and a strict one with two important factors:

  • Social distancing
  • Lockdown

Human beings are not used to both factors. It has been tough to understand and accept for so many people. Especially in a society like ours, where we tend to feel, “This won’t happen to me.” It can, it may – happen to me, happen to you. If it does, I know what I want from people around me.

 Emotional Support

 The corona crisis has slowed us down enough to make us think about what we want Rythmfrom ourselves, how much are we willing to give and our own expectations.

There are provisions being made for physical & medical support for a COVID 19 patient. I can get admitted to a hospital and treated. However, the single most important expectation, besides good medical care, is emotional & mental care. I would want emotional support from my family and friends. I would want help to deal with the trauma of going through an illness like this. I would not want to be ostracized emotionally or mentally.

Sadly, in India, we do not have the framework or infrastructure to deliver that emotional support. From what I hear, the doctors and nurses are doing a fabulous job of counselling their patients. I know professional counsellors are willing to help. My counsellor friends have told me to refer anyone seeking help in these times and they will gladly handhold. The keyword, however, is to seek. Believe you me, these are times when we need that help. We need that ‘someone’ who will counsel and guide us to get out of trying situations. There is no shame or stigma attached to it.

A crisis like this affects us at different levels – medical, physical, economic & social. Underlying all these is the psychological impact. The impact can be felt in any of the following:

  • A positively diagnosed person.
  • A person undergoing financial problems due to the lockdown
  • People working from home (a lot of people have broken homes and may not know how to deal with the situation)
  • The so-called stigma of being a corona patient or a member of the patient’s family

These are but a few circumstances.

How Can We Help?

  • We can start by not being judgmental about people we know who are tested positive. I am sure they did not go around wanting to be infected.
  • Let us show them kindness & empathy, besides giving them the physical help of providing food, shopping for them or getting their medicines.
  • Please do not isolate them emotionally. A quick telephonic chat, a message or a video call will assure them that you are around.
  • Positive reinforcement goes a long way and helps people become optimistic.
  • Patients & their family members can be sensitive to and less capable of coping with the irrelevant humour floating around as forwards. We can be empathetic to that. Do not brush it off as ‘soft’ behaviour.
  • Those of you who can collaborate through your organisations to help small business owners generate revenue for themselves, please explore such opportunities.

In times such as these, vulnerability is not a weakness. When we encounter an unexpected challenge of threat, the only way to save ourselves is to hold on tight to people around us and not let go. Life does not make sense without interdependence. We need each other and the sooner we realise that the better for us all.

After all, Paul Romer said, “A crisis should not go waste.” Let us use this to become more compassionate, helpful & non-judgmental human beings.

A Friend For Life – Bonding With the Son In Law

Dear Akash & Vasu,

I wondered what to write as my first blog for 2020. Thank you both for being my inspiration!

In the stereotypical world that we live in, many articles & write-ups can be found about the mother in law/daughter-in-law relationship. The son in law somehow never gets written about.

You both became part of the family even before your respective weddings took place. I do not mean this superficially. Your attitude and the way you simply blended in with all of us endeared you right away. From attending golden jubilee anniversaries to birthdays to poojas at home, you both went with the flow. Not just that, you rolled up your sleeves and worked side by side with all of us. This is in stark contrast to how some other sons in law behave – remain aloof towards their in-laws’ side of the family.

As a spouse, your ability to accept our girls as they are and encourage them to pursue their dreams is phenomenal. I have observed intelligent conversations between you all and it gladdens my heart, not just as a mother, also as a woman. In observing you, I have found you to be of complete integrity, true character, loyal & honest. I have seen you rationalize situations even when your wives were being a little stubborn about the same. Today, I would like to salute that and praise you unabashedly.

All marriages have to be worked on. It is not easy. It is everyday work. A lot of times, women believe they are the only ones who invest in a relationship and work at it. I am proud to say that you both have done the same in so many different ways. I understand the pressures you may go through, the uncertainty & insecurities that crop up once in a while. You have handled a lot of that with aplomb and I feel happy that we have established a relationship where we can talk about it comfortably.

We have raised daughters who love you wholeheartedly and who understand marriage is total commitment and a covenant that goes beyond broken promises and hearts. It is not be taken lightly and I know, they will stand by you. Yet, some aberrations will happen, mistakes will be made, by both of you. You know the best part, I trust you all to deal with them and handle it to the best of your ability.

You may have understood by now that we women think a little differently. For a wife, if the husband makes an effort to build a relationship with her parents, then she feels cared for and secure. Our girls are no different and you have made them feel secure & cared for. Thank you for doing that.

There is a saying – a man who treats his woman like a princess is proof that he has been born and raised in arms of a queen. I have often told both your mothers, that we are blessed to have you both as sons in law and a part of our family. As a mother, I would like to thank Archana & Rama for the value system they have given you. And today I can happily say…

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Thank you dear Akash & Vasu for being who you are and how you are. Stay happy & stay blessed!

Love & hugs

Uma

A Wedding Is An Event…A Marriage Is A Lifetime! #ShiSaidKash

A month ago, my older daughter Urvashi married Akash. He is not only the man of her dreams, he is also the son in law of my dreams!

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The friendship that started almost five years ago, went through romance/no romance, should we/should we not and finally they tied the proverbial knot last month. It was a dream come true for both of them and for both sets of parents, once we got to know each other.

Once the engagement was over and we decided on the wedding date, everyone started asking me, “what kind of a wedding will this be?” I smiled and told everyone who asked, “2 states wedding, giving everyone a chance to witness different events as part of the ceremonies itself.”

For any mother, planning & implementing everything single handed can give her sleepless nights. Initially, I went through the same. The biggest question in my head was – Will I be able to manage? From funds to shopping, to catering to decor to managing the groom’s side of the family and our family too. I am not going to say friends and family here, for everyone who was part of the wedding was family for us. Thank God for two

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daughters who took to planning in a big way and making checklists, drawing up vendor names, talking to various people to get information, making trips to Chickpet, Commercial Street, Jayanagar (for the uninitiated, these are markets in Bangalore) to gather more information. There were times I felt I had two mothers and mothers in law simultaneously at home! On a serious note, without Urvashi’s organised thinking and Urmila’s practical approach to making things happen, I would not have been able to give Urvashi the wedding she wanted. I will take this opportunity to thank both my girls wholeheartedly.

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For all those planning weddings in their families, here is one input from me – allow the youngsters to be involved. They will come out with flying colours when they know someone trusts them with such a huge responsibility. Very often, the more experienced family members (I am not saying old) tend to get a little impatient with the younger lot and have a classic reaction, “You don’t know about these rituals, preparation etc…we grown ups will handle it.” My point is if the youngsters aren’t given the responsibility, how will they learn? Allow them to make a mistake or two…those can be corrected. After all, the experienced of the senior family members comes in handy…to forewarn the youngsters of the pitfalls.

Month of February started with the basics like – wedding planner or no, how do we co-ordinate with the numerous vendors, what kind of a venue, indoors/outdoors, and the works. The one thing that we decided was to have a wedding planner who will work with us to deliver everything on the two most important days. Urvashi & Urmila asked me to download an app called WedMeGood (www.wedmegood.com). This was Godsend as it helped me to understand what the girls and Akash were looking for during the wedding itself. Ideas were shared, lists drawn up and references sought on the app. And we shortlisted a few wedding planners, caterers and wrote down names of all possible wedding venues in Bangalore.

Venue Hunting

On a Sunday morning, we three musketeers set out to finalise the wedding venue. The girls had already done a recce and had a few names down in the diary. Every venue we visited, including the hotels fell short of what we had in mind about how the entire event will be conducted. And somehow, we were not ready to compromise…yet. At about 3.30 PM, after 7 hotels and a couple of resorts, I opened the WedMeGood app and went through the venue list. Both Urvashi & I hit upon Miraya Greens at the same time. I called a number given and spoke to a Mr Deepak Mishra, who invited me to the take a look at the place immediately. After fixing the time with him, we drove over.

Miraya Greens

All three of us fell in love with Miraya as soon we entered the gates. The greenery was beautiful, the driveway gave us a feel of how luxurious the property was. We met Mr Mishra, Lohith and Raj Kishore. All three of them were so hospitable and put us at ease straight away. Mr Mishra’s words were, “Uma ji, you have come to see Miraya. Take a look leisurely. Lohith will accompany you and show the whole place. We can then discuss everything based on your experience.”

Lohith conducted us around in the most detailed manner and I kept praying that my

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budget allowed me to host the wedding in this haven. The icing on the cake was when we saw the accommodation. Urvashi, Urmila & I just looked at each other with a silent agreement showing in our eyes. Subsequently, over a cup of tea with Mr Mishra, I discussed the modalities and he said to me something which I will not forget ever in my life, “Uma ji, you are conducting your first daughter’s wedding. If you decide on Miraya, it means that we are the ladakiwalas (from the bride’s side). We will ensure you get all the support from us and Urvashi will have the wedding of her dreams here.” Thank you Deepak ji. That put my mind at ease and we agreed to host the wedding in Miraya.

There are numerous aspects that make a venue hugely successful & popular. Miraya has all those aspects. Wonderful hospitality, beautifully maintained rooms, gardens & lawns, waterfall & swimming pool and the best of all in a city like Bangalore – ample parking space for 800 + vehicles! I would definitely rate them at the top in wedding venues of Bangalore.

Avenues Wedding Hospitality Services

For any event to be successful, you must have a team that will make it possible. Earlier generations had family members who could take time off and come to help and contribute towards wedding preparations. Today, we do not have that luxury. So, in steps

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the wedding planner, who becomes part of your family so much that you end up wondering how did I think of surviving without these guys? Nazia & Yassir of Avenues Hospitality Services became those family members for us who understood us from the word go.

How did we discover them? Again WedMeGood came to our rescue. We had met a few wedding planners before but just did not get the vibes with anyone. When we met Nazia & Yassir there was no looking back. Their understanding of what we wanted, their concern about our budget, suggestions and alternate ideas to fit in our budget and just unconditional & empathetic support whenever we raised a concern, all these endeared them to us. Their level of efficiency to handle changes, requests and last minute developments is tremendous & very very professional. Not once did I hear them crib or complain or stop smiling. I am sure they must have gone through enough heart burn in the back end. However, as true family members and thorough professionals, they ensured Urvashi & Akash had the wedding of their dreams! Thank you once again Nazia & Yassir and kudos to your team!

The Creative Kitchen

Oscar Wilde said, “After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.” This quote resonates in my head every time I think about Vishal Gupta, our caterer or “anna daata” as we say in India. At Miraya Greens we got the reference of The Creative Kitchen and we met Vishal. In our first meeting, when he understood the two state wedding concept, he made me smile with one statement, “Ma’am, don’t worry. I am a baniya also and we will have two ingredients to add to the food we serve. Tashan & Khaatirdari – style and hospitality”. I knew I could leave food & feeding to his capable hands. Vishal & Shweta, his lovely wife, who is the backbone of The Creative Kitchen, also turned out to be related to the Mittal family. That was the icing on the cake.

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Vishal’s efficiency & professionalism came to the fore on the day of the wedding. We had great weather during the day and exactly when Urvashi & Akash exchanged the Jaimala, the heavens opened up and it poured! Never had I experienced rains like that in Bangalore for a long time. We got busy getting things reorganised in the mandap and the staff at Miraya Greens brought out umbrellas to cater to all the guests who were there…that itself was a miracle! Miraya did wonders to get everyone under a roof. Vishal added to that miracle by shifting the entire catering indoors within 15 minutes and some 300 plus people were comfortably floating around continuing their snacks & dinner. Vishal & Shweta, you guys were brilliant in handling everything and not once did I worry about the how, what & when of the food being served. Thank you once again!

The Family

Ever since the wedding, numerous people have been calling and sharing with me how much they enjoyed attending the ceremonies. One common thread in all those conversations is this – “Uma, hats off to your family for taking care of all of us. The way everyone was involved in all the things, young & old looking after us, ever smiling and warm…loved every bit of it.”

For that wonderful family of mine – my parents, brother & sister in law, uncles & aunts, cousins & their spouses, nieces & nephews and the grandchildren too – I am forever grateful for all the support you have given. This big fat Indian wedding would not have been possible without all of you doing what you did – rolling up your sleeves and chipping in. Thank you!

I also want to share with my daughter, Urvashi & son in law, Akash (there is a nice ring to that) while the wedding is an important event, it is your marriage that is an entire lifetime. Everyone who was part of those three days have blessed you both not only on your wedding day; their blessings are for your marriage, which is like salsa dancing.

So, go on, build your rhythm and pace and find your footsteps…twirl away into a life filled with more sunshine, less rain, even lesser storms, flowers and blooms bringing you happiness all the way!

#ShiSaidKash

Letters From Home…Saluting Military Spouses Across The World

If you’re not in love with a soldier, you can’t know adventure. You don’t understand why green & brown camouflage bags & fatigues are better than any designer clothes & mil-wifeaccessories. If you’re not in love with a soldier, you don’t know what it’s like to say that good-bye.  If you’re not in love with a soldier, you won’t know what it means to stay away for years shouldering your share of family responsibility, while he is responsible for protecting the country. If you’re not in love with a soldier, you can’t know the immense joy, the uncontrollable smile, or the butterflies in your stomach when you see your soldier march into an airport lounge, get off on the railway platform and walk towards you with his lopsided smile. If you’re not in love with a soldier, you don’t know what it’s like to wait for a phone call or email or a text message for days. Yes, even in this age of super fast internet connectivity. 

This open letter is for all those who wish to know what a military spouse goes through. We are the “silent ranks” and there is a reason why we are silent. We wait…for  letters, phone calls, emails and most important, homecomings. But, hold on, there’s more. We wait for practice camps, new commanders,  military exercise schedules and dates for field.postings. We also wait for leave approvals and short weekend breaks…which sometimes get cancelled.

We are not perfect wives. The staying away gets to us and sometimes nothing seems to go right. We get tired of taking decisions all by ourselves, at nights the pillows are soaked with our tears when we consistently try to stay strong. We become a single parent in that period of separation and learn to grin & bear it. There are times when I go numb with the loneliness…however, when I think of how much I love my soldier, I am proud to be an army wife.

We are like other wives, yet, different. We clean our homes & mop floors but, are unsure for how long we will do it in the same place. We plant and grow gardens wherever we are, but we can’t grow roots. So, potted plants become as dear a possession as any. Like  other wives we too buy furniture. It can’t really be fancy antique stuff. It has to be sturdy enough to last various postings and moves. We learn to entertain by serving a six course meal wherever possible, and with just bread & eggs too…with the same ease & panache. We make new friends all the time, yet, never discard the old ones. Because we know we will meet somewhere, sometime and that bonds us for life. The same holds good for our children…they learn to network and build lasting relationships.

Sure, I have been frustrated at times and been angry at certain situations in our life. When the exigencies of military life have kept us apart not just for days & months, but, for years, I felt that life is unfair. However, I also realise that it is the same for my man in uniform. I also know that he goes through the same levels of frustration of not being home with me & the children. I pray that he is safe when he is posted at the borders, not just because he is fighting the enemy. He is fighting harsh weather conditions also. I also know that when he is posted to certain operational areas and there are tragedies that take place, I am the only person he will turn to, to share his emotional upheaval. I am his rock, anchor & stronghold…I am the woman he loves. And that, is a feeling I will never exchange for anything in the world.

mil-spouseAs military wives, we take care of our homes & families for months & months, without letting our husbands know some of the challenges. Not because we don’t want to tell them. But, because we want them to focus on protecting you & us. Like someone very correctly said, “He risks his life for people he doesn’t even know, imagine what he’ll do for me.”

There is a universal recipe for being a military wife…3/4th cup patience, 3/4th cup tolerance, 1 pound courage and a dash of adventure (every now & then). Mix all ingredients together with large tablespoons of elbow grease. Marinate frequently with salty tears. Keep aside for a year. Pour of excess fat. Sprinkle lightly with money regularly. Knead the dough until payday. Season with spices from across the country. Bake throughout the soldier’s tenure. Serve with complete pride.

So, the next time you meet a military wife, do look beyond the obvious that is shown to the world. Discover the inner strength & the fortitude the lady hides behind her words & smile…you will get to know a “woman of substance.” 10845816_10153364758294444_3709304054657174943_o

This post is also a tribute to two beautiful ladies, Radha Patil & Shakuntla Malik, both army wives & women of substance who have been responsible for shaping me as an individual…Radha Patil from the day she gave birth to me and Shakuntla Malik in my  formative years. You both continue to influence my life in myriad ways. Thank you!!!

The Last Few Weeks…

That’s exactly what I want to write about…the last few weeks. Three different cities and myriad experiences…:)

My first stop was Delhi…a city that has always fascinated me with its colour, cultures, food, energy, zest for living the good life,jugaad approach. I love Delhi!!!

This time I traveled by the metro as my friends recommended. Was I glad or what! It saved me time…am glad I wasn’t on the roads in the crazy monsoon and even crazier traffic. I’m not writing to complain about what we all know and experience in different cities. I’m writing to share my experience of the metro. I absolutely loved it. For the first time in my life I felt safe as a female commuter in Delhi…no pushing, no pulling. On all the metro rides I had, which were during peak hours, I was given a seat by the men who were chivalrous enough to get up the moment they saw ladies :):):)

Last but not the least, the cleanliness at all stations made me so proud! I thought to myself, “what is it that we can’t do if we put our minds to it”

Thank you Delhi Metro for a wonderful experience and for making me feel safe and proud!!!

The second part of my journey took me to vibrant Punjab…a state that always makes me sing and dance. My daughters and my parents traveled with me and we were at a regimental get together for three days. The joy of meeting old friends and making new ones…the pleasure of meeting family friends who have seen you grow…and now they see you with grown up kids. Did that change the equation between us? Absolutely not..they still treated me like a ten year old 🙂 and I could kid around with all the old uncles and aunties the way I did thirty years ago :):):). As a result of those bonds, my children found it very easy to make new friends in the regiment.

After three days of winning and dining and socialising, we were off to Amritsar. An evening at Wagah Border stirred something deep for my daughters, as it was their first experience. I relived it with them! The emotional high of being right next to your neighboring country, waving at the local population on the other side of the border, talking to the border security guards…I cannot explain…I only pray a lot of Indians get an opportunity to experience it!

How can one miss the gastronomic delights offered by Amritsar? So, the five of us indulged in the locally made”chole kulche”, “aloo tikki” & my all time favorite, “gol gappas”.

All good things need not come to an end…so the good times continue in Bangalore now. See you all soon when I come back with more!!!

Till then…continue leading the fantastic life you deserve to lead :):):)