Why-why not and other questions

Today I signed up for a new art project to be a part of. It goes without saying that I am excited about participating.

1009199_692666697411371_2101661365_o There are lot of the other on-going long term projects that I have been working on this year and i have been posting about them on this blog too. 1) Concertina sketchbook – here and here 2) Shepherd Boy- Here , here and here 3) Dina’s life- here. While none of them is yet complete each is living and active in my sketchbook and computer.

Last month I started another project – Hindi Alphabet project to create flash cards to teach my daughter Hindi language(click here to see updated album). When I got stuck with some words, I put out a call to my friends on social media to help me out with words and new ideas. Among other reaction that I got from people was the question why?… why do this? does it have any commercial prospect? why not buy a book or a mobile app that exists?

The simple answer to these questions could be that it is my hobby and I do it to keep my self busy as a stay at home mom of a 34 month old daughter or to keep my drawing/conceptualizing skills as a designer alive. However there is other side to the coin…… why not ? why not do these things? why not create things whose value cannot be measured in monetary terms? I did not make any money on my book  that I created and published in Jan 2013 but it gave me immense satisfaction as a designer, illustrator, and mom. I would like to think that if nothing else it will be a part of my legacy. I remember to this day the special things my mother did for me including cooking and drawing and teaching me things and my drawings would be something along those lines that my kids may remember me by.

But I will be honest with you…there is something else that bothers me about this whole situation. You see when I was growing up in India in early 1980’s being a working woman was still an upward trend, even though most of my neighbors and friend’s moms were stay-at-home moms (SAHM) and even then women were limited to certain professions- teachers, nurses or secretaries/administrative assistants. By the time I reached high school (grade9) SAHMs were considered to be gossip mongers , busy bodies who wasted time in talking and socializing around neighborhood, keeping busy in kitty parties playing card games etc. Activities like crochet, knitting and embroidery were considered skills that make you a good housewife but had no monetary value (until tourism made some of these activities viable and even respectable). In university while studying architecture  Prof. M would often ask the female students whether we were serious about being architects or it was our way of biding time till we were married off. In those 20 yrs of my life time being a stay at home mom had become less and less desirable and even deplorable – either you were  not good enough to have a job or you were married into a rich family where you did not need to add to family income. All in all being a SAHM was considered a waste of professional qualification and if that is what you aim for in life then there were many other fields of study to bide your time.

So a decade later when I moved to North America , a place which I assumed had greater gender equality, where women have been working for a long time and where working would/should be considered a personal choice, I was surprised that stay at home moms were valued less than their working counterparts and I only realized this when I stopped working- my mat-leave was over and I was being asked how my job hunt was going. I have now been officially unemployed for 2 yrs and while people have been mostly polite about it , some even quipped how lucky I was to not have any day-care issues, I started to feel that intelligence, sharpness and passion is not what most people associate with stay at home moms. Thanks to the online community , I have come across many mom-prenuers, women who are writing and creating things, leading an overall satisfying and creative life while still being at home to care of the kids.

I posed the question , “why draw/create something new when so many exist already…when there is no monetary value to be seen” to some creative friends of mine online. Here are some wise words and responses that I got

From suzi “Asking “Why?” is their way of saying they cant understand why you’d want to put in the effort and yes maybe they are right, but really effort is driven by the endless giving machine that is the heart. Without drive there is no doing, without passion, no giving.”

from Nina “There are gazillion photographs and drawings and paintings out there but we still do them. Because we want to, because we have the need to and because they are in us waiting to come out and be seen by the light of the day. Here and now”

Here and now…. we are …. we do.

Phir MIlenge!!

The works of our hands.

Type “what do people think I do” on google and you would find a series of images doing the rounds on the internet these days describing different professions and in the same spirit of humour  I created the following image using Microsoft clipart.

Stay-at-home-mom is subjected to same stereotypes as any other job in the world but as I am realizing it is just as important and fulfilling as any other job can possibly be. Before I became a mother I designed landscapes for a living. Onset of spring is also the onset of our busiest working season- Lot of designing, paper work and doing the rounds of the construction sites. Don’t get me wrong, I like my profession. I can only speak for myself that there is much more to me than my profession. Its a part of my life not the be-all of it.

Working is what defines most of our adult lives. Our dreams and aspirations as children are linked to the work we would like to do when we grow up. Attitudes change with age when what we like to do becomes making a living – an exercise of making ends meet. If who we are and what we are worth are tied only with the work we do to make our living from nine to five then we can be really disillusioned especially if we loose the job. Work just like life has to have a higher purpose than ourselves. It has to strike a balance between what needs to be done and how it defines us. I remembered these lines from the Geeta…

Karmanye vadhikaraste ma phaleshu kadachna
Karmaphalehtur bhurma te sangostvakarmani.
Ch. 2, 47
In English, it would mean:
you can only control the works that you do , do not worry about the fruit (or the outcome)। Never consider yourself the cause of the results of your activities, and never be attached to doing your duty.
The Bible also say in Colossians 3:23,
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not men.”
Our work cannot be simply reduced to what it does for us ( a pay check) nor can it be the essence of our lives. Our work whatever it may be serves a purpose and also impacts other people’s lives. As a stay-at-home mom I realize the work that I do has meaning beyond just cooking, cleaning and laundry, or even nurturing  a new born life. I read somewhere, ” The totality of our lives is greater than sum of it parts” 
I cannot fit my work into a simple equation of effort +  monetary rewards= success. The impact of what we do often reacher farther than our own selves. Sometimes it can become an act of worship. Staying at home with my daughter is as much a service to the Almighty as was designing gardens.
The wisdom of old tells us to detach our self worth from the work that we do and I believe its true. We bring something of ourselves to each task that we do and that is what makes the works of our hands unlike any other.
Phir Milenge!!

Zen and the art of doing the dishes


I must have been seven when my cousin first asked me the puzzle of the lion, the goat and the hay bell. It took me a really long time to find the solution.  As a stay-at-home mom, Life has thrown another similar puzzle my way. It’s called the baby, the nap and the work done. 

So far this is how it has played out.
Happy baby + good sleep = no job done
Happy baby + job done = no sleep
Job done + good sleep = crying baby
Similar to the puzzle these three can peacefully co-exist only in the presence of the farmer ( read my husband) and can be solved when you throw him in the mix. Weekend is when my house is clean, baby is happy and I complete my back log of sleep. Rest of the week is a different story.
Believe me , I am no clean freak. I have always taken it easy but I did have a  habit of doing a job from start to finish in one go.  A year ago, I would have joked with my mother in law for her love of cleaning and the stress she takes over keeping the house in order. Didn’t the Good Shepherd once say, ““Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one”?
 Yeah I chose only the ‘needed’  parts ….. [wide grin]….
I can understand and appreciate her view point now. As a stay at home mom, one must pay continual attention. It is easy to get lazy and soon daily chores become weekly and weekly chores become monthly and some never get done enough.  I now do a lot of things in piecemeal fashion which can be a bit frustrating for me and that’s where doing the dishes comes to my rescue. 
It may appear dull and tedious  but it is my one job of the day which is small enough to be finished in one go and see the results immediately. Till the next spoon falls in, I can sit back and admire the Empty  kitchen sink. It gives me “peace of mind” and then I can be enthusiastic about taking the next task on!
Whether its a job to be done or an enjoyable pastime, a lot depends on our attitude…… Beauty and joy can be easily found.
I hope you are able to find the small things today that give you joy. 
Phir milenge!!