Sunday, January 16, 2011

Almost a man, my son

Thirteen years ago, at 9.46am, on Friday 16th January, our little 6lb 10oz bundle of wrinkly, squalling joy arrived into this World after three and a half hours of intense labour!  My Darling, my Mum and the Angel were there.  My Dad was on a train trying to get to us as fast as he could!  The Angel cut the umbilical cord between my son and me, and sealed a bond between Aunt and nephew that is unbreakable!  We named him Nikhil which means 'whole' 'entire' and that is what his was to us - our whole, entire world!

Twelve years ago, Nikh was walking, talking and teething! A mobile, noisy cutie filled with red cheeks and raw gums!  He was still the entire centre of our world, still the only child and grandchild!  He had started at Teddies Nursery about 7 months earlier, settled right in and was a darling, waking up in the morning, breakfast and playtime, two hour nap, waking up for lunch and playtime, two hour nap, waking up for dinner and see his Da (Daddy), and then bath and bed for nearly twelve hours!  I am still surprised that he knows anything about the world as most of the time he was in dreamland! His friends from Teddies are still near and dear - Roan, Spencer, Archie, Holly, Asha, Cara, and many more. The Moan (Simone), Kim, Debbie and others are still dear to us.

Eleven years ago, Nikh was very sick, contracting Broncchial Pneumonia and ending up extremely unwell and being admitted as an emergency to the children's ward.  My Darling, my parents and the Angel hovered over him, praying for his safe recovery.  We ended up creating a mini family out of the four other tiny patients in the ward.  I will never forget thinking how lucky we are when faced with their despair at the terrible prognoses offered for their children.  Mine was going to recover (I prayed), theirs were not (I wept).  we left the hospital with inhalers and a spacer device.  Around the same time, he was diagnosed with a suspected heart murmur and scoliosis (19% curve) of the spine.  Our whole, entire world was crumbling and our beautiful baby boy was so unwell.

Ten years ago, we took Nikhil for interviews at the boys private schools and were overjoyed when he was granted admission in all the schools we applied to.  Our toddler could write several words, could spell phonetically (a bit!), could count, and add, he could tell you stories from pictures and loved doing construction games!  He was on inhalers constantly, sick continually and hardly eating anything.  Then we took him to India!

Nine years ago, we were in Chennai, India.  The plan was to go with My Darling, settle him into an apartment and then bring Nikh back to London to start his formal schooling.  We quickly realised that going to the beach every afternoon and all the fresh sea air and food was doing Nikh a world of good.  He soon began using his inhalers less, began to eat regularly.  He began to gain some colour and was truly energetic.  How could I possibly go back? How could I take him to the cold and wet and damp that was making him so ill?  So he started at Kids Central Playschool and made some fantastic friends, Rajwa, Hamza, Baby Amr, Gul, Sanah, Tarsha, Annika and several others. These children were and still are good strong friends.

Eight years ago, Nikh was stronger, brighter and very very happy.  We applied to The School, KFI in Adyar, and we passed the parent interview, he passed his and he started there in June.  His closest friends went with him, all was right with his world.

Seven years ago, My Darling said that we might go home - so we started the process to transfer Nikh from running barefoot in the sand, hiding under the stairs to find ants in the playground, swinging from a Banyan tree that was 100 years old, leaning Tamil, learning to nurture nature (the school has its own cow - which once ran amok!!), from using chalk and slate or writing on the floor, from eating a full Indian lunch with his fingers to the brand new, hi-tech American International School in Taramani to gain a transition to wearing shoes again, to sitting at desks and using workbooks as the norm, to taking part in several sports.   Jeanette Parry was his first teacher there - what an angel - a loving, nurturing teacher who adored him - the feeling was mutual!

 Later that year several of his closest friends left Chennai and Nikh had to learn about separation.  He had his mummy for a teacher for some time and his other teacher, Kaylynne Matheson, taught Nikhil about self discipline, self motivation and doing your absolute best. She also taught him sign language and  how to laugh at himself. She was incredible.

Six years ago, our world was rocked on its axis. The Tsunami hit Chennai HARD. People we knew died, were swept away.  We were lucky.  The cottage we should have been staying in, at Fisherman's Cove, was hugely damaged and the guest who took our place was injured.  Nikh was learning about human tragedy, suffering and endurance on a huge and personal scale.  What he saw in the news, what he read in the papers was REAL.  Meanwhile, after an ectopic pregnancy and a few miscarriages, we had a baby girl who was a ray of sunshine and our own tsunami!  The Ray was wonderful for Nikh as he was allowed to take a day off school in celebration (my rule is that you have to be dead, dying or bleeding to miss school!).  On the downside, most of the rest of his 'best' friends left Chennai and Nikh

Five years ago, Nikh started thinking outside of himself.  He ran his own bake sale first for the Tsunami victims, and then for Habitat for Humanity and with some clever negotiating, persuaded his Nana to top up his seven thousand rupees to seventy five thousand rupees and raised enough money for the high schoolers at AISC to build an entire extra house! His teacher was utterly brilliant and encouraged him and supported him through it all - Becky Thomas. A talented teacher, creative, musical, artistic, constantly learning, changing, adapting and so full of energy and motivation.  A star!

Four years ago, Nikh managed to show that his character is forming nicely. He made friends with a huge influx of kids, he was on the Student council and was offering suggestions to make the school a better place.  He was IT student of the year, he got into fights with his closest friends and learning about making up and saying sorry. He joined the Madras Kids and realised what a gift his voice is - pure and clear and with perfect pitch!

Three years ago, he started trying to better himself at his sports, he started setting goals for himself each year.  He started practicing the piano more, he took part in another Madras Kids production.  He finally understood that each action has a consequence - that distracting himself in class might mean distracting others too.  He had one of the most fantastic teachers, Carolynn Fischer.  She had a baby and still continued doing the mega job she always had.  Her first and last thought was for her class.  She used parents to the best advantage to make sure her class go the best and most experiences.  In the process, she made other teachers better at their job and made parents appreciate how very very lucky we were to have her teach our children.

Two years ago, Nikh entered the Middle School - his Principal, Michele Dirksen, his counsellor, Trish Joudrey and some of his teachers motivated him.  They encouraged him to be self sustaining, to self manage his equipment, his property, his body and his education.  They showed him how to be independent.  They encouraged him to do his best, to try out for sports teams.  The cut him from the team to teach him a much needed lesson.  He had to learn to cope with criticism and disappointment.  Coaches Sebastian, Kostas and Dirksen taught him that even if they like him, they have to judge on performance and dedication and commitment.  His art and music teachers taught him that he can do anything that he sets his mind to.  His English and Science teachers taught him that all is not fair in life and you have to deal with stuff. The teachers that took him away for a week without walls showed him through example that there are adults outside of family and friends upon whom he can depend.  Who like him for who he is, not for whose son he is.

Last year, Nikh left Chennai.  he learnt to cope with emotional trauma on a devastating scale for him.  He had to say goodbye to his friends cum surrogate family.  He had to go to umpteen 'goodbye' dinners and lunches and realise how loved he was.  He had to come to terms with how close he had become to so many different people.   He had to come back to his 'home' that really was not a home.  He had to reconnect with his friends who have no knowledge of him.  His friends Roan and Archie have been fantastic.  He has started at a school where there as many kids in his year group as in half the school at AISC!  He is now one of many.  He is alone, unknown and alien.  He has had to learn to yank himself up by his bootstraps, dry his tears and get on with it, in spite of feeling alone and unloved and unwanted.  He has taken a few months to make a couple of friends.  He has worked hard and had a few shocks at how some children behave in school, how they talk to teachers and how disrespectful they are.  It is a credit to AISC that it had not even occurred to him that kids can behave this way!  He had to realise that extra lessons in keyboard, vocal coaching, badminton, choir and science were his responsibility.  If he didn't make sure he went, no one else was going to!  Life lessons!  He got his first report card and came third in his year (out of 300 kids).  His grades were great.  His Head of Year asked him to produce better next time around and he was astounded!!

This year - Nikh has read the poem IF by Rudyard Kipling.  He is going to try to live by it.

Now that he is thirteen and almost a man, my son is going to undergo some mega changes.  But some things will always stay the same.  The love My Darling, The Ray and I have for him.  The respect we have for his many talents and the thanks we give each day for his health and good humour!

Happy Birthday Nikh!  I love you!
(PS photos posted on Facebook and in a seperate post)

Dreaming in Dubai

Since living in Chennai, Dubai became our oasis in the desert of muck, grime, germs, bugs, and unruly crowdedness.  We loved for the times we could hop on an Emirates jet and fly straight into the arms of clean, sparkling malls; hygienic eateries and relatively few bugs.  Since moving home to London, coming to Dubai still holds the same appeal, but not for the same reasons.  We LOVE it here, simply LOVE it!  We enjoy the peace and quiet - no horns tooting.  Wherever we stay is not on any flight path, so no jets overhead.  The occasional 'whup-whup' of helicopter blades is not irritating, merely interesting - gives me a chance to make up an imaginary billionaire or dashing Prince heading to some world changing meeting or the other!

We love the crystal clear blue sea (some of it man-made - I agree!) but still gorgeous nonetheless!  We love the feel of the breeze - warm in the summer and like today, chilly, in the winter.  We love the fountains below the Burj Khalifa.  The music and choreography enthrals us relentlessly as we sit on the balcony with a definite bird's eye view!  We love the view from 51 storeys above ground - the unique architecture all around us and I defy Nikh to find two buildings that are alike!

We love the feel of the flown-in sand beneath our toes, the divine cooling lemon ice lollies that are dished out by the pool and beach staff to cool you down as you heat yourself up!  We love the underwater music system in the pool - easy to swim laps when you are being serenaded with every stroke and splash!  We love the cool, wet face cloths offered to ease your burning skin under the scorching sun.  We love the ease with which you can move from hotel room to water park and back again when they are all part of the same resort.  We love the way the kids are treated - with smiles and understanding.

We love the food - fresh, tasty and scrumptious.  We love the Hummus, the Tabbouleh, the Labneh, the Shawarma, the breads, the meat and fish and poultry.  We love the variety and the presentation.  We love the portions and the speed with which food is prepared and served!  We love the fact that fast food, when the Ray is starving, is just that!  We love the numerous coffee shops - Caribou, Starbucks, Second Cup, Gloria Jean's and more.  We love the choice of ice-cream shops - Baskin Robbins, Haagen-Dasz, Coldstone Creameries and the rest.  The fruit and veg are crunchy, crispy, sweet and tasty.  The quality is top notch and the colours are myriad.

We love the shopping - albeit a little expensive, window style works fine!  Designers vie with high street brands.  The outlet mall is wonderful, the Mall of the Emirates, Dubai Mall and Mall on the Marina are wonderful - best part is that you can walk miles and miles and never realise it.  Even better - the toilets are constantly cleaned and can be used without fear of dirt and disease!

But above all, we love the down time.  We love the time we spend together as a family, talking, walking, laughing, sharing and enjoying.  There is negotiation, debate and conversation about where to go next, which film to watch and what to have for the next meal.  Arguments are nil, stress, frustration and anger have gone with the wind.

For my dream holiday, or the holiday when I dream all day - Dubai is the top of my pops! I LOVE IT!!