I woke up this morning, feeling very blessed and grateful….last evening was truly magical, more than I could ever have imagined it to be. Such power in intention and non expectation. I walked into the living room, and looked upon the beautiful gift circle that was handmade by my dear neighbour Nitya and embellished with little dots and squiggles by 5 enthusiastic kids ranging from age 2 to 12. I couldn’t help but smile.
A beautiful gathering of like hearted people we had. Each story was so powerful.
A mother who had miscarriages offered the jeans her precious little daughter wore the first time she said ta-ta (bye bye).
A new mother shared a stuffed rabbit that had been gifted to her on impulse by a lttile boy she met while working in London. The boy had said to her ” Take this rabbit and when you have a little boy you must give it to him.” She shared that she had no intention of even having a child at the time she received the gift. Now she has a little son and he had really played with it a lot and she had washed it and even blow dried it to bring it to heritage swap.
A friend brought her wedding jewellery to let go of the attachment. It was picked up by a 7 year old who promptly wore it and beamed smiles all around the room.
A guy brought a keychain he had got for his no ex-girlfriend on a trip abroad. When they broke up, she returned it. It hung in his cupboard till it came to the swap, a reminder each morning of a love lost. It was hard to let go, but when it was done, it was so transforming.
Another beautiful soul brought a set of hand painted coasters with the seasons(ritu) in the Indian tradition. They had been given to her by her mothers friend and her mentor, who had passed on last year. This was what she was holding on to. She said they were hand painted and so beautiful that she never had the heart to put a wet glass on them and so she was holding the memory of the hand painted coasters and passing them on to someone who would really use them.
A 12 year old brought a truck eraser that her favourite teacher had given her when she moved from Delhi to Mumbai. She shared that she had been struggling to find a gift for the swap. Since her teacher has given her 3 erasers, she held on to 2 and put this one into the heritage swap circle. Her sister put in her favourite bedtime book that her mother had read her every night when she was 2.
The stories are so many, this post could go on forever.
What was poignant and unexpected for me is that more than the swap, it was the intention of finding something truly meaningful to share and the letting-go that all of us experienced. Truly its easier to let go of money than something with heart-value. It also came home to me, that when you struggle to let go of money, its usually because of being in a space of fear of scarcity. When you struggle to let go of something with heart value, its because of the abundance of trust and love that you want to hold on to forever.
This was also my experiment with having kids in the same space as adults. I have always been a social person, curious about things and wanting to share and experience. After becoming a mother, I felt sort of ostracised. No one wants people with kids at their events except other mums ofcourse. This did not feel cool.
I struggled many a time with the thought of putting Sivaanaa in daycare so I could go for something, but I didn’t. My mentor on the parenting journey, Yasmin understood my lament and she said to me, that children weren’t meant to not be part of society. In the good old days, mothers would take their kids to work on the fields, slinging them and singing to them while they worked. This stayed with me, and as I resumed working, I picked projects that had to do with children Sivaanaa’s age. I sling-ed her and took her to work with me. When it was meetings with adults, she served chai from her toy set that she carried with her. People sensed that we were comfortable being the mother-baby package and were very accommodating of us.
In 2013, we took Sivaanaa to a gathering on gift culture in Istanbul. That was the first time, she was accepted and cherished in a purely adult setting. There was one other baby, an 18 month old from Tamera, an intentional community in Portugal. This was a dream space. Babies played and quietly so in the space that was held for them by the group. Babies nursed and slept while we brainstormed and heart-warmed on how we could shift gradually from a culture of money to a culture of gift. I sat there wondering how I could facilitate gift culture in my own small way while still keeping house and beng present for baby. At the end of the 3 day all day long gathering, I was of the feeling that being a mother and trying to be a conscious one (though I know theres miles to go) is the gift for me.
And yes the idea of heritage swap, was gifted to me by my little one. I have many friends who have older kids and share the toys, clothes and books their children have outgrown with so much love. Often there is a story of how much their child loved a particular book or the memory of something to do with the object. My little one always asks me who gave her something and what its story is. That has taught me that when there is love and a story attached to an object, it flips from a perception of hand-me-down to heritage. Infact the other day, S was wearing a new dress gifted to her when she was one and that just fits her. I metioned who had given it to her and she asked ” Mumma when D’s mum was little was this her dress”. I just smiled at the joy this little kid experiences in these things. Its priceless!
Its amazing what this was like for the kids. I was both excited and nervous about having them. I packed away all the breakable stuff. I shut the toyroom— I didn’t want kids fighting over a toy/s while we were sharing stories. I bought 1 kg of shelled green peas for them to clean while we were sharing. (the kids were mostly 3-7 years old and they are in the age of industry and doing….no chance they were gng to sit through a whole hour of sharing) And then I surrenedered to the universe. They shelled green peas and listened, some coming into the circle when their mum shared about their toys that they were swapping. Everyone understood that the attractive things being placed into the circle could not be touched until everyone was done sharing.
The peas were shelled faster than you can imagine and we did have to invite them into the playroom eventually….but it was ok…quite manageable.
They enjoyed swapping stuff…. it was a treat for them to pick what they wanted.
To me the integration of motherhood and life was completed. Mothers, kids, men, college students were all complete in the circle of life.
Part 2 (Click here to read Part 1 Guzz guzz Gruzz the anxious buzz) Years later.....I sat on her couch in Mumbai, this complete stranger (Effath Yasmin), with my 9 day old baby in my arms, helpless, tear filled feeling like a complete failure of a mother. My baby was...