Tuesday, March 29, 2016


I think that is the most apt word to sum up most days now. A woman wears many hats these days... too many, I think. In the morning, I am at work. At work, well... everything runs like what a work place should. Classes to teach, papers to grade, students to see, things to look into... basically a typical work schedule that comes with the scope of a job.

After school hours means another new hat... no... it feels more like donning a few hats. I was having a conversation with my students just recently and I told them that being a student is fun. Cos that's all you need to be...A STUDENT. Everything else, there are parents to see to. I'd trade places with them if I could. 8)

A mother, housekeeper, cook, handywoman.... there are just so many things to see to. The mind is in a constant whir. In between classes would be spend grading, planning and in between those things, menu planning, chores-to-do list, etc.

And that is where I think social conditioning must change. Everything we do, think, assume and even perceive... they are the products of our social conditioning. I guess nothing is really ours. And that is where I think things should change.

Conversations with others in my generation and those in the same boat. The same issues seem to be cropping up. Partnerships built on equality... they are hard to come by. Husbands and menfolk who throw in their equal weight in child rearing and housekeeping. While there are probably more men who are more involved, I think in our Asian society, it is still dismally low. Unless the womenfolk push for more involvement, most men would prefer to have their own time, either in their dens or out with their friends. The bottom line seems to remain this... much of the family work continues to fall on the shoulder of the women.

It's Qing Ming season now. It is not uncommon to see the women making preparations; folding the hell money (beats me why they call it that. It's like an admission that everyone goes to hell), getting the food ready for the prayers at the grave... they all seem to fall on the women too. And the irony is, the souls of the departed are not even from the same bloodline. They are only relatives by marriage! And so you have this... the one who lead the prayers for the deceased sharing the same name with the deceased. Needless to say, the ones who toil to prepare the stuff needed... well, they are the womenfolk who are 'outside family'.

Ancestral worship is a Confucian teaching. Confucius teaches filial piety. So, shouldn't the filial sons do all the preparations? Yet many husbands would expect (or even demand) that their wives be filial to the people who played no part in raising them! And so we go back to this same merry-go-round... Everything we do, think, assume and even perceive... they are the products of our social conditioning. A couple of thousand years worth of social conditioning here, I guess.

These are thoughts gathered from a rambling session with a friend of mine. We belong to the same generation although the age gap is quite significant. The same is heard most of the time... The menfolks continue to refuse to acknowledge the need for them to put in their weight in everything that makes a house run.

Son recently started to manage a house. After barely 2 months... in one of our conversations. He passed this remark that a house is a lot of work. Yup! and Yup! A house is a lot of work. But I think many men will just brush it as mere complaints... Ah! After all most things to them can wait. They are more important things to do, they feel.

Bringing in the dough... the days of the man being the sole breadwinner is over. Women do that too these days. But the balance is not struck in the home. Social conditioning over what is perceived as men's domain remains entrenched.

Ramblings on a day when the mind is clouded by a blur of haze...

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

And in the animal kingdom...

.... mothers love their babies to a fault too.

This is a story of the past 3 weeks plus. And it all began with this.... a nest with 2 eggs. On 14th February, much to our pleasant surprise we discovered these 2 eggs in the forgotten basket that my colleague and I hung outside the computer lab.

The eggs were tiny... not the regular chicken egg size that we are all so used to. They looked so pristine, white. The shell looked soft. It 'hardened' over the next two days.

I had my doubts whether the eggs were a mistake. I felt the mother bird had picked the wrong place to lay her eggs. The basket hung from the metal grille. We put it there for students to throw in the announcements they wanted to make last year. After a couple of months, the announcement papers became a trickle as students warmed up to email as a means of getting the information to us. And so, the basket was left there, forgotten mostly. Once or twice, my friend and I talked about removing it, but basically, we just left it there. Then, came the 2 eggs, all so cute and pretty, yet quite exposed to all the elements and dangers of sorts.

The thing with the possibility of tiny lives is, they have this great ability to tug at your heart strings. We watched with apprehension if the mother bird would come back. She did, much to our relief. And this started our daily routine of checking on the eggs every morning. The first thing I would do every morning is to see if the eggs were there. They were! Every morning until the eggs hatched, the mother bird would be sitting on them. Both my friend and I arrive early every morning.

This time of the year is terribly hot and I began to worry for the mother bird and her eggs. So, one day before going back, together with the kids, we plucked some small branches with leaves all still attached and tried to create some shade for the mother bird. I was worried that it might be scared of me. Much to my surprise, she just 'glared' (am not sure whether she actually did cos you can't really tell what the birds are thinking through their eyes) at me. Her eyes never left me and I made sure I stood within her sight as we tried to rearrange the leaves. The mother bird was always there whenever I came out.

It was though she realised that there were many dangers around and she was guarding her precious eggs. I did not see her away from her eggs. I guess maybe she did all her food hunting while we were not around.

This went on for days. My friend and I talked about bringing food for her. I even left her some bread crumbs but she didn't seem to like it cos they were left uneaten for a few days.

I was thinking that the eggs might not hatch at all until end of last week. The mother was not around but in the tiny nest, there were these 2 littlest birds I had ever seen. Their fur (it didn't look like feathers yet) had this tangled look. It's as though they had just recently emerged from the egg shells. We put more leaves around the basket. The sun was rather merciless and the heat, quite unbearable.

Baby birds grow fast. Within the last few days, they have doubled in size. And today, after I walked past the school pavilion, the worker who cleans the lab every week called out to me and told me they birds will leave soon.

I hurried back to the lab.
And this greeted me. Perched at the edge of the basket, was this grown baby bird. It was flapping its wings. I thought it was going to fly but on closer look, I realised it was not quite ready yet. I approached it. It didn't move. But I could see that it was clinging on for dear life to the basket. I patted its head... and said a goodbye to him. It could he a her. Its siblings was still sitting in the nest, contented not to try anything today. Tomorrow, (or day after), both might probably make their maiden flights and take to the sky. I hope they will be successful and don't falter. There are cats around, always looking for a meal. And this bird would make a good one if it does not take flight. The mother bird was no where around. My girl tells me she has seen how the mommy bird feeds her babies. They eat from her beak.

It's been an amazing experience. Two, three hundred people walk past the birds every school day.
The door to the lab often slam shut with a very loud bang in this windy weather. Any one of the kids could have developed itchy finger and did something to the birds. Yet, none of those stood in the way of the journey of the eggs to these two birds.

If one takes a look at the actual location of the basket that plays host to the nest and its two precious content, the fact that they made it this far is an amazing thing. And for us who have had the opportunity to share these past weeks with the mother bird, it has been a humbling time too. The birds have provided us opportunities for lessons of sorts with students. They have also consolidated a couple of things in me too. 

The mother bird never wavered in her 'love' for her brood. She stayed on, even though, it must have been a very scary time for her, seeing all the two-legged creatures walking past, peering and talking on top of their voices. 

Even in the animal kingdom, the love of a mother for the young takes on a sacrificial dimension, and what more is this reminder too of how, ever so often, our mothers would go through great lengths for their children. The food that they set aside for their children, the comfort that they choose to do without so that their children are more comfortable, the things that they don't get for themselves so that their children can have some of the little luxuries in life, the clothes they iron so that the kids look neat and cared for.... the list goes on. That is perhaps the greatest reminder these past few weeks has been for me. Every single time, I took a peek into the nest, and see the mother bird, I see a bird willing to die because of her babies. She gave all she had, even though she knew that her babies will grow up and leave the nest. 

It's been a while since I visited this blog... Life has been quite rushed and hurried. There so many things to do and so little time every day. So many things to see to, so many students to deal with sometimes and my own one too. But this just needs to be written, so that I can be reminded of the things that my mom used to do for me.

Update 1: One of the babies tried to fly today. It managed to fly all the way upstairs before running out of gas. The workers watched over it, mindful that there is a cat prowling around. Finally one of them picked it up and put it back into the basket. I wonder too whether we should have done that.... But it's nice to see the two little flers safe and sound still.

Update 2: The nest was empty this morning. We thought the birds had left. But when we got upstairs Mother and one baby was perched on the signboard. The second and weaker bird was nestled close to its Mother. The grown baby was snuggling up to its mother. Both were facing the rising sun. To those who do not know they probably just pay a perfunctory glance, and think nothing of them.  I supposed both knew that it was time to go their own ways. And yet the mother gave all, knowing that there was nothing in it for her....

Throughout the remaining day, I took many peeks at the basket. It was decidedly quiet. The nest is empty. Its occupants have flown....

This has been a lesson of many sorts. Of selfless giving and greater sacrifices... and LIFE. That's life. 


Time flies... that's when days are filled with things to do. 24 hours feel rather short now but some day, I guess 24 hours in a day will...