I am thrilled to be sharing a new interview series with you each and every week: #realmothersdiversevoices. In this series my intention is to reveal the endless ways our family values can inform our Daily Rhythm. The mothers I have interviewed lead diverse lives but they each have a huge sense of clarity about what their Family Values are (even if they change over time) and consciously and creatively strive to create a Daily Rhythm in alignment with those values.
It is my hope that through these stories more Mothers feel inspired to explore what their own family values are, to question them and bring them to life in their everyday experience. I know that seeing the world through another Mother’s lens will develop more empathy, understanding and compassion between us.
Today I am honoured to welcome Nirmala Mayur Patil to Whole Family Rhythms community. Nirmala is a freelance writer and photographer stylist from Pune, India. She and her husband are raising their daughter in a culturally diverse home spending their days making mithai (sweets) in the kitchen with Saanjh, telling stories, and bringing home flowers, stones, twigs and seeds from our walks together. You can find more of her words and beautiful photos on her blog as well as on her Instagram account @nirmalamayurpatil
Who are you? Can you introduce yourself, your work and your family?
Namasthe. I’m Nirmala, living with my husband Mayur, our almost-four-year-old daughter Saanjh, my mother and memories of my father in our humble home in Pune, a still new to us city in India. My parents were both orphans and belonged to contrasting geographic and cultural backgrounds. My father came from the Himalayan mountains of Nepal and my mother belonged to Mysore, a historic city in the South of India. So growing up I had a very tight-knit family and an extremely liberating upbringing. Then, I met and married my soulmate (from Maharashtra, Central India), who brought yet another cultural dimension to my life. Now, we are raising our daughter in our individualistically rich and culturally diverse medley of a home. Between making mithai (sweets) in the kitchen with Saanjh, telling stories, and bringing home flowers, stones, twigs and seeds from our walks, I freelance as a writer and photographer/stylist.
What is one of the greatest joys you experience as a Mother?
The everyday blessing of witnessing a soul grow and take shape. I love watching how what my little girl soaks in each day of this world, of this life we’re celebrating together, colors her. And in turn, how she unfolds. Like a bud, slowly perfuming our days and hearts with her beautiful conversations, mischievous ways and divine love.
What is one of the biggest challenges you face daily as a Mother?
The drawing and erasing of lines. Restraining myself from drawing distinctions between right and wrong for my daughter is a daily challenge. Often I forget my own learning that such distinction is only a mirage, a false belief.
What does having “Rhythm in your Home” mean to you?
I’d like to believe what we have in our home to be as a rāga, more than a rhythm. Although both have similar harmonious connotations, a rhythm is recurrent while rāgas in Indian classical music are myriad frameworks associated with time, seasons and moods. When translated, to us having rāgas in our home is a way of life that’s sensitive to our time, the six wayfaring seasons outside our window and all the waning and waxing moods inside us and our home. Instead of confining our happiness to what we can or cannot achieve with our days, we’ve learnt to respect the rāga it creates. Allowing us to flow organically and make poetry of our everyday.
Can you give an example of some of your most cherished ‘Family Values’?
Feeling and loving. We’re constantly sowing these seeds into ourselves and our girl’s heart. Remembering and growing our ability to feel and fill up with love for everything around us keeps us most fertile.
How do you hope to pass these values on to your children? Or in other words, how do you manifest these family values into your daily rhythm?
Through the transparency of our own strengths, deficiencies and efforts. We believe nothing can inspire her to be what we wish her to be than watching her own family be that first. So we let our love to shine through our actions and never shy away from accepting our failures. But more importantly, through our continual efforts to better ourselves.
This we also achieve through the magical and powerful tradition of storytelling.
Can you outline a typical ‘Weekday Rhythm’ for you and your child. Specifically when/where/how do you and your little ones eat, sleep/rest, play inside/outside, work/learn and make time for selfcare?
If I’m not already awake, our day begins around 6.30 with Saanjh waking me up. We linger in bed for a while, talking, gifting each other kisses and hugs, watching sunlight slowly sieve through our curtains and listening to the morning birds sing. During this time, our voices wake Papa too.
7 – 8 : I cleanse, make our bed, sweep and mop the floors, water plants and play some Hindustani classical music to echo through the house. Mayur helps Saanjh brush her teeth and wash up. But somedays, it isn’t this ideal. So we keep space after breakfast for pending work.
8 – 10 : These are the most rushed hours of our day. While Mayur gets ready for work and Saanjh is with her Nani (my mother) playing and learning traditional rhymes, I’m in the kitchen preparing breakfast and lunch, as it’s habitual for my husband to carry home-cooked lunchbox to work every day. Food is of reverence to us, both the act of cooking and eating. I make all our meals freshly from scratch. Breakfast is kept lighter with seasoned semolina, flattened rice, and dosas or idlis made from fermented batters accompanied by chutneys. According to Ayurveda, Agni (our digestive fire) is potent at midday, so lunch is our largest meal. Dal, rice, roti, stir fried vegetables and buttermilk are everyday staples. As the smell of crushed spices and ghee melting over hot rotis fills our home, breakfast is served and eaten. After which, Mayur leaves for office, I clean the dishes and Nani switches on the washing machine for our daily laundry. This ritual of our combined morning work brings us together as a family.
10 – 12 : We spend these hours each day differently either slow-learning alphabets and numbers, visiting the garden downstairs, reading books in the balcony, or working around the house – cleaning, making and mending. While we work, with Saanjh by my side imitating and helping in her own little way, we usually discuss seasons particularly the one we are in and all the changes and festivals it will bring. Right now as monsoon journeys into autumn, an array of Hindu festivities await. As my hands embroider colourful flowers onto a fabric that will grow to be Saanjh’s new dress for Śarad Pūrṇimā, I tell her of how autumn’s first full moon is the brightest of the year and a favourite of Kṛṣṇa and Rādhā. On that night, the moon’s energy is the highest as it comes closest to earth. So we’ll leave a bowl of kheer (Indian rice pudding) covered with muslin outside in the balcony to absorb the curative and life-giving rays from the moon all night, to be eaten next morning. Interlacing everyday work with seasons and stories, helps me gently instil our daughter with the richness of our culture.
12 – 13 : Lunch time. If it’s raining outside, we sit on a mat on the living room floor and eat together. On warmer days make a picnic of it in the balcony. A little stroll around the house post lunch does us good.
13 – 15 : Saanjh naps. I take a leisurely bath, do my freelance work or spend time in solitude doing things I love.
15 – 18 : Saanjh wakes up. If I’m still involved in work, she has her afternoon snacks, usually seasonal fruits or homemade sweets/savouries and plays by herself. Otherwise, we draw, paint, rearrange her nature window, craft, read books, drink tulsi tea to build immunity against monsoon infections, or spend time in the kitchen making mithai together. Saanjh sits on the counter watching me stir milk, knead dough or roll laddoos in my palm. Once again stories weave into our work. As I introduce her to different smells and flavours, food memories from my childhood surface and spillover. Twice a week, we catch up with friends for a play date.
18 – 19 : As dusk falls, we light our evening lamp, offer prayers and cook dinner. Usually it’s khichadi, the most easily digestible and balancing preparation of rice and moong lentils, married with herbs and vegetables and served with papads. While dinner cooks, Saanjh busies herself with her own version of dinner preparations. As with other components of our home, her toy collection is very limited. The sum total exceeding not more than a single basket. So playtime throughout the day is a beautiful stretch of her imagination combined with kitchen utensils and things gathered from the garden. For us as a family, living with less is an inherent means to love and value the things we already own and be mindful of our finances.
19 – 21 : Papa returns home from office and spends time with Saanjh. We have dinner together. Mayur gets Saanjh ready for bed and I sing her a lullaby or tell another story before sleep. Some nights, she requests to listen to a soothing music like the Bansuri (Indian flute).
21: Mayur and I spend time together taking a moonlight walk around our block or having long conversations in bed. We then retreat to doing our own things. Somedays I go to bed early, but often stay awake late into the night. Although it’s unwise of me to, this lengthy stretch of uninterrupted time deeply hydrates my soul.
However, our days are anything but stern. We love to live unhurriedly and have enough time between our work and play to gaze out the window.
How important are higher belief systems, stories, literature, art, family history and creative expression to your family? How do you weave these into your family life?
Stories. It gives me such delight to see Saanjh being her happiest self when listening to stories. And she could listen to them all day. All kinds of stories. For us as parents, it’s the most essential aspect of our communication with her. We use it to pass on our family history, which gives us our unique roots. To introduce her to our rich culture, impart knowledge, open her to new perspectives and bring home messages. In turn, she loves composing her own stories. Additionally, books have been an integral part of her upbringing right from the start. I’ve deeply invested myself in building her diverse and growing home library.
As creative individuals for both Mayur (Graphic Designer) and I, it’s important to discuss with our daughter a book’s artwork as much as we do it’s story. We oftentimes introduce her to ancient Indian paintings and different musical instruments. When she’s drawing or painting, we encourage her to both imitate and create from her imagination. Through her days with us, she sees us creating all the time. Be it as I stylise shoots, make her a dress or simply weave floral garlands, and Mayur designs and plays with colours on the computer screen. Bits of those influences are evident in everything she does.
When does your family rhythm get thrown off kilter?
Like the changing shapes of clouds in the sky, the details of our everyday is never the same. Somedays we feel limited and on others overflowing, somedays Saanjh may need me more than usual and we spend time simply being together and on other days rain falling on the hills outside our home may steal my complete attention. Many variables from a visit to the garden, to the splendour of a setting sun, to being lost for hours behind my camera creating visual stories, subtly shape and reshape our days. Hence, our inclination to live our everyday as rāgas.
Do you consciously re-evaluate and change your family rhythm with the seasons and ages and stages of your kids?
Very much so. It is indispensable to the art of living and becoming.
When you’re feeling stuck, tired, frustrated with your role as Mother, what do you need most to shift your energy and perception?
Time. Time to quieten, to think, weep and let my tears lead me back to my place of love.
If you could recommend one book to the Mothers out there what would it be?
It’s not a typical book on parenting. But it’s enlightened me the most about a child’s heart and mind. Rabindranath Tagore’s Crescent Moon, a collection of tender poems revealing the many seen and unseen layers of a mother-child relationship.