Thursday, December 24, 2009

That's the spirit!

Just had to write about this. Children in a small village had to travel a distance of 13 Kms. to reach school. Their parents had engaged an auto but when the auto driver passed away the parents felt that the children had to discontinue their studies. But the children were adamant that they would go to school no matter what.

Seeing their steely resolve the parents of one of the child gave them a horse cart and now they go to school on a horse cart all of the 13 kms, along with ten other children. Imagine the age group of these children is five to ten years and it is the ten year old who handles the cart. Though it is fraught with danger the children do not mind as they would all like to go to school and study.

I must salute these little children as well as their parents who have stood by their children's decision.

Another picture also comes to my mind where we in the urban areas we send our children to school by school bus, private vans, autos, and only if it is close by we let them walk. With all these facilities I don't know whether we are building that inner resolve in our children towards self motivation or are they taking it for granted? This would be an eyeopener for all of us I guess.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Three and already worrying??

My eyes just popped out - tiny tots as old as three worrying about their appearance and weight?This was the article that I read in the newspaper the other day under the headline 'Tiny tots worry about weighty matters'. It said that a study conducted by the University of Central Florida found many three to six year old girls worrying about their appearance and weight. Phew!

I remember during our times we never gave a thought about our looks or appearance (as long as we wore neat and clean clothes and kept hygiene in mind) specially not at three!! We would wear what was bought by our parents and basically enjoyed playing, studying, going out and so on.....

Now when I read this article I pondered as to who or what is responsible for this big burden that such small children carry. Is it the stereotypes that the society in general is creating what with size zero, beauty pageants, television shows, specially the reality show involving children?Overnight these innocent children are transformed into miniature adults with lots of makeup and hairdo. Their mannerisms and talk also no longer reflect their age. As it is in the current scenario children are growing up faster than they need to.

The movies also I think play a very prominent role in the life of our children. Our society also abets this. Hence our children no longer are the sweet, innocent, carefree beings but already burdened with being too hooked onto appearances. High time we parents inculcate self esteem in our children where emphasis should be on basic hygiene and healthy eating habits which when followed puts everything in place. Let children be what they should be i.e., free spirited.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Teaching through video games

Last morning my son gleefully held up the newspaper and triumphantly waved it to my face and told me to read the article where the caption was "A video game a day, makes the child smarter all the way". As all parents are aware this is one of the issues among many that we parents have.

I was quite interested and went through and found that according to a new 'Kids and Gaming 2009' report from the NPD Group, among all children in the U.S aged 2-17, 82% or 55.7 million are aged 2-5, representing the smallest segment, while 12.4 million are aged 9-11, making up the largest segment. (Phew!! isn't that quite a huge number and I wonder about the 12-17 age group). The crux was that as children these days are hooked to playing long hours of video games, teachers are now trying to get students interested in molecular biology or space exploration, world culture and other topics through developing interesting video games. This they think serves dual purpose: that of children playing their games and at the same time learning these subjects too. Talk about having their cake and eating it too!

Atleast I wish that children might benefit by using these educational videos than playing the mindless games of counter strikes and whatnots.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Bridging the education gap

The other day my children were talking to their friends from their previous school. They told me that the school where they were studying earlier would now have children from lower economic strata studying alongside with the other children.

I was then discussing this aspect with my husband. We were wondering how this would work out. On the positive side, the under-privileged children would get access to all the facilities hitherto which they could only dream of. Secondly, the standard of teaching would be very different from what they were used to. Better teachers and better teaching methods. The children from affluent background can interact with these children and in the process get to understand their lifestyle and their problems and aspirations better.

But on the other hand there would be problems too. Integration would require these children as well as the regular school children to make a lot more adjustments as the environment that each one comes from will be totally different. It can easily lead to two opposite groups where one feels superior and the other inferior. Teachers also need to understand and relate to these students at an emotional level. Imagine the immense pressure the children would face when they interact with the affluent children, be it with their dress, or something as small as pencil box, shoe and various other things which would trigger a lot emotional upheaval in these little minds. Wouldn't it be a traumatic experience for children coming from a lower economic strata?

In this context, I feel instead of uprooting students and putting them into alien environment all private schools should adopt government schools in their vicinity and this should be made mandatory. Teachers then from private schools should go in batches and teach in these government school on a continual basis. This would not only enhance the quality of education for the children but will also give the teachers an entirely new perspective which they in turn can use in their teaching. Further, teachers of government schools (who I hear are completely deprived of new training methods) can also be given training by the private schools so that over a period of time the government schools can bridge the existing gap.

The government schools also suffer from lack of infrastructure be it in library, sports or in the laboratory. For extra curricular, activities these children can be taken to the private schools where they can use the facilities there once or twice a week. Same way library can be built in the government schools by involving children of private schools to donate books. These children can also be taken to interact with the other children which in the long run will break the chasm.

Hopefully this would then lead to better integration than displacing children from their natural surroundings. Making the existing schools stronger should be the aim of the Education Ministry. Are you listening, Ministers of Education?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Role reversal!

I read in the newspaper about this very unique reproductive activity in sea horses. It is said that the female sea horse lays 250 - 600 eggs in the pouches of male sea horse. The pouch is something very similar to a kangaroo pouch. Now the female will lay her eggs in not just one but other male sea horse i.e., until she clears all her eggs! (ooh! these males seem to be quite willing).

Once the eggs are laid inside the pouches immediately the pouches get sealed and the female satisfied with her handiwork swims away. Now that's what I call total female liberation. After this it is the male who carries these eggs inside him for about 40 - 50 days and it says he goes through all the pains of pregnancy, until finally the eggs hatch into babies. Mostly they die after giving birth and only a few survive for the next mating season. Isn't that sad?

For a moment a picture flashed through my mind if this role reversal were to happen in human beings too........maybe in some distant future perhaps.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A divine bond

The other day me and my husband were in the midst of traffic and the traffic light had turned red. I always like to look around to see people around me at that time. It is a very good observation point for me.

That was when I happened to glance at my side where there was an auto and inside I saw a little girl of about ten years of age who was in a school uniform sobbing uncontrollably with her hands covering her face and her brother who I guess must have been about fourteen or so had his hands around her and I could see him trying to pacify her. Since we were next to them I asked him in sign language as to why she was crying? At that I could make out him telling his little sister that others were looking at her and asking her to stop crying. After a while with him coaxing and cajoling I saw the little girl lift her head slowly. Immediately her brother wiped her tears and pointed out towards us. I also saw her brother trying to make her laugh and finally when the signal turned green I saw that he had succeeded in making her smile and he was holding her hands and waving at us.

I was truly overwhelmed by this incident and the love and care that this little boy had shown . That was truly a bond which I wish will last through out their lifetime.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Grandmas help girl child live longer

A study conducted by Cambridge University have come out with findings that granddaughters lived longer when their paternal grandmother lived with them or within close vicinity. This was in start contrast to the effect of the presence of paternal grandmother on the grandson - the effect was supposed to be harmful to the grandson as her presence was linked with an increase in mortality. This study conducted across seven populations across the world, looked at infant mortality in the first three years of life

Well, I do not know how it is in these populations (some ancient and some modern but not Indian) where the study was conducted but in various places in India I am sure it would be the other way round. Here where people believe in male progeny to be the means to their Moksha, grandsons who live in close association with their paternal grandmother will be more favored. Infact I guess they will thrive.

In many a case, we have heard of a girl child being neglected and treated badly. God forbid if a girl child is born first. Her sorrows begin right then. Sometimes her sorrow ends even before she is born when she is killed as soon as it comes to be known it is a girl child.

Do you think this study would throw up an entirely different result if it is conducted in India?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Using technology for inclusive education

Technology when applied rightly can benefit our country in an amazingly positive way and have far reaching benefits for the society.

This is what I felt when I read that the Government of Karnataka is planning to start CET coaching for rural students absolutely free of cost. Studios will be set up from where the lessons will be telecast to the training centers and the study materials will be provided free of cost. It says that 13,000 Intermediate students in the rural area are going to benefit from this initiative. These children can then dream of pursuing professional courses of their choice such as BDS, BE, MBBS and so on.

Satellite-based coaching!! Imagine if it works well and is managed efficiently, it will open doors to so many aspiring children of our country who so far would have only dreamt of making it big but did not have the means to achieve it. Education will then become inclusive and doors of opportunity will open for all.

Virtual classrooms and Video streaming technology - what we thought was seen only in sci-fi movies are slowly becoming a reality. It is entering our classrooms too. I feel our children are living in an exciting world where they are going to enjoy learning in such an advanced and interesting way.

Are they ready yet?

My thirteen year old son came and asked me and my husband if he could go for an evening out with his friends to a gaming center. As no adults were accompanying and it was only a group of friends going, we naturally refused to let him go. He was offended big time and he made it a point to let us know how disappointed he was quite forcefully.

Generally till now we have taken them to lots of their friends' place as well as had his friends over at our place where we personally knew the parents. We have let them go out when one or the other parents have accompanied the group of children to an outing and they have had sleepovers at their friends' place. But so far we have never let them go out in a group alone without any adult supervision. Believe me, even at this age they are still a handful and do crazy things when they go out in groups.

Somehow children at this age have neither grown old enough to understand nor are they little that we can hold onto them. At one end children of that age feel quite grown up and act so very mature but the very next moment they bely their age by doing something very foolish. This is but common at this age.

As we have all passed through this phase of adolescence we do understand what they must be going through . I remember the time when my father used to refuse to send us on school trips if it was for a longer duration. Day trips however were fine with him. But we also used to be offended then and thought our parents did not understand us. Now I guess it is our turn to go through this cycle with our children.

However in the current scenario where children are growing up faster and getting exposed to so many facets of life at a very young age as parents I feel it is but natural to protect our children as far as possible. At the same time one wonders if it is overprotection. Where does the balance lie?Are they ready yet to fly out on their own??

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Womb Transplant!!

Science is making amazing progress in so many aspects. The recent that I read was about womb transplant... I was curious to know what it was all about and went through some materials written about this.

Simply put womb transplant is done when a woman cannot conceive due to various reasons. The womb transplant can be done so that the woman can conceive and carry the child in her transplanted womb rather than go in for surrogate womb or for adoption. The womb is removed once the pregnancy is over.

Yes every woman dreams of having a baby of her own. Right from times immemorial women have been specially created by the universal creator to go through this wonderful experience of succoring a new life within her. But somehow recent statistics show a rise in infertility in both men and women due to various reasons.

In this scenario, lots of fertility clinics are doing brisk business by trying to help a husband and wife fulfill their dream of having a baby of their own. I have come across so many cases where a woman undergoes so much of pain both physically and psychologically not to mention the monetary aspect of it hoping against hope that one day her dream will be realised. In lieu of this womb transplant will be another procedure that a woman will let herself undergo.

Several comments were posted on this topic. Naturally women who were having difficulty in conceiving felt this was a great ray of hope for them. While some felt that we are overburdening the already overpopulated world, some others felt that where there was a chance of adoption there would now be one less child having the opportunity of growing in a good family setup.

Whatever be the rational merits and demerits of the scientific discoveries especially in life sciences, one must not ignore that there is always a social facet that one must keep in mind. Womb transplant is one such issue - it's not just about the science of it but attached with a deeper emotion.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Where have these games gone?

Vacations and any spare time for children today means watching T.V, playing computer games, PSP and other audiovisual indoor onscreen games only for our children. I remember how different it was during our times. With no T.V or other present day gadgets our vacations were filled with lots of outdoor and indoor games.

Remember Hopscotch with eight houses were we had to throw a stone and hop? Lagori was another game were we had to pile up the stones, then hit them and run while the opposing team tried to catch us. Dog and the Bone, In the pond and on the bank, Hiding an object (when the person goes close to it saying it is a hot spot and when the person is far away then the place being called cold zone.) - there were so many that used to keep us busy and engrossed for hours on end.

I remember the game that became a craze during our time was something called Goldspot. I now wonder why it was named so. This game was played with all the players holding hands and going in circle chanting goldspot, and soon after we had to jump as far as possible from the persons on the other side. Then each one had to try and step on the person next to them by jumping forward while that person tries to avoid being stepped on by jumping backwards.

The other game was elastic. Two people would place this big elastic round their legs and the third person had to jump and do various acrobatics. After each successful level the elastic would be placed higher and higher. Then there was of course all time favourites like hide and seek, run and catch, blind man's buff, four houses and so on and so forth.

The list of indoor games were endless. Snake and Ladder, Ludo, Chinese Checkers, Brain vita, Tick Tack Toe, Name, place, animal and things, Card games, Carom to name a few. There were the traditional games of twelve houses where we had to play with shells. Then there were these four round seeds with which you play by flipping it on the palm and then throwing it up and catching the others one by one and so on. Another game was played using elongated shells.

These games did not cost anything and the only thing one needed were friends, a few household articles and a little space. But sadly somewhere down the line we have lost them. They have become obsolete and I feel sad about it. Traditional games have among others fallen prey in this era of technology. Have these games been lost forever?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Did you ask a question today?

I was reading an article in the newspaper about the release of this book titled " What did you ask at school today?" by Kamala Mukunda. I am yet to read the book, but the title itself sounded very interesting. I read through the excerpts of her interview.

The author says that our education system does not stress enough on concept teaching. Our system is more rigid and stresses more on textbook reading than questioning. She also writes that human brain was not programmed to learn non-innate things like calculus and computer programming but is programmed to learn languages and social communications. Hence she says that a child learns to speak and understand a language well but cannot learn non-innate factors like spellings as easily.

"We give our students knowledge in disconnected chunks, and we expect our students to reproduce knowledge in more or less the same way it was received", writes the author.

That made me wonder if we are'nt making our children into cyclostyle copies or carbon copies of ourselves that is the parents, the teachers and all the other adults with whom they come into contact with or who play a role in shaping their life? The aim seems to be to shape our children into a miniature parent. At school the teacher tries to make her students think and interpret a thought just like she has understood it. This would then mean no originality.

But luckily God has made each child unique. Each one has his or her own level of intelligence. Some are better able to learn by repeatedly going through the lessons while some are able to understand the concept just by going through it once, while there are others who interpret the same concept in a totally different light altogether. Some are very skillful with their hands while some are creative thinkers.

Wouldn't we want some one who is Child I and not Papa II or Mama II?

And every person finds his own calling sooner or later and our world keeps moving ahead generation after generation.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Happy Teachers' Day - A trilogy - Part III

In the last two parts of the series, I wrote about my personal experience; that of being a student and later of being a teacher. Over a period of time these have been my observations.

According to our Veda, the place a teacher or a guru is placed topmost in the hierarchy after mother and father. Students came to their Ashrams to learn at a very young age and it was the teachers' sacred duty to mould these young minds and shape their lives. Students did not question the Guru. These Gurus were wise and well versed.

According to Maria Montessori a person cannot be called a teacher. She just directs and guides the child. Children are like little saplings which require the right kind of ingredients for them to bloom. The teacher is the gardener who would nurture these saplings and give them a strong root or foundation so that they grow into strong and sturdy trees. Various eminent educationists and philosophers have devised different methods of teachings. But whatever the method one follows, I feel a teacher should have lot of patience and love towards children and an aptitude for teaching. These two go a long way.

But somehow over a period of time certain aspects have disturbed my mind with regard to this profession. Imparting knowledge, in other words teaching is considered a noble profession. But of late I have read of so many bizarre stories where teachers have been beaten up by students or students have launched agitation against teachers for various reasons.

On the other hand an even more disturbing trend is of teachers who should be enlightening are themselves in the dark. I have read articles where teachers have made the students from lower caste wash the toilets in the school, they have caned the students that have resulted in the little ones losing their sight or hearing and sometimes these actions have even lead to loss of life.

What has lead to this rotten state of affairs? Is this because teaching profession over a period of time has lost its nobility? Even after teaching over several decades, teachers are still living what one can call a 'non-comfortable' life style. India's future lies in its school rooms and if an important component of that ecosystem, the teachers, are not happy, the future of the country is also at stake. This is one of the primary reasons why teaching is hardly a coveted profession for today's qualified professionals.

I have seen instances in many schools where teachers are hired not because they are qualified but there are not many available. Any attempt to fill the vacancies without cognizance to the teaching abilities / qualifications will only affect the standard of teaching. And this is one aspect the Government needs to examine closely.

Hence I feel that unless teaching as a profession and the teachers are given their due place and recognition we cannot hope to bring back the former glory where we can equate the status of a Guru next to that of parents.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Happy Teachers' Day - A trilogy - Part II

These are some of the experiences during my teaching days. I completed my masters in Human Development and for six months worked as a nursery school teacher in the same place where I had completed my nursery education.

Six months into it, I got a call from my college asking me if I was interested in working there. Just the thought of teaching undergraduates and graduates made me excited as well as nervous. Teaching is my passion but just out of college, I wondered if I could handle this job, and that too teaching at college level. I gathered courage and said yes.

My new life as a lecturer began. The first day however was a total disaster. First of all, we had to wear sarees and I was never comfortable in sarees. On the first day, I had to teach the second year graduates. We had an icebreakng session. Then I turned round to the board to give a short introduction to the subject that I was going to teach them. The board was high and there was a platform. I climbed on to that and was writing. My nervousness, the saree, all put together gave me a wrong equation of the distance of the length of the platform and there I was moving towards the edge and not realising it. All the students must have been waiting for this moment and then it happened. I stumbled right down. The saving grace was I did not fall! That was the worst moment for me but a very hilarious moment for all my students.

Well, slowly I started getting into the groove. I shared a wonderful rapport with so many of my students. The subjects that I was teaching was also very interesting mainly - Child Development, Womens' Studies, Microbiology, Physiology and so on. Hence there would be lot of interaction at various levels. As these subjects are mainly to do with being aware of various stages of human development, one could relate to them personally. Many of my students would come and discuss their personal problems as well.

My belief was that teaching had to transcend "lecturing" and had to involve the students at a deeper level. Hence creating various teaching techniques like having the students solve crossword puzzles, conducting quizzes, getting eminent personalities to talk on topics, getting the students to debate made teaching more interesting. I enjoyed this stint of my life getting to know so many wonderful students of mine.

Later my kids came along and I wanted to spend time with them. Once my children were old enough and became independent I worked for sometime in the school where my children were learning. Then, I also had a stint of running a preschool. To interact with little children is to open an amazing world. As Rousseau says children's minds are like a blank slate and hence filling up that space with the right things goes a long way in enriching a child's mind. That was again a deeply satisfying experience for me. The love and joy that the little ones shower on you is very rewarding.

So far this has been my teaching experience with varied age groups - both the teenagers as well as the little ones. All I can say is that teaching is a profession that one has to absolutely love. Because, people in their younger years grow (and grow up) because of their teachers and there cannot be a bigger letdown to these young people than a passionless teacher.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Happy Teachers' Day - A trilogy - Part I

Yet another year and yet another fifth september is being celebrated as "Teachers' Day". I remember my nursery teacher - a very good teacher who used to run a nursery from her house. She laid a strong foundation when it came to the basics of teaching alphabet, numbers and addition and subtraction. I am still in touch with her.

After this, I went to a proper school. There were different kinds of teachers. Some of them were very good at teaching their subjects while some others just couldn't make us understand what they were teaching. Some teachers were forever frowning and scolding all the children while some had the habit of hitting the children on the head with their knuckles. Whew! That used to hurt a lot, though I got the taste of it only once and that too accidentally. That was the time when corporal punishment was allowed.

I also remember another teacher of mine who during exam times would feel so very generous towards those students who had not studied that she would ask the bright students to show their papers so that they too could copy and pass the exam. It was too shocking for us at that time.

At the same time there was this other teacher in high school who was quite passionate with her subject. I still remember her telling me that it is only in teaching profession that a teacher would feel very proud and happy when her students do well.

Then we stepped into a different world that of college life. That was when I really enjoyed my student life. The college that I went to was a very reputed one. Barring a few, most of the lecturers were quite good with their subjects.

Even here I would like to salute that one teacher who came like a whirlwind into our lives. She was short and hardly noticeable but by God! the moment she started her introduction we could all sense that here was a teacher who could be categorised as the "Ideal Teacher". She was the most lively and the most energetic teacher I had ever seen. She would enthuse the whole class. You know what subject she taught us? Of all the subjects it was Chemistry, the most boring and dry subject. That was until she came along.

Can you ever imagine the whole class waiting for a Chemistry period? That was the kind of teacher she was. We also learnt that her family was actually from Sri Lanka and they had come to India as refugees! It was only because of her that we all developed a love for Chemistry. We also started scoring very good marks in the subject. But good things cannot last longer, can they? She left the very next year and we never got to know why. But she will always remain in my memory and I salute a teacher like her and wish wherever she is , she is remembered fondly.

So on this Teachers' Day, I salute all my teachers who have played a crucial part in shaping my academic career. Happy Teachers' Day to each and every one of them.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

An irreplaceable bond

Today as I was clearing the bed I noticed a book which my son had read and left on the bed. I saw this book was a series of short stories by the great Rabindranath Tagore. Suddenly I remembered the story of Cabuliwallah.

When I was in school, the moment I used to get my textbooks I used to read all the lessons. So when I went through the lessons, one of the lessons was that of Cabuliwallah. I remember reading it and by the time I completed it I was in tears. It was the most touching story. Every time I would read it I used to always cry.

I thought this story brought out the wonderful bond shared between a stranger and a little girl. The Cabuliwallah away from his own little daughter gets attached to this little girl Mini in whom he tries to see his own daughter. The last scene specially is very touching. The Cabuliwallah comes back from the prison. He comes to see his little Mini. Instead he finds a grown up decked bride getting ready for her wedding day. It is then that he realises that even his little daughter whom he had left behind in Afghanistan might have grown up into a young woman. All that he had with him was his little daughter's handprint on a crumpled sheet of paper which he would carry with him everywhere.

Many a time I have seen father and daughters sharing such a wonderful bond and this story is an ode to that special father - daughter relationship.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The roller coaster of an exam ride

Exams are round the corner. The heat is soaring and it is not just the outside temperature that I am talking about what with no rains! Even inside the house, temperatures are rising with parents getting hyper as the children are getting closer to writing their mid term exams. Lots of tension around. All the parents are going through a tense phase as the exams approach. There are a lot of do's and don'ts that as parents we tend to tell our children. Don't drink cold water; don't eat cold things from the fridge - you might catch a cold; Remember you have exams coming up; stop playing on the computer; study - you should get better grades this time than what you got in your last unit test; you cannot go down to play as your exams are coming up, so on and so forth. The list never seems to end.

But somehow suddenly I find children getting more interested in reading story books which was never touched in all these months. It appears as though they have an exam on that book. My son gets the most interesting story book which he says he was able to lay hands on, only then from the library and so has to complete reading it as he has to return it. They remember something very important that they had to do just when they are asked to sit and finish the exercise that was given to them.

These days the moment the door bell rings they run down to open, which during other times they have to be called several times to go and see who it is before finally I am left to do this chore. But all of a sudden they have all the time in the world to do these tasks. When they are supposed to do their reading I find they are very interested in reading the newspapers and that too during dinner time!

During meal times the norm is for them to come down only after being called minimum ten times, but now the minute they are asked to sit and study they seem to be suddenly very hungry and are at the table even before I am ready with my preparation!! At other times they hardly respond to my call but now even before they are called they always seem to be around me all the time.

So this is what the scene is at home right now and will continue to be so until mid week next month. Till then all we parents must sit tight biting our nails in desperation while our kids gleefully take us on a roller coaster ride. Happy ride till then.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Reader's delight - Reader's Digest

When I was browsing through the day's news, my eyes caught the news item which said that the Reader's Digest is filing for bankruptcy. I felt quite a jolt.

I remember my affair with Reader's Digest started when I was 11 or 12 when we started subscribing to it. I used to enjoy reading every single page of it. The unforgettable quotes, the challenge of word power, Humour in uniform, Laughter's the best medicine, Life's like that - every single issue original in every sense. And then the book section. Such awe inspiring stories that I would wonder whether there could be such brave and adventurous people in this world. Infact Reader's Digest was a compact book which had all the articles that one ever wanted to read.

I remember the time when I was able to lay my hands on an edition of Reader's Digest which was the compilation of the book section over the years. I was so very engrossed with the edition that I did not sleep until I had read the last page. I continued to subscribe to Reader's Digest even after marriage but lack of space and time forced an end to my affair with this lovely book. It was a Catch 22 situation where you cannot even think of discarding the old RD books and there was no space for the new ones. So I have all my piles of old RD in a carton so that my children could read this wonderful book. I am glad to see that my elder son enjoys reading it.

Well I really wish all the best to Reader's Digest which has been my childhood friend. I hope it will be a part of my children's childhood and adulthood too inspiring them as they grow.

Monday, August 17, 2009

When Father is the Mother

Long time back I had read this article where a single man had adopted a baby and was bringing up the baby singlehandedly. Well, it was something totally different because I had never heard of any such happening before. I also read that according to the adoption laws in India the age bar for a single woman to adopt is 21 but for a single man the age bar was 30.

Indian adoption laws also do not have anything against single fathers adopting though generally agencies prefer giving a child for adoption to a couple rather than a single parent. According to the law a single man cannot adopt a girl child whereas a single woman can adopt either a boy or a girl. Mind you adoption process is quite a long one and does take time as there are several factors that the agencies have to look into before finally handing over a baby. Afterall, it's the life of a small baby that is at stake.

From time immemorial a mother's role has been typecast as the one to give birth and to rear children and the fathers role being that of a breadwinner. We all talk about maternal instinct. One never gets to hear about paternal instincts, do we? But many a time, I have seen fathers looking after their children with so much of patience and love. I think these fathers are the ones who are in touch with their feminine side.

But on the whole I wonder how different would that child's upbringing be when a child is adopted by a single male? How would this child differ from a child say who has been adopted by a couple? I should say it would make for an interesting study to conduct. Atleast in India if the man has got a strong family support system it would make his task easier. If this means that one child atleast can get a good loving home. This is surely a positive sign of a progressive society, provided the child is given a loving home with a father playing both the role of a mother and a father effectively.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

A welcome change

These days whenever I go down for a walk or sit in my balcony, I am greeted by this very welcome sight of fathers coming down with their children and playing with them. I see a father trying to teach his child the basics of tennis, or another father pushing the cycle while the child is learning to balance, another child being consoled by the father after hurting herself and so on.

It is so nice to see the present day fathers taking so much of time and trying to play an important and equal role in bringing up their children along with the mothers. I can see how much they want to be a part of their child's growing up years.

It was not so long ago that the role of a father was restricted to being only a disciplinarian. He would hardly take part in bringing up the child. Though even at that time I guess many of them did want to take an active part, maybe they were hesitant as they might not have been too very comfortable and did not know how to handle children or they must have felt awkard at what others would say if they tried their hand at changing diapers or fed the baby. At that time the roles of a man and a woman were too sharply demarcated. If ever the child wanted something from the father it was usually communicated via the mother. They were too scared to talk to their father.

Luckily during our times there has been a welcome change and our husbands were very much involved right from the time of our pregnancy. Now there is even more marked change. Many a time when the mothers are working and when they can't afford to take the day off to babysit, the fathers have taken up that duty willingly. Many studies have shown that both the parents have an equally important role to play in the overall development of the child. Specially in these times when the mothers are also chipping in a lot by working outside and trying very hard to see that the house is also run smoothly, fathers taking that initiative in helping out in every aspect is a real blessing. We all know how difficult and taxing it is to look after the children. So in this context I must say this is a real welcome change. Way to go Fathers ..)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Technology invasion at home

The other day my cousin marked this article on facebook. It is all about how technology has overtaken our breakfast time. These days in many households the moment the family is up and about, the first thing that they do is check messages on their mobile and switch on their laptops to check mails. This they say is not just restricted to adults but even chidren who even on a school day have to check their cell for messages, texting or play a game on their gameboy or check their facebook account!!

Whew! This I am sure marks the beginning of the tech era. Infact one parent says that he sends sms to his children instead of going up to their rooms if he needs to talk to them. This is the height of techlaziness I should say.

These days it is a very common sight when you go out, to see people walking, driving, standing on roads, in cars, restaurants, theaters you name it and there are people busily engaged talking on their cell. Sending sms constantly is also another way people are keeping busy with. People are so short of time that when they sms the spellings have been shortened in such a way that very soon I am afraid that there will be a separate dictionary for just that! We will very soon have to relearn english spellings all over.

Very soon all households will be very silent right from the moment they get up except for the clicking sound of the keyboards or an occasional exclamation, or a sigh, or swear word depending on the mails and messages recieved. Almost like a ghost house. Eerie silence. As it is, communication between parents and children is getting to be very complex and remote. And this tech invasion into homes will encourage lesser face-to-face communication even between parents and children.

A joyous greeting towards each other every morning, the smell of fresh coffee and bustling activity in the kitchen with a song on our lips, the mad rush of shouting and getting our children ready for school, having breakfast together. I would prefer this any day to the tech communication. Don't you?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Our independence needs better respect

Every 15th of August we celebrate the Independence Day. We were lucky enough to be born into a free and an independent India. We studied about the freedom struggle only in our history textbooks. However we used to listen to the difficult times that our grandparents went through during the pre independence period.

Just the other day, I read this very touching story of this young girl called Kaumudi. Gandhiji had come visiting her village as part of fund raising for the Harijan Sahaya Samithi . He appealed to the people assembled there to donate whatever they could. At that time a young girl of seventeen came towards Gandhiji and asked him for his autograph and as he was writing he saw that she was taking out the gold bangle from one hand and giving it. Then he saw her taking out the other gold bangle and finally her gold chain. Even Gandhiji could not, but help appreciate her sacrifice. She later became a disciple of Vinoba Bhave and helped in the Bhoodan movement. She passed away at the age of ninety two last week. Just imagine the spirit of freedom that had been ignited into such young hearts!

Today India has made great strides. India is supposed to be the youngest country with half the population being in their twenties. Just imagine how strong our country can be if the youth power is harnessed in a positive way. The only problem is that even after 62 years of independence, the development is lopsided. There is a very huge imbalance between the have and the have-nots.

Even today when we see the movie "Gandhi" or "Shahid Bhagat Singh" or even a "Rang de Basanti", we definitely feel a stir in our hearts. When we sing or listen to the national anthem we do feel proud. Even today when we listen to this very touching song of Lata Mangeshkar "Mere watan ke logon" my eyes water.

For our children though, it is a very different story. They were born during the times of economic boom. Hence Independence day means holiday for the school. Children crib that they have to practice marchpast as part of independence day celebration and that they have to go to school even on a holiday!! Why only children I have seen adults showing scant respect when our national anthem is played.

The question then is are we loosing the spirit of independence? Are we taking our independence for granted? Are we sensitising in our children the value of Independence? How can we as parents help in developing the patriotic spirit and that national pride in our children?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A God called Mother

We all know the saying that God created mothers as he could not be everywhere. I like this expression a lot. From times immemorial a Mother has been given the highest place. Infact in Hindu dharma we say Maatrudevobhava giving the first and the most important place in our lives. The first word that every child utters is mother in whatever langauge that the child speaks irrespective of class, creed, or country. It is to the mother that a child turns to when he hurts himself. It is to his Mother that he turns to when he is hungry, for solace in times of trouble, for answers when he has a problem.

Motherly love and sacrifice can never be described. The extent that a mother goes to see to it that her children come up in life is known to all. I have come across some such mothers who have by their sheer grit and determination have succeeded against all odds.

I should say my own grandmother is an example. After my grandfather passed away she singlehandedly raised her two children. She was not educated. But she had that determination that her children should get a good education and a good job. So she started looking after the new business that my grandfather had started and managed it well.Though she came from a small town she managed on her own in the city.

In another case a young widowed mother tried to make ends meet by preparing food and selling it. Then as her business grew she opened canteens in colleges. I should say she climbed the ladder of success by sheer hardwork and achieved her goal which was to see to it that her children get a good education and finally do well in life.

There are other instances where the mothers due to various circumstances like alcoholic husbands, being widowed at a very young age, who have been deserted by their husbands have taken it upon themselves to educate their children and make a bright future possible for their children despite their adverse situations. When we read all these success stories it feels good and makes us wonder at the courage of these mothers. Imagine the pain, the anxiety the uncertainity that these mothers have undergone.

These mothers truly are beacons making their own path where there was none and have truly enshrined Motherhood in all its glory.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Disappearing Indian cuisine?

This is in continuation to my blogpost on "Cooking travails of a mom". It is no secret that the children's eating habits and the choice of food have changed drastically over a period of time. During our parents' time everything was very simple. Thanks to the large joint family, the means to provide a comfortable level of living with trimmings everywhere was the diktat. Simple dhal, chawal, seasonal vegetable curry, sambar, rice porridge were the order of the day. Everyone had to eat whatever was prepared. No wasting of food. No choices whatsoever. All the sweets and savouries were home made.

Come our generation. The basics remained the same. But slowly North Indian cuisine started getting popular in the south. Hence vegetable pulao, raita, parathas started making forays into our traditional south indian menu. We know that India is a country of diversity. This was also the time T.V came into our households. So there was exposure to different cuisines from across India. So our choices increased.

I remember it was also the time when maggi noodles was introduced. All the children were crazy about it. I remember in many households children started to demand maggi noodles for breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner. As women of the household also increasingly started working outside, easy availability and acceptance of outside food became the order of the day. Still our dosa, idlis, sambar, rice porridge etc played a prominent part on our dining table.

Come today's generation. Spoilt for choice. Introduction of so called healthy cereals, pizzas, burgers, KFC, all started wreaking havoc on our healthy Indian menu. As mothers, it has now become an everyday affair to offer a large choice to our children (as though we are running a small restaurant at home) as to what the days menu would be. Even with umpteen number of choices each option is vetoed. Though the family size has shrunk menu planning has become an arduous task. Everytime we go out to eat, children invariably choose to go to McD, KFC, Pizza Hut or other pizza jonts, Chinese, Italian you name it other than Indian of course. What about MTR or a Shanbagh or Kamats? It is yukky mom, is the reply.

I remember reading that according to a study conducted, the south indian meal is supposed to be the most nutritious, healthy and well balanced meal. I felt so proud about it. But as my husband reminds my children the audacious line that one of the American cereal brands used ,where they said that in the coming years they would completely change the breakfast habits of Indian children. Are we after all going to fall prey to this? I am not against tasting other cuisines from other countries. But at the same time I fear that in future when our children grow up Indian cuisine might completely disappear from their kitchen.

Let us as moms see to it somehow that the efforts of our ancestors who painstakingly devised such healthy food depending on the region we came from will not go down the history making alien cuisine the staple diet in the years to come.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Belongingness in children

These days my children always complain to me saying that when they go down to play, a child always pesters them to take him into their group to play. If they say no then he complains to his mother and the mother comes down and forces these children to include her child in the group.

When they complained, I tried to tell them that it would be a good gesture on their part to include this child into their group. It would add up to their numbers and they can play together. But their argument is that the child in the first place does not know how to play football and if in the process of playing, he gets hurt, the mother shouts at the other children. This is a common story which we come across, specialy when one lives in an apartment.

Well, every child would like to belong to a group and play. But not all children sometimes fit into a group. Children are very choosy and have certain criteria when they choose their friends. Generally children get together when they have like minded friends whose interest and aptitude match. This holds true not only for children but for adults as well.

I have generally seen that children accept other children more openly than adults do. It is only in extreme cases when there are no similarities at all that children refuse to accept another child into a group.

I feel we as parents have a huge role in ensuring that our children do not feel isolated. Especially so when people live in apartments where there are lots of children. Children form groups easily wherever they go. They do not need any adult help. Only little children below the age of two or three need their parents with them as they need to be in their comfort zone. The older children however are the first ones who go out and get to know children with whom they can play .

It's our job as parents to help our children to have that sense of belongingness into a group. All of us do need it for self identification. After all man is a social animal. This is especially so when we live in apartments. No child would like to be a loner nor the parents can accept it. So how can we as parents help our children?

Firstly, it is important for us parents to know our child's interest. He might like to play football or cricket and these are the two current passions of children these days. Secondly, we have to work extra hard to boost his / her self confidence. Sometimes the child might be very shy. So as a parent we can encourage the child by introducing the child to the group and request them to include the child in their group. Thirdly, encouraging in your child a sense of fair play helps. I emphasise "do not take sides" when your child complains. Explain to him it is part of the game. They have to sort out the issue on their own. Certain games like football are quite rough and the child may get hurt. If you are a parent who mollycoddles your child and do not want your child to get hurt then avoid sending him to play such games. The other children definitely will not take kindly to the child who always complains at the drop of a hat. This is a surefire way of getting the child excluded in all future games.

Most importantly as a parent be there when your child needs you, but never ever interfere unnecessarily. These are stages where the child gets trained to learn different aspects of life viz. communication skills, group participation, a sense of fair play, developing self esteem, self-confidence, acceptable behaviour etc. and in future this leads to a healthy interaction and positivity as adults.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Happy Friendship Day

The word "Friend" brings such joy to one's mind. Friends are people we cherish throughout our lifetime. Friends come from different corners. The first friendship starts from our early years during our school days. At that time however friendship can turn into different hues depending on the situation. I remember this friend of mine who would vouch friendship forever and share her pencils, erasers, labels and other things. But within a few days time, would give me sleepless nights by asking for all things back in its original condition and threaten to tell the teacher. This was because she found other friends and wanted no longer to be your friend. And then I had my bigger protective friends who used to take care of me from the class bullies. I of course had another set of friends who would be friends only during the test or exam time to gauge the progress made in studies. These were my competitive friends.

It was in college that I formed firm friendship. We were a group of four friends . We were very close to each other, through thick and thin. Sharing notes, helping each other when one of us was absent, sitting late into the night completing our record work, going to the canteen once in a while, going down the road to eat in a new eatery... Such wonderful memories. We were together while doing our masters too. Day in and day out for seven wonderful years. I am glad to say I am still in touch with two of them. But down the lane somewhere I feel sad that I have lost touch with my third friend. I wish there was some way of contacting her.

The next set of friends were, once my children started going to shool. Somehow making friends with other moms is very easy. All of us will be going through the same phase and hence can relate to each other easily. So I have my set of wonderful parents grouped as bus stop moms. These are the moms whom I used to meet regularly at the bus stop and hence got to know each other. Then the other group was my childrens class friends moms. We used to meet during Birthday parties and when children invite their friends home invariably moms also would meet. Then ofcourse when we live in apartments we get to form a whole lot of friends.

Sometimes friendships are formed in malls or theatres or even in grocery stores!! So watch out. We never know where we can find friends. Have you ever had this feeling when you saw a person something draws you to that person and you would like to know her better. Something about that person wants you to forge a friendship?

That way over the years I have found very good friends. I was reading this book called "The autobiography of a yogi", wherein Paramahansa Yogananda say's friendship is truly the most blessed relationship. That is the only thing that we can choose ourselves. True friendship without any expectation is the best relationship to be formed in one's lifetime. He also goes on to say in our previous lives also we had known these people and hence even in this lifetime we end up forming bond with these people.

Sometimes, we go in this tide of life rushing forward to fulfill so many of our obligations. Stop. When you want to rejuvenate just pick up the phone and call your friend and have a heart to heart talk. You will feel so exhilerated. So dear friends here's wishing all of you a lot more joy and happiness and above all peace in life.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Open the amazing world of mythology

The other day my husband and me were sitting at the playarea in our apartment complex after our regular walk watching lots of little children playing. At that time a gentleman came and we watched him interact with these children. He was asking them which class where they in, and what they were playing? After this the conversation turned towards mythological stories as the gentleman asked the children if they knew the story of Ganesh and Kartikeya. Some replied in the negative while some children said that they knew the story. Then the gentleman said that he will conduct a quiz to see how much they knew about our Mythology.

We saw that when the gentleman asked simple questions as to who were the three wives of Dasharath or when he asked the name of the sons of Dasharath most of the children did not know the answers.

This made me realise that our children are losing touch with the traditional mythological stories which have been passed on from generation to generation through ages. I remember with great fondness the times that we as kids spent listening to my grand father, father and mother narrating to us the Epics Ramayana and Mahabharatha. We used to enjoy listening to it as much as our grandparents and parents liked to narrate it to us.

I remember the time when Dr.Ramanand Sagar's Ramayan was first shown on T.V it had an amazing effect of uniting all people irrespective of the religion that each belonged to. We had all our neighbours coming to our house religiously every sunday to watch Ramayan. It broke all barriers.

So also when it was my turn, as a parent I did the same thing. I used to narrate the stories of Ramayan, Mahabharath and many other stories and children were fascinated . Their grandparents also had them spell bound. Once they grew old enough to read they started reading on their own.

I felt so proud when in our apartment during a quiz contest which was conducted on the eve of Ganesh Chaturthi festival on Mythological stories children won the contest with the most number of correct answers.

So I hope as parents we can do our bit by seeing to it that we do not forget to pass on this rich heritage to our children. All the book stores these days have a good collection of Amar Chitra Kathas and other attractive picture books on all the Mythological stories. So parents go ahead and weave wonderful stories and take your children through the mystical world of Mythology.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Language politics

I do not understand what all this hoopla about making state langauge compulsory as the medium of instruction till fourth standard in all schools. I do agree that when one lives in a particular state it is a good practice to try and learn the local language of that state for the purpose of communicating. It makes life easier for our day to day transactions.

The most important thing is first teaching our children our mother tongue. I have come across parents who try hard to teach their children English first, fearing that children might find it difficult when they start going to school . This, I feel, is totally unfounded. Children will anyway learn English once they start going to school. But they will never get a chance to learn their mother tongue if parents do not teach them. Children have an ear for languages and pick it up easily.

It is a different matter that once children learn to speak English and Hindi then their sentences are laced with a mix of different languges as I have seen in my son. He used to speak Konkani which is our mother tongue fluently but now every sentence has English, Hindi , and sometimes even Telugu words in it.

So the question is should we burden our children with having to learn the local language? As it is they have so much to learn these days and it becomes very difficult for them every time to learn a new language. This will be a big problem for children whose parents get transferred frequently. I am sure many of you have gone through this trauma during your school life.

I believe that the mother tongue is something that should be taught by the parents mandatorily. Beyond this, it is best left to the parents to decide the focus of their child's lanuage orientation. But there is absolutely no place here for politics. After all language is a tool to communicate and not to be taken as a political agenda.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Sports or studies? A Difficult choice

In our country a lot of premium is placed on education. Every parent works towards seeing to it that their children get a good education, get admissions in good colleges or professional institutes. Ultimately the dream of every parent is to see their children well placed professionally with a decent standard of living.

As parents we encourage them to participate in all sports activities, enroll them into professional coaching centres during holidays or even on a regular basis. We wish our children to have a balance in studies as well as extra curriclar activities.

Conflict arises when we find that our children are interested a lot in a particular sport and would like to pursue it. What do we do? Till they are in their ninth grade we still feel we can go along with this, provided they do averagely well in their studies. But what does one do when the child enters tenth? Crucial years ahead . Future of the child depends on the performance of the child in the next two years.

Suddenly we as parents start pressurising the child to hang up their sports kit and open more of their school books. In these competitive times, the stress on the child is more whether they like it or not.

Unlike western countries where sports can be chosen as a fulltime profession, it is a different scenario in our country where the need for quality education is of paramount importance. A sports person's career on the other hand is fraught with risk and uncertainty. In addition to this, more often than not, the sportsmen / sportswomen end up facing the wrath of politicisation of priorities at every level. These situations are alien to parents for whom the only goal they can see is of their child's success.

I know if all parents thought this way there would never have been Tendulkars, Sania Mirzas or Gagan Narangs. There is an inherent conflict here. On the one hand, how will we ever know if my child can take up sport as a career if we do not even support our children's pursuit by giving it a lot of time, energy and most importantly money to practice? And on the other hand, God forbid, if they do not make it, how will the child handle it? And how would we as parents handle it. The time spent will never come back. Starting something new all over again is a difficult proposition. A very difficult choice indeed for a parent.

What do you think?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Call of the nation

The other day I watched a talk show on the tenth anniversary of the Kargil victory. One could sense the disillusionment of the mothers, wives, daughters of the Kargil martyrs who had laid down their lives for our country. The apathy shown by the Government and the people of this nation. Imagine six hundred and ten lives lost. So many children orphaned, so many widows, so many parents lost their sons . Imagine getting back to living life without your loved ones. But these people are the proud ones who despite all the difficulties that they are undergoing would still not have it any other way.

At the time of Kargil war I remember the call to join the forces. There were huge lines outside to enroll and I felt it was a way of unifying people. At that time there were also discussions whether to make it mandatory for all our children to join the forces at the age of eighteen. I think two years of compulsory training for all citizens at the age of eighteen is a rule in Singapore, Malaysia and other countries.

It was then that I started thinking what would I do? Would I as a parent have the courage to send my children for mandatory service in the armed forces? Would I be a willing parent if my children choose the armed forces for a career? In a way, the disciplined training that they have to undergo there makes them really tough and strong. But what if there are wars to be fought? In the coming years I think wars look to be inevitable, the way the world is moving these days.

I salute all these courageous mothers who lost their loved ones.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Celebrating the journey of parenting - my fiftieth blogpost

It has taken me a looong time to reach what is to be my fiftieth blogpost. It made me think as to what should I write about to commemorate my special fiftieth blogpost.

As the story goes it all started when I stopped working and was feeling totally bored doing nothing. The kids had grown old enough to take care of themselves. I would finish cooking and luckily at that time I did not have to go through the ordeal of thinking what to cook for my children as I have to do now. Asking me why?

Well I had the luxury of leaving the decision making to the school committee who were planning nutritious meals for my children and serving them hot meals on time! This was also the time when I was vying for one upmanship with the school chef who was supposed to be preparing kheer which was yummier according to my son than the kheer which I used to prepare with all my motherly love!

Well to get back, It was then that my husband not withstanding my whining about being bored at home conjured the plan of getting me off his back by asking me to write blogs. Blogs? But what do I write about? Well he had the answer. Why not on parenting? I was not very sure but thought I will give it a try.

So here I am, writing about my experiences and feelings, asking all my dear friends to read and tread along with me in my journey of parenting. During this great journey of parenting which most of us say is thankless, painstaking, arduous journey and an ordeal I feel it is the small things which our children do for us which makes it all worthwhile. The hugs that they give us, the joyous smile on their faces when we come back home, the stories of joys and sorrows of their school life that they eagerly share when they get back home, asking when I will get well when I fall sick, the small greeting cards that they do on our birthdays. Oh there are so many things which makes parenting so very special.

In this journey, I have come across so many small incidents which set me thinking and wanting to share with other parents to know what they felt. When I go through all my blogs I find for every female foetus aborted there are thousands of babies being adopted. For every parent who has been abandoned by their children there are many who have given a helping hand. For every troubled child in this world there are millions of children trying to shape their lives in a better way.

Down memory lane I have to say how much my father and mother have shaped us by being such wonderful model of parents. The loss of my father has forever left a vaccum in my heart which can never ever fill. My mother being a strength of pillar. I should mention here about my wonderful parents-in-law who have succeeeded in making parenting an art with such good results right in front of me ie. my husband, who was referred by all as Gandhi. Such is the power of good parenting. There are still so many things that I have to learn about parenting from all these wonderful parents.

I salute all you parents for trying to be the best of parents. Let's continue our journey together for many more years and try to give our children the strong foundation that they ought to be given and celebrate the joy of parenthood.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Cooking travails of a mom

Many of you must be going through this travail day in and day out. Yep I am talking about packing lunch and snack box for our children every day. The box is just about 15 inches by say 3 inches. But the content that goes into it sure will make our ISRO scientists think that rocket science is child's play than planning on what goes into the box.

Every night me and my mother-in-law sit to discuss this serious matter. Thank god we have two heads working to try and plan the menu. There are certain criteria that we have to consider before we decide on what to make. One, it must be deliciously innovative. So we cannot have the regular idli, dosa, utappam or upma. It is so not happening!

Second it should be tasty of course. Even here taste means not anything spicy for my litte one but medium spicy for my older one. So that leaves me preparing two different dishes.

Third the content should not be liquidy. So our good old dhal, sambar, rasam are out of question. Otherwise I have my kids complaining that the whole of break time was busily spent in cleaning than eating.

Yes I know some of you might say try tupperware or 'lock and lock'. They are supposed to be leak proof. Absolutely true. But I tried out one such box and the clasp broke within a week. Rs.450 down the drain in a week. The other box I have makes me do a tug of war to close and open it. But then, good old steel lunch boxes are passe you see.

So, what options am I left with? Sandwhiches? No not every day. Parathas of different varieties? Oh so boring. Mama they say "what about pizzas and burgers?" No not refined flour every day is my answer. What about veggies and greens? How will you get your vitamins is my argument and the look on their face is as though they are looking at alien from outerspace. And I have the answer for this immediately from both, and with great finality "if you give us that we will bring back the box as it is, then don't complain we have not finished".

Well what am I left with? Back to square one. Sitting and trying to put together new recipes. The problem could be because there are so many options these days. What happened to good old rice broth and veggies that we used to have when we used to go to school? Surely our moms had an easier time with us I guess.

Monday, July 13, 2009


The other day I was standing outside in my balcony when I saw a mother drying clothes and her cute little daughter chattering away with her mother. I think she had not yet started going to school.

Just this scene brought back nostalgic memories of my children when they had not yet started going to school. It was such a delight spending time with them when they were about one and half to two and half years. They would be behind me, tugging at my dress, pestering me to give them that particular toy just that minute, or asking for cookies or chocolates right when I had gotten busy with something.

I remember it was with so much of joy that both me and my husband would go to all book exhibitions so that we could get a collection of books ready for our children which they could use at the right time. I used to have this big book of rhymes from which I would recite rhymes to them. Singing together and using funny tunes and then laughing over it.

How many a pleasant evenings have I spent standing on the porch of our house which used to overlook the main road with my children perched on the wall looking with great awe and excitement on their face at the different models of the cars. Believe me, at one and half they had an uncanny knack of identifying the different models of cars even at a distance just by looking at the headlights.

I used to enjoy the afternoon and night sessions of storytelling, taking them to that mystical and wonderful land of fairytales. Showing them picture books and weaving stories around those pictures used to be a big hit.

I miss all of this and very soon it will be time for my children to go farther making pathways of their own. I will be left with just wonderful memories of our days together when their life used to just revolve around me.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Let them bloom not wither

The other evening my son came back from school. His routine is to tell me some of the things that had happened on that day. This is not an everyday occurence but once in a while he has a lot of things to say.

That day he said something which sent shock waves within me and also made me feel quite sad. What he said was that one of his classmates was so worried as he had not scored well in his monthly unit test. Actually this was the first time that he was writing an exam as they were abroad earlier. In the first two or three subjects he had scored less and he was telling all his friends that he should somehow get god scores in other subjects as otherwise he would be kicked out of his house!!! Now whether that was meant as a joke or seriously I do not know. But even if it was told jokingly I would certainly say a big NO to this kind of threat.

Just listening to this statement I felt very disturbed. These are little children that we are talking about. Specially they are at that stage of their life where they are going through so much of turmoil as they are in their teens. It is a very confusing and very troubled life marked by sudden shifts in emotions.

As parents when we pressurise our little ones with such dire consequences it will be so very traumatic for the child. Why do we as parents not understand life is very precious and marks are not the all and end all. I think there is much more to life.

Luckily this child felt relieved as he had scored better marks in other subjects. But hope and pray that this child does well every time.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Mind your language

Remember the first time our baby/ ies made that first sound which sounded like something other than crying. The first time he said something which sounded like mama, papa. How thrilled and excited have we all been and how much we wanted them to call us mama and papa evey now and then. Though it sounds very simple and natural, language development is quite a complex process.

Langauge development in little children goes through definite stages starting with gurgling, cooing, babbling, and so on until they start using words which are repeated and encouraged by the parents and the first word usualy being mamamama, gradually paapaapapa and so on. Later it gets more complex and children start using single words then join two words and finally make sentences.

In all this children learn faster when parents talk to them, repeat words and encourage them. If the child lives in a joint family then their langauge development accelerates. I really like the ad that we see on T.V where the dad asks his toddler to say banana, czechoslovakia. Very cute . So as parents we have a great role to play in language development of our children.

Therefore there is one fact that all of us need to keep in mind. As children learn to speak by imitating us, we as parents need to be very careful as to what words we use. Certain words should definitely be a no-no in the household. Using swear words should be avoided. Sometimes certain words like "stupid" which is commonly used by parents in a playful way is copied by the children. When they use it in their babyish way we find it to be very cute. But as they grow older more and more unwanted words get added to their vocablary. Once they start going to school more and more slangs and swear words are used which they pick up from their friends and other people. They use it without understanding its meaning, but somehow at the right time.

Suddenly when they use it in front of us we are left stupefied. As parents we therefore need to be on gaurd and atleast make the children aware that certain words are definitely taboo atleast in the household. At school we do not have any control. But constantly checking them and reprimanding them will go a long way. But to do that first we need to mind our langauge.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The school bully

I am sure the word bully would suddenly conjure up the picture of our school days where I am sure at one time or the other we encountered that one person who has always taken pleasure in bullying the weaker lot of us.

Right from ages we have always had some who were bullies and some always ending up being bullied by them. Most of the time bullies were ones who were quite well built, who would choose his or her set of friends who would always hang on to their words and do things at the behest of their leader and get pleasure, who when on their own would have hardly got noticed. They walk around troubling other children, demand food, order others around and basically lord over the puny and the weak.

As parents we have come across this situation where our children have come up with stories of one particular child bullying others in the class. We all know these bullies are children with low self esteem, who would like to therefore somehow get attention, but trying to gain attention in a socially unacceptable way.

My dilemma is that we generally bring up our children asking them not to get into conflicts with other children, to be friendly and if at all they have some problems then to talk it out and try and solve the problem. But bullies are a class apart who cannot listen to reason. If we encourage our children to give them as good as they get, I am sure our children who have not learnt to do such acts with finesse get caught by the teachers and the culprit generally goes scotfree. Children moreover do not like parents to talk about these things to their teachers. They then feel that they will be subjected to more bullying.

This is a milder form of ragging. How as parents then do we cope with problems of bullying?

Friday, July 3, 2009

Encouragement or exploitation?

When heard that Michael Jackson had passed away, like everyone else I also felt a plethora of emotions sweeping. Afterall he was one of my favourite singers. I remember feeling elated when I saw MJ win a slew of Grammys. We were glued to our T.V sets. We got his tapes and used to listen to it everyday.

Over a period of time there were several singers whom we would enjoy listening to, but somehow MJ never faded away.

After his death it was sad to read all the sordid details about him and his childhood, where he felt his father was exploiting him. In general according to him his childhood was not a very happy one.

We see so many reality shows on T.V like little champs, and other shows involving children. Many of them are so very talented that it is a pleasure watching or rather listening to them. But I wonder how many of these children are being forced, bribed or coarced by their parents to participate or to practice so that they can perform well. Once they are among the top ten or so how much pressure do these children are put into by the expectation of their family and friends. When children have talent, as parents one feels it needs to be encouraged. The medium of T.V is the tool where talent can be show cased. So we have thousands of parents along with their children lining up during preliminary rounds.

As they go further into the competition, stress increases and somehow I find there is no longer any fun element but pressure, just like the yearly exam stress, infact more than that. There is a very thin line between encouragemet and exploitation. That is when I feel as parents are we encouraging or expoiting our children?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Happy Daughter's Day

Today the first of July is dedicated to the daughter. So I read a couple of interviews where the mother and daughter were interviewed and the daughters have told how close they have been to their mothers and the mothers in turn have said it is such a pleasure having daughters and the comfort level that they share between them.

I thought that I had to write this blog as a tribute to all the daughters who have made a difference to this world. This is the story of my maid. She is the third born in a family of five children. Her parents live in a village, where they have a small piece of land.They are very poor and struggling. Once the eldest daughter got married and settled down in Bangalore she got her three sisters and a brother here. The idea was to earn money so as to ease the burden on their parents.

Between the three sisters they earn anywhere between ten to twelve thousand a month. All three work as maids. Once they started earning my maid started saving enough money so as to send money to her parents back in the village. Though her brother is also earning, all his money goes in to drinking and his contribution towards household expenditure is nil, leave alone sending money to his parents.

The best part that my maid proudly told me was how with their collective earnings (between the 3 sisters), they have managed to get a two bedroom house built for their parents in their village!!!! I was absolutely stunned. For a girl coming from a small village, working in the city and achieving what she wanted is amazing. What maturity and sheer grit. I salute this girl and all the daughters in this world who have proven time and again their worth. Dreaming big and making it work too.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Life's lessons

Value education begins from home. We all agree on that point. Teaching our children the right values from the time they are young and trying to be a role model ourselves would be the first step.

I remember once my children were playing in the corridor of our apartment and accidentally broke the light fixture of our neighbour. As expected their first instinct was to run home and hide. When they told us as to what had happened we immediately explained to them the need to go and apologise for their action in addition to replacing the light fixture. They were very hesitant saying that they were scared thinking about the consequence and wanted us to speak on their behalf. When it was made clear to them that they had to do it themselves, they mustered enough courage and owned up. The neighbour was very sweet enough to say that these things happen and asked them to be careful while playing.

When they came back they were beaming. I felt that day they had learnt an important lesson in life - to own up. I found the next time they made mistakes they were bold enough to admit.

As part of school curriculum do we need value education classes ? I do not remember having value education classes in my school. But we had value education classes in college while I was teaching. I remember when the timetable was set we used to be very nervous when we were given the task of teaching value education to the students. We would be at a loss as to what we would talk about. Specially to girls whose ages ranged between sixteen to twenty. However since my specialisation was child development when we were given other streams like arts or commerce class students I would just talk on topics that we used to teach under child development like family relations and management. The students then used to find it interesting.

Now I feel the need is more than ever to have value education classes. One such initiative I read is being taken by all the branches of Kendriya Vidyalaya. They have found that these classes are being welcomed by students. Having specialised teachers imparting interesting aspects of growing up in today's world could infact help our children. Imparting this by way of plays, debates, poster making, slogan writing would make it enjoyable and more interesting. Catch them young. As the proverb in kannada goes "gidavagi baggaddu, maravaagi baggite?" Wish all the schools emulate this sooner.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The definition of childhood

The other day we had gone out on a weekend and while coming back we stopped at the traffic signal. We were looking out when this child caught my eyes sitting on the footpath. Infact I am sure it is a common sight for all of us at the traffic signal. Yes I am talking about little children begging on the streets. This happens right under the nose of the traffic police which is blissfully okay with it.

I saw three children sitting on the pavement. Two of them were around six to eight years old and the third child was maybe about one and a half to two years old. It was sitting along with these older children who were having an animated conversation. The baby had no underwear, was totally dishevelled and filthy sitting on the footpath and then after sometime it got up and started walking away from the other two who were quite oblivious. I was worried thinking that without any adult supervision, it might just walk into the heavy traffic. But the child just walked a couple of paces and stood there looking at people, picked up something from the ground. That was the last glimpse that I had before we started to moved on.

But that child stayed in my thoughts for a long time. What life will it have? We tend to protect our children for a very long time and here children as old as two years are on their own while whoever has got them there is out begging leaving the child alone.

Another comon sight is month old babies being used for begging. I read in the newspapers that these babies are hired for the purpose of begging and that they are also mildly drugged so that they sleep and hence let the adult beg in peace!

Today in the newspaperI read that the begging industry is a thriving business of 10 crore!! What is the government doing about this I wonder. Isn't using little babies for begging a violation of child rights? What about those normal born little children who are physically deformed later so as to qualify for a begging profession? Isn't this child labour in its worst form?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Education system set for winds of change

Today the first headline that I saw was the HRD minister Mr. Kapil Sibal's statement to make the tenth standard board exam optional depending on where the child continues his or her study and to have grading system for higher classes instead of marks.

During our time I remember we used to start having board exams starting with seventh grade followed by tenth grade and then the grand finale - the biggest exam which would decide our future the twelfth grade board exams. As we passed out of sixth standard folks would say 'you will have to study hard now that you are going to seventh grade; and hence will be writing the board exams. That was a big thing for us and getting good grades to get into eighth was therefore imperative.That marked our first milestone welcoming us to the world of competitive world of education.

Later that was replaced with board exam only for tenth and then twelfth standard. Now tenth board would be optional. I read mixed reviews from all quarters. The school managements feel that unless a clear guideline is worked out to assess the child this system might not be of much help. It would then make it difficult to gauge the progress made by each child. The parents on the other hand seem to be against making tenth board optional. They would rather have their children face the board exams.

I do not know what the ideal education system would be. I felt though the board exams were scrapped for the seventh grade we as parents are still seeing to it that the children prepare well for their exams irrespective of it being boards or no boards. Education is taken seriously. The pressure has still not come down for the children. Scores of children are still getting into coaching classes preparing for their IIT and other courses. Some start as early as sixth standard!

Now that the system is being revamped all eminent educationists, child psychologists, parents and anyone connected with education need to come together to workout a system which will help in bringing about revolutionary and positive changes for our future generation. Today as we stand on the verge of makng historic changes in or education system we need to move with great care and caution. What do you as parents feel about this new changes announced?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Parents' greatest gift to a child

Today I read in the newspaper a very touching article which I thought I should share with all my fellow parents. A family which is below poverty line made the greatest sacrifice in order to see to it that their daughter could realise her dream.

This little girl hailing from a small unheard of village got hooked onto cycle racing when she got to witness a cycle race while in school. From then on, cycling became her dream and ambition in life. But they were so poor that they could not afford even a second hand cycle.

In order to fulfill his daughter's dream this is what her father did. He borrowed money from the village moneylender and in return signed on to become a bonded labourer for a landlord! Imagine even after sixty two years of independence we are still hearing about these dreaded practices being carried out in free India. What democracy and independence are we talking about when have not been able to give independence to our own citizens?

Well in continuation, he bought a cycle for his daughter from this money. In addition, between him and his wife who is working as a coolie, have tried their best to see to it that all their three children get a good education.

This particular child has since won many cycle race events and is now set to enter the Commonwealth Games. We need to wish them all the best and I really wish there are more parents like them who must have lost on their childhood dreams but are seeing to it that their children achieve their dreams even if it comes at a great cost.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Is it destiny at play?

Following my blog on Dr.Kalam, a few thoughts raced through my mind. There are so many instances where children from a very poor background have succeeded and come up in life despite all odds. Take for example Dr. Kalam a child born into a fishing comunity and by sheer hardwork has reached the height of glory. Same is the case with one of the greatest self made industrialist Dhirubai Ambani.

In another case a boy who was educated by his mother by selling idlis on the roadside went on to complete his IIM from a prestigious institute. We read and get to hear many such real life stories. Many of them have studied in small villages and the have moved on to make it big in life.

In most of these cases they did not have any resources, no financial help, no extra facilities and technological help. Despite all these odds they scaled the heights to achieve their goal.

In contrast here I was worryng about which is a good school for my children, what educational cds can I get for them to enhance their skill ,what classes can I put them into so that they can learn more in order to face the competitive exams and so on and so forth. Mind you all these do not come easy and we end up spending lakhs even as they are in their school years. Imagine the cost that is to be incurred at later stages.

Then I wonder is it really worth it? Haven't children who have come from lesser privileged background, who have passed out from government schools and colleges done well? That makes me wonder - is it destiny at play?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Dr.Kalam - an inspiration for our children

Whenever I happen to see Dr. Abdul Kalam in the newspaper I feel very proud. Here is one personality during our times who has surpassed all boundaries and barriers to promote only one aspect of human development and that is scientific development - which he says is the answer to take India forward. For this to happen each child's mind needs to be ignited (An apt title of Dr.Kalam's book) at a young age. A very simple person to the core like our dear Mahatma Gandhi.

It would be a dream come true to meet this towering personality atleast once in our lifetime. Who could imagine a boy from a fishing community ,who would be up by 4.00 a.m distribute newspapers, and also attend math classes would one day become the President of India? Though we would all have liked him to continue as President forever!

We have many other unsung heroes like Dr.Kalam who have made a difference to this world. Many of their stories are a source of inpiration for all of us. When the talent, intelligence and interest of our children, who could be in a rural, semi-urban or an urban area and on the threshold of their school life, are tapped, we can dream of having many more Kalams who will have the ability to take our great country forward and reach its pinnacle. I hope we along with our younger generation fulfill the vision that Dr.Kalam has for India by 2020.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Yoga for children

Patanjali the founder of yoga wrote extensively all about yoga and its benefits. Somehow in the realms of time, yoga became a thing of past . One would hear about yoga only in passing. Then came Swami Ramdev baba who made yoga popular and with his show being telecast on T.V, it had a wide audience who got hooked onto it and suddenly yoga became the in thing. Then we had a host of celebrity actors who made it even more popular.

Well I have believed in yoga from the past nine years That was when I first learnt it. I found it to be effective. It has helped me through different phases of my life. This kept me active and my body more flexible and had a very soothing effect on my mind.

That was when I thought how much our children could benefit from doing yoga. As it is they undergo so much of stress and mood swings and yoga would be an ideal thing for them. When I was teaching in schools, I would make the little ones do a few of the breathing excercises every day and I found that they used to enjoy doing it. But I never could get my children to do it. I was very happy when I heard that they have yoga classes in their school and now they are quite enjoying it.

Many schools have introduced yoga in their curriculum and I wish and hope all the rest will follow in their footsteps. Children right from playgroup can be introduced to this as their bodies are more flexible and their minds are still in the process of blooming. Having a healthy future generation would be a fitting tribute to the great Patanjali.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Studies without textbooks?

Today I read this interesting article in the paper that in California the school children have been asked to throw away their textbooks to help the state avoid bankruptcy! This statement was given by the Governor of the state, none other than Mr. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Instead the children will now go 'Digital'.

This statement really took me by surprise. All along from generations, ever since paper was invented (though our grandparents where using slate and chalk) we have been using textbooks. Now suddenly a world without one was a totally new idea to me.

Then another picture flashed across my mind. My children and all the other school going children walking with straight back minus the loads of books on their already bent backs.What a relief!
Imagine the scene where the children go with one digital notebook to the classroom and the teacher can just ask them to open a particular subject and so and so page and it will be just a click away. It's bye bye to heavy books. We might also in the bargain be contributing towards a green world too with less paper around.

But then another thought assailed me that in this process we will be so very dependant on gadgets. But somehow I do not feel like saying bye to all my good old books, the books that took me on a flight of fantasy, that musty smell of the much thumbed book that I grew up on. Do you?