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.