Monday, August 30, 2010

My very own " Master Chefs"

Of late, my children are in a hurry to finish their home work and studies by 9.00 pm every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. You want to know the reason? Well it is all because of this programme called "Master Chef Australia" which is being aired at 9.00.

We are not very avid T.V watchers. But once while surfing we came across this programme and we got hooked to it. This is all about a competition where amateur cooks (with professions ranging from architect, lawyer, homemaker, IT architect, Business Development) from across Australia have been whittled down to Top 24. The judges subject these chosen Top 24 (who are now called Chefs) to different challenges in order to finally select the one who will win the title of the "Master Chef".

Now my two sons are really hooked on to this programme and watch it with great interest. Not only do they watch it but now have also started taking interest in cooking!! Isn't that great? Infact, right from the beginning I wanted my sons to learn at least the basics of cooking as my view is that, irrespective of gender children definitely need to learn the art of cooking. If not elaborate, at least something to sustain them if and when they go out and have to be on their own.

In India, where domestic cooking is largely the domain of the woman, even today many men neither enter the kitchen nor cook even in emergencies. Hence they end up eating outside food when the woman of the house is away from home for a long time. This trend is now changing and programmes like these seem to be helping children in a positive way.

Well, the icing on the cake was when my son treated us to a pasta dish which he prepared all on his own. I was very proud of this great achievement and now I can rest my legs up at least now and then and enjoy some culinary specialties coming out of my kitchen prepared by my own two " Master Chefs".

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Missing Patriotism

A bit late in the day to talk about what happened on 15th August, the Independence Day but couldn't stop myself from putting these thoughts down. In our apartment complex, we had a flag hoisting ceremony at 9.30 am and singing of patriotic songs, dance etc thereafter. The celebrations came to a close with the singing of the national anthem. I could see many small children, middle aged and senior citizen residents participating with great gusto. As I was looking around I felt something was missing and wondered what it was. Then it came to my mind that there was not a single teen there. This included my children too. Though I had given instructions to my children to get ready fast and come down they decided skip the celebrations. I was indeed sad that day that I couldn't influence my own kids to participate in what is a proud moment for millions of our countrymen.And it made me wonder - what could have led to this apparent lack of emotion of today's teens towards the country's best moment?

My personal view is that today's teens (I have to qualify the definition of 'teens' in my assessment - my perspective is based purely on observing the urban, middle - upper middle class teens and hence, might not be representative of the universe) live in a world entirely different from what their parents / grand parents did.
a. There are far too many influences / distractions they have to encounter be it TV, cricket/football, mall culture, movies, branded goods or peers. Study is just one of the many things they have to do.
b. With so much news reporting about the unclean politics, corrupt politicians, there is hardly any respect for the political system
c. They live in a world that is hugely materialistic - everything is measured in money and hence, there is a sense they are getting used to that if there's money, anything's possible.
d. There is very little time for value education - daily prayers, occasional temple visits, social interactions, learning traditional arts or even attending family functions.
Is it this change of socio-cultural ecosystem that has made them not feel that emotion of patriotism. It is almost like they are happy within their own cocoon. If one asks the youth as to what their perspective is about celebrating independence day  the answer would be that it is a day that they can enjoy and relax. I wonder if anybody would care to remember the sacrifice made by thousands of people for us to enjoy the freedom that we are enjoying today.

I was just wondering the reason for this apathy specially among our youth who feel even attending the Independence day celebration as a waste of time. Is it because the youth today are exposed almost everyday to violence and crime in the media that they have developed immunity and do not want any part of it as long as everything is hunky dory in their lives. Are they thinking 'We have enough problems already what with pressures of studies and exams' - so why bother? Is this the reason I wonder.

Is it because of the fact that our country is being run by people whose average age falls in the bracket of 60+? People in power definitely cling to it even if they are invalid or senile. So is it that the youth feel that there is hardly any scope for them to bring about that much needed change?

Or is it because a kind of pessimism has already set in that they feel nothing can be done? If this is this reason, it needs serious consideration as I feel this is more dangerous. Are we as parents equally responsible for passing on our own cynicism to our children? Are we able to stress on values like honesty, sincerity, hard work, truthfulness without sounding preachy? Everyday we hear cases of blatant corruption taking place, guilty being let off  without being punished, sincere and honest people not given due recognition. One feels things are so wrong but at the same time one feels helpless. How do we answer our children? Yes, as parents we try and inculcate good values in our children but sometimes one also wonders if these will help them when they go out to face the real world? Will this lead to frustration in them when there is a clash in the values instilled in them and the harsh realities which they will face in their future life?

Patriotism and love for one's country should come from within and cannot be forced. But there is an urgent need to rekindle the spirit of patriotism in our youth before it is too late. How do we as parents do that ? Any ideas?

Monday, August 9, 2010

When the child starts growing up

Well life is full of paradox I guess. It all began when one of my cousins posted, that for the first two years of the  child's life we keep begging them to walk and talk. The next sixteen  we just  ask them to sit down and shut up. Just go back to your child's early life if he has already grown up, if not you you can take this as a statutory warning.

I remember how much we parents await that special moment when the child utters the word ' mama' or 'papa'. Even before the child is able to talk we tend to constantly encourage and talk to the child all the time. Then comes the moment when he actually speaks a few words and then graduates to sentences. We all go totally ooh-aah about the cute kiddish language that the children speak. After this initial euphoria we are brought back to earth by the teacher in the school complaining of the child talking too much. The next thing you know we are busy telling the kids to stop talking. Who can forget some of the gaffes that has led to embarrassing moments in front of a whole lot of people because the child decided to exhibit his vocabulary skill?

When it comes to walking who can forget the first baby steps? That event itself called for big celebration and lot of cheering. Remember the time they  mastered the art of running rather than walking and in the bargain knocked off those lovely glass and crystal ware? Remember the sojourns to the super markets, when we are in a tearing rush and hence would rather carry the child and finish things faster, they refuse to be carried and  would rather walk and all you can do is wait patiently for him to walk those few paces?

Then comes the stage when he has mastered the art of walking and running perfectly, but now insists that he be carried!! He will not budge, and if need be he will sit there right on the road and stage a dharna. What with all the glares that the passersby gives, you finally end up carrying the heavy tyke.

The next paradox is when it comes to taking them out. When they are small and if it is a nuclear family then wherever the mother goes the little one tags along. Many a time haven't we all felt the need for that carefree shopping experience where we could blissfully shop without keeping an eye all the time on our little one whose sole purpose would be to bring down the whole super market in the wink of an eye? Oh! how we wish that our child grows up faster. Then comes the time when they are ten or eleven, when we have to beg them to come with us to attend family functions and we are met with a forceful and loud ' no' and 'never'.

Well If  I were to list out more, it will run into reams of pages, don't you think? This is what then makes the art of parenting difficult to master. What do you say?

Friday, August 6, 2010

Recycling lessons from Buddha

Recently I read this interesting story of Buddha. One of his disciples goes to him and says that his robe was old and ragged and therefore he needed a new robe. Buddha saw that the robe was indeed in tatters and so he gave him a new one. The next day Buddha went up to his disciple and asked him what he did with his old robe. The disciple told him that he was using the robe in the kitchen as kitchen napkin. Buddha asked him what happened to the old kitchen napkin and the disciple told him that that cloth was being used to mop the floors and when asked what he did with the old mop the disciple told him "Master the wick that is being used to light our rooms is actually the strips of that discarded mop cloth". Buddha was immensely happy with his disciple. Nothing wasted! Now that is what recycling is all about and you have people telling you recycling is a modern concept.

Reading this story made me wonder at our present times. Right from olden times, be it our  grandparents or parents, the thing that I observed was that they were very careful about not wasting even a single thing and managed wonderfully. I guess our ancestors even in those times realised the worth of nature and her gifts. They never took things for granted. But somewhere down the line the concept of recycling and making use of every single thing has been totally lost. How many times have we not gone to the malls and bought things on an impulse? Then coming back home realised that, that was actually not what we wanted and hence put it aside as junk and then finally one day discard the whole thing even without using it for one single day?

How much food we order in the restaurants and then waste it because we did not order wisely? How much food gets wasted when we arrange functions and  other large events? In the long run, the consequences are there for all  to see. We are all now worried about global warming and pollution and waste disposal and so on and so forth.We never think of giving back to nature, but are always interested in looting what is given by nature. Is it not high time that we as parents  educate ourselves first and bring about awareness in our children and make this earth a habitable place to live in? What we must be aware of is that, the more conflict we have with nature the worst affected will we be.

Nothing will get done if we wait for someone else to do it for us. It is left to us take the first step and make this earth a habitable place for our future generation to live in.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Teens and Trends

Now that one of my sons is in his teens and the other is getting there, we are getting used to a totally different concept when it comes to their sense of dressing, hair style and a whole lot of things concerned with their personal appearance.

For sometime now, both my sons have started to wear their trousers really low. When I first spotted this, I thought that they probably might have forgotten to pull up their pants properly in their  hurry to get ready for school early in the morning. When I tried pulling up the trouser, I was politely asked by my son that he had worn his pants low deliberately as that was how everyone dressed up these days!

I stared in wonder at the way the pant was defying the law of gravity and staying in its place way below the hips on his thin frame!! Wearing trousers too high they lectured me was just not in. After this whenever we went out they would point out people on the street and that was when I noticed trousers on most of the hips being miraculously balanced. The best was when we had gone to get the new sets of uniforms. I found many parents and children at the apparel shop arguing about how low the trouser / skirt should be worn for it to be the right size. Finally as is the case these days, I found that it was the children who got their way. Lesson number one - the younger generation is besotted with low jeans and my children have just been a part of it.

The next in line was the hair. Getting the boys to go to the barber for a trim has now become an arduous task of  negotiations (almost akin to the Indo-Pak talks). It involves the issue of the length and the amount of hair that needs to be trimmed. Short hair is apparently not the "in" thing. So, it's always a point of view between 'medium' and 'short'. So, we agree that it would be medium in the front and short at the back. And they do not visit a barber during the vacation time. However, they have to get a trim just before school reopens, to stay with in the permissible limits of the school rules.

And then there are these weird hairstyles that both turn up by wetting their hair with water (thank god they do not gel) and styling it into spikes. These styles vary according to the cartoon character which would be the flavor of the season or their favourite football hero. Lesson number two - just pretend they are not with you when people around give stares at the weird style.

The next is the dress that they wear. These days I see that all I need to invest in, are a couple of football jerseys and any time we go out it would be just those three or four jerseys which are worn, be it while going down to play with their friends or going for birthday parties. The height of it is when they come dressed in these jerseys even while attending weddings and other formal occasions. Most of the time the colour they are in is red. As they are right now at a rapidly growing stage, I do not like to buy many t-shirts as they outgrow them rather quickly. But even the few formal / non-jersey shirts that they have are just languishing in the wardrobe. Lesson number three -  I have forgotten what primary and secondary colours and their hues are. The only colour I know is red, red and more red.

Well these oddities are what then  makes teen years so very distinct from all the other years in a child's life I guess. As parents, going along with this tide makes life easier for both parents as well as their teen aged children.Will keep you guys posted with some more lessons that I will be learning along the way. If you can in the meantime enlighten me on some of the other oddities that  I should be aware about, keep me posted well in  advance so that I can plunge into the battlefield well prepared!!