Lessons in history

“Social activities in the Neolithic age included FaceBook, Whatsapp & Google Plus.” 

“A mummy is a dead body covered with toilet tissue paper and more toilet tissue paper to preserve it.”

  

I was baffled with the answers in my son’s history class work notebook he had got on the last day of school.

My son goes to a school that encourages freethinking and does not believe in pressurizing kids with exams. While its fabulous news for his creative side, my son takes total advantage of the system when it comes to serious studying. His main objective to go to school is to meet friends and play football. Oh and the studies just happen on the side.

This point was brought home strongly when we got his year-end report.

All the teachers had just one thing to say. He’s not attentive in class and does the barest minimum work needed and runs out to play.

Though it was pretty much the same report we’ve been getting since he started school, it’s no longer cute when he’s almost a teenager.

So this summer holidays, I decided take charge of his academia. No more easy-going mom who lets him get away with vegetating in front of the television the whole day.

I decided to start with rewriting history. Going through what he had done his notebook all year either sent me into a fit of rage or rolling on the floor laughing. He just did not have a clue.

In an ideal world, we would probably sit together companionably, go through the books with his full cooperation and my son would be an ace in history in two weeks.

But since we live in a world where a PS4 and football are the reigning gods, the television full of fabulous programs, we start off the morning bickering about setting the time for the lessons. And at the agreed time, he flies into a rage because I’m causing him to lose a virtual football game.

When I try meekly after an hour, I’m met with the same resistance. By then it’s time for lunch.

When I check with him after lunch, it’s the same tantrum. I’m at my wits end now and go into my momster mode. Then he swiftly changes his tune and with a woebegone face, starts on how he hates summer holidays and how I torture him with studies.

After all this we manage half an hour of sitting sullenly with each other and go through the books. But instead of focusing on the core of the lesson, we get sidetracked with so many unimportant details. Why isn’t the statue of the dancing girl in Harappan Civilization standing like a fashion model and not at all like a dancer?

Or he comes up with the profoundest of questions like “At what age do you reckon I’ll get married?” To which I replied scathingly, “It all depends on how good you study. If you’re going to goof off like this, you’ll never graduate and you’ll never get a job to support a wife and family!”

Stung, his bonhomie changes to open hostility and we continue the rest of the lessons with barely masked anger.

Of course most days are interspersed with me running behind deadlines, him busy with play-dates and we don’t even touch the books on those days.

It has taken us almost a month to cover 3 chapters. And there are still math & science books to open.

Oh how I long for those far away summer holidays of my childhood where clocks did not exist!

But, despite the tantrums, despite my working hours going crazy, something tells me I’m not going to like the strangely quiet, neat and tidy house, once the school reopens.

A wise man once told me, “There’s no quality time or quantity time when it comes to children. There’s only time.”

 

 

 

 

 

Second mothers

My mother was one of nine siblings. As a child, I watched her maternal home in a tiny village in South India,  play host to many, including me. Though the permanent residents were only my grand mother and my youngest uncle, the house was always full of floating population. Cousins posted nearby who used the house as base during week days, daughters who dropped in for short visits, sons and grandsons stopping by on their way to somewhere… and my own mother who used to shuttle between her government job in her hometown and Chennai till she got the much-awaited transfer.

So my brother and I used to stay there for months on end sometimes. Till my mother finally got her transfer when I was about 10.

During my stays, I spent a lot of time with a cousin. Though she’s technically my cousin, she’s only a few years younger than my mom, so she was more like an aunt. She has a bubbly personality, her kohl-rimmed eyes sparkling with mirth all the time. Being a school teacher, she was on to my tricks even before my own mother realised what I was up to. She was my hero. Thanks to her influence early on, I still cannot step out of home without drawing kohl in my eyes.

Once we settled down in Chennai, our meetings were reduced to occasional weddings. She too got married and was soon busy with the throes of raising her children while holding on to a full time job.

After a few more years even I stopped going for weddings due to the pressures of  academia and later, a career. I met her sporadically, may be once in 2 or 3 years.

I met her after a long gap of 8 years at a wedding, a few days ago. And the years just fell away. Except for the fact that she is a grand mother now and looks so frail and old, thanks to her illness, her eyes hold the same sparkle even now. We chatted away as much as we could and reminisced about my childhood and her youth.

Soon, it was time to go & I bid her good bye with a sudden lump in my throat.

On my way home I wondered, ‘Will my son ever have bonds like these?’

As a kid, I had so many mother figures in my life. My grandmothers, aunts, older cousins or sometimes even neighbours. I’ve spent days with and weeks with these women, stayed in their homes, eaten their food, confided in them and worried them to no end with my antics.

Of course, mostly it was because my own mother was so busy working full time & keeping house, she hardly had the luxury of a leisurely chat with me. Though my mother was a rock solid influence in shaping my health, conscience and general happiness, my emotional growth was pretty much dependant on these women who always lent a ear to my make-up queries and troubled teenage woes.

But apart from me and my mother-in-law, my son absolutely has no one else as a mother figure in his life.

True, he has his aunts and my best friends. But he sees them all with me around and only for short periods of time. He can never be close enough to go to them with his problems.

On the other hand, unlike my mother, I’m always around, ready to comfort him and offer him advice 24/7.

So I consoled myself that he does not really have the need for that kind of bonds in his life.

But after nine long years of my mother’s passing, it sure felt nice to look up to someone who cared for you as a child, feel safe and protected and not be the adult for once.

 

 

Magane Manogara!

I sit in a sofa looking around listlessly. A little away from me, sitting at the head of her dining table, the Tamil teacher presides over a small group of 10 year olds. There are two girls reciting Thirukkural loudly and a boy who is copying down answers from his open text book.

And there’s my son, sitting there bewildered..

The girls voices raise in competing with each other. The boy stops writing to check something with the teacher. Suddenly the teacher’s grandson who has been playing in the drawing room screams. Before anybody could react, one of the Thirukkural girls runs towards him and picks him up. “Auntie! He has done su-su!” She wrinkles up her nose. The teacher immediately gathers the boy from her and heads to the restroom, shouting instructions to the children over her shoulder.

Oblivious to all this, the teacher’s mother-in-law sits near me in another sofa, her head thrown backwards and is snoring softly.

The teachers comes back to her seat, settling her grandson on her lap and continues her lessons with my son.

“What day is it today? How do you say this in Tamil?’  She asks him.

My son stares at his toes. “Come on! Tell me!” She prompts him. He sinks lower in his chair. “Take a guess.” She cajoles him. “I’ll not mind even if you give me the wrong answer. Don’t feel shy!” She laughs. My son cringes some more.

Indru enna kizhamai!” She booms the answer. “You repeat what I just said!” He mumbles something inaudible. “Come on! Louder!” She encourages him.

Then she looks at me across the room. “Ennamma idhu? (What’s this?) Your son has no comprehension of the language. And he’s born and brought up in Chennai!” She clucks.

tlc051014bwevNow it’s my turn to cringe.

Before you judge me, let me assure you that I’m certainly not one of those hoity-toity moms who thinks it’s uncool to let her child learn his mother tongue.

But as Murphy’s law would have it, especially when it comes to children, you end up doing the exact opposite of what you had planned.

Before I had my son, I always looked at parents of misbehaving kids with diasdain.  ‘How could they let their kids get away with such behaviour?’ I used to wonder. ‘I’ll never be like that when I have my own!’ I used to resolve to myself, in my blissful ignorance.

Of course, once my son was born, I just had to add pepper & salt to my words and gobble them all up.

Tantrums in the mall, check. Screaming in the theatres, check. Making another child cry in a restaurant, Check.

By the time he turned 5, I’d been there and done all that and more.

Anyway,  I swore to myself that my son will never be one of those snooty kids who spoke only in English and think it’s infra dig to talk in their own language. I spoke to him only in Tamil and urged the father to do the same in Telugu. Though he played along most of the time, my husband invariably reverted to English after the first sentence.

But I plodded on. A friend still remembers when my son  was around two, I got palpitations when I heard her talk to him in English, . “How you yelled at me!” She recalls even now. “Like I slapped him or something!”

And I was very happy his baby-talk was all in Tamil.

Amma! Menaam!” He used to scream when he didn’t want something.

Inniyum’ meant another. “Biyam’ meant he was scared.

Our initial ecstacy over his utterences soon turned to worry when we realised he hadn’t graduated beyond his one word sentences at three, when my friend’s son who was a few months younger was belting out full sentences like an adult.

I panicked as usual. He had just started play-school and there were so many more to compare him to.

One friend suggested it was because we were confusing him with too many languages. “He just doesn’t know which one to communicate with. Just stick to one language and see the difference. I’ve seen the same thing happen to so many kids”.

It made sense to us and that was the end of Tamil & Telugu for him. We conversed with him only in English and lo and behold, he was talking nineteen to a dozen in a month.

Cut to present.

At ten, my son has made me eat my words all over again with a lot more pepper & salt. Since English is the only language he uses for communication and thanks to the All-American entertainment he gets from Disney channel, he is snooty and refuses to talk in Tamil.

And when he utterly has to, he sounds exactly like M.R.R. Vasu in an old Tamil film playing a Marwari money-lender.

I still would have shamelessly shrugged, blamed it on TV and went on with life. But trouble brewed when I had to choose Tamil for his second language. Only other choice was Hindi and my knowledge of that language ends with the sporadic bollywood movies I watch.

Last year I realised the gap between his textbook and his actual understanding of Tamil was greater than the widest of oceans.

So I now sit in this drawing room three days a week amidst a cacaphony of voices which strangely reminds me of a 80s Bhagyaraj film set and giggle shamelessly at my son saying things like “naan en amma veedu ponaan” (Which is supposed to mean I went home with my mother.)

When I asked him why I should wait there instead of running some errands he replied, “Because it’s all your fault Amma! You did the crime, so you do the time!”

Serves me right.

Morning rides

A pink hat with white dots.

A black cap shading the eyes.

A bare head under the sun.

Another head with a fancy flower.

 

Mums riding fast

to reach the schools on time.

Sometimes it’s the dads,

or occassionally a grandpa with a frown.

 

Scooters, scooters, scooters.

Zipping, zapping, zooming.

With their precious packages

standing tall in front of the seat.

 

Dreaming of their day in school

or dreading the lunch they’ll have to eat

or simply hoping and praying

their teachers would keep their cool.

 

Speeding lorries, faster bikes,

angry drivers tooting horns.

Slow down, pipe down.

Have a thought.

 

For these little flowers,

Smiling, laughing, waving,

blooming on your way.

Every morning, everyday.

 

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Cool Pool

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Ever since our son was born, my husband has this phobia of him growing up to be a sissy, mama’s boy.

And like all Murphy’s laws, this fear too has been close to coming true many times. Though physically he is my husband’s replica, I can see a lot of not-so-wanted traits of mine in him.

Fear being the first in the list.

I remember driving my mom up the wall with my ridiculous fears. I would not sleep alone in a room till I turned 25. I can never go into any room alone in the dark even now. My brother used to enjoy switching off the bathroom light from the outside and hear me scream.
Though I was never scared of reptiles & other insects, I used to get scared of lots of other things. Injections, beggars who used to come to my ancestral home dressed up as some mythological heroes, an old wrinkly servant in my grand mother’s house … the list was just endless!

My son is terrified of lizards and frogs. He wanted me to call the cops once, when I couldn’t chase a lizard away.

Anyway, this post is about a totally different fear. When my son was two, my husband wanted him to learn swimming. And  my son loved playing in the water. Like all kids, he had a small inflatable pool at home which he used to the fullest & used to love to splash in the shallow side of any pool we took him to.

Trouble started when I enrolled him in a summer coaching class when he was five. The first lesson was to dunk his head fully in the water. My son totally panicked. “NO!” he screamed. I tried to encourage him from the sidelines. It didn’t work. The coach, after trying to reason with him for a while, decided he’d had enough. He just picked up my son & dunked him in the water forcefully. When my son came out sputtering, he said, “See? That was not so bad!”

My son immediately made a run for the edge of a pool. The coach coaxed him again. Then when he had forgotten about it, he dunked him again in the water. This time my son screamed his head off & started sobbing. I was watching the whole thing, horrified. I cleared my throat & called out to the coach. “Sir, can you not do that again, please? I don’t want him to get a phobia..” I said as politely as I could.

He looked at me if I’d grown a horn suddenly. “But Ma’m, that’s the only way he’ll learn swimming. This is a 10 day camp & he’ll never learn if he doesn’t know the basics.”

“It’s okay.” I informed him. “Please don’t scare him off swimming forever. I have no problems if he does not learn swimming by the end of the camp.” I assured him.

He swam away, I’m sure, muttering something about over-protective mothers.

The next day, my son refused to get ready for his swimming class. Whatever me or my husband said will not change his mind. So I told him that I’ll enrol myself too. This time he agreed half-heartedly. We both splashed in the pool for a few days without learning any swimming. Then both of us came down with a severe viral fever. I had a sneaking suspicion on the waters of the pool.That was end of swimming for both of us.

Now after years, my husband put his foot down. “He’s eight!” he thundered. “How long are you going to mollycoddle him like this? I’m telling you he’s turning out exactly like you, full of phobias!”

So he went ahead and booked my son for swimming lessons this summer. And all these intervening years, he’s been spending a lot of time with my son in various pools in all the holidays we’ve been to and successfully allayed his fears of the head dunking. He even taught him to float a bit.

So this time I had my hopes high. The first few days were a breeze. I sat on collapsible chairs along with other parents/grandparents/aunts and watched the kids bob in the water. They had to dunk their heads in the water & kick their legs while holding on to the edge of the pool.  And in a few more days, I saw most of them (including my son) swim across the short side of the pool holding on to a rectangular foam. I was thrilled to bits.

Of course my bubble didn’t last long. A week later the coach asked them all to get out of the pool. Led them to the deep end, which was about 12 feet. He jumped in & then asked the kids to jump in one by one. They actually did well. Most kids, once they came up gasping to the surface, swam well towards the ladder & got out. Those who were reluctant were either goaded or threatened by the coach. I watched as my son slunk further & further away. The coach called out to him. He pretended not to hear him. So the coach heaved himself up, walked towards him. My brave son broke into a run. He soon caught him by the wrist. “NO!!!!” my son screamed. “Come on! Why are you so scared?” he cajoled encouragingly. “Come, I’ll jump in with you”.

Saying this, he grasped my son by his hand, swung their hands to & fro. On the count of three, he pushed my son in the water, waited for him to surface then jumped in himself.

Predictably, my son refused to come back for his lessons the next day. But my husband will not hear of it. He gave him a stern lecture & said if he ever bunked swimming, he’ll make sure he takes him to a strict & rude coach next time.

So I had to put up with my son’s groaning & moaning every morning till we reached the class at 2.30 pm… If it’s nausea once, it’ll be a stomachache another day, why, he even told me he was having a heart attack once!

But I dragged him resolutely. This deep water continued for a while. While all the other kids took to it like, well, fish to water, my son kicked and screamed and once called me closer to tell me he just couldn’t breathe.. So again, I intervened & told the coach, not to take him to the deep waters & keep him to the shallow end. After all there were only 2 days left for the camp to end & I just didn’t see my son become a champion overnight…

So the last day my son was his enthusiastic best & was in high spirits on the way home.

Now he insists I take him swimming every sunday to my brother’s apartment complex where they have a 5 feet pool. He jumps into water, splashes around, swims short laps & enjoys himself.

The only flip side to this is, he’s taken it upon himself to avenge me for his swimming lessons. He insists I get into the pool too & spends half his swimming time commanding me to dunk my head in the water & start kicking my legs & float. I hiss & tell him quietly & politely to leave me alone & I’ll learn swimming in my own time. But he will not! Just like his coach, he will badger & even sometimes rough handles me to learn.. And while his father, the master brain behind his swimming lessons,  enjoys a lazy Sunday reading the papers & watching TV..

We mothers never have it easy, do we?

Mum’s the word!

I was driving home a few weeks ago, with my 8 year old son in the back seat, busy playing a game in my phone. He has no interest whatsoever in looking out of the window, at the urban madness all around.

At his age, I used to be familiar with most of the frequent routes we took in and around the place we lived. Now, if I ask him to name the place we’re passing by, all I get is a wild guess in reply.

Anyway, this post is not about my son’s lack of geographical knowledge. But more about the conversation we had in the car.

As I was saying, we were driving around & after a bit my son asked me, “Amma.. what does f**k mean?”

I almost screeched the car to a stop with shock.

“What?” I sputtered.

He was as cool as ever. “You know? the F word?” He replied.

Totally caught unawares, I struggled for a perfect way to handle it. But I couldn’t. So I just blabbered on, albeit nervously.

“It is a very, very bad word”. I informed him. “And children should never, ever use it. If you do, ghosts will appear out of nowhere. When I was a kid, a boy I knew used it and he got worms growing in his mouth”.

I paused for effect.

“Ok Amma, I’ll never use it, but can you please tell me the meaning?” he persisted.

“No, I will not”

“Why not?”

“Because you’re too young to use that word”

Silence for a bit. He seemed to be mulling over what I’d said.

“Just so you know, ghosts do not exist.” he announced a little later. “And people cannot get worms in their mouths by talking. I think you’re a liar Amma. And very mean too.”

I was still struggling to say something mature and insightful when he dismissed me by going back to his game.

God! I had expected this question perhaps when he’s ten or older. How do I tackle this?

Later that day, when he bugged me for the meaning again, I sternly told him using such words only showed his upbringing and people would blame his mother for not teaching the right values. (Nothing works like the good old emotional blackmail!)

He seemed to buy it & did not pursue it any further, but still made me miserable by bringing up some vague facts about the F word, especially when we had company.

Just when I thought he’s gotten over that fixation, he came over to me one evening and announced, “Amma! the S word is not a bad word. It only means one is a boy or a girl.”

“Oh.. what S word?” I asked.

“You know? the S word? Sucksy?”

“Ok” I nodded wisely but was bubbling with mirth inside.

Here is a kid who has grown up solely on Cartoon Network & POGO.

I have never taken him to a movie with me till he was about 6 unless it is a kids’ movie. I’ve never watched any of my favourite shows with him.

He goes to a school where there are hardly 25 kids with him and most of them are raised similarly. From where does he get exposure to bad words, I wonder.

I remember being horrified long ago ,when two five year olds in the family were caught discussing which one is better – love marriage or arranged marriage. The elders were totally blamed for watching Sun TV in front of them and exposing small kids to such rubbish.

Back then I’d sworn I’ll never do that to my kid. But these things just creep in unawares I guess.

Once my son walked in on me watching Two and a half men. And just that time the jokes were all centered around Alan’s bathroom habits and he burst out laughing & settled down to watch it.

I paused the program.

“Why??” he whined.

“I told you, these are not meant for you. Please go back to whatever you were doing.”

“How come you get to watch cool stuff?”

“Fine. I don’t now” I switched off the TV.

“I hate being a kid! I never get to watch cool things, do anything nice. My life is not fun, Amma!”

By now I knew enough not to argue about how uncool my own life was when I was his age, so I maintained a dignified silence while he raved and ranted.

I gently suggested a board game & all was forgiven.

When I shared this with a friend with much older kids, she laughed. “This is nothing,” she said. “Wait till he gets a bit older.”

Did you know there’s this stage of pre-teens called Tweens?

Thanks to all the exposure,  children are losing their innocence too soon. They learn too much, too fast, too soon.

I guess it’s up to us parents & teachers to take it in our stride and learn to nudge them towards the right path as we go along.

On the brighter side, I can always depend upon my son to download a much-needed app in my phone!

Love is in the air!

My son fell in love with this girl in kindergarten. He was all of four and made elaborate plans for his wedding. (You can read more on that here)

Then he changed schools and fell in love all over again with another girl. But of late he’s been very reluctant to talk to me about her. He changes topic swiftly or goes into silent mode when I ask him about her.

He is eight now and all his friends have started hating girls. So he’s under a lot of peer pressure to follow suit. Now he has started saying things lik, “oh, that’s so girly!” or “Yuk! Girls!”

Last week, I was just getting into the car when the phone rang. It was for my son. He hadn’t gone to school that day, since he had not been well. But miraculously he was well enough to tag along with me to the mall in the evening.

“Hi G!” He greeted his best friend enthusiastically. Since I had a driver that day, I had no option but to lean back in the seat and listen in. I didn’t really mean to eavesdrop, but he was so loud and kept repeating what his friend said word by word that I had no choice!

Here’s an excerpt:

“I was not well in the morning, dude!”

(Once I tried calling him that. He gave me a dark look and said, “Amma, it’s ‘dood’ not ‘dude’ ok? a la Ra-One style.)

“What? You want to go into the bedroom, lock the door & tell me something? why?”

“Oh! You want to tell me a secret!”

“Yes, I can hear you”

“WHAT? YOU HIT ‘A’ ACROSS HER EYE? BUY WHY?” He practically screamed into my ear.

“Shhhh. ” I tried to silence him. For heaven’s sake that poor boy was telling him a secret!

He looked at me a bit apologetically.

“She said what?? SHE SAID SHE’S IN LOVE WITH YOU?!!”

“GOD!!!!” He broke into giggles.

“Teacher gave you detention for hitting a girl? But you didn’t have to hit her, dood. That too on her eye!”

“What? SHE SAID SHE WANTS TO MARRY YOU!!!!! HAHAHAHAHA!!!!”

I gave him a dark look. He just ignored me & turned towards the window. After a few more digs at his friend, he said, “You know, my life is so nice. No girls, no detentions. Only a few best friends and a lot of happiness!”

“What? You don’t want to talk about it anymore? Okay, let’s talk about something else.”

“Do you still think there’s a ghost in your house? Oh, I hear noises too dood. But they disappear when I switch on the light.”

“But tell me. what are you going to say to A when you meet her tomorrow?”

“Hmmm… Yes, you’ll have to see her in language class. And games…”

“Oh ok. Let’s not talk about her anymore.”

“You had a nightmare?”

“Scary!”

“Yeah, I had one like that when I was 6.” He went to on to explain a nightmare where a witch tried to stab him. ‘Funny.’ I thought to myself. I’ve never heard about that till now.

“And guess what? Once I had a horrible nightmare. I can’t even tell you about.”

“I had a nightmare that a girl kissed me!!!! Eeeekkks!!!!”

“A GIRL!”

“SHE KISSED ME!!!!!”

“A GIRL KISSED ME!!!!!!!”

He repeated it in a shrill voice “SHE KISSED ME!!”

By now I was thoroughly embarrassed. Not only did I see the driver’s shoulders shaking with suppressed laughter, but also curious looks from people in other cars around us.

“That’s enough!” I hissed.

“oh, ok”

“Hey dood! I’ve reached the mall da. Will see you tomorrow at school. Ya, Don’t worry. We’ll think of ways to avenge what A did to you. Bye!”

“Amma. here you go!”

He handed the phone back to me.

Despite his claims that he’s officially in the girl-hating phase of his life, my son still gets a little starry eyed when he talks about this girl whom he was hell bent on marrying the whole of last year.

But I’m not supposed to acknowledge that. Nuggets of precious information will be told in the passing with no room for me to comment or follow up.

“I sat next to S in Maths class.” he’d say in a small voice. And quickly follow it up with, “G pushed me today and I got hurt” much louder, so by the time I get a full account of his fall and subsequent hurt, I’d have forgotten all about the girl.

When I’m waiting at the school gate to pick him up, I can easily tell if she’s in front of him or behind him. When he drags his feet, stops to examine a leaf or a twig, I know she’s walking behind him with her friends. When he’s all bright-eyed and hops towards me all ready to leave, I know she’s way ahead of him, already clutching her mother’s hand, walking towards the gate.

Once I was n the phone with my friend. She heard my son trying to tell me something and said, “Tell him I’m missing him. And I love him”.

I dutifully repeated it.

He gagged. “Yuk!!!! I hate that word! It makes me vomit!”

“Which word?”

“The one you just said.” His face contorted in disgust.

“Love. Yikes!” He ran away.

Now I’m waiting for him to get over this phase and come a full circle of liking girls again. But something tells me as a teenager, he’ll not really confide in me the way he does now.

So the sole purpose of this post is to make him read it when he’s that age and watch him squirm!

Satyameva Jayate

Satyamev-Jayate

I missed the opening episode of this much-talked-about program on Star Plus. But after seeing all the rave reviews, I didn’t want to miss it the following sunday.

Being a big fan of Aamir Khan, I just couldn’t help admiring him on this show. He has conceptualised & directed the show so well.

He’s taken topics which are usually spoken in hushed whispers in almost every household in the country, and brought them out oh-so-bravely to the drawing rooms of millions of homes.

Yesterday’s topic was sexual abuse in children. And the audience were predominantly parents of young children.

He actually got victims, who are successful individuals now, to open up and share their nightmarish childhoods with the whole nation.

He even got one parent to come forward and admit that she was helpless when her son had complained to her about the abuse he was going through.

He invited experts to offer their opinions on analysing the situation. A lawyer who told us about the loopholes in the law, and how he had to fight for 10 years to convict two foreign nationals who were caught abusing street children in Mumbai.

He bowled over a victim/guest in the show by getting yester-year actor Sridevi to grace the show at the end, because he had said in an earlier interview that her movies had really made those abusive years a bit tolerable. Of course the man was awestruck & over the moon.

But I did find a few things a bit jarring.

Why did he, the anchor, had to wipe his tears surreptitiously every time he spoke to the victims about their abuse?

It’s not like this is the first time he should be hearing such things… Hasn’t he heard of  the ‘casting couch’ in his own fraternity? Didn’t he realise it may show him in a bad light of  not being too genuine?

And I felt he was a bit too short & abrupt with his expert guests. Maybe it was because of time constraints. But did he always seemed to overshadow them or is it just my imagination?

But having said all that I must also say it is really very gutsy of him to do a show with such calibre. If he ever wants to join politics, he’ll beat any of his opponents hands down!

Mera Bharat Mahan!

Last year, I’d taken my son to the U S of A just before Halloween and he was so impressed with that concept. And his cousin later called to tell him she has bags & bags of candy from Halloween that should last till Christmas and he felt so cheated.

“Amma, Can I dress up in a costume and get candy from people in Chennai?” He asked.

I was horrified. “No way! They’ll think it’s some new-age begging!” I said.

“Why???? Won’t people be kind enough to kids to give them candy?”

“It’s an American concept da.” I explained. “Not everyone will know the meaning of Halloween here.”

“You know what? ” He said, narrowing his eyes. “I hate being an Indian. Indian festivals are noisy & scary, they do not like giving candies to kids, the roads are so filthy, people around us are so rude to each other. And everything is so difficult here. Can we please, please go & live in America? People there are so kind to kids. It’s so much cleaner and everything is just awesome!”

I was horrified at his lack of patriotism.

“How dare you say that? ” I bellowed. “India is your home country. If you say you hate it, it’s like saying you hate your own mother. Do you get me?’

He was shocked at my outburst. “But Amma, I’m only telling you the truth!” he countered.

“Enough! Not one word from you”. I said and resumed driving, seething inside.

But then I calmed down after giving it a lot of thought.

Now whose fault is that children these days do not feel the tug of pride about their own country?

I can’t speak for all kids, but other kids like mine – have never heard of the freedom struggle. the Brits are just another source of toys to them. They get to taste life in other countries either by first hand experience on holidyas or by all the movies and serials they watch.

They have at least one aunt or uncle happily settled abroad.

Most of our cities have malls &  stores just like the one they see abroad.

When I was young, maybe because we were just one generation away from the freedom fighters, it was taken for granted that we were proud of our country and its achievements. We mugged up stories in school about Bhgath Singh, Kumaran, Gandhiji, Sardar Patel, so on & so forth.

Everyday at assembly we’d recite The Pledge.

Foreign countries were some far-off lands which we’d get a glimpse of only in Enid Blyton books or the occasional English movies one went to.

Almost all the movies in the theatres used to play the national anthem at the end and all of us stood ramrod straight to show our respect.

(My uncle used be furious if he ever caught me sitting down when they played the national anthem on tv!)

But today, with the world becoming a global village and all, there’s precious little we can do to make our kids patriotic.

My son hates Diwali because he’s terrified of crackers. He loves Christmas because he gets presents.

And new clothes & sweets are not exclusively for festivals anymore.

Now how do I inject patriotism into his mind?

Do I start by telling him stories of brave soldiers who laid their lives for our great nation’s independence?

Do I start educating him on our rich history and how we were miles ahead of any other country hundreds of years ago in every field?

Do I stand a chance getting his undivided attention while competing with the Ben 10s, Beyblades, Kick Buttoskis, PSPs of his world,  who hold him captive the second he gets home?

And when I see the news everyday about thousands of crores of rupees swindled in various scams by politicians, the sheer audacity of those in power, the cheap mind-games played, the vengence unleashed by some in power, and close to home the over-flowing garbage bins….

All make me feel I should just shut up and let him figure it out for himself.

Jaihind!

Oh, My God!

I’m not a very religious person. I do believe in God. I pray, talk to God and look for signs when I’m in trouble to guide me, etc., but I don’t exactly have a routine. I feel my relationship with my maker is a personal one. And I don’t go to temples regularly.

But when I was a kid, I was taken around to lot of temples & was fed lot of stories where ‘God will blind you if you’re evil’ was always the moral. And I was encouraged to pray for things I wanted.

But as my rational thinking grew, I began to adopt the philosophy mentioned in the first paragraph.

Now, my seven year old son has a lot of questions about God. Since my husband is a thorough rationalist, its totally up to me to shape his mind in these matters.

Do I blindly follow my parents & teach him the ‘Saami kannai kutthidum’ philosophy or explain things a bit more rationally?

Thanks to Cartoon Network, he already has his basics covered on the different Gods & their Avataars. And thanks to school, he already knows there are a lot of religions in this world.

So I just answer his questions, as & when they arise, as best as I can.

1st of  September was Vinayaka Chathurthi. I love that festival only for the yummy kozhukkattais… 

Last year my husband wanted to give him a taste of his own childhood & took him shopping for a clay Ganesha, in a typical market place.

This year, he flatly refused to go along. “The streets are yucky! I will not walk in all that muck!” He begged off. My husband went alone and picked up a clay Ganesha sprayed with fine gold dust.

But  I wanted to make up for the lack of fun, so I woke up early, made the kozhukkattais and called my son for the puja.

Of course, it was just the two of us, since my husband was still snoring.

Both of us sat in front of the decked-up Ganesha, did the puja and I explained to him that Kozhukattais are Ganesha’s favourite sweet & all the fruits were for him.

Then I asked him to sing a small Ganesha song. He did that dutifully.

In a while, it was breakfast time. While he had a bowl full of his favourite cereal, I sat in front of him, with a bowl of kozhukkattais, waiting to dig in.

“No!” my son screamed suddenly. “You cannot have them! Its Ganesha’s!”

Peeved to be deprived of my favourite sweet, I held on tight to the bowl while he tried to pry it from my hand.

“He just blessed it, baby!” I explained patiently. “Now we can eat them.”

“No way! You said you made them especially for him!” He argued.”You cannot take it from him!”

“Thousands of homes make the kozhukkatais today.” I reasoned. “He cannot eat each and every one of them! So he blesses them and gives it back to us…”

But he’ll have none of it.

Since it was time for school, we wrapped up and left.

That evening he came running to me while I was pounding away at my comp. “Amma! Ganesha has eaten all the kozhukkatais in the plate!” He said joyfully. I noticed his bare upper body had a bit of gold dust.

“What happened?” I asked, pointing to the gold.

“I gave Ganesha a big hug!” he admitted sheepishly.

Next morning I needed a banana for my cereal. So I plucked  one  from the puja plate & proceeded to peel it.

“Don’t!” he screamed. “You’re stealing Ganesha’s share!”

“What?! I told you he only blesses the food we offer!”

“He ate the kozhukkatais yesterday, remember?” He asked me. “So, don’t touch!”

And of course by the time he got back from school that day, the fruits had to vanish too.

This is even worse than Santa story, I thought. He’s been insisting that we have a Christmas tree every year for three years now. Since it is all in good cheer, I gladly bought one and decorate it every year. But I’m so not prepared for his letter to Santa.

Last year it was the Beyblades and they were not in stock in the entire universe.

Frantic, I clutched at every lead I got and found some fake Beys from Parrys Corner. Of course he didn’t want them.

Thankfully it was not with the Santa loot.

And later I kept forgetting the Santa bit. When I spoke to him about a toy, I started slipping. “Remember the Spy Game I got you?” I would start. “NO!” He’d say vehemently. “Santa got me that!”

“Oops! I’m sorry!” I’d apologise.

Last week, he wanted me to take to the Toy Shop to get him something. I had no such intentions. “Pray to Ganesha & ask him if I should really take you.” I told him.

“Buy I don’t know how to talk to God!” he wailed.

“Then it’s high time you learnt. ” I told him sternly. “Just stand in front of God and close your eyes and ask him. If you’re silent enough you can hear his answer in your mind.”

So he obediently stood with folded hands, closed his eyes.

After five minutes he came to me. looking very upset. “I just cannot get any answer, Amma! You do it!”

So I stood in front of the puja, closed my eyes & folded my hands in reverence.

Two minutes later, I opened my eyes to see his eager face next to mine. “What did God say, Amma?”

“He is soooo angry with me!” I informed him. “He just told me ‘there are so many poor children in this world with no food and you want to get more and more toys for your son! Ask him not to be so greedy!’ ”

Crest-fallen, my son walked away. Soon it was time to go somewhere. We passed by the Toy shop and a small voice from the back seat spoke.

“I wish God didn’t exist. Then I can do what I want..”

Now I’m more confused than ever…

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