Tag Archives: raising kids

That a female life comes with a side-effect…

15 years ago

It was when I was pregnant with my first child when I playfully asked my husband, “we got married after dating for 9 years and our affair had started when we were in school. What if your child does the same?”

I had not mentioned if I am particularising about a son or a daughter.

But pat came the reply, “I would never let my daughter date anyone. I’ll kill that man who touches my daughter.”

I laughed and said, “How mean! And what if it’s a boy?”

He said, “You want me to give a virtuous reply? Or an honest one?”

I chose the latter.

“I would ask him to use condoms.”

It was a girl. Followed by a boy 3 years later.

My daughter was pampered by her father. I can guarantee that her father would actually not spare the guy who would as much as touch her.

All these years he could never say NO to her demands. But today I saw that very father trying to curb the most reasonable demand of hers. Freedom.

That night, a light-hearted discussion we had 15 years ago, popped up once again. Only this time, we had creases of worry on our foreheads.

“Tell her, she is 15 now. And there is a limit to what a girl can and should do beyond this age. Freedom, equal rights for a boy and a girl is all fine. But can we forgo our daughter’s honour and life for them? Once gone, can they come back? Or can these words bring you solace? No late night parties, no short dresses, no booze. And that’s final.”

Saying this, my husband threw today’s newspaper and the front page headlines seem to stress upon the urgency of taking that decision which until now seemed just outrageous to me. Today it looks inevitable.

New Delhi: Brutal gangrape and murder of a minor.

We argued,

Me: Do you want to say I will let our son live his life the way he wants, and tell his sister to shut the hell up and stay inside?

Him: You can shut your son too if you want if it’s about setting an example of equality. But remember, only those who have something worth getting stolen, have to take the pains of keeping the house bolted shut. You can’t make the world change to good in a day, but you can lose all you have in minutes. I don’t have the guts to tell my daughter, Go, have fun, it’s your life, when I know there are barbaric wolves baring fangs to feast upon her at every corner.  So it’s time you think of a stern solution before it’s too late.

Me: Is that a solution?

Him: That’s a resort. The last and the only resort. I can’t afford to lose my kids. Let them think me as their foe. That’s fine.

In a place like India where everyday, everywhere, everyone reminds you of the gender disadvantage (or advantage) you have, the hardest challenge is to raise a boy and a girl together without making them feel that one has an upper-hand in the society over the other.

I have always imparted my lessons to my children through stories. As they seem to absorb them well that way.

A story every night. A lesson every night.

But I guess, my labor of cooking up stories for them has increased now. Because from now on, the girl needs to be taught a different set of virtues. She needs to be taught where to draw a line and what horror she can face if she dares to cross that. But am afraid, she needs to take those morals raw. Without being accompanied with the humor and light-heartedness of a story. Because life for her is not as rosy and fantastic as bedtime stories.

Till now I had taught her how to make friends, how a smile can turn an enemy into an ally, how friendship can make life livable, lovable.

Now I’ll have to teach her how not to trust a friend, especially a male friend, especially after-hours, especially if he offers her a drink, especially when he asks her to drop her home after a late night party. Oh, but late night parties are now not meant for her.

Till now I had taught her that the whole world is a family.

Now I need to teach her how to identify a hostile/desperate touch even if that’s of a family member.

Till now I have taught her not to fight with her brother. Love him come what may.

Now I need to muster the courage of teaching her, that her own brother can show savage signs. Keep a watch.

Worse still, it can even be her father.

That’s the dilemma of raising a girl in a middle class family based in New Delhi, India.

How can I cook-up a story to make my daughter understand that even if her brother parties late, wears what he wants, does he what he likes, she is not entitled to do so, for her own good?

What could possibly be a plot for a story that teaches a girl that she is vulnerable at every step and every nook and corner of the very city she was born in and brought up?

That it is only because luck was by her side all these years that she was not abducted from the very road which took her to school?

That because of some good deeds of the past life, she has managed to escape the fate that hundreds of girls in this city encounter?

That anytime life can decide to show her the harshest, most painful part of a female life?

That a female life comes with a side-effect?

I have no clue, how am I going to tell all that to her. But I have no answer to the question a worried and withered father had just posed.

Can we forgo our daughter’s honour and life for phrases like Freedom, Equal rights for woman?

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A little more..for the little ones

With every new kid born, a generation takes birth. Ask your mother, and she would agree that your son is smarter than you were at any given age, though she used to marvel at your antics (like blinking when she said BOO) and admitted that you are born ‘loaded with brains’.

My kids’ granny who also plays nanny to them throws her hands back in despair and declare- my sons had never made me do as much as raise my voice on them. They would play sitting at a place and I will find them sitting at the same place hours later.
That makes me wonder if there was an age when kids sat at the same place like an immobile rock. I guess, I am not envious.
My son and my niece are just two years apart in age. Both of them did their job of entertaining us and surprising us quite well. They still do.

But here’s an observation.

My niece when asked to sit on the couch quickly climbed the arm-rest and took her seat. Two years later, my son did the same. Only he went a bit further- stepped on the armrest and made his bums rest on the top of the back rest. Both were going to turn one at that stage. Recently, one of our acquaintances visited our place with their 11 months old daughter. Same couch, same place, same given scenario. The girl stepped up the arm rest, climbed the backrest and leaped onto the nearby table finally seating herself there.
Would it be wrong to say that every new generation raises the bar a bit? But are parents ready to match steps?

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It’s funny, when you become a parent, you feel like talking about your kids and nothing else. I have been resisting myself for long from this typical ‘parenting post’ as I didn’t want to go run of the mill with this blog. But now it’s done. Parth and Sarika are far interesting than many (or rather any) things in my life.
I don’t know if it happens to you or not, but whenever I wish for something quite ardently, I mess things up at the eleventh hour. Regretting thereafter is definitely a part of the story. ‘But I would, in no case, let that happen when it comes to raising my kids up’, I took the resolve perhaps the day when I realized Sarika is my responsibility or may be on the day when she started calling me ‘Mummy’ rather than ‘Chachi’.
My mom is not a woman of letters, though she managed to get past her higher secondary and bag a decent government job. She can write letters, applications, files and diary entries much better than many of her colleagues and even superiors. It is said that South Indians are by default, good in English, if not great. I don’t know how true that is, but I have seen Narial Pani walas in Tamil Nadu, making themselves understandable to foreigners quite well (‘Twell rupees. No less. Take it or go’) But when it comes to speaking in Hindi or replying to a simple Hindi question…. “No Hindi, Only Tamil, English”.
Ok, now coming back to the point, I still remember my mom’s signature phrase when she used to reprimand me for something- ‘Nothing Doing’. Whether it was more chocolates, going out after 7 or watching a late night flick, she would respond with a stern glance and a sterner ‘Nothing Doing’. By and by, I started repeating the phrase.

So I thought, why not introduce, Sarika to the globally-accepted-as-mandatory language, English. I started off with ‘Don’t Touch’. Quite apt, as she has a habit of toying with things that are strictly not meant for her. (The other day, she swallowed some ten Thyroid pills, her granny left on the table.. don’t want to recall the horror!)
“SARIKA, DON’T TOUCH” – when she was about to break my husband’s favourite R.I.O CD,
“SARIKA, DON’T TOUCH” – when she inched towards Parth’s Cerelac bowl perhaps irritated and jealous as he was on my lap for the past half an hour and she was not.
“SARIKA, DON’T TOUCH” – when she tried to mercilessly plug out the TV plug from the wall socket, dangerously, her favourite of all the pranks.
“SARIKA, DON’T TOUCH” became my favourite rebuke line.
The line became so popular in my house that the other day, I heard Sarika’s Bangla-only-no-English granny commanding “SARIKA, DON’T TOUCH” when she made desperate attempts to lay her hands on the box of vermilion (Sindoor) to smear it on her face.
Today, I was getting ready to go to work while trying to keep an eye on my little imps and they trying to dodge my watch to do something mischievously interesting. Suddenly, I heard something that made me turn around with glee. “PARTHU, DON’T TOUCH”. I saw Parth holding my hairpin and ready to have a bite. He stopped short at his Didi’s command. My efforts got paid off. My baby learnt her first English sentence and knows the meaning as well.. and guess what, even Parth seems to understand what it means (he dropped the pin instantly and started looking for something else.)

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