Category: dilemmas

Sports day and a regret

Sports day and a regret

Last week the twins’ had
their Sports Day and H won a bronze in the class race. Instead of celebrating, my first reaction was to look out for N and her reaction. The thing is, N is the sporty one.
She’s the one who comes home with a medal and is heartbroken if she
doesn’t get her moment on the victory stand.
H makes things worse by not being sensitive at all. I could almost
see him revelling in his medal and how that would make
matters worse for N. So when I went to pick them up I hugged them both, underplaying H’s
As it turned out, to his complete credit and my amazement, H was pretty nonchalant
about the whole thing and didn’t blow his trumpet one bit. Very surprising indeed!
What surprised me even more
was N’s reaction. She was a little upset I could tell, but she kept a smile
firmly on her face and was over it soon enough. It might have to do with
the fact that she was part of the
gymnastic display and so didn’t mind not winning. It might have to do with her recent
dance performance where she’d taken centre-stage already.
It brought home the importance of helping kids find their niche – something they’re good at – academics or a sport, a dance
form or a musical instrument. It does wonders for their self-esteem and allows them to
handle failure better. That’s what seemed to have worked for N.
Maybe I’m over analyzing this and the
kids are just growing up. 
Whatever it is, I was a
relieved mum that day. I do have a regret though – I wish I’d had that one moment of unadulterated happiness
and of praise for H – it was the first time he had won at sports
since when he was a toddler.

That’ll remain with me a long time.
It’s good for the kids though: to learn to look beyond themselves – to be empathetic as also to be happy for a sibling or a friend.
If you have more than one child tell me how you handle it when one child does really well and the other doesn’t? How do you praise one child while comforting the other?
Enjoying the difference

Enjoying the difference

The other day I had taken the kids to the dentist. As he cleaned N’s teeth tching tching at how she needed to learn to brush better, H noticing his beard and cap, asked in not too quiet a whisper (he is completely incapable of whispering), “Mama is he a Muslim?” I nodded a trifle embarrassed. Undeterred he went on, “Muslims wear caps na ma? That’s how I know. We read about it in class.” “Yes they do”, said I hoping the questioning would end right there.

Even as I struggled with the feeling of embarrassment I wondered why I was feeling so uncomfortable. From H’s point of view it was a perfectly innocent, though a tad personal, query. I asked myself whether I would have been equally embarrassed had he asked, “That aunty is wearing a bindi, does that mean she’s a Hindu?” I still do not know.

I was reminded of a similar incident while on a recent holiday at Lucknow. At a curio shop outside the Bara Imambara I found myself standing next to two burqua clad women. One of them picked up a small box and asked the vendor, ‘What is this?” and he replied off-handedly, “It’s of no use to you, it’s a sindoor-box’ (vermilion powder used by married Hindu women). The ladies smiled and put it back. I noticed the easy exchange wondering at how simply the religious difference had been mentioned, accepted and dismissed.

Perhaps that’s something special to Lucknow – that acceptance of the difference without attaching any judgement to it, where being a Hindu or a Muslim is just a way of life, where one can point out the difference without fear of being misunderstood.

While the uneducated/politically motivated lot insists on the ‘I/We are the best’ philosophy, the apparently educated/balanced lot go with the ‘We are equal/same’ philosophy.

Girls and boys are the same, all religions are the same, people from all regions are the same. That is so very confusing for a child. The thing is — they obviously are not. They are very different. It is the difference that gives them their identity – why take it away from them? Our lives would be richer and perhaps easier too if we accepted and enjoyed our differences.

Next time, I hope I won’t be thrown off balance when the kids put up a question like that. I hope I can allow them to question, understand and accept them with the ease and innocence that only children can.


On a vaguely related note here’s a conversation we had yesterday morning during the school-time chaos:

H: Mama may I be a Muslim?
Me: You may be whatever you want but why do you want to be one?
H: They have so much fun. They get to go to the fair at the Idgah and get all kinds of goodies to eat and they even get Eedi.

They’ve recently read Premchand’s Idgah at school. I presume that’s what brought it on coupled with the fact that today is Eid and the excitement of his Muslim friends is very infectious.

I wish I had the time and the patience to explain that religion was much more than a few sweets and some pocket money. Unfortunately we were running late (as usual) and I had to let it go. Another time, another chat, perhaps.

Missing my hometown sorely today, I thought I’d cook up some sewain in honour of Eid. Mercifully a friend dropped by with a huge bowl of Sheer Khurma and saved the kids from at least one of my cooking misadventures. It turned out to be absolutely delicious.

Eid Mubarak everyone!

Doesn’t it look wonderful?
No more happily ever afters

No more happily ever afters

I have a question today. But before that listen to this story that I shared with the children of The Book Club this Sunday. I’ll keep it short I promise.

The story (The Book Keeper)

… is set in the year 2042. It talks of a scenario where books and writing are extinct. ibooks, laptops, computers, tablets and phones are everywhere. However, there is this one poor Bangladeshi boy, Santanu, who possesses a book (A Bengali adaptation of Matilda). He doesn’t understand the Bengali script so he uses it as a diary, address book, notepad and a scribble pad all in one.

One day the Internet crashes. The parents are angry and the children, restless. They are forced to play outdoors and stumble upon a dilapidated building which happens to be a deserted library. They start to love the place. They read, run around and learn to make up stories. Then one day the Internet comes back and the kids all disappear again back to their electronic world leaving Santanu alone but happy with the books. You can read the full story here. (While you’re there you might like to check out the site. It has some amazing stories from around the world).

The question

So tell me now, does the ending bother you? It did bother me. Would you have thought of altering it before you shared the story with the kids?

I was sorely tempted to do that. I’ve tampered with stories earlier, mostly the so called ‘fairytales’, when the kids were younger. I did away with the gory and the unpleasant, evening out the rough patches making it perfect as it could get.

This time however I let it be. For one, this ending might be more near the truth than the one I have in mind, two – changing it would amount to trolling someone else’s story, three – maybe it’s time to let the kids figure out the situation for themselves. I sure was curious to see their reaction – would they accept it like it’s inevitable or ‘normal’ (Yikes!!) or would they feel saddened like I was?

What the kids had to say

The kids completely loved it – the whole story. There were exclamations of ‘cool’ and ‘awesome’ at the idea of all kids having phones and tabs. But there also were ‘haws’ at the idea of no books. They accepted the story in a way more positive manner than what I’d ever imagined. Rather than a black and white approach they found many angles to it. Most said they liked the ending for Santanu’s sake. They liked that Santanu could enjoy being by himself with just books for company. Some said this wasn’t ‘the end’ at all and that finally the kids got bored of their computers after getting a taste of the good stuff and came back.

It’s such joy to watch children think and talk and discuss. Yet one more time I was made to realise how I underestimate the way they think.

The F word…

The F word…

…. made an entry in our home. Yeah the real one.

Last night over dinner N asked me ‘Mama what does F*** mean?’ She rhymed it somewhere between the real thing and the word ‘hook’ so I took a while to absorb the question. That and the fact that the kids are not eight yet. I cannot even begin to explain what I felt. Here I am insisting on the ‘aap’ instead of ‘tum’ and freaking out if I hear a ‘shit’ from them and they’re onto this!

A ‘talk’ followed. I told her I was glad she’d asked me what it meant, that it was a ‘bad’ word not to be repeated, ever. However the damage will remain. I cannot possibly erase it from her memory. In all likelihood it would be even more securely planted since I warned her off it. And I’m afraid it’ll make an appearance in a moment of anger or stress.

The thing that worries me more is that she picked it up from a child from our society. I’ve mentioned earlier how I’m not comfortable with the twins’ playing with older kids, yet I don’t know how to stop it. This is the kind of thing I was worried about. Not that bad language is okay at any age but the older ones seem to revel in it.

I considered talking to his mom but the other mothers warned me off. Apparently they’d spoken to her earlier but she didn’t share the concern (they’re kids, they will pick up all kinds of stuff, she maintains). So now I’m in a bit of a quandary. What should I do? Tell the children to stay away from that kid? That’s not feasible since our’s is a small society with limited playing space. Besides, the children like him. He is a likeable kid and he’s just 10. But what if they pick up more bad language or worse start believing it’s acceptable to use it?

Should I talk to the kid directly? I know him well enough. That’s a thought I might follow through. Talking to the twins and warning them off bad language and bad behaviour rather than off bad kids seems like the best thing to do but it’s hard, really hard to get it across to them. How does one explain that a kid who is friendly, who teaches them cricket, who races with them each evening, who’s the epitome of cool is not so cool after all.


But then who said mothering would ever be easy.