Listen Woman, we need to talk!


Recently Shahid Kapoor’s wife Mira Rajput created a furor on the Internet by making a funny statement that ‘innocently’ compared a baby with a puppy following which she gave her preference on being a homemaker. I did not like the comparison personally. Why Mira, isn’t a pup a baby too? In fact, children outgrow your lap but dogs don’t! I don’t have a pet but I know pet parents who shower unconditional love on their pets. Somehow, her statement just brushed many women the wrong way. I, for one, understood only one thing – Mira forgot that the position from where she is speaking held more weight than her words themselves!

Perhaps, had Mira been a mediocre home maker with no celebrity status, it would not have invoked the angst of the feminist brigade. Perhaps, if she were even a budding entrepreneur who would have casually mentioned the same statement, she would not have been taken seriously. Perhaps, if she were some IT professional who in the spur of the moment may have compared a baby to a pup, not many would have heeded it. But then, she is not the regular next door woman for the society. And the minute Mira gave that interview, she forgot that important piece of wisdom.

So, when she made that funny comparison of a baby with a pup, I was amused. But then, I was more startled when the whole twitter went berserk on her comment. Just because she spoke her mind perhaps not using the right analogy, the social media pounced on her as if it was starved off its meat that is mostly sprinkled with condiments of sham and shame! The one blunder she perhaps made is by declaring that she enjoyed being the home maker citing the baby and pup analogy. No good.

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And so, her inappropriate statement has brought the home makers and ‘working’ women at loggerheads.  Now, I don’t want to get into this useless battle. But, I fail to understand the idea behind labeling women as ‘working’. Recently, when I was flipping through channels, I came across an advertisement (guess it was some promo of a serial) that had a young woman asking a man – “Aapko kaisi ladki chaiye? House wife ya working woman?” and, the man with the mustache answers in a heavily laced kathyawadi accent – “Kya antar hai dono mein? Dono hi kaam karti hain. Bas, jagah badal jati hai!” I loved the way the man thought. But what pinched me was, that kind of demeaning question was asked by a woman. Sometimes I feel, women don’t have to seek enemies in the opposite gender. We are at times our own enemies! Now pray tell, what is so low about a home maker’s job?

I have been a working woman in the past and presently, I am a home maker absolutely by choice. Intermittently, I have freelanced and was also working from home for a while, before certain health issues made me take a pause again. So, when I came across a post on social media about how the home makers can never see working women in good light, I felt stung. If women speak against women in such a bad light, why on earth will men, or for that matter anyone respect us? Fodder for thought?

This Home maker inspires me like none!

Now, there are two inspiring women I have met in life and, I would like to share about these wonderful women on this platform. The first one is my husband’s aunt from his maternal side – Padmini Maami. She is a widow who lost her husband when her sons were aged around 11 and 6. She has been a home maker all her life and yet, she is a living example of the powerful feminine force in her strung the family together with her selfless hard work towards her in-laws, children and the many other members of the joint family she lives in. She has been instrumental in raising my husband (then just 11 years old) after my mother –in-law’s untimely demise in ‘96.

Padmini Mami is not some high flying corporate woman or, some highly intellectual professor teaching in some deemed university. She is just a regular woman in a very normal saree…who you might see, walking towards a grocery store with a sling bag. She is one of those inconspicuous and seldom appreciated home makers who slogs from dawn to dusk and till night with a never ending list of household chores.

Now we all gape in awe when we read about famous and inspiring ladies (well, there are just too many famous ones). But then, there are many unseen gems who also stand at par with the famous ones in their indigenous way. Padmini Mami, is one of them.

Getting up in the morning, preparing the first of the many rounds of coffee, making breakfast, tending to her very old in laws, cleaning and mopping the home, washing clothes, making lunch, paying bills and, going to bank, buying groceries, visiting the temple and sometimes, making rangoli there and so on, and so forth are just some of the countless duties she performs during a day.

There have also been times when she used to take care of her sister in law’s children, given that the sister in law works in a university. And, maami just does her work with no complaints whatsoever. In her daily rigmarole, she also manages a power nap of 30 to 40 odd minutes after lunch. She watches her favorite serials at times, which serves her with the small bout of unreal entertainment at the end of each day. On some nights, I have observed that there would not be much for her to eat, but she would not complain. When I asked her on one of those days, she smiled and said – “Narayani, eating is important. But what is as important as eating is keeping the body parts in motion. Our body should be strong, adaptive and flexible. And, we must be self dependent.”

Today, her sons are grown up and, are independent and well raised gentlemen. While she reminisces her early years of her blissful marriage and, the dark times that befell her after mama’s demise, she leaves a long sigh….. and pauses for a while and then, says– “My responsibilities are now over. My sons are doing well for themselves.  And once my duties are over completely, I want to do something at the temple, maybe do some cleaning and rangoli there.”

This time when I had visited her, she had the ball of a time playing with our son, Arjun. While we were leaving, she passed on a precious piece of advice to me – “Narayani, family always comes first no matter what. Our children are our responsibility till the time they learn to fly. And when they fly the nest, we must let them fly without our interference.”  Despite not being the ‘working’ woman, her views are extremely liberal unlike the many known ‘working’ women who play their ‘dominance card’ in their children’s lives in extreme ways. In a world clouded by airs of status, higher education and wealth, we miss out on the many diamonds and sapphires, like Padmini Maami. Sad, but true.

This working woman commands deepest respect in me!

Now, the other woman I want to introduce you all to is, Sharada Periamma. She is my husband’s aunt from his paternal side. She is the quintessential working woman who has slogged for more than 3 decades in a government job. When the family suffered a huge financial loss in the early years, the financial burden snowballed into this iron lady’s shoulders. And, how she steered her family through the rough patches of her life is a feat that cannot be expressed in words.

She has a son and a daughter and, both are amazing individuals and invariably, my best cousins too! With all the hardships that periamma faced in her life that even included her working in some remote corner of the state, away from family, she has emerged a clear winner in the game of life. During the times when she was posted away from home, she would visit on weekends. And on her way home in the bus or train, she would utilise the time in chopping fresh vegetables she used to buy from a nearby village. And even on weekend, instead of taking ample rest, she will prepare sambhar, rasam and various kinds of chutneys and kozhamu for the family, with the thought that the first two days of the week would be easy for her husband and children as far as ‘Ma ke haath ka khana’ is concerned.

Today she is happily retired and, post retirement she went for South East Asian trip with her sister and a friend. Her children forcefully sent her and, it was only during the trip she realized how much she needed it after countless years of struggle. Recently, when I met her, I asked if she misses her work life. And she smiles and says – “No, not really. Because many of my friends retired with me. So, we all meet up once a month, have lunch outside and sometimes, go to temples together. Life is good now. Besides, age is catching up. Maybe, I will open a crèche some day. I missed seeing the early growing years of my children, given the financial strain on the family then. So, maybe I want to spend time with kids now.” And, she adores my son, Arjun a lot. Although, I feel the stabbing absence of my mother in law, God has been kind as Sharada Periamma candidly announced during our marriage that they are my in-laws.

Besides having been an ace performer in her professional life, she is also an out of the world cook! Anything she prepares is magical! Every time, I look at her, I feel so proud to be associated with her. An excellent mother, an adoring wife, a dutiful daughter, periamma has played every role with finesse. And it is here, I would like to point out that Sharada Periamma’s is an epitome of humility and compassion despite having been professionally successful all through out. I am yet to meet a woman with a heart that is more indulgent than hers!

A woman works, be at home or in office/school!

The reason I cited these examples here is to help women understand that it is not important to ‘be a working woman’ or ‘be a home maker’. What is important is to first ‘be a good human being’. In a world where judgments are passed as frivolously like passing the parcel, we miss out on the very basics of life. And that is, to be kind to people around. How difficult is that?

Why should a home maker be looked down upon? Because her job is thankless? Or, because you find her job worthless?

Why should a working woman be scrutinized incessantly? Because, she is contributing to her family’s income by missing out on her desire to be with her family as much as the home makers do? Or because, women with financial independence intimidate the crowd?

With the two exemplary women I have mentioned in this post, I have deep respect for both home makers and women who are out working in offices and schools. Both command respect in me and, both are extraordinarily performing their roles with absolute courage and conviction.

SO LADIES, PLEASE STOP SHAMMING YOUR OWN TRIBE OVER SUCH TRIVIAL DEBATES. STOP BERATING YOUR OWN KIND! 

Remember,

If you don’t love yourself and your kind, nobody will!

If you don’t respect yourself and your kind, nobody will!

If you don’t help yourself and your kind, nobody will!

Ever since social media has engulfed the world with its charm, we have become self proclaimed judges of whatever we read and analyse about feminism. But what is disheartening about the entire feminism thing is, it is mostly women who instantly jump the gun to accuse the women with a perception different from theirs. Slamming single women, shaming women who choose an alternative lifestyle different from the one followed by majority, berating women who choose to not become parents MUST STOP! Be kind to each other and trust me, if women unite as a force and give each other the shoulder to lean on during rough weather times, we will never have the need to prove ourselves to the world that we assume is being patriarchal.

Take the first step, woman. Look around. If you can even remotely help another woman by even giving her the basic comfort of being a silent listener by making her feel un judged for her situation in life, then my friend, you have already and thankfully understood what this post is all about.

Every woman is special. See the world that way. The yellow tinge clouding your spiritual cornea will disappear.

And Mira Rajput, although your words were not wisely chosen, I am with you woman! Not your fan though. But yet, I stand by you because we both belong to the same tribe! No one can refute that, right?

unity

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Classy look or, Classy thoughts?


I recently came across a discussion forum on Facebook about what matters more to a lady. The context of the post steered into what mattered to a lady, the most? To start with, Is it her Prada Bag or Jimmy Choo? Or, is it her Chanel perfume or her Mac blush? Or, is it her size three ball gown from Mark and Spencer? Many including me felt that kindness, humility and positive attitude towards people is all that matters. A few mentioned their disgust over bad feet, chipped nails whereas, a few mentioned that simple is classy. shola shringaar is an innate quality in Indian women. Whether it is less or, more or, ‘less is more’ , is left to an individual’s choice. And that said, we all like to look good. We all love compliments. We all expect compliments, rather from someone at some or the other time in life. Don’t we? For instance, I appreciate a well dressed woman whose attire pleases the eye. If the apparels match, I am happier to appreciate the knack of pairing them up. I also love mismatch and, mix and match if it catches the eye pleasantly. But when, I meet women with a quirky sense of humor laced with a pinch of sarcasm and a dollop of ‘take it easy’ attitude, all the craze for the attire flies out of the window. Such women tick all the boxes for me and, I feel glad that I know a lot of them. For instance, I would rather be impressed with a woman in a torn T and pajamas who speaks with a reasoning than, with a woman who is dressed impeccably but is clueless about using the right words. The latter asserts the statement – What pleases the eye may not always please the ears! And, when I do encounter the arrogant ones, I have been forced to shove my admiration for them under the bus, the moment they have opened their mouths. So, the bottom line is that, intellect and looks need not match. And yet, I am amused that the world goes gaga over the brand names and the materialistic indulgences that elevate the class of spending. The intent to write this post did not spring up from my opinion about ‘Simplicity is high thinking’ but because, I know a lady who is a testimony to the fact! This lady commands deepest respect in me for her intellect, simplicity and kindness – My 60 year old mother! (I was biologically late to the family circle)

eleFor the uninitiated, my mother is a traditionally dressed woman with a huge bindi on her forehead, with the thick smear of kumkum running through the midline on her head. She wears simple cotton saris. She has been a home maker all her life. She intermittently takes tuition for free, helping the teenagers preparing for their board exams. She does all the house hold chores of our big house in Bharuch by herself. Cooking, Mopping, washing, Gardening and you name them all. At one time of the day she would be seen imparting trigonometry lessons to a bunch of class IX graders. And, at another time of the same day, she would be busy discussing economics and politics with dad. She has been a workaholic all her life that cracked heels or, her chipped nails don’t bother her much. When I advise her on such aspects, she smiles and says – “Leave me out of this. I am not interested.” And, she intermittently advises me – “Never depend on someone for your work. Even if you have a maid, give her a Sunday off and do your household chores yourself. Not only does it keep you fit, but helps you respect the chores someone does for you.” She hasn’t visited a beauty parlor in her life. And yet, on my wedding day she glowed brighter than me. I still remember how hubby joked about not needing lamps around her. She doesn’t pin up her saris and yet, the casual way she drapes them, brings out her elegance in a way I cannot express. And, she surprises people with her impeccable English because her looks don’t give away the jewel box of wisdom hidden within her. And hence, she sometimes doesn’t understand the hoopla over my dressing standards as a faujan. She asks me innocently, “Are you going to be punished if you are not the ‘tip-top’ woman?” I haven’t been able to answer that with a straight face. And, I feel like a darned idiot when I think about that question. She kind of pats me and says – “Don’t forget to wear that smile! That is enough!” Sigh….I am often torn between my humble upbringing and my grooming as a faujan.

To an onlooker, my mother might come across as a traditional Indian woman who follows traditions to the T. But, looks are very deceptive. It may be hard for many to believe but, being a Tam Bram, I have been brought up in a household where reading was more and traditions were followed less, Science fairs were more and, shopping was less. State tours were more and, parties were less. In fact, she has never imposed rules and restrictions on me during my menstrual cycles. I was given a free entry wherever I wanted. She just stopped with the statement – “When I was a child, your grandmother would ask me to keep away from the deepam. Although I have questioned the belief, I followed what she said. The choice is yours.” In fact, she taught me at an age as early as 11 that, menstruation is a natural phenomenon and, is a gift from God. It definitely is not an abomination and, it must be treated as normally as our daily ablutions. Having had an extremely liberal upbringing I used to be confused at the ways of the world when, naturally happening phenomenon were perceived as a taboo. Surprisingly, many working ladies I have met, and who dress up fabulously harbor extremely shallow thoughts when it came to menstruation, religion and traditions. When I had asked my mom about this, she said calmly, “See….in those days….women needed rest during their menstruation. So, the three or four days of aloofness for the lady as her mood swings would be high. Somewhere down the line, the context was lost and it was made to look like a major problem! So, it don’t matter what you and I think. You listen to many things around. But, you need not necessarily discuss these or, react to what is being said. Not because, you shouldn’t…but because, there is no end to it. And, what good is a discussion that does not provide a solution? Freeya vidu! (meaning – Take it easy)”

As far as the traditions are concerned, she follows them all but has never forced me to do the same. She just tells me – “Be kind. Be humble. Be optimistic. If you gossip about someone or belittle someone, or for that matter make someone feel horrible about themselves and then, brag about performing your vara lakshmi pujai and, all the delicacies you have made, I guess you will be making a fool out of yourself in God’s eyes! So, it don’t matter the number of temples you have visited or, the number of pujais you have done. What matters is how many people have been helped by you in some way or the other in their hour of need.”

That kind of thinking is what makes a woman classy for me. For me, my mother breaks all those brands to pieces with her wisdom and thoughts! As I plan to end this post , I remember a thing or two she has told me whenever I felt sad…..“When you feel cornered by destiny, remember….if good times don’t last, neither do the bad times! And, don’t form opinions about people instantly, especially the ones who seem to make your life miserable. Maybe, you were destined to meet them and learn how not to be ;)” yeah….I guess so!.

That said, it would indeed be a happy world to live in, if we stroked our upturned noses and, said to ourselves every once in a while– “Let’s not judge and be judged. Let’s live and let live!”

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P.S: These days, Mum is active on FB and she is enjoying the learning process, operating her tablet….She also happens to read my blogs and, gives some good and harsh critique too! And, as much as I fight with her on parenting methods, get angry with her when she spoils my son with chocolates and, frown when she prefers to make food by hubby’s choice, I love her to the moon and back. And, there is one thing I am still learning from her  and, it has been like forever – Simple living but High thinking! 

And my verdict on the discussion – Classy thoughts beat a classy attire hands down, any day, any time!!

Feel free to disagree 😛

Let’s not just nod. Let’s talk.


When a flaw is not corrected, it becomes the system.

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My fingers have been itching to write about this topic that has been in my head for a long time. But then, there is a reason I did not pen down my thoughts earlier. One, that I was just a parent an year back. And two, I was not aware of the pressures a teacher faces in the teaching world. So now, having been in both the worlds as a teacher and a parent, I have realized that we live in a complicated world. Education system as I see it, is skewed. Teaching norms are either those that have been followed for a long time in decades or, they are something that has been included in a board guideline and, people stick to it as if walking on a tight rope.  Besides, I am appalled at the syllabus a child at a preschool level has to study. Having been a teacher for preschoolers, I have gone through the humongous challenge of helping them with writing and reading. It is not that, preschoolers are incapable. They are the most capable super humans on the planet until they are exposed to the indoctrinated norms of academics. But then, they are still small children and, you possibly cannot expect them to sit at one place and, write whatever you have been asking them to. But then, we are trained to manage children of that stage and so, we do what we ought to do. Yet, there are times I wonder, is so much of syllabus even needed at such a nascent stage, a time when such small children are supposed to learn more from observing the Nature and around, rather than from books. Well, I shall be wondering about that all my life.

Blur the lines of categories!

Now coming to the second point that bothers me to no ends is the categorization that often happens in every school (even at pre-primary level). Yes, a teacher always has ‘the favorites’. That is totally normal as, one feels respected when a student takes to you and, follows your instructions religiously. However, a good teacher has all of her children, as favorites. Suffices to say that, a teacher always spots the best, the better, the good and the average easily. But then, does the teacher cater to the needs of all the categories? is the big question of the hour! Even while you are handling a class of children below the age of 6, you will always come across the cream, the good, the average and the ‘need-to-work-hard’ categories. Many a time, lack of patience and time drives a teacher to be either impatient towards the slow ones or, more relaxed (patience levels vary from a teacher to teacher). But then, a teacher has to remember that this is what he or she is trained for. A teacher’s motive always has to be inclined towards uplifting the ‘good’, the ‘average’ and the ‘need-to-work-hard’ and leading them up to the cream layer. However, it is just not every teacher’s cup of tea to think in those lines, although that is precisely what B.Ed and other teaching courses prepare a teacher for. There are palpable reasons for it – One being the pressures from the management to follow what has been laid out as the norms to abide by, and two, the need to ‘grow’ as a teacher in the process, paying little heed to the needs of the growing children. Maybe, the categorization of students must be dissolved. For instance, if a particular child has already done well in a particular event – say debate, give the upcoming second chance to some other, who just needs a little bit of encouragement to shine. Let the usual debater be involved in some other activity (who knows it might turn out to be an addition to his talents). Every child deserves a chance in everything. Don’t you think? It is not impossible. All a school needs is an extraordinary level of gumption to try it!

The litany of complaints!

I have heard from ample sources and also, have observed parents complaining that, teachers aren’t doing their bit. Also, in some cases I have observed teachers complaining the same about parents not doing their bit. And, the ones that bear the brunt of both worlds are our children who innocently wonder, “Why?” And then I wonder, why people praise good movies like Taaren Zameen par, when they cannot take any pointer from it. Even in my class, I have observed mammothian potential in every child. Some children are good in writing. Some are good with orals. Some are good at both. And, some are averse to writing and, they just love drawing and coloring. Some just love to play! It is just that all children need not be good at one thing. And that one thing, should NEVER become the benchmark for a teacher to judge a child’s capability. I firmly believe that a teacher must focus more on the children that need help than on those who are already good at doing what they ought to do! Sadly, this is just not happening!

Do we need to assess preschoolers?

I am quite repulsed by the idea of conducting tests for preschoolers. The management often claims that it is just an assessment test and that, children wont be judged. So, my question is – If there is no assessment at all, why the need to conduct one in the first place? An interview with the child is fair enough. I have noticed schools interviewing parents too before admitting their children. Seriously? Then, why on earth is our society idolizing APJ Kalam, Thomas Alva Edison (who almost was never schooled formally), Einstein (who had dyslexia as a child) etc… These people had humble beginnings and went on to become legends whose learning and knowledge are the bulwark of all the education we have known and studied about! APJ Kalam was a ferry man’s son. And yet, he is one of the greatest inspirations of all times. His photo adorns the walls of many schools and offices. And yet, schools have the need for entrance exams. Why? They want ‘good’ students. They want ‘great’ results. They want to get ahead and, secure ‘I am the one’ place in the academic world. Of course, an illiterate fruit seller cannot dream of enrolling his highly intuitive and intelligent child in a good school because, he has never been to school. But, an educated lawyer’s child with little inclination to academics can surely reserve his right to study, by the virtue of his father’s education cum profession. (Leave aside the financial aspects as there are many who manage it too) Nothing defines hypocrisy better than this particular example.

Tuitions –THE BANE of students’ existence!

When I was a twelfth grader, I was carried away by the idea of tuitions. Why? I joined because my friends were joining it, despite the fact that my parents are excellent teachers themselves. But then, teenage does a lot of funny things to you at the time. I was no exception. Over a period of time, I realized I had taken a foolish decision by joining tuitions when, I could actually do well by myself. For me, the realization dawned late. My results were a testimony for it. For the subject that I did not take tuitions; I scored the highest in the state. And for the ones I took, I did not fare as well as I would have expected. Experience is the best teacher always. Now these days, when I observe the eleventh and twelfth graders shuttling between tuition classes, I am amused. When do they get their own constructive time window to study? Do they understand everything they study? Do they understand the practical’s and, the readings in their journals? Some questions ought to have ambiguous answers. Don’t they?

Teaching – still an underrated profession

How passionate are teachers today? I am fortunate to have known extremely passionate teachers during my growing years. But, do I find them now? Perhaps, a handful. Many take their profession of teaching seriously. But only a few are fervently passionate about successfully completing the knowledge transition. The challenge is in sustaining the fire for teaching children. And that, is surely a daunting challenge for the aspiring teachers today, considering the amount of influence technology has in the life of our children. A teacher does not have it easy any which way. Sometimes, the pressures of delivering the hundred percent result ransacks the head space of a good teacher too and often, forces him or her to pressurize the students to perform. It is here, things go from bad to worse. From the parents’ side, the fact that teachers also face undue pressures from management, is often overlooked. So many factors are interlinked and, it is quite difficult to pin down one particular stand alone reason for the meaningless competition that is invading every pocket in the country. A sad plight!

There is one last crucial point I would like to make here. A teacher has to be knowledgeable. But IMPORTANTLY, (S)HE HAS TO BE KIND. If as a teacher, you aren’t kind to your students, regardless of any age group, you are NOT fit to be a teacher. By kindness, I do not mean complacency. By kindness, I imply – being sensitive to students who take their time to bloom and to especially those who are unable to express their issues under normal circumstances. A good student is the one who finds his teacher and, understands it. But a good teacher is the one, who seeks out the student who is unable to find his place in academic world. I believe, there is a great need for schools to collectively keep the cut throat competition and profits aside and, focus more on giving every child the chance he or she deserves.

Some candid tips for Teenagers on social networking.


I recently came across a discussion in a closed group about whether technology needs to be introduced to teenagers and that, if a teenager demands that he/she demands an FB account or a phone with whatsapp, should the parent give in. There have been pros and cons to every discussions. This discussion too has the pluses and the minuses. But the question that looms over a parent is whether the pluses outweigh the minuses or, vice versa?

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Source: Google Images

My child is four and a half plus. Thankfully, he is not a cartoon addict  (because he complains that they aren’t real!) and, he is not a tablet addict (occasionally he loves the Tomcat app though). However, he is a story addict. He loves to see and listen to the stories/fairy tales and rhymes (the countless and the choicest educative videos I downloaded from the Internet over the past 5 years).  And yet, I am perturbed by his addiction. That said, the plus point is he has an amazing way of narrating stories (attention to detail is the word). The minus point is, if on some particular day I fail to keep a tab on his story time for some reason, he would keep watching the stories without heeding to his time limits. And that is not acceptable to me. Yes, discipline is an important ingredient in building the character of a child. And, there are times when I have to keep aside my sweet cuddly mommy avatar and switch to my Cruella de vil avatar to jolt him out of his unruliness. However, handling toddlers is far easier than handling teenagers. Why? Toddlers are still dependent on us for many things. And importantly even at a primal level, they are aware that they are as much the world to us as much as we are to them. However, when the same toddlers grow into teenagers with time, they are slowly and steadily pulled into the labyrinth of forbidden pleasures. I won’t say – This happens to every teenager. But most teenagers at some time or the other do fall under the spell of this ‘try the untried’ list. One of which, is the drug of the virtual world. So, the question posed by an anxious parent was –

“Should we allow our wards to have their individual FB accounts or a whatsapp account?”

This is indeed a very difficult question to answer. I remember myself at that age. Around that time, Internet had just set its foot in India. And, I was learning about it on the academic side. Internet Explorer version was 4, I think. The speed was snail slow those days. So to say, it was slower than the speed now. And then, there were chatrooms in Yahoo and Indiatimes! But then considering that I religiously read every section of the newspaper and political magazines, I was well aware of the cons of the virtual world even before I got an Internet connection at my place. I had read countless articles from the west on how online world was a dangerous place for children. An article I had read in the Readers Digest, somewhere between the year 1996-2000 highlighted the core issue in the west about how pedophilia was growing rampant after the onset of the online chatting and socializing. The stories I read were disturbing and scary. And so, I learnt while in school that the person you may be chatting with may not even be the dude or the hot girl you assume them to be. It may be some wicked mind behind the pic of a teenager that you assume the person to be. Then, came Orkut. Followed by HighFive, Myspace and FB. So, coming back to the above question, what should be the answer? I guess, it is a dicey take. I personally feel that for teenagers of today, these distractions must be best kept at bay and, I have a reason for it. They watch more than they read (Not all, most of them). So, when the reading quotient goes down, the tendency to be stupid grows high. Even if they are aware of the cons of social networking, they continue with a mindset – of course, this cannot happen to me! But then, shit happens. And when it happens, everything in retrospect hurts. And, it hurts real bad. That said, I don’t mean that teenagers must not have an FB account. But before having a personal account, there are some questions the teenager must seek answers to:

  1. Is my profile visible to strangers? If I do not want it to be visible on the search engine what must I do?

A1. Go to privacy settings of your FB account. Check the settings of ‘Who can look me up’ and edit accordingly. Even you can limit the visibility of your profile pic by clicking on a world like icon on the picture and change the settings accordingly.

  1. How do I stop strangers from sending me friend requests?

A2. You may edit the settings – Who can send you Friend Requests accordingly.

  1. How do I make my album private (album is visible only to your close ones)?

A3. Click on Photos–>albums. Every album has a icon on the bottom right corner – where you have the option to limit the visibility and edit the audience accordingly. 

  1. If I happen to get an indecent post on my timeline, what do I do?

A4. FaceBook gives you the right to report the post. If the post is inappropriate, disturbing or does not comply with its norms, the reported post is removed.

  1. Is tagging advised?

A5. Tagging is not advised if you want to have my opinion. Once you allow tagging, it allows your friends’ friends (who may not be your friends) to take a peek into your pics which you may not necessarily want to share with the world. Now, if you want to prevent friends from tagging you in their pics, you can check the option of Timeline and Tagging, wherein you can edit the settings accordingly. Also, disabling your timeline adds more security to your account as it restricts anyone from posting anything on your timeline. To a great extent, this feature protects your account from posts containing viruses.

  1. What do I need to share about myself?

A6. Share limited information about yourself. And even if you feel compelled to write about yourself, limit the settings to either Only me or customised friend list that comes within your circle of trust. Besides, password that you create must be a combination of alphabet, numbers and alphanumeric characters that only you can possibly remember. 

  1. How can FB be a help to me in the field of academics?

A7. You may search for the group/topic. Go through every group. Whichever feels genuine to you, you can join that particular group. Also, be a silent listener initially. This way, you get to learn more without giving away yourself.

  1. What if I feel like accepting or sending a friend request from or to a person I do not personally?

A8. Let the feeling remain a feeling without turning into an action. Never ever accept/send a friend request to someone you do not know on a personal level. But if you do, there is a chance that you might be pleasantly surprised. But then there is an equally good chance that you might get a rude shock. Why take a gamble on your happiness? Because, one miss in the judgment of people in social networking can lead to disastrous results. Play safe is all I would say 🙂

Lastly, ask yourself – Do I need an FB account now? Apparently, you will answer with an affirmative. But if you do, please go through the above questions to ensure your own security. Remember, there is always a thin line that differentiates the good and the bad. Also for a teenager, social networking is like walking on a tight rope. Only that, he or she does not realize it unless the fall happens. So, a word of caution for all the teenagers:

Internet is a boon. Make the best of it for learning purposes. The moment you use it for anything but learning, mark my words my friend – you will be ruining your mind without knowing it. Because, you never realize when the addiction begins. It is like a parasite that first uses you as a host. And when it is done, you are way ahead in the path of self destruction.  So, be wise in choosing your circles and have a safe social networking. Godspeed!

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Source: Google Images

P.S: And, a note for parents of today – Do not answer your teenagers with a negation without understanding their age. They may not like a NO for an answer. Yet, you may want to clear the air on the social networking by first making them aware of the dangers of social networking. Make them read articles on how things have gone awry for the many of their age because they overlooked the reason for caution. And, importantly let them know that you trust them and that, trust has to be mutual. Hope, this helps!

 

 

Keep running. Why? Because, everyone is running. That is why!


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I have been pondering a lot over the phase of my life when XI and XII grades were the only ‘thing’ that loomed large then. I personally feel those are the worst years of a child’s life. There is peer pressure, there is parental pressure and then, there are the hormones. Creativity is killed. There is no time for hobbies. It is like – Keep running. Why? Because others are running too! That is why! From the majority, a few chosen ones recognize their goals at an early age and, I would say they are lucky. They know what they want, at an age when there are multiple goals and multiple ambitions offered as choices. Blessed are those teenagers. And then, there are the others who see many lamp posts with banners of various professions and yet, cannot precisely point at which they would approach. I was a confused brat at that age. I had practically not set any plans or goals in my life. But yes, I was addicted to reading anything but academics. For instance, I was glued to all political magazines and news. Readers Digests and novels were my lifelines. I had to read something everyday even if it meant reading the same RD edition twice, or  even, if there was a prelim the next day. I cared two hoots for the exams. However, my mother cared more. As a parent, she was scared. I was drifting away from my subjects and spent more and more time reading books that did not require me to give exams. After a few altercations, my mom won. Yes, she did. Even if we have had our differences over my addiction to reading during times when academics was priority, I always knew deep down within that she cared for me and, still does and, always will. Later engineering happened and then a good job, marriage, kid and all. Yet in all these years, there is this tiny space in my head that feels sore when I think, “Had I been clearer in my goals at that age, I might have had a better chance at doing better at what I am currently doing.” However today, all that changed after my interaction with a bunch of XI graders who made me feel glad that I was way different from what they are!

We have an annual function coming up for the school. And, the XI graders were to be involved in a skit. Knowing that these bright teenagers were proficient in speaking and acting, as a teacher I was enthusiastic and more happy. The first day, 5 approached me and confirmed that they would work it out. The second day, 10 came. The third day, 15 came. And a week later, I was facing a group of 20 with whom I had an amazing brain storming session after which we finally decided we will meet after a couple of days and start with the opening scene. Yes, the skit was decided. The characters were known. Dialogues were available. Even better. But then, I always get this tingling sensation in the back of my head that things cannot be that easy. Considering, nothing has ever come easy to me in life. So, today when I met them, they subtly mention after a lot of hesitation – “Maam, we cannot participate. Our studies might get affected.” And I was amused at this comment because I had made sure that they did not have to waste a minute of their academic periods on this. And, importantly I had made sure they did not even have to stay back! Some later came out with the truth that their parents do not want them to participate. I felt sad.

I still remember my time as a XI grade student. I had a similar conversation with my mother. She did not want me to participate in the annual function thinking it would affect my studies. My concentration was nil but worse, I was stubborn. And that defiant streak in me got the better of our debates and, I participated in the function. And as predicted by mom, I did not fare great in the exams. But then, I can only say one thing – I was happy. At least for those few minutes of my life on stage, I did not care about what the world thought about me. I was free from the claws of pressures that came from teachers, home, friends and relatives. Ironically, my parents have allowed my participation in every little activity until X grade. However, the moment XI and XII come into picture, a change came in abruptly. Marks had to be scored. A certain percentile needed to be crossed. A good college had to be sought. And then, I wondered, why? And, I still wonder why, now! I have seen extremely mediocre students blossoming into highly successful people and at the same, toppers with a shining crest of distinctions stuck in ‘dream jobs’ that may not necessarily be what they may have dreamt of, from the bottom of their hearts. And I can say with absolute conviction that a teen cannot be possibly studying 20 hours a day at a stretch without taking needful breaks. I was about to give these teenagers a piece of my mind but then, stopped myself. Who am I kidding, after all? Like one of the students remarked, “Maam, there is a severe cut throat competition out there. And, we have to score to get into reputed colleges. These days even a 95% is not enough” I felt from my heart, a lot for these teens. And, it dawned on me that the education system of today is clipping the wings of creativity and killing intelligent minds.

Nonetheless, I have a few words for all the XI graders out there.

  1. XI is important. But then, your life matters even more. Cultivate a hobby that gives you the necessary and healthy diversion from the mundane academic routine. It could be anything like reading, writing, playing a sport or a musical instrument or, even a brisk walk in the evening. Considering other diversions like the mutual attraction and all, steer your minds towards enhancing the artistic side of you. There is a great deal of time later to seek your soul mate. And importantly, before that, you need to seek your own soul and feed it with what it needs and not, with what your mind appears to want.
  2. Learn to be decisive. You do not have to necessarily do what your friend is supposedly doing. For instance, if your friend is preparing for a competitive exam, that does not mean you have to do the same without a reasoning on your part. Maybe, if you do your own research, you might be enlightened about the niche fields of work out there. Learn your interests. Feed your talents.
  3. Take the plunge. Time management will follow. I recently had a conversation with a dear friend who was about to join a workplace after a long time. A lot of worries hounded her as to how she was going to achieve the perfect work-life balance with husband and two kids. I believe, you never know the answers to such questions unless you take the plunge. Because, only when you do, you realize your own holy grail potential of what you can possibly achieve in life. Yet, she had a good reason to fear the beginning as she has responsibilities towards her family. But what are the teens of today fretting about? Food, clothing, shelter and fees are taken care of. All they need to do, is do what they have to.  Yet, there is an ingrained fear of failure even before taking the first baby step. Why? What the teens fail to understand is that, when the beginnings happen, things fall into place far more quickly than they could imagine. Which is why, they say – A beginning is a work half done already.
  4. Seek alone time. As much as it sounds fashionable (you have a gazillion articles asserting on these lines), it is extremely difficult for a student who is still exploring the realms of his adulthood. In my days, the sooner I finished my academics – I would switch to a novel or, a sci-fi movie on TV (should it be there) much to the chagrin of my mother. As for my father, he was cool and had declared that he was happy as long as I passed (considering I was always within the top ten ranks) But these days, the scenario has undergone a makeshift. Phones and tabs have replaced books. So, the pull to virtually socialize is nothing but a desire camouflaging as a desperate need. The selfie mania, the current status of relationship and how one feels is taking away the personal space of a child. The reason I feel that some alone time is important is because, one gets to sit and think about what he or she really wants to be in life. A time when the child is free from the texts of friends or, the nagging of parents/teachers or even, the burden of tuitions is extremely crucial for a smooth thought process. Apparently, a teenager of today would laugh at this ‘alone time’ concept – “Really? You have no idea about our hectic schedules!” But then, a 30 minute time out is in no way going to affect your time table. Or, will it? 😉
  5. Pray every day for at least 2 mins. Whether or not you believe in God, whether or not you visit holy places, whether or not you question the existence of life, you have to pray. Not that God is going to help you with more marks if you pray, and won’t if you don’t! Prayers are for enhancing the mental shield. They not only augment your concentration levels but also help you listen to your instincts more clearly. And, a person guided by his or her instincts can never go wrong ever!

And If I wanted to describe our education system……wait! I got a pic that explains my angst!

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As much as I have begun to detest the education system of today, I know for a fact, that my son – a preschooler is also a part and product of it. Yet, as a parent I would strive hard to not let myself pressurize him unduly in later years only to realize that my son may have different interests altogether and he might be a good photographer or an excellent actor for that matter! (yes, he can make the world around him laugh until tummy hurts!)

Jokes aside, there are many things in life that we take for granted. Student life is one such time when we take almost everyone and everything for a ride. But then, a teenager has to understand that life ahead has a lot of rumble strips. Rather, the road ahead is going to be bumpy at some time or the other. What is needed is, a few minutes of strong courage to achieve a goal in life. That said, your neighbor’s goal of becoming a doctor may not be yours. Or your goal of becoming a fashion designer may not be your best friend’s agenda. It is better to look beyond the known prospects and explore your options far and wide. And I would say – Good luck and Godspeed! 🙂

Which is important – Foundation or, the structure on it? ~ Guest post 2


This is my father’s second guest post after the first one here. Felt like sharing.

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My daughter is very proud of being a pre primary teacher though she has been one only since three months. So, her pride was bruised when a three decade experienced higher secondary teacher passed a snide remark on how handling pre primary Is easy and does not require efforts like that of hers.

My visibly angry daughter was now preparing her mind for a volcanic argument with the teacher who also happens to be her aunt. So, I explained to my daughter,

Those who teach pre primary and primary provide the foundation and the required base for the child. Those who teach secondary and higher classes provide structure and super structure, which obviously cannot be made without foundation. Each requires a different skill set and, has its place in the world.

Super structure falling is not uncommon. But, foundation failing is rare and serious. So, decide whose job is important. Foundation i.e. base though signifies the strength is not visible. So, it is not appreciated and is, therefore taken for granted. But super structure is visible and signifies beauty and hence is accredited all the time.

To understand the importance and the associated efforts for building the foundation requires intelligence and wisdom, a rare combination that many may not possess.

So, dear daughter! do your job with undiminished passion and love. That will give peace and satisfaction in the long run.

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I will keep this in mind, father! And, I am glad that I have you and mother around to guide me through times when circumstances unnerve me and bog me down. Yes, I really do not have to reply to every condescending comment. And as you advised, I should never explain to anyone why I am doing what I love to do.

Amen to that.

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Every cloud has a silver lining.


A few days back, when my son and I were watching Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, there was this scene where Buck (the fearless weasel) explains to Manny and friends about where he encountered Rudy (the angry dinosaur) and how he got away with the latter’s tooth.
Buck:……..here I was, my back against the wall, no way out, perched on the razor’s edge of oblivion, staring into the eye of the Great White Beast.
 
Crash and Eddie: Were you killed?
Buck: Sadly, yes. But I lived! Never had I felt so alive than when I was so close to death.
Both of us laughed. But in that moment, my laugh turned into a smile when a certain memory sprung up from the chasms of my subconscious mind and, I realized the depth of Buck’s words when he said the last line. Buckminster’s words must be engraved on stone.
 Exactly two years have passed since my encounter with a rare neurological auto immune disorder – Myasthenia Gravis (a health condition as described in the above image). Two years since the world beneath me shook and all my dreams toppled like a deck of cards.
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