A sporty weekend [1]: Sports Day at Shikshantar

Just as I was getting a little cribby about Udai’s new penchant for hanging out gossiping with his friends rather than playing in the park, we spent a weekend full of outdoors fun! Winter in Delhi is perfect for sporty activities and we took full advantage of superb weather and great friends.

Saturday morning was spent attending Aadyaa’s sports day, quite a spectacle a Shikshantar where kids demonstrate complex obstacles, relays and patterns using props like balls and hoopla rings. The focus is complete immersion in the task at hand, with no regard to the idea of ‘winning a race’, quite unique to this school and absolutely age appropriate for pre-schoolers I think. I have to point out that the idea of sports for pre-schoolers is as much about the development of physical strength and skills as it is about honing social skills like sharing, encouraging peers and pushing yourself to do better. As parents, we all feel good that these little ones are protected at this point from the disappointments of losing and do whatever they can with great confidence. There will be a time and place for comparisons, but for now the happiness and enthusiasm is catching!

Here are a few snapshots from that energized morning, though I must confess I was sunburnt into a stupor afterwards!

Sports is internalized into every aspect of what the kids do at this time of the year!

Sports is internalized into every aspect of what the kids do at this time of the year!

Fotor1217123427

Good to see them focus on a task and chellenge themselves to do better. Notice the highly informal setup with parents and grandparents, siblings and even house help (who are so integral to the family from a child’s perspective) standing or sitting around the activity area

Teamwork was introduced this year. A significant step forward for the little ones!

Teamwork was introduced this year. A significant step forward for the little ones!

Cheering for her friends!

Cheering for her friends!

Big brother Udai watches. Later, parents and siblings also have similar activities. Wish I had pics of how much he enjoyed those, on the same team as mommy. Of course, our (more grown up) bunch was competitive as hell, yelling and behaving like the brats that I am sure we all were (or still are!)

Big brother Udai watches. Later, parents and siblings also have similar activities. Wish I had pics of how much he enjoyed those, on the same team as mommy. Of course, our (more grown up) bunch was competitive as hell, yelling and behaving like the brats that I am sure we all were (or still are!)

Woes of the Tiger Mom! The sweet-n-sour nature of being a parent

As my closest friends will know, I’ve been having growing up pains about Udai. All of nine, he has been in a broody, sensitive, rebellious frame of mind for the past few weeks. With holiday time meaning a complete lack of structure, it has not been easy to steer him into spending small amounts of time doing things that are not always appealing- in particular, written work and music practice have been a challenge.

We have always tried to let our kids be, or that has been the intention at least. We’ve taken care to put them in a school that lets them be as well. And it’s been a rewarding experience for the most part. But as Udai moves toward middle school and I see him reluctant to rise to challenges, I do worry. I have no benchmarks for comparison; we all went to conventional schools and grew up in homes where discipline was a big part of our lives and questioning authority not acceptable. Of course we did our share of rebellion, but perhaps I have forgotten about my own experience of the confused state that entails being a pre-teen!

Anyway, the first time I began to agree with the idea of discipline and the parents-do-know-better thinking was when I read Battle Hymn of a Tiger Mom by Amy Chua a couple of years ago. Thinking back, I hated my music classes too on certain days, but my parents gave me no choice and coaxed and perhaps even badgered me into it. In time, I developed that special bond with music that I cherish today and this is the sort of example Chua uses to support her hypothesis that American parenting is mush-mush and Indian and Chinese parents are doing the right thing by deciding what’s good for their kids and being strict enough to enforce their will

The thing is: How do you explain that process of growing to love something that initially seems imposed, to a 9-yr old? I talk about my own experiences as examples, but I see in his eyes an unwillingness to engage with what I say and also a sheer inability to imagine a future that spans several decades!

Added to this is the fact that Udai has high expectations of himself, but has not yet developed a mechanism for him to be able to accept criticism in any constructive fashion. His defense for performing a task shoddily, therefore, is the I-am-not-good-enough sort of pseudo self-battering that could, if left unchecked or allowed to grow, turn into lingering low self-esteem. I do realize that even very well meaning parents can burden their children by constantly voicing their expectations and that this can make for that child growing into an adult who is constantly seeking approval and struggling to gain confidence.

In theory, I would rather Udai grows up to be an average student who is happy and follows his passions, but in reality I, like any other parent, long for him to excel and achieve what I think is his potential. The disparity between these two constructs is enormous and it isn’t practical to think one while practicing another, I know.

I am venting on my blog my sheer guilt after this morning’s battle (regular feature now), and I have encouraged Udai to vent his feelings as well. Check out what he wrote! Now we sit relatively at peace, each of one of us, Aadyaa included, on our own separate devicesImage , immersed in our work. I know I need to back off, calm down and I will get to it. For now, we battle and lock horns and that’s how we move a few steps ahead!

Nail on the head! English Vinglish and life’s bittersweet truths- Oct 5, 2012

For those of us who grew up admiring the versatility of Sridevi, English Vinglish does not disappoint. Of course, she shows her mettle as a fine actor, her only weakness, the quivering voice with poor dialogue delivery, actually becoming a strength in this story of her search for identity and sense of achievement in a world that runs her down for being unable to speak English, a world that judges her and puts her down while barely appreciating her talents. What is particularly hurtful here is that while the outside world is accepting, her own family is constantly critical, making her an object of ridicule and hurting her self esteem.
The script, however, is the undoubted star in the film. With repeated pungent jabs, the dialogue and situations expose uncomfortable truths of India’s rapidly urbanising society, of changing family values and the undeniable importance of self-esteem, self-preservation and self-love.
Over the last few days, an email conversation has been carrying on among our group of girl friends from college days. And a lot of it has been about how hard it is to find yourself in the flurry of activities and commitments that life becomes. No matter how loving and supporting out husbands, and most us have married men we knew and sort of understood before we took the vows, we women feel cornered into roles that demand selfless devotion to our home and family, while as intelligent and educated individuals, we crave active and satisfying work lives as well. Equality is something even we emancipated women work towards constantly. With all due credit to our spouses!
The movie brilliantly illustrates that it is easy to slot people into roles that we find convenient. We stubbornly cling to preconceived perceptions. And how much it hurts when your family and close friends are judgemental about you, we’ve all experienced that sometime in our lives. I know I live with expectations of financial security and protection from my spouse, while love and respect should be my focus, for instance.
Equality is a dream because we are born to believe that the world thrives on inequality. To be in an equal relationship, it is vital to see everything from the other persons perspective before forming opinions or expectations. And women need to take on that challenge just as much as men do.
Is this possible? Are we not already too conditioned by society to be able to do that when we enter a relationship like marriage? Or can we unshackle ourselves from these burdens somehow and take a simpler view of relationships and life?
English Vinglish sends out simple messages that address complex problems. We need to help each other in times of trouble. Appreciation, sensitivity, positivity, respect, being non judgemental, trying to communicate, expressing love and concern. These are the simple building blocks on which relationships are built. We need to remind ourselves everyday that envy, competitiveness, hurtfulness and revenge have no place in a mature relationship. Not everything can be resolved with a candid conversation. Many a time, clarity in our head as an individual and making positive behavioural changes and above all, helping ourselves rather than waiting to be helped, can take us forward when all else seems lost.

Stuck in my teens! Need a new grow-up strategy- Sep 18, 2012

The results of the Fortis Healthcare Survey on teens have been making news since they came out. Adolescence, as all of us who have passed through it, is a phase of extreme highs and lows. For parents, happy teens are a source of not just joy, but profound relief. If you’re lucky, they might even have some focus in their lives!

Hold on, though, all you adults and think, are we really out of the teens yet? I strongly suspect many of us hold on tenaciously to patterns of thought and behavior that we acquired in our teens. Reflect on the phrases that the survey dwells on- low self-esteem, poor social problem solving, perfection and hopelessness were ones that struck me particularly. Many others, like a tendency for depression or other psychological conditions or external circumstances like parents being separated or death in the family or even low socio-economic status would need to be addressed on a case by case basis.

But these four issues seem like they should be tackled through education and the home environment in the formative pre-teen years. They are also issues that we must continue to work on as adults throughout our lives. As such, each of needs to develop a unique strategy to tackle these ugly demons, that tend to rear their heads occasionally, even though we might be happy and balanced individuals most of the time. When they do appear, these demons can seriously derail our lives, affecting work (low self-esteem takes a severe toll on everything, but especially at work) and relationships (inability to solve social problems). A pursuit of perfection (which means unrealistic expectations from ourselves) and  a sense of hopelessness (usually a lack of faith in something that will pull us through the current low period) together puts us under extreme pressure. I am experiencing all of these four conditions at this time. It’s not like life is coming to an end, but yes I am grappling with conflicting career and personal commitments, forging a new identity at a mid-career sort of stage, resolving multiple images that I have of myself and managing expectations.

I am working at that strategy to understand myself better and believe in my own ability to pull through. I think if I have something in place, I might be able to do the ‘growing up’ that has been a long time coming!

Crossed 20,000 views on this blog today! Aug 22, 2012

20,084 to be precise at the time I write this. To be frank, I didn’t know or think of what this meant until I recently saw someone on twitter getting all excited about crossing 10,000 views. I swiftly looked at my WordPress stats page and saw a figure of nineteen thousand something…then I began to get excited about this.

My attitude towards my blog is mostly to churn it out everyday and be true to what is top of the mind on each day. But I will not deny writing everyday has done wonders to my self-confidence. Page reads and comments, likes on Facebook do drive me to write. No, I do not see likes as a sign of loyalty by my friends. I am lucky to know people who will actually like only what they like. But its given me a lot of insights on people. I am often pleasantly surprised by reactions. For instance, I didn’t know a certain friend felt so deeply about parenting, or another someone loved music so much and was indeed a singer herself!

Many a time, I am corrected by a reader for factual errors or judgements made on erroneous or one-sided information. That kind of reaction gives me a lot of encouragement because it tells me that some people read my blog closely, not skimming down the length of it but actually evaluating what I have to say.

Negative or positive, reactions boost my self esteem immensely, as a writer and as a person. Today someone gave a very backhanded compliment. He said, “You’ve kept your standard. Your writing is hasn’t deteriorated at all!” I was proud I felt not a flicker of annoyance! And that’s the best thing I’ve got out of my blog. An ability to see humor in everything, an ability to observe the details, a keener sense of the life I am living. For those of you who feel like life is a haze, try blogging! You might find you have something very worthwhile to say.

Weighty issues on my mind: Craving for fitness- May 27, 2012

I’ve wanted to write about this for the longest time, but never had the guts to. It’s my weight problem! I’ve been overweight for as long as I remember, precisely since higher secondary school. Even in college, weight was a hugely sensitive issue with me. Someone had to just make a passing joke about it and I would sulk the entire day, mulling the comment over and over, killing myself with guilt and low self-esteem.

And then I got married to Rahul, who always loved me for what I was and never ever ran me down on the weight aspect. Two kids down the line, my struggle with my weight has become more realistic and less paranoid. I’ve tried various things and I kind of know what works and what doesn’t.

I have to say this, though. My motivations for losing weight remain a strange mix of three things:

Health-I worry about the slight knee pains I have now and then, weak ankles, and the usual lifestyle disease worries.

Looks-I really do want to wear what I want without worrying about how the outfit will look on me, or worse, whether the shop would have it in my size…hugely embarrassing and depressing experience when they give you that sheepish but unapologetic look!

Self-esteem- I have this self-image of myself as a reasonably thin person. When I look in the mirror, that’s who I see. When I break the illusion, on some days, I see this obese person who is me, but isn’t me really! I don’t want to be schizophrenic. I simply need to thin down into my real size!

Of late, I’ve started realizing that I truly crave for fitness as well. Its a new target, one I am turning over in my head and hoping to really internalize in the next few weeks. Come July, I intend to develop a more holistic training routine. 2013 will see a new me, for sure!