Friday, August 09, 2013

Imagining things..............And why not?

I happened to read a comment left by a reader on a post in Women's web and decided to analyze what  my reaction would have been if we had been allowed to have an honest discussion before marriage. If I had been as honest as in this post my marriage would not have taken place at all. It might have been something like this. I call myself PV and my husband KNR. I have written about my life before marriage here . This should give you an idea about the kind of person I was.

KNR: Do you know to speak Hindi?

PV: (To herself) How unromantic. How does it matter?Is he looking for an excuse to reject me?      (Aloud) I can understand. I am out of touch now. But why do you ask?

KNR: Just like that.

PV: I will pick up soon.

KNR: Good. Do you want to know anything about me or my family?

PV: Do you have a library near your house? I would want to become a member. By the way do you read books? Have you read Nevil Shute? He is awesome.

KNR: I must ask my mother. She is the decision maker in my family.

(To himself) Is the library my family? And why doesn't she marry Nevil Shute? Awesome... my foot.

PV: (to herself) No library means no marriage. How can I not read books?

(Aloud) I need to keep myself occupied. Moreover I cannot get sleep unless I read a few pages each night. I am sure your mother will understand. By the way, do you get The Hindu in your place? I don't like any other newspaper. I regularly read Art Buchwald. He is so funny.

KNR: You will have a lot of house work to do. That should keep you occupied. We get The Hindu two days late so we buy The Statesman that is published in Calcutta.

PV: (To herself) Don't they have servants? I would not mind reading The Hindu that is two days late. (Aloud) I need to do something in my free time. Maybe I could teach slum kids to read and write.

KNR:  (To himself) Good God! There is no way amma would let her do it.  Having slum kids in the house is ridiculous. And she is not going to let her go out on her own in the initial months. Neighbors may start gossiping.

(Aloud) My mother makes awesome sweets and savories. You could pick up recipes from her.

PV:  (To herself) Am I marrying his mother? Why does he bring her in all the time? And I have no    interest in trying out recipes.

(Aloud) You seem to be very fond of your mother.

KNR: Everyone in our family goes by her decision. She knows what is best for us. 

PV: (To herself) What a pest of a woman. (Aloud) You work in a lab don't you?

KNR: (To himself) At last she asks something about me. All this while she was worried about membership in the local library. Doesn't she want to know about life in our town?

(Aloud)Yes, we do steel melting. (Explains the process in detail and half of it does not even register in PV's mind).

PV: You have relatives in the south. Do you visit often?
(To herself) If this is so I too can come home every year.

KNR: My parents come when there is a wedding or death in the family. My younger sister stays back   to cook for me and my brother.

PV: (Horrified) What? She is only twenty years old and is in college I hear.
 And she is left behind tocook for her brothers? I find this ridiculous.

KNR: What is so ridiculous about it?She has been learning to cook from the age of thirteen. She can cook for fifty people.

PV: Fifty people? I cannot cook for five?

KNR: What? You haven't learned to cook? How come your mother let you off so easily? My mother was very particular about teaching my sister housekeeping.

PV: My mother says that cooking is something a woman does all her life. She needs to relax and learn things at her own pace. I cook only if and when I feel like it. I read, write letters to friends, watch movies in the theater, play board games like chess with my brothers.For me cooking is not a priority. In our family daughters in law are gradually initiated into the household.

KNR: It is the exact opposite in our family. Daughters in laws take charge as soon as they arrive.

PV: (To herself)  Good Lord what am I getting myself into? Must talk to mummy. We're nothing alike!.
 KNR: (To himself) What kind of person is she? Wants to play board games and read the newspaper but has no inclination to run the house. I must talk to amma.We seem to be exact opposites!

I agree that my marriage took place forty years ago and times were different. But it is equally amazing how two entirely different persons bonded over time. Even if I had actually had this imaginary conversation my mother would have rubbished my fears and would have known that with time I would learn that marriage was not a fairy tale and expectations rarely tally with reality

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Techno-savvy children and bewildered parents.

A father of  seven year old twin boys remarked that kids were over stimulated thanks to technology and class room teaching no longer appealed to them. With access to video games and supermen they needed to be engaged all the while which in turn was affecting parents at home and teachers in school with neither group equipped to keep pace with their demands. Gone are the days when kids could be left to play on their own while parents relaxed. The kids had to be constantly engaged. As a result they go to soccer camps, music class, learn yoga and karate. True, over stimulated minds are difficult to handle. This is certainly a topic for balanced debate.

The conversation then shifted to the plight of senior school teachers who had to make interesting power point presentations and throw in cartoon characters even to teach subjects like Chemistry and Mathematics. I could understand children in their preteens getting easily distracted but do senior school children need stimulants to understand the basics of a subject? I remembered an essay that we had to write in our 11th standard - "Is Technology a Boon or Bane to Society"? So even before Television had entered our homes and mobile telephones were unheard of, our elders had been worried of the changes taking place in our lives due to technological advancement. I was myself of the opinion that mobile phones were a luxury and school going children were better off without them. Or that two wheelers that were motorized were not meant for children in high school and they would benefit more if they cycled to school. My mother had advised me against sending more than the required amount for my daughter's hostel expense when she joined college saying that she would waste it. I would send her a draft each month. But five years later I got my son an ATM card partly because I wanted to be spared the trouble of making a draft and sending it by registered post.It was also because I had realized that he may face unforeseen situations and require money at short notice.   Internet banking skills were acquired much later and I now seem to have forgotten the days when one actually stood in a queue to purchase railway tickets.  

I see myself reaping the benefits of advanced technology and have to admit that life has become a lot easier on account of it. Why then am I worried that over exposure to technology may harm my children and grandchildren? Even while I write this post my 9 year old granddaughter is baking a cake all on her own. Her dad has gifted her a mini oven with a timer. Her mom has bought her cake mixes with proper directions. With a little help from me (to measure vegetable oil and to remove the finished cake from the oven) the child has managed to bake a cake and now she has started on the preparation of cookies. Mini ovens and cake mixes were not available when my children were growing up but that is beside the point. Technology, when put to proper use, is never harmful. Educating children on the proper use of the tools available to them and encouraging them to understand that life is not just speeding up but also slowing down to savor the beauty of nature and to give a thought to the less privileged ones among them would perhaps balance the hyperactivity that they are constantly subjected to. For this attitude to develop socially productive activities ought to be encouraged. For instance why don't we have parents teaching their wards to manage a kitchen garden? Why not train them to fold clothes and arrange their closet or vacuum their rooms? Isn't it true at least to some extent that parents too want to relax and prefer to latch their kids on to a video game or a TV program even if it only to keep them off their backs? Are we not proud that a child in our family not yet two years of age is able to plug an earphone to his ear, hit the right button and listen to music from an i Pad? I know that I feel puffed up when my grand kids do it.  

I am sorry to say that the onus is on parents and grandparents. The child can and should be given direction and elders ought to strike a balance regarding the activity their wards indulge in. Not easy I admit,but no harm trying.