Friday, 16 December 2011

IN HIS OWN WORDS!



“He writes answers in his own words”, our son’s teacher commented.

Bursting with pride I replied, “That’s great isn’t it?” Taken aback, the teacher just nodded her head, speechless, unable to comment.

As a student I was never a big fan of the rote learning method… which child is? A product of Kendriya Vidyalayas (Central Schools), I never had a strong foundation in most subjects and my understanding of the most basic concepts was always very shaky.

Wasting all those evenings mugging up lessons was not my way of spending time productively; and the sad part is that I suffered. My Mathematics skills never came up to the desired levels and happy to be given a choice between Maths and Home science, I chose the latter in the XI, against all advice.

However, the only way I cleared my exams, and yes sometimes with flying colours, was to pay attention to what the teacher said in the class and to try and understand concepts on my own. I had a knack of making sense of things in my own particular way. 

Seeing our son Aaryam do the same pleases and frightens me at the same time. Pleases, because I see him turning away from becoming a “rattu tota” *like others, on his own initiative. (A “rattu tota” is my term for one who writes answers from memory, without comprehension of the basics) and frightens me because our education system doesn’t favour students with a mind of their own.

I had promised myself that I will ensure that my children will study in schools where the teaching methodology was totally different, schools which believed in the overall development of the child and did not focus on rote reproduction and regurgitation skills. I did just that but then not all cities have such schools and I was forced to put him in the same old familiar pattern again.

Truly fed up because neither his school nor his teachers after repetitive feedback have taken cognizance of my suggestions of incorporating activities, interactive sessions in the class, internet and book study, I undertook the task of researching the net and talking to other parents on the same topic. While doing so I came across some very interesting and enlightening but already known facts.

  • ·         According to a recent comparative study with the Geneva-based International Baccalaureate (IB) and Britain’s International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) on curriculum, the World Bank has shown that the Indian syllabi only encouraged rote learning rather than creative thinking. 
  • ·         With respect to mathematics, there is a surprising amount of similarity in the topics and subjects addressed, although each curriculum has its unique features.
  • ·         “Concerning the sciences (physics, chemistry and biology), the Indian curriculum is distinguished from the international one mainly by the teaching approach and the focus on rote reproduction skills,” the study said. Like the Indian mathematics syllabus, the science syllabus was not taught in a thematic manner and contained an abundance of standard exercises, which are directly related to questions on the certification examination.
  • ·         In our country, pupils have no option but to become rote learners because of the extreme importance attached, both by their parents and teachers, to their performance in a three-hour written examination.
  • ·    These examinations, however, are not a real test of a child’s comprehension ability. In reality, if the children are able to regurgitate all that they have memorised from their text books, they score top marks.  
  • ·         One of the biggest fallouts of this system of education is that it completely annihilates any imagination that the child may possess. 

What scares me the most is the indifference, lack of awareness and the will to explore and expand horizons of all those involved in the education system. I have always believed that an educator plays a very significant role in the life of a child; the child carries the teachings of his educator throughout his life. It’s their guidance which makes a child “a successful human being”, a human being who is well adjusted and well behaved on top of being an achiever with a mind of his own.

The only ray of hope I can see is the changing mindset of certain people around me and in the government (if they are to be believed i.e.).

According to reports, from later next year, lives of school students across India will transform. Under the Model Rules of the Right to Education (RTE) Act circulated to school education secretaries, rote learning will be replaced by a system of “Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation” that will take into account the talents of children in fields such as music, dance, art, writing and oratory. Students will also be evaluated on life skills such as thinking ability and emotional skills, attitude towards teachers and understanding of values.

However, at the cost of being cynical, how much of the above will be implemented is the question of the hour. As mentioned in an article I read recently, the challenge faced by most schools is the lack of untrained teachers. It also seems that the country will require an additional 5 lakh teachers once the RTE Act is notified to maintain a mandated pupil teacher ratio of 30:1.

It is for parents like you and me to bring about this change. And if we want our children to possess free and self thinking minds we need to begin by letting them write in their own words.


*Our son laments the fact that once the syllabus of a semester is covered by the teacher, they actually have to mug up the answers loudly and repeat them in the class every day. 

Monday, 12 December 2011

Mere anmol ratan



If there is one thing all we women, the ones who work out of their homes, from their homes or for their homes, can all concur without any dissension - not many of those darlings around though - on, is the fact that “diamonds are not our best friends” it is the…didis, auntys, ammas, bais, call them what you may, who are without a doubt in my mind, our unrivalled friends, our anmol ratans.

Their contribution to our lives goes unnoticed by most of us though in our hearts we know how much they mean to us. Life without these support systems can never be the same. They give so much of themselves to our families, our homes, treating us like their own families, sometimes at the cost of their own family, that they become a part of our daily lives without us realising it.

For some they are just servants who are hired to do menial tasks at home, tasks which are too demeaning and degrading to even think about doing by themselves; for some they are helpers who are employed to share their daily burdens while for some they are family members who have become integral parts of their households.

I have indeed been very fortunate to have some of the best gems work for our home and their contribution to making our house a home cannot ever be denied. As a newlywed I got to learn the basics from Mary and Babli. As a new mother, Shanta bai was the one who helped me bring up my first and second born sons when I was struggling with my inner demons and new found motherhood, or Rani and Rekha who make our home lively and comfortable now.

However, here many of you will say that all homemakers are not so lucky and there are also those who do not feel the need to recognise their efforts or see them as more than “servants” and “maids”. I do agree that not all our domestic helpers fall into the category of hard working and are not “giving it all they have” types; rather, some of them can be quite a handful, testing our nerves and making us fraught with worries doing just the opposite of what we hired them to do.

Baby Haldar, whose best-selling memoir, “A Life Less Ordinary,” was published in 2002, says, “Some people understand that we are looking after the most precious things in their lives — their homes, their children, their parents, their mental peace is in our hands.”

Once we have understood that, our search for the perfect maid will end right there. That I believe is what we need to recognise and remember. Like Baby Haldar says, “it starts with respect”.

A salute to all my anmol ratans.



Wednesday, 7 December 2011

BREACH FROM THE PAST


Thank you Khurana sir for the lovely title and Pa for your valuable inputs.

Seeing “Jhaiji”, my maternal grandma lying on a hospital bed semi-comatose with no consciousness of life around her, my heart sank and I had a gut-wrenching feeling of what I was about to lose again and had already lost when “Mummy”, as we called my paternal grandma, passed away over a decade ago.

I was lucky to have had grandparents for all of my 37 years, but right now, with Jhaiji being in such a critical condition, there are some hitherto unidentified feelings I am beginning to discover.

Remembering her lying on that hospital bed with so many sick people around her with all sorts of tubes attached to her body, only one thought comes to mind…if she knew what they were doing to her in that hospital she would have been very cross with us all. She had a fetish for cleanliness and was one of the smartest grandmothers I have ever seen; wearing the best cotton sarees she could buy - she called them “dhotis” - chosen with her impeccable taste for colour and quality.

The last time she had come back from the hospital, she was very weak and needed assistance for the simplest of jobs such as drinking water and taking her medication. But such was her will and determination for cleanliness that one day when my mom and aunt heard the water running in her bathroom, they were shocked to learn that my grand-mom had decided to take a bath, all on her own.


That's how she was. A strong and unwavering woman, she and my nanaji helped and supported all their siblings (some 11 of them), sacrificing their youth for their family's welfare.  And as her whole family waits for a miraculous recovery there has arisen in me this unfathomable sentiment of a breach with the past. A past as my mother has related to us innumerable times, full of togetherness, laughter and love...a past which will go with her when she goes. 


I am feeling this deep sense of loss of two women whom I could have shared so much with. There’s a great deal I could have learnt from them; their experiences, their stories, their lives as daughters, wives, daughters-in-law, mothers, friends, sisters and above all as grandmothers.

The burden of not having asked them to relate their happy and sorrowful experiences when they were fit and able weighs heavily on my heart. There are so many things I wish I had said and done or talked about and asked them to share.

I don’t understand these feelings…why didn’t I think about all this while they were here with us? Was I so busy with my own self — growing up, studying, getting married, having children and maybe working even, that it didn’t strike me that one of these days my grandma was going to leave and I would never be able to see her? Not even after we lost Mummy!

Why is it that we realise what we are going to lose when its already too late?

Don't slip away so soon Jhaiji. My life with you has just begun.



Monday, 5 December 2011

MY EXPERIENCES WITH THEATRE


As a newly married girl all of 21 years, I suddenly realised there were many things I had forgotten to experience and explore. So, there I was auditioning to join a theatre group. I was selected though not for my dubious acting skills...the theatre group manager was so impressed by the fact that a married woman was willing to step out of the house and encounter unexplored territory that the moment he set eyes upon my resume he knew he was going to ask me to be a member of his group.

I had the happiest moments of my life doing theatre and I felt the need to share with you all my experiences little by little ...piece by piece.  



It was many years ago that I had seen a production of a well known play performed by a theatre group. And then there I was a part of the group some years later. Every day that I was there it brought back memories of the theatre I did as a girl. The fun, the togetherness, the gossip, the funny comments, the nastiness, the tension, the butterflies, the being part of something that other people are going to come and watch, each transported me back to the days long gone but never forgotten. Away from the humdrum of daily routine, it was those two hours of practice that breathed life into me and made me look forward to the next day with eagerness and I came home to my very supportive husband invigorated.

It’s not about being very talented or confident or being a professional dancer or an actor, it’s just about doing something that rekindles that fire in you and makes you feel alive. It also teaches you a lot about yourself, your strengths, your weaknesses, about people and what makes them tick. I would not be telling the truth if I don’t mention that it is also about the kick you get from performing on stage in front of an audience. But it was only when I left myself at home and took the dancer or the actor (however bad) to the stage that I could really enjoy. Oscar Wilde said “I love acting. It’s so much more real than life”. So I was actually reconstructing life on stage but only someone else’s.

I am a great one for talking but a lot of my fellow theatre members will I am sure remind me of our first practice on stage. Well nothing special except the fact that I literally froze and my lips refused to budge into anything even akin to a smile. A lot of practices and tears later it no longer looked like I had been dragged onto the stage by my other partners. And thus it was that I looked forward to the big day, and fervently hoped that this time my lips would comply and my feet would do what my heart does every time I am on stage— take to wings and soar.

So ladies and gentlemen, yes you out there. If you feel you have it in you and those who feel you don’t, get up and listen to the rapturous reverberating applause in your ears and be a part of something that will make you forget yourself.  It’s something you will never forget. 

Sunday, 4 December 2011

HOMO SAPIENS: THE EXTINCT SPECIES?


Something I feel very strongly about and felt the need to share with you all...something disturbing, very basic but seen only rarely.
                          
Question: Do you think there is intelligent life on other planets?
Answer: I don’t think there is intelligent life on ‘this’ planet.

This dialogue on a TV show I was watching recently put my grey cells into a spiral and I am still trying to find my way out of it. What’s wrong with the human species is what comes to the mind again and again. Didn’t God give us a larger and superior brain than all our other co-inhabitants on earth for a reason? 

Over the years the reason has been long forgotten by the best of our species, lost among the rigours of life, the daily wrangling, and the antagonism, bereft of even an iota of the so called humanity that makes us so different from others who have the privilege of sharing earth with us.

Ben Okri, of Nigeria, Africa, of Earth, observes: "There was not one among us who looked forward to being born. We disliked the struggle for existence, the unfulfilled longings, the enshrined injustices of the world, the labyrinths of love, the ignorance of parents, the fact of dying, and the amazing indifference of the living amidst the simple beauties of the universe. We feared the heartlessness of human beings, all of whom are born blind, few of whom ever learn to see."

I can never forget the sight of a man in a temple who prostrate before god was entreating him to forgive his sins. This it seems was his daily ritual. A righteous man I thought to myself until the day I saw him at the telephone exchange openly asking for a bribe. 

But don’t we all swim in the same deep waters? You and I, with our eyes closed, tolerating the wrongs, the injustices, the cruelty, the brutality we see every day, letting it all become a part of our baser instincts, letting greed and the love of power overtake our humanity, fostering and nurturing it all like a little child, by our passiveness and inertness. 

A lot many of you may be thinking of how we housewives are far away from these things- but are we? Don’t we all indulge in some kind of prejudice, unfairness, and misjudgements, by gossiping, spreading malicious rumours, backbiting, distrust, pettiness and not supporting each other?

Is this all because we don’t care or notice, or is it because we have developed short-sightedness to shield ourselves from the vagaries of life? We don’t even remember that it’s only the little things in life which can again bring our latent humanness to the forefront; the simplicity of a smile, a helping hand, politeness, a kind word of appreciation, empathising with others can go a long way to gain back our lost humanity.

The other day in a group presentation I attended, a lot was said about etiquette and manners. Good conduct and comportment was thoroughly explained. 

But for me good etiquette is only about one thing, being a good human being. Not a superficial shell but a true human in the truest meaning of the word. Rising above the petty squabbles of everyday life and setting an example for our future humans is what we need to endeavour for. Undertaking this enterprise is not very complex if we can start with a clean slate scripting a new beginning for the almost extinct species- Homo Sapiens.

“When humanness is lost the radical difference between the bodies in the pit and people walking on the street is lost."  Edward Bond

"Man is the only animal that laughs and weeps; for he is the only animal that is struck with the difference between what things are and what they ought to be."
William Hazlitt

Saturday, 3 December 2011

The Road to 54k




No it’s not the next millennium scare like the y2k, nor am I referring to the year 54k when most us will not be around, not me in any case, I’m sure of that, yes certainly too! No dear reader, it’s more near home and is an issue closest to our hearts I dare say! Yes, it’s all about weight watch! And I am about to describe to you my arduous journey to my ideal 54k grams.

When I was a very young child, my mother always thought me too thin, as all mothers are wont to, and I was always encouraged to eat to my heart’s content. So it was that as a young adult I had developed a typical ‘khaatĂ© peetĂ© ghar’ ka respectable ‘live to eat with a passion’ syndrome, hovering between 60 and 62k on the scales.

Marriage followed and inevitably conception which was my excuse to hog and not feel any the worse for it; and boy (or girl, if you like it that way better) did I eat? It was like I was participating in a never ending eating marathon. Before I knew, I was grossing a whopping 86k out of which my baby’s contribution? A mere 3.1k, the rest of it was all of me of course.
 
The horrendous thing is that through all of this I developed a loathing for outings, parties, people, clothes, and above all for myself; more so as I did not want to do anything about it. Life was not life anymore; it was just dragging an existence somehow. Each time I looked into the mirror it was like seeing another person. The only exercise I did was fantasising about liposuction and tummy tucks. Food of course was too comforting to be given up even a wee bit.  
                        
The stares and depression got to me in the end and I decided it was time to do something about my awesome girth. Being at my parents’ place gave me time to finally pay attention to my state and take control of matters. I now swing between 54 and 56k and didn’t diet or starve myself secretly nor did my fantasy of plastic surgery come true; I changed myself and my way of life.

The first important step was to motivate myself by visualising where I could be in terms of health, figure and mental attitude and the second was to meticulously adhere to the following:

1.   Eat right: a) Never skip meals, eat small quantities of whatever one wants. My way is to eat a lot of vegetables and pulses and salads thus never feeling hungry or unsatisfied. b) Cut down on the fat, sweets and desserts in your diet. c) Binge out, if you must only on Sundays or parties and make up for it the next day. d) Do not partake of snacks between meals.

2.   Exercise: Increasing your activity levels is the key. If you hate gyms hit the road.  Take it a little slow at first and increase the amount of activity each time little by little. Build up your stamina first, to avoid a burn out. In my case I started with basketball on my own where I would run and basket the ball from one side to the other and then walk 1-2 km. I gradually increased it to jogging interspersed with walking. 

3.   One very important thing is to find something that you would really enjoy - walking, cycling, swimming, badminton, basketball, anything that doesn’t bore you. Build it into your routine and make it a way of life.

4.   Eat an early dinner: Make a habit of eating before 1930 hrs every day so that you don’t go to bed on a full stomach.

5.   Be patient and persevere: Do not expect results too quickly. It will take almost a month to notice any changes. It took me one and a half years to come down to 54k.

6.   Make small and easier changes at first: Take baby steps instead of aiming at sudden and dramatic changes which could make you go back to your old habits in frustration.

7.   Set realistic goals which are achievable and gradual. For example, do not suddenly cut down on eating between meals; however instead of eating “khatta-Meetha”, have an apple or yoghurt.

8.   Celebrate your goals: Each time you achieve a set goal, reward yourself; ahem! not by eating! But by something like buying new clothes or a movie outing which would in turn inspire you to stick to your plans.

        The journey to 54k was one of my greatest achievements, sharing honours with my marriage, my son’s birth and the publishing of my book. It had its moments though; the most important was when I could fit into my old jeans. Through all of this I had the unflinching support of my husband who at the end of it all had only this to say “I am one of the few lucky guys who has had the privilege to be married to three women (each weighing 60k, 86k and 54k) all looking different and sensational”.

Walking on this road has not been about losing weight but about gaining confidence, will power, the knowledge that nothing is impossible and becoming a better individual. The journey to 54k helped me lose a lot of physical and mental baggage too.






CELEBRATING WOMANHOOD



A very old ode to womanhood which my dad and I penned. Used this as the background to perform a ballad for a select audience.

Even God believed man was incomplete
Without a woman beside
To replicate His miracle of life, again, again and yet again
A countless times.

I know not the evolution of the human species
But I recall my growth from an impish girl
With nary a care in the world
The fun filled pranks and playing in the street
The laughter and fun, the camaraderie.

Where oh! Where has all of it gone?
When I stepped into womanhood
The transition was rapid and unnoticed.
Where oh! Where are all the dreams of greatness and fame?
Somewhere in the business of setting up home
Did we lose that which we were destined to find?
No, I think, it’s the perspective that’s changed
For, haven’t we partaken of life to its fullest?
And sent Air Warriors to snatch victory from the very skies?
 
As a daughter, a student, a hope
As a bride, a lover, a wife
As a mother, a nurturer

As a provider
As a companion

Hearken me beauties, life has not forsaken us neither we of it
We warmed our hearths for those we cared for
We partook in the marvel of creation.
Nay, we played God for a while.
We gave of ourselves as any Mother is wont to do.
Selflessly, lovingly, compassionately, holding nothing back

We assemble love in the kitchen and its fragrance blossoms on the table
Even the neighbours catch a whiff of its aroma
For, there are no strangers here; only friends we haven’t met.
If togetherness is not the essence of existence, I’d rather be extinct.

Celebrate, then oh! Dear women, celebrate the power rendered to you
By none other than the one who watches over all of creation 
Celebrate the Shakti in us, celebrate the compassion
Celebrate the boundless love, the mamta.
Celebrate even the womanly instinct
Celebrate the caring and nurturing of human kind.
Celebrate the power to endure ignominy, pain and ingratitude
With grace, composure and fortitude.  

Celebrate Womanhood.

Friday, 2 December 2011

THE HOUSEWIFE


The Bible has a lot to say about the virtues of a good housewife. I believe we are all that and a bit more. 

  • Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.
  • The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.
  • She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.
  • She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.
  • She is like the merchants' ships; she bringeth her food from afar.
  • She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.
  • She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.
  • She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms. She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night.
  • She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.
  • She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.
  • She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet.
  • She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.
  • Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land.
  • She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant.
  • Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.
  • She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.
  • She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.
  • Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.
  • Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.
  • Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.
  • Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.


My reason to begin this blog is a simple one...to share, to mingle, to meet, to advise; to be more than what we are already...housewives, home makers, mothers, friends, lovers, advisers, nurses, psychologists, teachers, economists, chefs and so much more. Lets choreograph our lives to be all this and lots more...lets be great human beings.


Please feel free to join with me and share all that you can to take us to greater heights and be what we were put on earth to be ...humans.


So share your thoughts, poems, recipes, financial tips, parenting tips, housekeeping tips, gardening tips, hobbies, home remedies and much much more.


Also seek advise from our agony aunt who will help you to answer your queries and endeavour to provide solutions to your travails.

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