Thursday, July 30, 2015

Bollywood and kids

I love Bollywood and there was a time I could watch pretty much anything. I don't remember ever walking out of a film and I've gone for some pretty lousy ones. I sat through one of SRK's absolute pits of a film (I’m telling myself it’s age-related maturity which makes me admit this even while the heart feels a twinge of guilt at stabbing SRK in the back). Anyway, all I remember of the said film is that he exaggerated his worst mannerisms and wore a jacket without a shirt ugh!!! But then he IS SRK and I WAS young ....... and I am so digressing, but you do get the picture, right?

When the kids came along I discovered to my utter surprise that I'd turned into a Bollywood prude. I found I had this unexplained desire to keep them away from all things filmi for ever and ever. I never did have a fascination for toddlers mouthing film dialogues or aping the Dabangg dance.

I quailed at the thought of H and N watching crassly choreographed item numbers to even more crass lyrics, painfully long drawn out 'come-hither' looks and counter looks, the even more painful camera shots lingering on various parts of the female anatomy as much as the gore and violence. Sometimes they'd come to me with a string of lyrics they'd picked up from a friend and ask me what it meant and I'd explain the best I could. I got by pretty well but then those were early days.

The first time N gave me grief for a film, it was Karan Johar’s Student of the Year. She was all of 6 and I was sure it wasn’t for her while she was equally sure it just was, since ALL her friends had seen it. To my dismay the society kids took to enacting out portions of it and I found N staking claim to a certain role without ever having seen the characters! She knew each of them through her friends. Still, I consoled myself, it wasn’t the same as actually seeing the film. Even today the non-animated films the twins have seen can be counted on their fingers.

However, I have come to realise that trying to keep them away from Bollywood while living in India is silly not to say completely impossible. The trick is to filter them and that I hope I can continue to do for a long time yet. What I remain firm on, is NOT getting swayed by the ‘All my friends have seen it’ line. I have friends and cousins who have taken the children along right from the time when the kids were babies. And I have to admit the children do not seem any worse (or better!) for it. I put this down to just another parenting quirk the children have to bear with.

I’m learning to let go little by little. The twins have graduated from KungFu Panda to Chennai Express and we have begun to watch some really good Bollywood films together but more of that in another post. I still do get the occasional twinge when H and N pick up some bizarre action move or a weird piece of vocabulary from a film or when I watch N singing Manwa Lage with a look of immense earnestness and I wonder how much of that emotion she can actually comprehend. I AM over-thinking this I know. The sane part of me tells me kids hardly internalise songs and dialogues like adults; but what to do – that’s just how I feel.

And the prude in me cannot but celebrate when given a choice the kids recently picked Minions instead of a popular Bollywood flick. Maybe it was alright after all, alright to hold them back just that much. Parenting is about individual instinct, right? And then about hoping and praying fervently that it all turns out right.

What do you think? Is it okay to let the kids be? Do we end up pushing them towards something by trying to block it out?

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Of rude strangers at coffee shops

The other day as I was at a coffee shop with an ex colleague in walked this man. 'Black coffee with milk on the side," he tossed out loudly over his shoulder and settled down on one of the sofas with a friend.

A few minutes later we heard raised voices. The man was yelling at the staff - You have NO idea what a black coffee is and you work in a coffee shop!! You bloody f****** Indians . . . . . No don't call them becharas (poor things). That's exactly why they do nothing to improve themselves. We're too soft with them . . . . . . . . DON'T, DON'T say sorry. Save it up for your bosses when they fire you."

I had my back to the man and I turned to look just as every other customer in the coffee shop. The verbal barrage was vicious and brutal and very loud. It left us stunned and silent. Oh and in case you are wondering he was very much an Indian. I wanted to say something, anything. Something in support of the boy at the counter, anything to stop the man. But I couldn't. All I could do was throw the rude man a furious look and turn back to my colleague. The man quietened down after a while.

My friend and I continued our conversation that ranged from books and my blog to his job with a newspaper. When my friend got up to go to the counter I heard a 
"What's your name?" addressed to my back.
It was the rude man. He was alone; his friend had apparently left.
"Why would I tell you?" I asked half turning to him, still infuriated.
"Because I'm a writer too. I write scripts for soaps at Balaji Telefilms."

I put a mental black strike against television soaps and their writers even as he seemed completely unaware of my reaction. He simply went on to enumerate the soaps he had written and how "people like me" would probably find them boring. For a moment I wondered if it was the same man at all. It really was like he was a different man, like the nasty scene hadn't happened, or at least as if he wasn't responsible for that vitriolic attack.

I was too outraged to get into a conversation with him. I nodded/shook my head dismissively as my friend returned to the table. Then finally when we were leaving he called out a 'God Bless You' from his corner!!

I am still stunned at this volte-face. Did he not realise how rude he had been? Did the boy at the counter not matter to him at all? Or did he think as a 'creative person' or a minor celebrity he had the right to 'mood swings'? And worse, did he think I condoned his outburst?

Most definitely, yes!
What irked me even more was my reaction. I wish I had made my displeasure obvious. I could have asked him to keep his voice down while he was shouting. I could have completely ignored his attempts at a conversation I truly didn't want to be a part of. Better still, I could have mentioned his earlier outburst.

However, none of this happened.

It was only later that I thought of scores of ways in which I could have expressed my distaste for his behaviour. For many many hours I couldn't stop thinking of the boy at the coffee shop whose day had probably been ruined. 

Does this ever happen to you - this inability to verbalise your feelings - specially negative ones even though you know you should? How do you react to rude strangers? Would you consider reacting even if the rudeness isn't directed at you? 

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Enjoying the difference

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

H: Mama may I be a Muslim?

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

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

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

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

Eid Mubarak everyone!

Doesn't it look wonderful?

Monday, July 13, 2015

A whopper of a weekend and the goody bag plan

It's Monday and I'm relieved. By now I'm used to crazy weekends but this one was unusually so.

The husband was supposed to be home after about a month but had to cancel at the last moment. The kids were sorely disappointed and I was saddled with two very sulky kids over three very long days of an extended weekend. To make matters worse N had loads of pending homework from some classes she had missed. 

The goody bag plan 

We decided to tackle the biggest demon first - a bunch of over 50 math problems to be done in a day. Wondering how to get through it all without bringing out the witch in me I brought out the goody-bag plan. I think I defied all perfect parenting mantras by linking reward directly to performance but desperate times asked for desperate measures. 

I picked up some inexpensive goodies - chocolates, craft supplies, stationery items and put them all into a bag. I felt I was running short and so I also made out some coupons which could be 'encashed' for things ranging from a hug to a doughnut. After every five sums I'd let N dip into it and pick a goody. It proved to be SUCH a success that even H gave up his iPad and sat down to race N over those sums just so he could have a go at the goodies.

N had a great time feeling around in the bag trying to guess what there was and offering to pick out things for H. 

And then some more..

That was Friday and it went pretty well. Here's what we crammed into the next two days:

- Dropped in at Mc Donald for a Happy Meal. Why they still like it is beyond me - they're not too keen on the food and have far outgrown those toys, yet.... 
- Had a tiny pizza party at home 
- Made pani puri together. N has developed a huge liking for it and I'm quite thrilled to have a PP partner.
- Went out to a dosa joint one night where the kids enjoy watching how multiple dosas are made simultaneously, more than actually eating them. 
- Then we dragged out mattresses into the living room and had a sleepover with just the three of us.
- And we also managed to work on some school projects.

Now that I've got all that down I realise a lot of our happiness stems from food and I'm not even a decent enough cook! Wierd? Ironical? What?

I'm beyond analyses, though. I won't say it wasn't fun but it really would be simpler to have The Husband home. Sigh!

So what do you do to tide over difficult times with kids? Long holidays, disappointments? I'd love some help here.


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