four glasses of wine, two coffees and an evening with a bunch of dear friends...
in short i was buzzed!
i did talk too much... giggle too much...and chattered on about utterly frivolous things.
and though the rest of the evening melted into one warm blur, i did hold onto one bit of the conversation...about, yes, ofcourse, parenting and children.
there were only two sets of parents- sanah's parents and meha's parents - but most of our friends are very much a part of the growing up of these two tots so it was okay that we talked about bringing up children.
paro teaches a spectrum of students at both the grad and post grad level. and she said something that stayed with me- we live in a world that is focussed on 'me'. she spoke about the students she deals with- self absorbed, with an unreal sense of self importance and with little concern for the people and the world around them.
our media, the market, the family reinforce the sense that its about 'me''my needs'' my choices'.a peverse creation of the importance of the individual.
and as parents, who are totaly absorbed with our children, how do we deal with this and not exacberate it?
i am an only child. my parents have a life of their own which includes a million friends and interests, but at the end of the day their focus on me is unadulterated. so although, at home, it was all about me, in the larger analysis it was never about me, and my parents very gently made sure i saw that.
i had an enviable collection of books and toys at home. but my mother made sure i found the whiff of libraries as delicious as that of warm gajar ka halwa. my father made sure i treasured the paper kites we flew and lost to other more accomplished kite fliers much more than the toys that sat at home and stared back at me.
today i look at the collection of books that we, our friends and family have created for sanah. her collection is extraordinary, and i have no qualms making our rooms more cramped with books. and i look around, there are no libraries around! so while children's publishing is booming, fewer books are accessible, unless you BUY them.
i had more toys than any of my friends in the building. the government of india ensured that. the canadian government was collaborating on a project that my father was a part of when i was born. so our township was filled with young canadian families. and they organised a baby shower when my mum was pregnant where they gifted me a life time of toys that their kids had outgrown. fisher price toys ages before they entered the indian market. and even a set of barbie dolls before the barbie craze hit this country.
so i was privileged. an only child. but somehow all checks and balances were largely maintained.
it made no difference to my friends that i was the one with a room to myself, and loads of toys and books. it was my house during the long vacation afternoons. the compound all evening to run and play about. the upvas ka khana at chandani's house. the tv in ami's house. and the garage for hide and seek and secret society meetings.
and the barbie family -well the fact that i had them actually traumatised me. true, their knees folded, and they had lovely silky long hair. but the mother -she had big boobs! i always felt like somehow i was the owner of something pornographic, before i even knew the word. we never dressed her up, and i would try and hide her behind the shelf because everyone giggled looking at her and my cheeks would burn with shame.
sanah's cheeks might not burn with shame if she has a barbie with boobs. all her friends will probably have the same if not more. and they all have toys gifted to them from kandivali, from toronto from sydney. and they will all have been made in china- fisherprice, barbie, educational wooden toys, or the ten rupee monkey that somersaults in slow motion.
so what is the path to keeping the checks and balances in place?
an alternative school will have privileged kids with designer toys. the neighbourhood school is as fancy as the next one.she can spot the paper windmill and the bamboo snake from my childhood only if we go to the edges of these privileged ghettos that make up our cities.
there are fewer chances of her meeting people who are not like her.
and i think thats what paro is talking about.
we have all begun to live in a bubble. a bubble that includes international airports as effortlessly as it does the local mall and little else, jhumritalaiya is only a funny word on mtv.
i guess as parents we have to somehow evoke the whiff of the library and the scratches of the hand me down toys. a whack here and there, insisting on discipline and politeness will not do the trick. ( even though i am pleased as punch that she has understood why aap and not tum)we will have to work much harder i guess.)