Bastards No Longer! Wednesday, Feb 27 2008 

Live-in relationship is becoming common in India today. Economic boom, job opportunities for women and the lure of urban life have contributed to it.

Parents who have accepted ‘working woman’ status for their daughters and reluctantly let them go and live in a city alone and away from family are a worried lot today.

Indian society, which stigmatizes even love marriage, is grappling with the phenomenon of live-in relationship and searching for ways to deal with it.

But what surprises me most is the courage of these couples to prefer live-in relationship to marriage and face their parents and society firmly.

In a recent landmark judgment the Supreme Court of India has given legal protection to live-in relationship and legitimacy to children born of it. The court has said that such a relationship between a man and a woman is not a state of “concubinage”.

The ruling gives legitimacy to and upholds the property rights of children born of couples who have lived together for long. The court frowns upon inference of bastardy.

It’s a remarkable judgment and I hope it’ll encourage live-in couples to have children. They don’t have to fear the stigma of their children being bastards: They are legitimate in the eyes of law, at least.

But the Supreme Court cannot force societal acceptance of live-in couples and their children through its ruling. Ours is not an enlightened society. Custom and tradition have strong hold on it and most people feel safe following them.

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Techno Tots Sunday, Jun 10 2007 

My two-year old son demands that he be left at the computer and his mom and I take our hands off him so that he can ‘work’ with it uninterrupted.

He goes hog wild with the mouse, running the cursor all over the screen and clicking on the task bar icons and the shortcuts.

Somehow I keep the keyboard pushed under the table top, otherwise he’ll tap on it with both his hands and sometimes with his legs, too.

When the going gets tough, I turn off the machine and let him do what he wants.

Anyway, my work is interrupted when he gets so enthusiastic about working with the computer.

My boy has been attracted to the computer since he was about eighteen months.

As I noticed his joy in playing with the computer I wondered whether it was right to expose a little child as young as 18-24 months to the computer. Is there a recommended age level for introducing the computer to a child’s world?

I had no success in finding any convincing comments on this matter until I came across a blog discussing this topic the other day.

I was glad to learn that Amit Agarwal of Digital Inspiration had a two-year old son who was computer savvy. The famous Indian blogger had already faced my situation and devised ways to deal with it, in addition to finding relevant articles from B.B.C. (articles: 1 and 2).

His method of launching a slideshow or drawing software to keep the child’s interest engrossed in it doesn’t work with my son. What he wants is the whole system for himself and tapping on the keyboard and clicking the mouse.

The two B.B.C. articles are really good. They contain the findings of a study and views and opinions of some experienced people. Here is a summary:

· The very early use of computers is heavily promoted by educationalists…

· Computers make an ideal context for learning through play.

· The multi sensory experiences that they offer are particularly appropriate for the very young and promote the use of memory.

· Play on the computer should be viewed as one of a range of contexts for play, rather than given a separate status.

· Ten minutes, three or four times a week is a good guide.

· It is not desirable for young children to sit in front of a screen for prolonged periods of time.

· Young children should be encouraged to investigate the real world, and links made between this and the virtual world of the computer.

· Painting games…allows children to be entirely creative and are additionally excellent tools for developing fine motor skills.

· Computers will play a significant part in children’s learning experiences throughout their school days and beyond.

· Parents have a powerful role in determining their child’s perception of the ways that this tool can enhance knowledge and expand their world.

As you can see there’s no conclusive answer to the question. It all depends upon the informed judgment of the parents!

Keeping this in mind, I’ll let my two-year old son tap and click and make him happy.

Seminal Questions Monday, Jan 29 2007 

In India, arranged marriage is the norm. Parents derive foremost satisfaction from arranged marriages of their children because their role, authority, preferences and approval prevail.

But all marriages are not arranged. Though elopements and love marriages face disapproval from the family and the society, some bold and adventurous couples take that course.

In arranged marriages parents and other responsible elders in the family consider all aspects of a relationship- family, financial security, close relatives, social standing, and the like- before approving a marriage. A marriage is not just a relationship between two individuals, but a strong and lasting bond between the two families of the couple.

Parental fears and concerns have more emphasis in an arranged marriage and mostly these are the issues considered traditionally. Couples are required to abide by what the parents have decided for them. Their own personal concerns and needs are not considered much; they are considered to the extent they can be accommodated. That’s all.

In such a scheme the following critical questions recommended by relationship experts do not have a place. Nevertheless some of these questions can be asked and discussed even by married couples. But those in love and want to marry may consider them first and marry next.

1) Have we discussed whether or not to have children, and if the answer is yes, who is going to be the primary care giver?

2) Do we have a clear idea of each other’s financial obligations and goals, and do our ideas about spending and saving mesh?

3) Have we discussed our expectations for how the household will be maintained, and are we in agreement on who will manage the chores?

4) Have we fully disclosed our health histories, both physical and mental?

5) Is my partner affectionate to the degree that I expect?

6) Can we comfortably and openly discuss our sexual needs, preferences and fears?

7) Will there be a television in the bedroom?

8) Do we truly listen to each other and fairly consider one another’s ideas and complaints?

9) Have we reached a clear understanding of each other’s spiritual beliefs and needs, and have we discussed when and how our children will be exposed to religious/moral education?

10) Do we like and respect each other’s friends?

11) Do we value and respect each other’s parents, and is either of us concerned about whether the parents will interfere with the relationship?

12) What does my family do that annoys you?

13) Are there some things that you and I are NOT prepared to give up in the marriage?

14) If one of us were to be offered a career opportunity in a location far from the other’s family, are we prepared to move?

15) Does each of us feel fully confident in the other’s commitment to the marriage and believe that the bond can survive whatever challenges we may face?

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Family Vehicle Sunday, Feb 5 2006 

If this were a photo from India, you would see children in place of the
sheep on the petrol tank with the man’s wife as the pillion rider. It’s
a common sight here. Mostly a family moving on a two-wheeler prefers a
scooter, which is considered a ‘family vehicle’. Two kids can stand on
it between the handle and the front seat. If the children are tall,
they bend down so that the rider (their father)’s view is not
obstructed. A two-wheeler family ride on Indian roads is a sight to be
seen.

Family Vehicle

The advertisement by Bajaj company, the maker of the
hugely popular Bajaj brand scooter, has a cheerful family of four
riding their scooter with the caption “Hamara Bajaj (our Bajaj)”.

But these days the demand is more for motor bikes.
Gone are the days when grown up boys would use their family scooter.
They go for a chic bike now.

Still Bajaj scooters are the choice of those who use them to carry milk
cans, vegetable sacks, etc. So “Hamara Bajaj” is not only a family
vehicle, but also a multipurpose vehicle.

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To Speak or Not to Speak English Friday, Jan 13 2006 

I learn that it’s beneficial to babies if parents talk to them (as they do in their mother tongue) in a second language of their choice from early days. Some parents who are not conversant in a second language engage a tutor to do it.

In our case it’s a problem.

I had made up my mind to talk to our baby in English while Ani vowed to speak only Malayalam, our mother tongue. But when I tried it I discovered that I didn’t enjoy it for the simple reason that it didn’t give me any sense of fulfillment. On the contrary, talking to Pranav in my mother tongue is a highly rewarding experience for me. Gradually, talking to little Pranav in English began to sound comical to me and I stopped it altogether.

It’s certain from our life style that Prananv will learn Telugu (the language of Andhra Pradesh) and Hindi (our national language) only when he goes to school. He’ll learn them from his classmates and friends. He’ll be going to an English medium school, so naturally he’ll learn English at school. Since Ani and I are teachers, Pranav will get all necessary help from us both. Then we’ll feel comfortable speaking to him in English, because his lessons are in English and using English becomes an absolute necessity. One language that he’ll never need at school is his mother tongue!

If we neglect the mother tongue now, when he’s still a little baby, he’ll probably never acquire fluency in it and our native culture and its heritage will remain foreign to him forever.

But, is it advisable denying our son the opportunity to learn English from us from his early days? Should we put aside all other considerations and talk to him in English? Or shall we use both English and Malayalam (won’t it complicate his little mind)?

An Aborted Journey Wednesday, Jan 11 2006 

My sister and her husband, who have been our guests for a month, were supposed to go back to Kerala on 4th Jan by Sabari Express.
Since it’s the peak season of the pilgrimage to the hilltop temple of Lord Ayyappa at Sabarimala in Kerala, there are no seats available on the train until 20th Jan. Anyone who travels to Kerala by train from any part of the country knows that the two and a half month long pilgrimage season (Nov-Jan) is the hardest to book tickets.
The pilgrims book all seats in advance. It results in ordinary passengers facing untold hardships.The railway runs special trains from various stations to Kerala to ease the rush, but the devotees of Lord Ayyappa don’t spare the special trains either!
Knowing the situation very well I booked two seats in waiting list through a friend for 4th Jan. What we thought was that we could manage to get the tickets confirmed in emergency quota with the help of a contact. It had worked on a few occasions in the past. But this time it didn’t work. We knew this bitter truth only after we had reached Secunderabad Railway Station for boarding the train.
The platform was inundated with the pilgrims in black robe and the atmosphere was reverberating with their chants and songs with the accompaniment of musical instruments. It was clear that for every reserved seat there would be a dozen swamis (the devotees, pilgrims) hanging on.

My sister and brother-in-law stood no chance of a comfortable journey. So we canceled the tickets and returned home.

Swamiye Saranam Ayyappa!

Pranav Is Seven Months Old Saturday, Dec 3 2005 

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Our son Pranav completed seven months yesterday. His growth and development has been remarkable and all our fears have been vanished from our mind forever. Now he’s just like a baby born full-term and his growth is far above benchmark.

Pranav can recognize us both, his maid and a neighbor who makes it a point to spend some time with him almost every day. He doesn’t have regular contacts with anybody else. But we introduce him to other people when we take him out a few times daily. He enjoys being outside and remains quite and happy absorbed in everything around.

He looks at us intently, expresses his immense joy through his innocent laughter and sparkling eyes. If she is holding him, he raises his little hands, kicks her with his rosy feet, bends forward and tries to jump into my hands.

Pranav tries to communicate to all inanimate things around him just the same way as he does to us. He talks to everything and everyone by making incoherent sounds. His babbling delights us greatly. Whatever things he can grab, he tries to put into his mouth.

Our baby likes colorful pictures shown to him and runs his hands on them. His mom reads to him by holding a large book wide open before him and sometimes croons for him.

Pranav is given bath twice a day. He enjoys it very much and protests when taken out of the tub. Bathing him in the tub is very difficult now, because he kicks and splashes water all over, bends up and raises his hands and tries to hit at or grab the mug with water being poured onto his head. Once or twice the water fell into his mouth and he swallowed it. So his mother has to try every trick in the book to distract him from it.

He sucks his thumbs. Drooling is frequent. When he falls on his tummy and tries to crawl, he passes urine invariably.

Pranav takes food without much fuss. His food consists of Lactogen 2, Cerelac (rice), smashed rice, smashed carrot, smashed apple, pulses and a few drops of ghee. The first three are given every day and the rest one after another with a gap of a day or two.

Ani and I sincerely invite guidance, suggestions and tips from all of you in upbringing our son.