Monday, September 30, 2019

Are you a WOCOTEEN?

I have always thought of parents of adolescent children from the perspective of a poem titled "Middle age" by Kamala Das that we had in our textbooks as a part of our high school syllabus. It's only now that I realize,  as I am one myself, with my older one turning thirteen two weeks ago....that it hardly feels like middle age for me! Of course adolescence lasts for over seven to eight years and this is only the beginning!  But I'm already dreading the words as the poem goes......"Middle age is when your children are no longer your friends, but critics, stern of face and severe with their tongue......they no longer need you except for serving tea and pressing clothes..." (Yikes!!)  While Abhay is still amenable to parental authority,  traces of that "I-know-what-I'm doing” and "leave-me-alone" adolescent attitude have already set in and I can't help feeling as if the worst is yet to come!!  Growing up in Bangalore in the nineties, I remember that one of the biggest questions confronting our parents as we turned teenagers was whether to subscribe to cable TV network (popularly known as Star TV that brought home American sitcoms for the very first time)  or stick to the our good old Doordarshan, and parents skeptical of the influence of "Beverly Hills 90210" or  even home grown serials like "Banegi Apni Baat" on what they believed to be our innocent minds! Cut to almost a quarter of a century later......the challenges faced by our parents now seem trivial and even innocuous, given the paradigm shift in technological-socio-economic-cultural conditions in which we raise our kids today.  At every juncture, we are constantly faced with the question of "How much is too much"  or "When does motivation turn into pressure" or "Is this a necessity as our kid feels or an indulgence as our parents will most probably think" and the ubiquitous nagging question "Should we let go or will it be considered lackadaisical" and so on and so forth.  For instance while the age thirteen is the official entry level for an online presence, be it on Facebook, Instagram or Gmail,  my husband and I are still old school and not yet very comfortable with him having an online social life that we are not a part of....and so it Abhay puts it....he is the only thirteen year old in the world not to have a cell phone of his own....and I cant help feeling "dejavu" as I remember sulking at being the only girl in class eight who didn't yet have " Star TV" at home !!  

So as a true teenager, the center stage of this year's birthday celebration for Abhay has shifted from the usual mom-organised-cake and sandwich home parties with a few neighbourhood friends to dining  out with school friends  at a fancy restaurant .......and mom and dad required only for the cheque at the end!  So we had over six boisterous boys ride home in the school bus with Abhay, heading straight to a Wii match (again as Abhay puts it.....we are the only ones who don't own a play-station!)  and all the while huddled in his room with non-stop chatter-banter and subjecting the birthday boy to birthday bumps followed by cutting of the custom ordered cake with the icing of Abhay's favourite football club logo - FC Bayern Munchen and dinner at an unlimited all-you-can- eat pizza restaurant as a finale!

The best part for me in all this was the return gift and it goes without saying that the return gifts at Abhay's or Aadya's birthday parties have always been and will be books, books and more books! With all the boys having entered teens already, I couldn't find a better audience than anyone else for Roopa Pai's "Ready! 99 Must have skills for the World Conquering Teenager  (and Almost-Teenager)"! What's more..........their class even had the same author do a session with them for one of her other books in school recently. As the title goes, this book of non-fiction written by one of the most well known writers for children, young adults and parents alike  (one more non-fiction book of hers  is being launched somewhere in Bangalore as I write this! )  published  by Hachette India, and starts off as an Indianised and contemporized spin on the nineteenth century Robert and Agnes Baden-Powell's Scouts and Guides Movement but offers much more for the current  crop of teens to grow into  "World conquering teenagers" or as Roopa Pai cheerily puts it.. a "WOCOTEEN"!    
My first reaction to this book....was envy!!! I felt jealous of the kids today as I wish we had a book like this while growing up in the nineties. Of course we had the Scout/ Guide clubs in most schools then (unlike many schools today), but I felt as if the emphasis was more on the protocol rather than the substance of the scouts and guides philosophy!  

Anyway, packed with over 99 must-acquire life-skills for an overall development of your teenager, with focus on various aspects like personal development from the point of view of health, discipline, creative development (including pointers to pursuing a hobby that may not involve a device!) to being the family man/woman from the perspective of helping out and doing the chores  at home (including the unclog-the-sink challenge or even washing your own undies challenge!) to even bookkeeping or opening your own bank account challenge, etc, or the community awareness element from being a patriot (understanding the importance of the national anthem, national flag or the Indian currency or the explain-India to a foreigner challenge) to being an interpreter (learning a new language or build empathy challenge) or a volunteer for various kinds of community service and finally setting out for the challenges of the great outdoors! Of course the book comes with certain badges and shields at the end to be won by the WOCOTEEN wannabes on completion of all the challenges  but the focus is on the journey more than the destination and what those experiences can build your teen into and the life skills he or she acquires along the way that may shape his/her future path! It's a great book for shared reading and a joint activity for teens and parents of teens  and truly an earnest attempt to impress upon the Generation Z, certain fundamental life philosophies from self-reliance, self-control, self-assurance, motivation, empathy, leadership, and to being mindful and open-minded, all brought out in the quintessential easy-breezy-yet well researched and engaging style of Roopa Pai. Each skill-set comes with its own unique challenges or tests that can be attempted either individually or better in a group......called the WOCOTEEN  to Abhay and his friends ......are you guys in to form the WOCOTEEN squad of your own and ready to conquer the world...?? :-)

Dearest  Abhay .....enjoy your foray into your teen years  and go easy on your mommy!!!!

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Chauthi- A family festival!

As soon as I lay my hands on the first copy of the coming year's  calendar, if there's one thing I almost always immediately look out for, it's to check on the Ganesh Chaturthi  in the coming year! Ganesh Chaturthi or Chowthi as we refer to in South Karnataka, has been special to me for as long as I can remember! Spread over almost a day and a half, Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations in my ancestral house in Dharmasthala that has been an integral part of my father's family and has now, post my marriage, come to represent a regular annual feature in my family too. 

We come from a culture where most families along with their extended kin, join in the celebration of one or more ( if not all) Hindu festivals in a year.... and those occasions are not just about performing religious rituals but rather a socio-cultural affair in the form of family Bhajans sessions, or hosting local artistes or folk culture,etc.  Be it Ganesh Chaturthi, Navaratri or Deepavali ( to name a few Hindu festivals), extended family celebrations of the same have a charm of their own.. While they may prove to be hectic and strenuous (especially for the hosts), no can deny that they make for some of the best family-time memories and offer unique family experiences for children that are otherwise hard to come by in today's nuclear age! 

So it gave us immense pride to see our little millennials nearly dominate the all-nighter family bhajan session, even vying with each other over singing some of the traditional family bhajans that have been passed on by our previous generation... while adding their own “bindass” style to the mix! As the festivities culminate in the immersion of our Ganesha in the Nethravathi river, we seek blessings for the coming year..... and hope to grow more, evolve better and let go a little.... until next year when we get ready to welcome Lord Ganesha in into our family home yet again!! 

We’ve been reading many books on Ganesha over the last few years on the occasion of Ganesha Chathurthi, this time I thought I’d introduce my little one to some of the Hindu deities through Sanjay Patel’s “The Little Book of Hindu deities”. While we have read Sanjay Patel’s earlier works on Hindu Mythology and his unique illustrative and narrative style through his take on Ramayana and Ganesha’s sweet tooth, this book is an all-encompassing account of Hindu Mythology beginning traditionally with Lord Ganesha, moving on to the Trinity and various manifestations of Shiva to the revered Hindu Goddesses and a birds eye view into ten avatars of Vishnu. The book also delves into the contextual background of the mythological stories from a brief introduction to the chronological periods - Satya Yuga to Kali Yuga, to the Nava Grahas or nine planets while also touching upon the various Demi Gods from Indra to Yama and Animal Gods from Naga to Surabhi, giving us a glimpse of the Hindu epics like the Ramayana, Mahabharatha and Bhagavadgita. Presented in his one-of-a kind breezy narrative that makes our deities more relatable, with modern equivalents to some of their traditional attributes, like the "Howler" Rudra, or the Kali "the Black one" or the "chunky money" Hanuman, and his various feats, all accompanied by light-hearted animation style illustrations...  Sanjay Patel's book on Hindu deities is sure a hit with the curious personified next generation millennials. Season's Greetings to everyone this festive season...celebrate the spirit of the festivals  with your kith and kin!