Little Moments: How do fish learn to swim?

Little moments of life with B +ve and O +ve. Moments that are memories of a lifetime.

How do fish learn to swim?

The girls have a pet at home – fish. The fish stays in a fishbowl; we do not have an aquarium. It is a daily task for the girls to feed the fish. They also spend time, once in a while, looking at the fish for an extended period. Whatever they do/undergo, they extrapolate it to their pet and ask questions related to fish. The favourite question is – How do fish poop?

One day, out of nowhere, B +ve asked a question – How do fish learn to swim? I was completely taken aback. This question never occurred to me. As an adult, I just took for granted that fish swims. I never thought as to how, why, when and where fish learn to swim. I checked the internet and tried explaining to the girls. However, that is a side point.

I get this question even in my sleep – How to fish learn to swim? And, why this question never occurred to me.

How do crayons get their colour?

The girls were colouring in their books. Again, out of nowhere, O +ve came up with this question – How do crayons get their colour? What makes a pink crayon pink, a red crayon red and so on? I was again taken aback.

I checked the packaging of crayons; of course, there was no information. The children are supposed to colour and for sure, they are not expected to ask how crayons get their colours.

Hanuman is God. Why does he pray to another God?

B +ve was speaking about her favourite Ramayana. We knew she was going to drop a question that will leave us scratching our heads. And, she did not disappoint us.

B +ve said – So, Hanuman is a God. We nodded our heads. B +ve said – So, Rama is a God. We nodded our heads. She connected the two data points, and asked – So, both Hanuman and Rama are Gods, then why does Hanuman pray to Rama?

We have told her that we will check and let her know. I am checking on the concept of junior and senior Gods, but not getting any hang of it.

Why the men are not wearing shorts in Ramayana?

The girls were watching Ramayana movie in Telugu. O +ve came up with this question – Why the men are not wearing shorts? On one hand, it is a silly question and at the same time, it is also a deeply profound question.

I suppose nobody around has witnessed the Ramayana era. How can people assume the dressing in any particular period without any proof/evidence?

It might be considered sacrilegious to even imagine in wildest of dreams that Lord Rama might be wearing shorts or something on similar lines. However, I do feel  O +ve has a valid point for a child not shackled by beliefs and hand-me-down rigid ideas.

My take

I keep questioning myself why the above questions and many others that the girls ask on a daily basis do not occur to me. I suppose it is a disadvantage I face having grown up.

We just want our daughters to keep coming up with questions like this. We do not know as to what leads to their questions / how they come up with it.

I assume their questions are a confirmation that they are still children and their initiation to worldly ways – to accept the things, the way they are; is still some time away.

Visit to Ameenpur Lake: Children’s Day Out

Ameenpur lake is one of the popular destinations of Hyderabad for an outdoor excursion. Having read and heard that Ameenpur attracts a number of migratory birds during winter, we wanted to visit during December and January, but that was not to be.

Finally, we visited Ameenpur lake on 5th March 2019. The manner in which B +ve and O +ve, our four and a half-year-old twin daughters, enjoyed the outing was a sight we will remember for times to come.

The girls enjoyed each and every aspect of nature on offer at Ameenpur. They made themselves comfortable as if they have been to Ameenpur every day of their life.

The Birds

The girls get to see pigeons, occasionally mynahs, eagles from the terrace and hear the sound of koel. This has been their birding activity in the city of the Hyderabad so far, apart from Zoo visits.

We showed the images of common birds of Hyderabad to the girls to acquaint them with some of the birds that we might get to see at Ameenpur.

They immediately identified the Green Bee-Eater as we were going to reach the Ameenpur lake. Once at the lake, we saw Little Grebe, Little Cormorant, Egret, Painted Stork, Rosy Starling and lots of Barn Swallow. The girls were very excited to see the Little Cormorant sitting on the rocks in the lake with the wings open. They waited and waited for the birds to catch fish but the birds did not oblige.

The Rocks

O +ve and B +ve are self-proclaimed rock-climbers. The rocks that they get to climb are 3-4 feet high rocks in Indira Park and other parks. At Ameenpur, they saw the natural rock formation and immediately set out to conquer them.

The rocks were surrounded with dried vegetation and were not designed for climbing. But, the girls would have none of it. We kept ascending and descending the rocks until they were satisfied with their conquest.

The Water

For the girls, the water was the star attraction. At Ameenpur, the place where we visited, we could walk 10-15 feet inside the water and the depth was just about till the knees. It was sandy and with no stones in the water, it was not slippery either.

The girls had the time of their lives in the water splashing it all around and on themselves. A Dirty Feet trip also landed at the same place with 13 children and they also joined the fun. Dirty Feet team had some sort of self-designed catamarans on which children could sit and it would keep floating in the water. All the children, including O +ve and B +ve, enjoyed and enjoyed.

I have come to understand that water is one of the best toys for children. This was no different. Looking at the children having fun in the water, a child in every adult comes to life. You can try and test it for yourself.

The Fish

The place where we were at Ameenpur also had 4-5 fishermen catching live fish in their nets. They gave demonstrations to children to throw the net, take it back with the fish, remove the fish carefully from the net and keep it in a crate inside the water so that they are alive till they are sold/packed in cartons.

One of the girls touched the live fish and even tried taking it in her hands. She understood how to hold the fish horizontally behind the gills / under the fins. Her sister said that she will try it, the next time.

The Wind

This is one of the most understated elements of nature that gets missed out staying in a concrete jungle. At Ameenpur, it was 12 o’clock in the afternoon, and nobody had a sweat.

It was a pleasure to watch the curls of girls flying on their faces in the cool breeze.

Conclusion

We spent about 5 hours at Ameenpur and did not realize where the time went by.

It is a pity that the children have to learn about the environment and nature from books and not through live experiential interactions. A visit like one to Ameenpur keeps reaffirming our belief that children are best looked after when left to nature. Just that the opportunities like this come few and far in between.

I am not sure about Ameenpur either, about how long it will be able to survive.

A message to my daughters on Women’s Day

My Dearest Daughters

It is quite possible that even when you grow up, the charade of Women’s Day may still be going around. This message is meant for you to develop the understanding of the men on why they would want to continue this eye-wash. I do not want you to fall for this pretence of Women’s Day and hence this message.

2 days back, it was 8th March and I saw a number of Women’s Day messages. They were regressive and nauseating, to say the least. In the name of respecting and celebrating women, men continue to shackle the women furthermore.

No labels please – Daughter, Sister, Wife, Mother

Men will tell you that women play the role of daughter, sister, wife and mother through her life, ever since she is born. As a reward and recognition for the selfless service and sacrifice made by women for these roles in the family, men will salute you on Women’s Day.

I do not want you to get chained up in these labels. You are an individual and you have your own persona. You are not dependent on the relationship with men in your life to derive your identity.

If men have to respect you, men better learn to revere you for who you are, what you are, how you are, basis YOU as a person.

No adjectives please – Loving, Caring, Giving, Sacrificing, Multitasking and the other SH**

Men know how to sugar-coat a bitter pill for their own advantage. They know that women will anyways find it difficult to come out of the labels forced upon them. To cement it further, men will use the adjectives mentioned above to describe your services for the betterment of mankind, yes – mankind.

Do not fall for this honey-trap. You are free to do what you want. You decide the manner in which you deem fit to contribute to your family and society.

If men have to admire you, men better learn to appreciate you for your positives and also the negatives. You do not have to carry a load of the world on your shoulders.

No jargons please – empowerment, capacity building and the likes

Some men will go beyond the labels and the adjectives mentioned above. They will use the terminology of empowerment of women for the celebration of Women’s Day.

Do not fall for this well articulated rubbish either. You are not to be dependent on the largesse of men to be empowered. You are not to be empowered for a day in the year and then be chained back again.

This world belongs to you as much as the men mouthing this verbiage. Only you can empower your own self.

The cynicism about men

The opportunities for the women since birth – be it in family / education / career choices / employment / life choices continue to get constrained due to their gender. This is provided she gets born in the first place in a country like India with a skewed gender ratio.

Even after carrying the load of the family, women continue to have no say in the final decision-making process. Women get paid lesser as compared to men for the same quality and quantity of work in the professional arena. It is not safe for women to move around in their own city for lack of security and protection.

The Women’s Reservation Bill is a lapsed bill in the Parliament of India. The Rajya Sabha passed the bill on 9 March 2010. However, the Lok Sabha never voted on the bill. The bill lapsed after the dissolution of the 15th Lok Sabha in 2014.

Do men have any moral standing on Women’s Day after their diametrically opposite actions to the cause?

Conclusion

It is said that changes happen incrementally. It is said that men’s outlook towards women is changing for the better and the situation is improving.

Just that, I do not expect the situation to improve any dramatically in next 14 years when you become an adult. Rather no change at all in the omnipresent patriarchy in the Indian society.

Your mother has suffered at the hand of men, for that I am a man myself. I do not want the same fate for you.

If you have to celebrate the Women’s Day, do so for your own self, for your own identity and none of the above. Let men not have a say in it for they do not deserve it.

Life Skills For Children: Vegetable Shopping

Vegetable shopping is a favourite activity for B +ve and O +ve that they look forward to every week.

Earlier, we used to go to the supermarket for vegetable shopping. I realized that it was not working out with the girls. They liked to touch and pick the vegetables. However, the crates arrangement in the supermarket was not conducive for the girls to get to work. So, we switched over to the weekly market that gets organized on the roads.

It has been a revelation for the girls and for the last two years, we have been doing this every week. The girls get their cloth shopping bags, the shopping list made by their mother and we are ready for the adventure.

I realized that it is not just the experience of vegetable shopping that O +ve and B +ve get in the weekly market; they also learn a number of life skills in the process.

Experiencing the real India

Weekly market happens on the arterial roads with vehicular traffic in full swing. The hawkers and the vendors put their vegetables on the road or on the pushcart – in the open. The girls experience the real markets with dust, dirt, heat, smoke, dogs, puddles, vehicles, people and everything else.

With the supermarket, they were seeing the sanitized environments. Now, they see the real India and they interact with ease.

I do not know how India will be when they grow up to be an adult. However, I feel that the transition from the road-side market to the sterile surroundings of the supermarket is relatively easy than the other way round. Navigating the maze of the weekly market as compared to the aisles of the supermarket may hold them in good stead when they grow up.

Talking to strangers

Due to the very nature of the weekly market on the road in the open, there are actually not many children out shopping. So, when the hawkers, vendors and the fellow buyers see two girls moving from one push-cart to another, they ask their names and what they are doing.

As the girls stay-at-home and do not go to formal learning environment, the weekly market serves as a good mechanism for them to get introduced to people and speak to them.

Understanding the concept of money

The girls pick their vegetables and also pay for their buy each time, taking turns.

In the weekly market, nobody accepts digital payments. So, we have to pay in cash. The girls understand that there are Rs. 50/-, Rs. 100/-, Rs. 200/- and Rs. 500/- notes. These are to be paid to the vegetable uncles and vegetable aunties and we get the change in return.

I understand that the girls are missing out on knowing about card payments and mobile wallets. But I suppose they will pick up along the way.

Knowing real vegetables

The girls did learn about vegetables from their books. However, they are all neatly coloured and of uniform shape and size. The supermarket sells graded and sorted vegetables, many a time. Going to the weekly market, the girls know how to pick tomatoes – red and medium-sized, and to avoid tomatoes with holes, that are green and soft. They know how potatoes and onions can be really out of shape and huge and tiny. They know how to pick brinjals, they know how arvi comes with so much of soil attached to it.

I felt that supermarkets, though they sold exotics, were weaker when it compared to stocking local leafy vegetables and gourds. The weekly market does not sell exotic vegetables. But they have all the local leafy vegetables and gourds – based on the season.

This has ensured that the girls know pretty well about the local vegetables basis their vegetable shopping experience.

Working at home with their buy

Coming back from the weekly market, the girls know that all the vegetables have to put in their respective baskets and bags. They practise their counting while putting the vegetables in their place. Having the ownership of their buys, the girls help their mother in the kitchen with all the cleaning, chopping, cutting and preparing the curries.

I suppose this has really helped in ensuring that B +ve and O +ve eat all the vegetables.

Going to the weekly market has another advantage that the girls do not get distracted by the processed food – chips and chocolates and the likes that the supermarket tries hard to sell to children.

Conclusion

Vegetable shopping can be a chore and difficult to get children excited about this task. However, for some reason, this has turned out to be an exciting weekly mission for O +ve and B + ve, till now.

I suppose they are not just learning vegetable shopping, they are learning a number of life skills along with.

How I am learning to deal with my parental anxiety

B +ve and O +ve were born pre-term at 33 weeks. They both weighed around 1.8 kg at their birth and went down to 1.5 kg before starting to gain weight. The doctor told us that till the girls turn 2 years, they will be considered 2 months younger to their birth-date to adjust for their pre-term birth.

I still remember how they looked at 1.5 kgs. I also remember the reactions of some of the people on seeing them, who had only seen babies born full term with normal weights. One of my wife’s friends, who has 2 children of her own, commented that our girls look like aliens.

Even after leaving the hospital, our visits to the doctor continued on a regular basis. The girls used to fall ill quite regularly with their immunity being on the lower side. And when one fell ill, her sister invariably followed her. It was very frustrating that whatever weight gain they had in a month’s time used to get almost wiped out in a week.

Till the time the girls turned 6 months, we could visit the doctor only during designated hours that the hospital called “high-risk children clinic”. The doctor told us that we should visit him every 6 months so that he could check on the developmental milestones of the girls.

All these led to lots of lots of parental anxiety. It is easier to look back now, rather even forget those days, given that their development has been normal, so far.

However, I suppose, each phase has learning attached to it. And it is always better to keep a tab on the learning so that history does not repeat itself.

The first year

The girls learnt how to neck control, turn around, sit, crawl, walk and the assorted. Each development milestone was a celebration for us, just like any other parents. Just that, we moved from one stage of parental anxiety to the next.

I read in the hospital lobby from the numerous leaflets that whatever growth issues the child has will manifest in the second year. I kept waiting for the second year to arrive.

The second year

The girls started learning to speak, their initiation to solid foods, potty training and exploration of the world around them.

We kept visiting the doctor every 6 months to check on their development milestones. Sometimes, one girl was lacking in some aspect, whereas at times, the second girl was missing out somewhere. The doctor kept giving us feedback for the correctional measures.

At the end of the second year, the doctor told us that our twin daughters were growing normally. Now, their age had to be considered as per their birth-date.

I thought that it was the end of parental anxiety about the child’s growth. How mistaken I was?

Each thought/question about the child leads to parental anxiety

As the girls started going out more often and met more and more people, the questions came flying thick and fast. Most of these questions were on a set pattern. Which school the girls go to? Do they know their ABC? How many nursery rhymes they know? Have they learnt how to write? What are they doing in a park during school hours?

I suppose all these questions are well-intentioned. When we do not have positive answers to most of these questions, it leads to a lot of parental anxiety.

When we see children around the same age strutting around in school uniforms and going to the school for 6 hours, the thought that our children are going to lag behind does lead to sleepless nights.

Even though it has been a conscious decision of on our part as parents to keep the girls out of the formal learning environment, it leads to a lot of parental anxiety if we are doing the right thing.

I was thinking on these lines quite a lot. Suddenly, I got some questions. When did B +ve speak her first word? When did O +ve learn to crawl? Which date did B +ve had her first solid food? When did O +ve learn to jump? I, of course, do not remember any of these dates. Just that both the girls do these things as on date and more. That is it. I got my answer.

The answer to parental anxiety

The answer that I got is that there is no end to parental anxiety till the time a parent keeps expecting more and more out of the child.

Once O +ve and B +ve did a certain task, immediately I expected them to go to the next level. They learnt how to pick blocks, I expected them to connect the blocks. They learnt how to connect the blocks, I expected them to make a building out of it. Once they learnt how to make a building, I expected them to make vehicles and other objects. Now that they know how to do it, I expect them to make a real building out of cement and concrete. There is no end to it.

Once the girls learn a certain task, I do not even care to remember how and when and where they picked up. I do not even stop to cherish the moment rather I rush to the next level of the game of pushing the girls furthermore. I treat them as an object of giving shapes and making adults when they are actually four and a half years old.

The answer I am getting to my parental anxiety is that the question is not what a four-year-old should know, but what the parent of a four-year-old should know. Am I letting my child enjoy her childhood? Am I letting my child be a child?

Conclusion

O +ve and B +ve may learn their ABCs and nursery rhyme a bit late, it has to be fine with me. Once the girls enter the rat race, they are not going to find their way out of the maze soon; but if I can delay their entry for some time for that they are children and not rats; I have to learn to be fine with it.

I have to learn to manage the parental anxiety for that it is mine and I cannot pass it to my children.

Paternity Bill in India: Patriarchy At Best

Indian State is expected to botch up any of the well-meaning intentions in its execution. The only comforting factor can be that at least the Indian State did mean well, leave aside the results. Though, the proposed Paternity Bill in India spectacularly fails even this base-level expectation.

I read about the introduction of Paternity Bill in Parliament. I felt happy that India’s politicians seem to be thinking finally about some fruitful actions concerning India’s children and their upbringing.

A cursory read into the clauses of the Paternity Bill and it is sure to bring down any expectations whatsoever.

Period of Paternity Leave

The maximum period of Paternity Leave shall be fifteen days, as per this proposed legislation. This has to be a joke. This cannot be serious. The men of India want to contribute to child upbringing. And what do they think should be sufficient? 15 days, that’s it.

If there was any doubt that there is some seriousness to this thought, the proposal of 15 days of paternity leaves surely ensures that a father’s duty is not to be considered worth-while.

What is the father expected to be doing in these 15 days? More importantly, what is the mother supposed to be doing after these 15 days?

Creation of a dedicated fund for Paternal benefit

The proposed bill reads “The government should constitute a Parental Benefit Scheme Fund in which all employees (irrespective of gender), employers and the Central government shall contribute in a pre-defined ratio”. That’s it.

There is no mention of what’s to be done with this money, who is going to withdraw, why, when, where? No details whatsoever.

Attitudinal changes

The proposed Paternity Bill states that this bill could act as a precursor to incremental attitudinal changes and the blurring of gender role distinctions.

Well, I must say that starting with 15 days of paternity leave is going to ensure that the incremental changes will go into the 23rd century, if not the 25th century.

What Could Have Been

The proposed Paternity Bill could have sparked a debate on the missing role of Indian father in upbringing of India’s future, work-family conflicts, deep-rooted gender stereotypes in Indian families, complete lack of role models to set an example for Indian fathers, public commitment to caregiving, contribution to housework, what constitutes child care and how it evolves over a period of time, role of the State in facilitating change, country’s cultural ideals about work and parenthood, social benefits, gender equality, paid work and child-rearing, having successful careers and fulfilling family lives, shared parenting leaves, dual earner-carer model that features women and men sharing breadwinning and child-rearing roles, help more people in more meaningful manner, do more to change society for the better etc.

But nothing of these sorts can be expected in India.

Conclusion

I suppose this subject of Paternity Bill is something like whoever speaks on it can present him to be a torch-bearer for women’s rights, someone who thinks about gender equality, someone who can be considered refined and suave, someone who is forward-looking and so, someone gets the bright idea and presents the paternity bill legislation in India. It is just that this is nothing but patriarchy at best. This is no way to raise a child.

Given the track record of Indian politicians, at least the lip service to the cause should be expected. Alas, the 15 days of paternity leave adds up to a mighty nothing. And there is nothing beyond this.

There is no participation of women in this proposed ground-breaking legislation. They would have felt that men are better left alone rather than needling them for a royal period of 15 days at home.

The proposed Paternity Bill has lapsed in the Indian parliament without any discussion, though it was introduced on July 21, 2017, in Loksabha. We shall see if there is any further movement on this subject in the newly elected Parliament after 6 months.

In the meanwhile, Indian men continue to be busy doing what they do best (!). The future generation of the country is of course blissfully unaware of all these and will go on to become the present generation of the country and perpetuate the problem.

My Stand

I have been very clear that for the man to have any meaningful role in the upbringing of the child, he has to contribute on a daily basis, starting with the household work right after marriage. I propose a paternal leave of 2 months per year. This has been detailed out in How to be a man – Raise a child.

Interesting questions asked by children

I wrote about the questions children ask. Our twin daughters, B +ve and O +ve, ask us continuously about everything under the sun and the sun, itself. Here is the list of their interesting questions, that stand out for the periodicity and the intensity that they get asked.

Death

The girls ask us – what we are to them. We answer – we are their parents. They ask – where are your parents. We identify them to our daughters. Again we get asked – where are the parents of our parents? Of the 8 people, only 2 are alive now. So, the question – where are the remaining 6?

Earlier, we told them that they have gone to a far-off place. This led to a barrage of questions. How far is the far-off place? Why cannot we go there? How did they go to this far-off place?

Unable to bear further, now we tell them that they have gone to God. My wife and I are agnostic but other than invoking God, I am not aware of any other option. This also raises further questions. Why have they gone to God? Have they gone on their own or have they been called? What are they doing there?

From somewhere, somehow; they have understood that elder people die. So, they want to know at what age one goes to God. We have been asked when we will die. We get asked whether we will be around when they grow up. I have warned my parents and in-laws that they might get asked about their demise, out of nowhere, so that they do not lose their balance.

There would hardly be 2-3 days gone-by without the question on the inevitable. I suppose they care about their own security and safety as to what will happen to them if their parents are not around.

We tell them that either of their parents will be there, if one dies, to take care of them. If both the parents die, they will have their grandparents and my wife’s elder sister to take care of them. Other than this, I do not know how to deal with this topic further.

Money

This has been an inadvertent addition to their questioning repertoire. The girls see that men are travelling on the roads. So, they ask what they are doing. I answer them that they are going to work. So, they ask why they work. I tell them that I suppose, they like to work, and they get paid money for that.

Now, comes the trick question from them. They ask me why I do not go to work. I tell them that being with them is my work. So, they ask me if I get paid for being with them. I answer no. So, a follow-up question – If I do not get paid, it means that I do not have money. I am stuck on how to deal with this.

In the meanwhile, they drop the sentence around that their father does not have enough money. I do want to stop this. However, it is also a reality that we are going to run out of money and I will be searching for a job soon. I cannot tell them that their father has good money. My wife disagrees with me that what is the use in telling it to children who will not understand this.

While we debate, the message is gone. I keep getting asked on a repeated basis if I have enough money.

My blogs

This is a result of my being unnecessarily over-smart. Whenever I am sitting idle or not doing anything worthwhile, according to them, I get asked what I am up to. I told them once-twice that I am thinking about my blogs. They asked me what I was thinking. I told them about how to make people read my blogs and that I do not know marketing. That did it.

Now, whenever, wherever, they see me sitting silently even for a moment, they start discussing with each other that I am thinking about my blogs.

They come around to me and tell me that someday, somebody will read my blogs. They are our little bundles of sunshine which keeps my wife and me going.

Poop, Action of strangers on the road, Mythology

Why is my poop pink in colour? Need I write more?

Raising children and being responsible citizens

Introducing Hindu mythology to children

Questions related to nature

This has been a recent addition to their questioning. B +ve asked that if animals and birds can drink dirty water on the roads and do not fall ill, why we cannot drink. O +ve asked that we can drink the water that falls from the sky, the rain, but once it falls down on to the ground, why does it become dirty? The question that both of them asks – The trees are so good, so helpful, why do humans cut them?

There is so much more to write about their questions. I will cover it in another post.

Conclusion

I understand that all the children are inquisitive by nature. Wondering, when and how this process to raise interesting questions for everything around slows down eventually and children start accepting the things, the way they are, without the urge to tear them apart. That is, when children become adults?

How did you handle the questions your children asked?