Why A Girl Is Never A Hero? Why Only A Boy Is A Hero?

“Why a girl is never a hero? Why only a boy is a hero?” These are the perpetual questions raised by both of our twin daughters. Be it fiction, non-fiction, storybooks, mythology, cartoons, newspapers – whatever and wherever, both the girls keep raising the above questions.

To be honest, if it would not have been for my daughters’ raising these questions persistently, I would not have even realized it. It has become so obvious in popular culture and so ingrained into my mind that I was oblivious to have myself become synonymous with it. What is it?

Every child would raise these questions

My twin daughters are no wonder kids. If they can raise these questions “Why a girl is never a hero? Why only a boy is a hero”, I am certain that most of the other girls of their age would also ask similar questions. Why limit only to girls? I am sure that boys would also raise the same questions.

Why limit to girls and boys of the current generation? I suppose, my wife and our mothers too, when they were kids, would have raised these questions, as well. I do not remember if I asked these questions. Do you remember asking these questions in your childhood?

That is precisely the point. Only the children ask these questions. When they go on to become adults, somehow somewhere these questions stop existing to them. Along with their childhood, they leave it behind. What is it?

Every adult would not raise these questions

When the adults read the storybooks to their kids, why would they not be alarmed by the pronoun “He” staring at them all around? When the adults see the cartoons and movies with their kids, why would they not be perturbed by a boy/man saving the day and the world, all the time? At the time of narrating a mythological tale, why would adults not be concerned that it is always adventures and heroics of a God – invariably a man.

An adult takes it for granted that is how things have been, things are and things ought to be (Why a girl is never a hero? Why only a boy is a hero?) It becomes a norm, it gets accepted as a fait accompli, it becomes a part of life. What is it?

Is it the market or the psychology or something else or everything put together

There is a big market for kids’ story-telling material. It is all about imagination, they say, and is limitless / knows no boundaries. Majority of these kids’ stuff, if not all, is dominated by male heroes. Why is this, so-called, imagination only getting limited about the little specific around the gender and nothing else?  Why cannot writers and artists centre their imagination around a girl? Is there no market for a female hero? Would parents not buy such stuff?

Or is it something that is even more deeply ingrained into our psyche? We do not think that women are worth it and can do good stuff on their own. They always have to play second fiddle – a Sita to a Ram and a Chutki to a Chhota Bheem. Imagination, an extension of our thought process, cannot exist in isolation and is a reflection of the story-teller / the society. These story-tellers, irrespective of gender, do not seem to think highly about the female gender, apart from being a side-kick.

I do not seem to get it. Is it the market that won’t accept the girls in the spotlight as the central characters? Is it our (man’s) interpretation of the women and their role in society and life, at large, and women being a party to man’s version of themselves? Or is it something else? Or everything of it? What is it?

Exceptions are not the norm

I know that the situation is not as bleak as I have made it out to be. We have exceptions. There is a Jhansi Ki Rani and there is a Kalpana Chawla. There is an Ela Bhatt and there is a Hima Das. But, that is all. These are the exceptions and not the norm. List down 20 notable women in public life in India, (no, the Bollywood examples do not count), and you will yourself know the status of affairs.

If you choose to live in denial and say that a situation is improving gradually, looking at things optimistically, I have nothing much to say. Just that, coronavirus came and turned our version of normal and acceptable life upside down. It is a forced change, though. Why cannot there be a similar and swift change in our outlook towards girl/women? What is stopping us?

A hero is now considered to be a gender-neutral word and is also increasingly used to refer to a woman (source: https://www.dictionary.com/). A lip-service. In real life, we are far from the notion, nowhere closer, not even started.

I continue to have no answer to my daughters’ questions – Why a girl is never a hero? Why only a boy is a hero? I don’t want them to forget the question as they grow older, unlike their mother and grand-mothers.

What would be your answer? What is it?

PS: Please do not bring the sham of International Women’s Day into the discussion to say that the situation is changing for good. I find it for the worse. I am referring to a change for my daughters’ generation, and not for the nth generation, down the line.

Coronavirus: Life Learnings For Children

Dearest Daughters

We, the humans, thought, believed and acted that life is to be lived in a certain manner. We had notions about living a life, learnt and perpetuated from seeing the world around us. Majority of us scorned and scoffed at the idea that we need a change from what we know as life. And, then came the coronavirus.

We believed that we were the masters of our planet. Our leaders were guiding us on the path to economic glory. We paid lip-service to nature and dis-regarded climate change. We called our planet Mother Earth and abused her in all way possible. There was just no stopping to us – the invincible humans. And, then came the coronavirus.

The coronavirus up-ended our living and brought unthinkable changes to our life (even if temporary), what we have called “life” till now. We reasoned that humans could not live in any other way than what we consider as “life” and surprise of surprises, all of us are still alive.

The Rush-hour

We believed that unless we are a part of the rush hour, we have missed out on life. If we do not see people rushing around us and if we too do not dash ourselves, we are losers. We took pride in being hustlers. We jostled and toppled, pushed and shoved, and felt uneasy when not able to do so.

The coronavirus showed us that life can exist in a slow-lane too. The world moves not because of the people moving around us and self, rather it is independent of us. Now, each one of us is at home, literally. Though, figuratively, we are hustling even now, just that it has become long-distance.

The learning for you – Life can exist without being a part of the rush hour.

The Academic Rat-race

We were taught to believe and we believed that children are an extension of us, adults. If adults are in a rat-race for money and fame, children should be in one too for marks and grades, the academic rat-race. We believed that children cannot exist without the shackles of schools and the current educational system.

Lo and behold. The coronavirus threw the children out of schools. The children are left without the exams and tests, their raison d’etre. Now, the adults are ensuring that the children remain in the academic rat-race with on-line learning. Long live the schools, just that it has become long-distance.

The learning for you – Children can exist even without schools if they live life with their parents.

The Self-sufficiency

In India, we have the tradition of maids and cooks and servants and all. Indians strive to be a developed country but cannot live without the maids and helpers around them. Even the NRIs and OCIs, who are self-sufficient in doing household chores abroad, become third-world citizens when in India, in this regard.

The coronavirus ensured that all the trappings in our lives were removed. In a very different way, coronavirus has made us a developed country. Do we appreciate this? Can we remain like this? Nah, we are itching to get back our maids. We want to be first-world but want the frills of the third world.

The learning for you – Life can be lived independently without anyone to pick behind.

The Pollution-free Environment

The nose is used to breathe polluted air. The ears are used to hear large decibel honking. The skin is used to artificial lighting throughout the day in the confines of closed rooms. The eyes are used to the rapid movement of people and vehicles. The taste-buds are used to eating multi-course meals.

Now, suddenly the coronavirus has turned everything upside down. In every other learning till now, the mankind is trying to ensure that s/he lives in the same way, as earlier, with no perceptible changes – work from home for them, on-line learning for children, somehow to get maids to turn up. But, in this particular case, coronavirus is winning hands down.

The learning for you – Life can also be lived in a pure and unadulterated environment.

A Little Bit Less Is A Whole Lot More

Coronavirus has shown that a little bit less of what we termed as life till now, results in a whole lot more of what life might be and could be. As children, life can also be about picking up stones, nature walk around the house, hearing the chirping of birds and also, being with one’s own family.

Once the coronavirus threat retreats, mankind will press forward with vengeance. We will have to make up for the lost time. Bad habits die hard. I am sure the coronavirus will also fall off the thick-skinned and self-centred humans.

The learning for you – Live Life Sustainably and Sensibly unlike the previous generations before you.

Quit the race.

Labeling Children – Needless Childhood Hazard

He is aggressive. She is shy. He is studious. She is mischievous. Whenever there are children around, even a single child, one is bound to hear the above statements. These statements are made by adults, at times, by parents too, in front of children themselves. This is labeling children.

Labeling is a simplistic way of expressing what a person is seeing of a child’s behaviour. A child is acting in a certain manner, the observer is making a statement basis the evidence available, that too in the presence of the parents themselves and not clandestinely. What can be wrong about it?

Well, all of it. As far as I am concerned, everything about labeling children is outrightly wrong.

How about labeling adults?

We hear all about the children. How s/he is and how s/he is not. Does anyone talk in similar words/terms about an adult? An adult, who is present and is a part of the conversation. Will anyone ever refer to an adult that s/he is stubborn, is a hypocrite, not having certain manners and all such stuff, in her/his presence?

We know as an adult that one should not talk about the other adults regarding their personality traits in their presence. In that case, why do we mete out such a treatment to children? Just because the children do not retaliate and do not describe the adults as a return favour.

This is a double standard of the perk of being an adult – getting away with labeling children but not a fellow adult and surely, not one’s self.

Adults have diverse characteristics, so do have children

One can argue that grown-ups have many facets to their personality. We may not even know about the majority of them as a part of knowing a person. If we do not know the person in entirety, how can we go about describing the person in labels?

This is a valid reason for not getting into labeling adults. In that case, what makes an adult think that s/he knows children in total, in simply one interaction, and ends up branding them?

One might say that s/he spoke about children after multiple interfaces. Again the same question. Do we speak about a fellow adult even after numerous dealings? No. Then, why do we speak about children as a know-all?

Adults have varied moods, so do have children

We know that one can have a bad day at work, freak incidents happen, or maybe, one just got out of the wrong side of the bed. In this case, it is very much possible that we may not see a side of the adult that we are used to. Face it, we behave differently basis our mood swings.

It is not exactly breaking news, but even children have mood swings and not just temper tantrums. Simply put, children are not expected to show-case the same behaviour throughout the day and to all the people, they come across.

Similar to the benefit of the doubt to adults basis their frame of mind, children also deserve respect for their disposition. And, one may not come to a conclusion basis one incident or even several.

There are no good labels, only bad labels

One may say that labeling is a well-meaning exercise if positive labels are used. I beg to differ. Any label, constructive or not so charitable, strait-jackets a child. There is no need for children to behave identically, all through-out.

A responsible child wants to have a good time but being told that s/he is responsible feels under obligation to not be an over-the-top. A studious child wants to play but being told that s/he is studious feels under stress to finish the homework first.

The worst of labeling children – Being told good girl/boy. Adults can always compliment the behaviour of children if they like and be descriptive about it. However, from where does “good” come into the picture?

Getting refered to in a certain manner, even if affirmative does not let the child develop into a multi-faceted personality. Life is all about shades of grey and not black and white; which labeling is contrary to.

An adult looking for acknowledgment of labeling

I find the labeling of my twin daughters annoying, even by well-intentioned adults. What is even more infuriating is the adult passing a remark and then looking expectantly at me for the favourable reception to what s/he has just said.

Seemingly, the adult is pleased with one’s self for making a sense of the child in front of her/him in a single word and wants an affirmation from the parent.

Suffice it to say, I find these conversations most difficult to handle. I have never dared to tell the speaker that few things can be said about her/him as well.

If the parents are right in their way, why not children

It is often said that parents know best about their children. A parent cannot go wrong in the upbringing of their children. Nobody can and should comment about a parent’s parenting.

Similarly, why cannot we contemplate that children are also fine in their way? Why cannot we consider that children should not be commented upon? Why cannot we just be with children without labeling?

Adults, take a break. Give the child a break.

Our Children Do Not Go To School Because They Are Children

Our five-year-old twin daughters do not go to school. We are asked by acquaintances and strangers, alike, the reasons that they do not go to school. My wife and I also keep asking ourselves, at times, why we have not enrolled our children in a school so far.

The answer is simple. Our children do not go to school because they are children.

Just that, this reply does not seem to resonate with the person raising the query. The question gets repeated. I am unable to understand where and how we are getting it wrong.

Adults and Childhood

“We really enjoyed our childhood and miss those golden days of our life”. “I have cherished memories of my magical childhood”. “Why can’t I get to be a child again?” “I would love to relive those carefree and joyful days of my life”. “Nowadays, children miss their childhood”.

I am sure the majority of us would have come across the above statements/emotions in several discussions about children and childhood. Leave aside a conversation, when a person thinks about her/his childhood, I suppose the feelings would be the same as above.

Now, if this is what an adult feels about her/his childhood and longs for the same; why would the same adult feel completely the opposite about the childhood of the next generation?

Why would the adults have different parameters and yardsticks about being a child and enjoying childhood, compared to their own? What kind of memories about childhood would the parents want to have for their children?

Long live the lost childhood.

Schools

There is a well-marketed notion that children enjoy themselves in a school. We have been told time and again that we are snatching the joys of the childhood of our five-year-old twin daughters by not sending them to school. We heard this for the first time when our daughters were about a year and a half old and we have been hearing it ever since.

I do not get this. Since when childhood and school have become synonymous with each other? What kind of a childhood is this that is not possible outside the confines of a school? Why cannot we visualize children, who have a long way to go to their sixth birthday, outside a school and enjoying their childhood? This is what our parents and grandparents have done for sure and even some of our current generation has done if not all.

Another answer could be that times have changed. Children better get a head-start else they will be a left behind in the coming age. Do you want the children to have a better future or not?

Educational System

Does anyone remember 3 Idiots by any chance? Majority of us do. When the movie went on to be a super-hit, almost everyone spoke and agreed that our current educational system stinks. Everybody concurred that our schooling system needs change. One and all said that a child’s potential cannot be defined by what s/he scored in JEE (now, there are two JEE to beat the stress of one).

All of us have the same opinion that rote learning taught to children in schools does not do any good in real life. Each one of us says that each child is unique and s/he should get an opportunity to excel in what s/he is good at / has an interest in.

Then, what happens? A child gets straitjacketed into the same schooling and educational system that the parent was cribbing till now.

The childhood in a place where it was never meant to be.

The Sham

The adults miss their childhood, after they have lived it, and they want their children to miss their childhood before they live it.

The adults criticize the current educational system and the schools and ensure that their children become a part of the same, at the earliest.

For us, yes we do want a better future for our children but not at the cost of their present and we disagree to be a part of the system we do not believe in.

As on date, our children do not go to school because they are children.

What would be your thoughts on this subject?

Nature Appreciation: My Inadequacy As A Parent

A child asks interesting questions. Our twin daughters, B +ve and O +ve, are no different. They are inquisitive and curious to know about whatever they observe, feel, hear, smell and eat. This involves a lot of questions about nature.

Unlike a child, I, as an adult, take it for granted about the nature that surrounds me. However, for my children, everything is worth exploring, knowing and befriending.

I have to admit that I have no answers for their questions related to nature. I know zilch. My educational qualification says that I have completed 18 years of formal education. However, when it comes to identifying a tree, a flower, an insect, a stone, a leaf, a seed, whatever my daughters bring/show me – I am clueless to the core.

Leave aside appreciation of nature or knowing about it. I realize that I am unaware of the existence of nature herself.

The girls are just five years old. Their questions are no rocket science. They just want to know the basics of things around and I have no answers for them. I do take help of Google but the pace at which I am thrown the questions, I cannot match it. At times, I cannot even figure out how to phrase the question.

Come to think of it, unless for the questions of my children, I would not have even realized what I am missing out on and what I do not know. I see all these around me daily, I breathe around them, they breathe around me and I do not know anything about them.

I have realized that it is not just about answering the questions, my inadequacy goes even further. The girls collect a lot of stuff – fallen leaves and flowers, fallen buds and petals, feathers, stones, twigs, seedpods, dead insects; what all and whatnot, and I have no idea what to do with them. I know that each one of them can serve an educational purpose. Leave aside education; we can have lots of fun with them. I do not know that also.

I am trying to change and learn about my surroundings. However, I am not able to find any reference material. Whatever I find, limits itself to identification, that too is not at all user-friendly. Also, help for the identification of trees, insects, seeds and rudimentary details about them are very hard to come by.

I do not know how and why all the teaching material of children talks about maths, language and some weird thing called the environment. This environment has information on names of animals and birds, vegetables and fruits, vehicles and service providers. However, this environment is completely silent about what surrounds us – nature. There is no mention of what children encounter and experience around them for every second of their living.

I know where all the above is leading my children to. They are destined to become like their father – oblivious to their surroundings and ungrateful for the rewards of nature.

What would be your inputs on and about nature for my children and me?

5 Ideas To Get Kids To Take Medicine

Kids fall ill. When kids are sick, parents’ lives also turns upside down, if not already. In addition to the pain of seeing the child unwell, parents also have the onerous task of giving them their medicine. I had seen my wife struggling to give medicine to our twin daughters. When I became a stay-at-home father, I wondered what would be my fate to get kids to take medicine.

Surprise. Surprise. There was no struggle at all. The girls, both of them, readily took the medicine, whenever they were ill. This trend continues till date. Now, I am trying to decipher what went right for me and the twins to get them to take medicine.

 Explain and the child understands

First and foremost, what worked, I suppose was that the girls were two and a half-years-old when I had the task to get them to take medicine. They had started developing the understanding of whats, hows and whys of any and every task.

Even when they were not ill, I kept telling them about the importance of medicine, how we fall ill and taking medicine makes us healthy again. When they were sick, we went to the paediatrician and always had a discussion that the doctor shall check them, give medicine and it will make them strong, again. Provided, medicine is taken.

I have a strong belief in the child and his/her application when explained to them with logic. Either it was pure luck or whatever, but in this particular case of taking medicine, it clicked 100%.

I would strongly propose that even when a child is fine, s/he needs to be explained about taking medicine and not just when s/he is unhealthy. There is no point in explaining to even an adult when s/he is unwell and cranky, why expect the child to be sane when unwell. Rather, take advantage of the time when the child can grasp, absorb and follow.

Involve the child in adult taking their medicine

My wife has to take her thyroid tablet daily. The girls’ grandparents, both sides, have their daily medication routine. The girls’ have the task of giving medicine to in-house patients every day. If anyone of us has our share of cold/cough/fever, the girls very happily take up the additional responsibility of dispensing further medication.

I suppose, this also helps. It registers somewhere in their minds that adults also fall ill and when they do, they take medicine. And, that they do so without creating a ruckus.

A child will realize that s/he is not being singled out for the unfair treatment of medicine. Rather, when needed, everybody needs to have their fair share.

Let the child take medicine on his/her own

A child has to take a dosage from 1-2 ml to 6 ml. It has to be taken in a dosage cap. A child can very well hold the cap and drink the medicine independently. There is hardly any chance of spilling. And, even if it does spill, it does not matter.

What matters is that the child gets the feeling that s/he is being trusted to his/her own medicines. Once the parent tries to give the medication, it has the impact of something being forceful, something against the wishes, something that is not to be trusted. And, the endless tussle ensues.

Rather, make taking medicines a mundane task to be done at a given frequency. No brouhaha about it. Just pour the medicine, measure and hand over. Of course, a word of appreciation helps when the dosage is finished.

Do NOT add flavours, distract or hide

Both the girls have their fair share of illness. I have smelled and at times, tasted all their medication. Each and every medicine that they have taken, including the anti-biotics – the dreaded Amoxicillin, is all sugary and has varied flavours of their own. I feel that Crocin is the most sugary.

With so much of sugar and flavours, already there, I do not suppose there is any more scope for further sweetening. I am yet to come across a bitter medicine doled out to my daughters. Though, I am certain that they will show the same enthusiasm for that too.

I would not recommend distraction by screen time or hiding the medicine in juice/food to be given. Medicine is for real. Let us face it. And, let the child also face reality. What’s more – If the child feels that his/her juice/food tastes weird, s/he may stop taking that also.

The Cause and the Effect

I feel that the pain, if at all, is in giving the initial doses to the child. Once a child takes few doses, s/he is bound to feel better. And, once it happens, outline to the child that this is the result of his/her taking the medication.

It surely helps. The children understand much better than we credit them for. They might forget this learning in the next illness, but a couple of repetitions of this and the child will keep taking medicine for time to come, whenever needed.

Summing Up

As mentioned earlier, I am not sure what clicked for our daughters that they started taking their medication without breaking a sweat. Maybe all of the above, or some points or none of the above.

What are your experiences to get kids to take medicine?

Birthday Celebrations Without A Cake. Some Ideas.

I have written about birthday celebrations without a cake, some reasons. Consequently, I also need to come up with options to put into action what I am proposing. So, here go the alternatives to the dollops of refined flour, vegetable oil, sugar, chocolate and cream.

These alternatives are healthy, have a surprise element, lots of excitement can be built around them, and are varied. They are waiting to be explored and tried out. These options have all the capabilities of a blockbuster, build frenzy around them and make a loyal fan base.

Vegetables

On their own, vegetables lack the excitement and do not pack the punch to attract children towards them. The situation is further worsened when vegetables are also banished from the excitement of the birthday celebrations. Who would want to hang around with such a bunch of losers?

Now, let us turn the table. Welcome the fellow party-goers with a glass of juice, spinach/carrot/ beetroot. Even better, a veritable riot of colours and tastes – mix all vegetable juices. This can be followed by munching of raw vegetables. It is an absolute delight to munch – carrots, cucumber, beetroot, cabbage, radish, capsicum, green peas etc.

This is the first course served.

Fruits

We no longer have a cake. So, what do we cut for birthday celebrations? Fruits come up with a long list of options – watermelon, papaya, guava, custard apple or just an apple. There is also an option of jack fruit for more adventurous types or even a sugar cane (though, it is a grass, not a fruit).

There are no more pieces of cake – slices to be passed around. No worries. Watermelon slices can serve the purpose very well. If individual fruits are to be cut, coconut serves the bill. For every occasion, there is a fruit and its serving.

This is the main course served.

Local Savouries

We have no deep-fried potato chips to go along with the cake. They can be ably replaced by the local savouries. The children can easily warm up to the charms of chikkis, ragi mudde, til laddu, mamra laddu, puffed jowar and the long list, as per the region.

Yes, this part of the celebration will have some oil as a part of it. However, the main ingredient will continue to have all the characteristics mentioned above.

This is the accompaniments served.

Dry Fruits

On the face of it, this seems to be an expensive proposition. Dry Fruits? Well, we are put up against a formidable foe, right. Have you seen the cost of a cake? And how much of the slice each person end up getting? In comparison, dry fruits will turn out to be a value for money option.

With vegetables, fruits and local savouries; birthday celebration organiser might be told that s/he is trying to cut the expenses and not, necessarily, the cake. With the inclusion of dry fruits, this point will be taken care of and add a novelty factor to the proceedings.

This is the cake topping served.

An affair to remember

My wife and I have decided that we are going to celebrate the birthday of our twin daughters without a cake. The above is what I could come up with. Let us see, how things pan out. How the response of our daughters will be? What is the feedback from their invitees? Nonetheless, we will keep improvising and learn with each passing year.

What would be your suggestions to make birthday celebrations – an affair to remember, without a cake?