To Teach A Child To Ride A Bicycle, 5 Things Parents Should Know

Our twin daughters, O +ve and B +ve learnt to ride a bicycle. Basis of my first-hand experience as a parent, this is what I have to say on how to teach a child to ride a bicycle.

According to me, the process of teaching a child to ride a bicycle is as much about the parent as it is about the child. It is the parent’s approach and his/her application that determines how bicycle learning will pan out for the child. There are things that a parent should know/learn and be conscious of, before embarking on the bicycling escapade with the child.

Parenting Is Growing Up Together, and to teach a child to ride a bicycle is no different.

The Ground Work

The advice on when the child should learn to cycle is omnipresent. There will always be a child in the family/neighbourhood, you will be told, who has learnt to cycle when s/he was younger to your child. A parent might be made to feel that sooner is the better. Please remember, there are no bragging rights attached to when a child learns to cycle.

Each child is unique and learns at her/his pace. The same principle applies to learn to cycle. There is no point in starting early, seeing a child struggling to cope with and losing interest in the activity. A parent should be realistic about the ability of her/his child, learning curve and accordingly, decide on the age to introduce cycling.

Our daughters learnt cycling when they were 6 years, the right age for them, we felt as parents. My wife and I are at peace when someone tells us that there are children who learnt to cycle when they were 4 years old. Good for them at that age, good for our daughters at 6.

We involved our daughters in buying their bicycles, took them to the shop, they sat on various models and chose the colour. We spoke to them when we were delaying the process till they turned 6. They were also told that their bicycles won’t have training wheels and they might as well fall.

The Child Will Fall

No child has learnt to walk without falling. And, no child shall learn to cycle without falling. We equipped our children with safety gear – helmet, knee guards and elbow guards. We told our daughters that despite our best efforts to hold their bicycle, they might fall. It is fine. They just need to dust off and be back to cycling.

This point is applicable more for the parents than the child. As parents, we tend to get paranoid when we see our children fall. Our fears and worries get the better of us. We panic and rush towards the child when s/he falls and in the process; the child learns fear from the parents and the society.

Yes, the training wheels will ensure that the child will not fall. The same training wheels will also ensure that the child will not experience an actual bicycling ride. Our daughters’ bicycles never had the training wheels. All of us were prepared for the imminent bruises and cuts. Surprise, surprise; a few falls, scratches, one bruise which required first aid and our girls were cycling.

Trust The Child

When a child is introduced to an age-appropriate activity, s/he will hardly take time to learn. It is just about hand-holding, conversing and giving confidence to the child. We have witnessed this time and again in our daughters, and cycling turned out to be no different.

We had realized that the training wheels cater to the insecurity of the parents. Children have no need as such for the add-on/paraphernalia. They have the innate ability to learn, take care of themselves along with and what’s more – enjoy the process.

We kept re-assuring our daughters that they can, kept telling them that we are right behind them, trusted them to fly and flew they did, in no time.

Parent Has To Put In The Hard Yards

Not having training wheels also meant that Shiva, my wife and I got much-needed running exercise. Too bad, it got over soon.

Leaving the bicycle from behind without telling the child is a strict no-no. If you feel the child is ready to cycle independently, ask if s/he feels that s/he is ready. Only if the child says yes, let go of the cycle. If the child is scared to take the leap of faith, speak to them about their fears and help them develop confidence. In the meanwhile, keep holding the cycle from behind.

When our girls drove away independently from our outstretched hands, it was a moment to cherish for a lifetime

It’s Ok If The Child Takes Time / Doesn’t Learn

We have twin daughters. As with everything that they have learnt at their individual pace, one learnt cycling before the other. It was a tough time for us to handle. The one who did was on cloud nine, the other was crestfallen.

It was a life-lesson for them and we took it as an opportunity to discuss that even for similar efforts, we get dissimilar results. Both the girls were trying equally, one of them learnt before the other. It doesn’t matter how soon you learn as long as you learn. Life is not just a race, much more than that. There is no value to learn to cycle in 45 minutes/7 days and the like.

We told them to enjoy the efforts, the process, the journey; and the destination of learning to cycle did arrive 2 days later for the other girl.

This taught us that if a child takes time, does not learn as expected, it is all right. May be, s/he will learn after some days, some weeks, some months, it does not matter. As long as, the parents and the child persevere, there will always be the next day. And yes, even if the child does not learn, that is fine too. After all, as an adult, I haven’t learnt many a thing and I cannot have double standards.

Balancing Not Pedalling

To teach a child to ride a bicycle is to get the priorities right. Remove the training wheels and get the child to learn balance.  The rest – braking, stopping, starting, turning etc will just be a matter of time.

This is how we taught our children to ride a bicycle. Alongside, all of us picked some life lessons too.

What are your thoughts to teach a child to ride a bicycle?

 

Factors To Consider When Buying A Kids Bicycle

We bought bicycles for our twin daughters, B +ve and O +ve. Based on our first-hand experience as parents, below are the factors to consider when buying a kids bicycle. Few of these reasons may seem counter-intuitive. Believe me, they will help the child and you in the long run.

Child’s feet should touch the ground

The innumerable charts on the net shall depict age, height and in-seam of the kids and accordingly, will recommend the size of the wheels for the kids’ bicycle. This gets confusing. To keep it simple, I suggest taking the kid to the bicycle shop and making her/him sit on each available model.

Now comes the tricky part. We are bound to think that the height of the kid will increase in a not-so-distant future. Hence, we might as well buy a bicycle that s/he can use for 2-3 years or even more. This will mean that, when the bicycle is being bought, the child’s feet will not touch the ground while sitting on the seat of the bicycle. This will necessitate the side/support wheels.

All the cycles in the shop would already be fitted with side/support wheels. If you look up on  Amazon, all the kids’ bicycle images will also show side/support wheels. If you happen to look around in the apartment/colony, the majority of the kids’ bicycles, if not all, wherein the kid is learning to cycle will have side/support wheels. My suggestion – Please do NOT buy a bicycle with side/support wheels.

The reason is simple. The child has to majorly learn two things when learning to cycle. Balance and Pedal. With the side/support wheels on, the child will surely learn to pedal but will not learn to balance. The day these side/support wheels are removed, the kid will have to re-learn cycling from a scratch. The only benefit of having them is that the child will not fall and the parent does not have to run behind the child.

We decided that we would want our daughters to learn how to balance, as a first task. They have had enough of pedalling experience with their tri-cycles. It is also time that we do some running around and get much-needed exercise. So, no side/support wheels for them. Yes, we spoke to our daughters in advance and kept explaining to them, why their bicycles will be different from their play-mates.

This also means that we will have to buy new bicycles for them within a year. That’s fine. The first bicycle is meant for learning and not lasting 2-3 years or more.

The accessories

As the bicycle does not have side/support wheels, the kid is bound to fall once-twice even after the best of the parent’s efforts. Moreover, all the bicycles around with side/support wheels will lead to suspicions in the child’s mind about her/his safety.

Hence, it is advisable to buy the accessories of the helmet, knee guards, elbow guards along with the bicycle. This may look like a needless additional expense. However, apart from keeping the child safe, this will go a long way in instilling the aspects of safety and precautions in the child’s young and impressionable mind.

Remove the paraphernalia

Predominantly, kids’ bicycles will come in two variants. Adventure and Regular. Adventure version will be light-weight and heavy on pocket. Remember that this first bicycle is being bought with the sole purpose of learning to cycle, so the adventure version will not make sense.

The regular version will come with all sorts of unnecessary paraphernalia which only increases the weight of the bicycle. Without the side/support wheels, the child is going to find it difficult to manoeuvre and this additional weight will make her/his life miserable. So, please remove the back-seat, basket and other such stuff, after buying the bicycle.

Keep the back-support

I would have removed the back-support to the kid’s seat on the bicycle to further reduce the weight but for my back. Without the back-support, I would have had to hold the seat from below when my daughters pedal and that would have meant bending quite low. My back did not permit it, hence I am continuing with the back-support to the seat.

If you are game for bending low while running behind your kid’s bicycle, removal of back-support will help her/him with a further reduction in the bicycle’s weight.

Factors not to consider when buying a kids bicycle

Remember the purpose of the first bicycle for the kids is to learn how to cycle and not to make it last longer. So, the brand of the cycle should not matter.

The kid is going to bang the bicycle quite a few times. Do not look for resale value.

You can opt for accessories of light, bell, basket once the kid has learnt to cycle. Not before that.

Don’t get into the detailing of frames – steel/aluminium/carbon/plastic. It is not worth it for the bicycle that will last less than a year.

Don’t bother about the maintenance and the spare parts, but after-sales service does matter. Majority of the kids’ bicycles come with tubeless tyres. So, if you buy one of those, the hassle of filling the air in the tyres will also be taken care of.

There is no separate bicycle for boys and girls when you buy them their first. Please do not fall for this needless gender segregation. It is a unisex buy at their age.

In nutshell

Remove those side/support wheels and all the other unneeded stuff. Don’t fall for the dictum of bicycle lasting 2-3 years or more. With all the safety accessories in place, the kid won’t get hurt even if s/he falls. It is fun to run behind the child when s/he is learning to cycle.

Just ensure that her/his feet are touching the ground when stationary and s/he will learn to fly in no time.

Children And Plants: A Lifetime Of Learning

What could be the prized possession of a child? A toy? A dress? Surely, not chocolate. What could it be? Something that encapsulates childhood innocence, skills and competencies, academics, spending quality time with parents, preparing the child for the world that s/he is going to inherit. What could that be? My take – Plants.

I am not referring to growing own food, exotic species or new-age technology like hydroponics for space and cost is a privilege in India. I am not talking about gardening or even trees. It is just about a simple plant, any plant in any pot with any seed present in any kitchen. It has to be that simple and easy for every child to experience first-hand, nature and environment, and learn to be a part of it.

As I see my twin daughters tending to their plants, I wonder about the aspects in which this activity has impacted their exposure, learning and growing up.

Skills And Competencies

Patience – Plants will not yield to instant gratification requests. Return on efforts will take time.

Failure – Every seed sowed will not germinate. All the efforts might lead to a big nothing.

Discipline – Day-in and day-out the plant needs to be taken care of and watered at a given time.

Ownership – I have sown. I tend to. I grow the plant. That is mine.

Curiosity – How does the plant grow from a seed? The different parts and their functions.

Hands-On – Learn with practice and by doing, and not just by hearing instructions.

Sweating – Opportunities to sweat for a child is few and far in between. Sweating is good.

Getting Dirty – It is not the sanitized and clean environment that boosts immunity, but this.

Cause & Effect – As you sow, so shall you reap. Your efforts, your learning, your returns.

All The Senses – The experiential learning that involves all the five senses, unlike classroom.

I can go on, but that is not the purpose. The skills and competencies that a child learns while tending to plants in beyond an adult’s imagination. And, all this learning is something that a child is not going to forget in a hurry. Rather, it is going to stay with her/him for a lifetime.

Academics

Learning skills and competencies through tending to plants is a non-tangible. It is not conducive to assessment and examinations that an adult and a schooling system are used to. No issues, at all. The learning from plants is amenable to textbook academics too. Just that, it requires a bit of application.

It is Maths time. Numbering, Counting, Addition, Subtraction, Shapes, Weights, Comparison, Time.

It is Language time. Speak and ask open-ended questions. Read and Write about plants and actions.

It is Environment time. Plants themselves are a living environment, a world in a microcosm.

It is Cognitive Development time. Discuss and analyze experiences and predict outcomes.

A humble plant can teach all the academics that a mighty classroom can, that too at a fraction of a cost, time and efforts.

Quality Time

There are just three actors in this entire story – the child, the plant and the adult, a supporting cast. No distractions, just actions and observations. There is nothing but daylight that separates what the child and adult are doing involving all their five senses with the plant.

The togetherness, the bond, the memories that tending to a plant creates has no parallel. There will no repetition and no monotony in all the time spent together. There will be unexpected twists and turns along the way and the child’s reactions to each will lead to stories to savour.

It is not just the plants that get discussed and spoken about, but also the children – how they think, evolve, grow and develop. It is about growing up together, including the adults.

Any Plant Will Do

Even if there are no pots around, just a plate or a broken bucket/vessel will suffice to grow a plant. Coriander and fenugreek from the spices box in the kitchen, peels and leftovers from the cut vegetables, seeds from a fruit that a child ate – anything and everything can be tried out for growing. Seasons do not matter. The place available does not matter.

A requirement is just a willing adult, a handful of soil and a child will surely follow the suit.

A Better Tomorrow

Plants give a chance to children to learn innumerable life skills, overlooked in standard school curriculums, and teach environmental awareness by exploring the workings of nature.

It is said that we have to leave a better world for future generations. Tending to plants with children is a small cog in the bigger wheel of creating an environmentally sustainable ecosystem.

There is no better gift than handing down a love of nature for children, starting with a base unit – Plants.

This is how I arrived at what the most revered and sacred possession of a child should be – A Plant. Also, a lifetime of learning.

What would be your take on this subject?

5 Ageless Games Children Love To Play – Indoor/Outdoor

The games that can be played inside or outside the house.

By any number of players, from two onwards.

The games that require a minimum of props or no props altogether.

No need for teams and scores either.

Minimum of fuss with rules and extremely easy to understand. Rather, the regulations can be flexible and change as per the participants’ wishes.

There is no limit on playing time and requires set-up time of a minute, at maximum.

Teaches a whole lot of skills and competencies.

The only requirement for these games is lively children full of energy.

To top it all, these ageless games are liked by children of all the ages. For that matter, even adults like these games.

These games are an all-time favourite of O +ve and B +ve, our five and half-year-old twin daughters. They have never had it enough playing these games. Come rain and sunshine, be it the coronavirus lockdown or the outside of the house, the girls just love to play these games.

Hopscotch

Hopscotch requires just a patch of land cleared of obstacles, a chalk piece and a stone for each of the participants. Indoors qualify too.

The hopscotch course can be drawn up to any numbers. We started by drawing up to number 8 and have now extended to 12. The girls throw the stone at the number, hop till the end number and pick up the stone in their return, without putting their foot inside the number, to & fro, where they threw the stone.

The children learn to aim and throw, balancing, turning and bending down while hopping on one leg and also, falling down in the process. There is no more fun than watching children hopping non-stop.

Hide And Seek

As an adult, one might think that multiple hiding places must be present to play this game. Just that, children do not share this thinking. They are capable of playing hide and seek everywhere and anywhere. Leave it to their imagination and they will conjure up hiding places out of nowhere. Just see them play for proof.

The catcher closes the eyes, counts to a pre-determined number while the other players hide. The catcher then attempts to locate all hiding players.

The children learn to count, hide, observe, sneak up and most importantly, to remain silent. Many a time, I wonder if the two girls know how to sit still and silent; I see them playing hide and seek and my question gets answered emphatically. Just that, they do not seem to ever do it for their parents.

Four Pillars

On the face of it, this game requires five players and four pillars. We have played with even two players and two pillars and believe me; the game still retains all the charm. No pillars, even corners will suffice. No corners, no issues. The children will make do with imaginary ones in their minds.

The game has one catcher, standing in the middle, and the other players touching their pillars. They try to change their pillars and the catcher tries to get hold of them / the pillars they are running to. It can vary, as per the rules agreed before the game.

The children learn to be alert, try to see and rush in all the directions conceivable, and bang the pillars in the process.

Ice And Water Or Surface And Water

Though the name of the game involves ice and water; none of the two is required to play the game. It is all imaginary in the minds of the children. Again, just a patch of land cleared of obstacles suffices to play this game. Maybe, a piece of chalk to differentiate the ice and water, but children are fine even without the visible boundaries.

The catcher is in either the ice or the water and the other players in the vice-versa region. The players try to step into the catcher’s territory and the catcher tries to catch the infiltrator.

The children learn to observe and be alert to protect their turf, run and catch the person stepping inside without permission.

Blindfold

A prop is required to play this game – handkerchief, in addition to the obstacle-free playing area. Want to increase the fun – play the game with two catchers.

The catcher – blindfolded child counts or is turned around in the centre of the play-area and is let loose. The other children can choose to stay still or give directions to help or bluff, as per their liking and not get caught by the catcher.

The children learn to make use of senses other than eyes – ears, nose and hands to find their way when being a catcher and learn to remain silent, otherwise.

More Than Just Games

As an adult, I do not understand why and how these games are so popular with my children. That shows that I am an adult and it also shows how easy and uncomplicated childhood can be and is.

Being Children And Having Fun Is The Right Of Every Child. The above games play an undeniable part in the exercise of this right for children. The plain, simple and easy games, full of fun, enjoyment and excitement and also teach a host of life skills in the process. It is also a memory of a lifetime for the rapidly vanishing childhood in today’s fast-paced world.

What would be your addition to the above list of games?

Mrugavani National Park: Feed A Sambar Deer For The Whole Day

Mrugavani National Park is recommended for a visit should your children/you can spend an entire day feeding one sambar deer. Now, one may wonder if feeding one sambar deer can be the sole purpose of visiting a so-called national park? Yes, it is. And, children can love the experience. Just that, it could have been a lot better.

Do not believe me? Read on. The below is basis the Mrugavani National Park visit in February 2020 with my five-year-old twin daughters.

The Area

Wikipedia page says that this national park covers an area of 3.6 square kilometres or 1211 acres. Telangana tourism website reiterates the same number. I suppose, 1211 acres have to be huge, really huge. Well, the visitors are limited to about less than an acre, or an acre or whatever, that one can walk through in 8-10 minutes, all possible directions.

No hard feelings, though. Nature is better left alone, away from humans. In which case, there is no point in going if the visitors are limited to such a small space.

The Flora and Fauna

Telangana tourism website informs that the park has been home to 600 species of plants and animals. It also mentions that the fauna is as varied as they come. It mentions about some animals as the most striking species for the curious traveller.

Well, they have to be taken at the face value. There is nothing to satiate the curious traveller, that s/he could walk in 10 minutes flat. Whatever trees that are present in the visitor area, none are named. Leave aside, further information about them.

My daughters asked me about the flora and fauna, that they were promised basis my google search. I told them that nature’s gems are better-kept secret. They asked back, then why are we here?

Jungle Safari, Watch Tower, Environmental Education Centre & Museum

We asked for the jungle safari. The driver told us that we will not be able to see anything apart from dry trees. In his suggestion, it was a waste of money and time. We dropped the idea.

We went to the watchtower. The steps were dilapidated and the railing was broken on both sides. It was not safe to climb for five-year children. We dropped the idea.

We went to the Environmental Education Centre. It was locked. There is a Forest Department office within the visitor area. Upon enquiry, we were told that the centre is opened only when someone asks for it. After some 10 minutes, it was opened. A person kept snooping behind us to ensure we do not know what. The information inside looked like a google copy-paste job, fit for a school project of 12-14-year-olds but not for the consumption of five-year-olds. After looking at some animal replicas, the children lost interest in 10 minutes, we walked out and the doors were locked again.

Wikipedia page mentioned a library, a museum, an auditorium and nature walk with guides. I suppose all these were hidden and locked from the visiting public, should they run away with them.

The children and I were getting exasperated.

The Sambar Deer

The girls noticed a sambar deer in the enclosure in the visitor area. They rushed towards the animal. The deer looked expectantly at them. The girls asked if they could feed the animal. I asked a staff person walking by. He shrugged his shoulders and asked us to proceed with leaves as food.

That was it. The girls started. They would have started feeding around 1030 or so. The next time, I looked at the watch, it was 1630. They went on and on and on. There were numerous leaves on the ground, they tweaked some leaves from shrubs, I pulled some leaves from the trees and that is all that we did for six full hours. I fed the children during lunch, and they fed the animal – breakfast, lunch and snacks, all rolled into one.

The sambar deer obliged for the entire time. S/he kept walking along the enclosure railing, but not even once went inside. The girls kept getting company throughout the day from other children in feeding the animal. The other children came and went, and B +ve and O +ve were nonstop.

The Children

It was tiring for me. But, for the girls, it was sheer delight. As an adult, for me, it was like can you please stop now? As children, for my daughters, it was like there cannot be anything better than this.

This is what and who the children are. I got them to visit the national park and all its paraphernalia. Not a single aspect worked, as promised. The adults screwed it up. The children found their amusement, what they ought to be doing as children, which we adults would never comprehend.

We left at 1630 as the guard pushed us out. It was Mrugavani National Park closing time, at 1700 hours.

The girls felt blessed to have got an opportunity to feed one sambar deer for the whole day.

What’s more to life than that?

PS: If it is more for you, please do not visit Mrugavani National Park, it is an outright dud. Trust the Government to be a complete killjoy by making it zilch experiential and ensuring that nobody takes any interest in knowing about the environment, leave aside the conservation.

A Visit to Indira Park And Life Learnings For Children

We, five-year-old twin daughters and a stay-at-home father, visit parks often. One of our favourite destinations is Indira Park, Hyderabad. O +ve and B +ve love the place, spend 3-4 hours on each visit and they have to be dragged back home. Indira Park is one of the places for which I wrote 5 must-do activities for 4 year olds in parks.

Now, I am writing about Indira Park again. I never knew that a visit to a park can be so educational and informative for children about the country, the government and the people. It is always good to teach the children about the reality of the country that they are inheriting and going to live in. And, a visit to Indira Park ensures that this learning for children is fast-tracked, all-around and consistent in messaging.

Here go the learnings of B +ve and O +ve from the Indira Park visits.

Corruption

A ticketed entry leads to excitement for the twin girls. They love to give money, take their tickets, and proudly carry it around.  Indira Park ensures that the girls will learn even from this mundane occasion.

I give the girls Rs. 2 coins each and ask them to buy their tickets individually. They hand over their coins to the lady sitting on the chair and look expectantly at her to receive their coveted treasure. The lady nonchalantly takes their coins, shoves it in her drawer and nods at the girls, asking them to leave.

The girls are confused. They look back at me. I am also confused. I walk up to the lady and request for the tickets in return for the money that she has just taken. She coolly says that we can enter the park and need not worry about the tickets. It is all right.

I cannot believe this. I have no idea whether she is a government employee or on a contract or from a private agency. She is just taking away Rs. 4/- that should go to government coffers and expecting us to contribute to her loot.

I request for a ticket. She says that she has not been provided with Rs. 2 tickets, so she cannot give. I insist. She says that the tickets will be delivered in some time and we can collect when we leave.

We enter the park without the tickets for my daughters, though we have already paid. The girls witness the entire episode. They ask me why the aunty did not give their tickets.

The girls learn an important aspect of Indian Governance – Corruption.

Non-delivery of services

We enter the play area. The girls are looking forward to making the most of their time. They survey the surroundings. Most of the swings are broken, if not all. Most of the slides are broken, if not all. All the see-saws are broken. Merry-go-rounds give them no merry at all, they are beyond repairs.

The girls look around perplexed. They do not know what to do. And, then similar to Indian Citizens that they will grow up to become, they make use of whatever is available. They learn that they are lucky to get what is left and that they should make no fuss about it. Not that there is anyone to listen to their complaints in the first place.

The girls learn that Indian State shall not bother about the upkeep and the delivery of promised services.

Pushed out by the crowd

The girls are trying to make use of whatever is left. But even that is not possible. There are grown-ups around, half of them couples and another half of them bunking their classes. All of them wanting to enjoy their time, but nowhere to go. Hence, descending on Indira Park play area.

The girls request them for their place in the sun. They oblige but continue to their merry-making as well. I request the adults not to use the equipment that they have outgrown. They casually scorn at me and carry on. I try to find the park personnel around to raise a complaint but find nobody in sight.

I fear for the physical safety of my daughters and we leave the play area.

The girls learn that they will be shoved and jostled out of what is rightfully theirs by the fellow citizens.

Chai-Pani

I find someone – probably a supervisor of some sorts. Not sure though. I complain to him about the non-issuance of tickets. He says that maybe tickets have run out. I complain to him about non-functional play area equipment. He says that the government has raised a tender. I complain about the adults making use of children play area. He says that these adults do not listen to them when asked to leave.

I realize that I am just wasting my time. I turn my back. And, to utter amazement, he asks me money for chai-pani. The girls are awe-struck.

They learn the connotations of chai-pani and what it stands for in the Indian context.

Swachh Bharat

The girls have to use the wash-room. We approach the place. Alas, it is closed for repairs. It was closed last time too. Wonder how much time it takes to put a functional wash-room in place.

The girls relieve themselves behind a bush. And to think of it, Hyderabad has been declared Open Defecation Free (ODF). My daughters and I disagree.

Indira Park – Beehive of Learnings

A visit to the park is second to none when it comes to real-life learnings. My daughters learn a lot about India, the Government and the People from their park visits.

Do take your children as well to Indira Park or for that matter, any other public park. The learnings abound.

Travelling In India With Children, Alone, Is Not For The Faint Hearted

India is not a place for the comfort and the safety of the elderly, infirm, differently-abled when it comes to travelling alone (though surely there are exceptions). So, when I whine about the issues faced by me as a father who wants to travel with my children – five years old twin daughters, I know that I come at the end of the priority order for the convenience expected.

Washroom

For the Girls: This is not about travelling per se. However, the fact is that travel cannot be done in isolation without an accessible and hygienic washroom. Finding a functional washroom is a task in itself. Even if I find one, I have realized that it is of no use for me. The girls are not at the age to use the washroom independently in a new place. Also, the washrooms are not designed to cater to the needs of girls going around with their father, alone.

For me: A man cannot travel alone in India with his young daughters and expect to use a washroom. The simple reason is that there is no place for his daughters’ safe-keeping whilst using the washroom.

Bus / Trains

The RTC buses in Hyderabad have back-door ear-marked for men and front-door for women. The seating is also demarcated – women in the front seats and men in the rear ones. With my two daughters, I fit nowhere. We did try to travel in non-peak hours in relatively empty buses. I realized that the steps are very high for the girls to manage by themselves. So getting in and out of the bus for us takes too much of time for the driver’s comfort and we just get honked out.

With people hanging out of the local trains, there is no way that we can even think of sneaking in.

Once I did successfully undertake a 3-hour journey in a train – general class 2S. Just that, I could not get in and get out of the train on my own. The trains arrive late and people rush in hoards to get in even before the passengers get down. Where is the place for a man with luggage and two kids in this mad rush? I have come to understand that unless travelling with a full-fledged family, Indian Railways do not welcome children.

Metro

Hyderabad Metro ferries 3 lac travellers per day in 800 trips in trains comprising 3 coaches. This gives an average of 125 people travelling in a single coach. So much for the profitability of Hyderabad Metro, not for a traveller other than an able-bodied adult.

 Auto

Due to the difficulties we face in travelling by buses and trains, autos are our go-to option. Hyderabad autos don’t work on the meter. When the auto drivers see a man with two young girls, they see a victim vulnerable, who can be taken for a ride – figuratively and literally, as they understand the option less situation that we are in.

Crossing the road

Hyderabad traffic police have declared Zebra as endangered species. Hence, for its protection, Zebra crossings have been removed at all traffic junctions.

I have my heart in my mouth whenever I have to cross the road with my children. Roads are too wide and the time allotted has gotten way less for crossing unless you are a 100 m sprinter, which we are not. And whilst we are racing across to cross and save our lives, there have hardly been occasions without a vehicle jumping the signal and coming straight for us.

Walking on the road

Whenever we are out, the girls prefer to hold my hand whilst walking which means that I have to keep them on my either side. This means that one of the girls is always on the side of the traffic and it is just so scary.

Arterial roads are not designed for even two people walking next to each other and here, we are three people walking. Even the main roads do not have the footpaths or wherever they are, it has been occupied by the hawkers. So, we are perpetually walking on the road trying to protect ourselves from the onslaught of vehicles.

Anyways, as mentioned in the beginning, we are the last priority and if our nation does manage to make what comprises travelling – washrooms, public transport services, roads, footpaths; truly accessible to the old and the differently-abled people, then we will surely suit ourselves in.

What is your opinion about travelling in India with children, ALONE?

PS: We have refused to buy a vehicle. Conscious of our carbon footprint and also not wanting to add to the traffic chaos, we have always been ardent believers of travelling by public transport. And now, I am just a father with twin daughters who finds it way too difficult to exercise our freedom of movement, safely and securely.