Anganwadi Visit – A Child’s Perspective Part II

Anganwadi Visit – A Child’s Perspective Continued from Part – 1

Why is everywhere dark around?

It did not occur to us in the first Anganwadi centre. We did not ask in the second centre. When we did in the third centre, we were told that Government runs Anganwadi centres on rent, which they keep to the minimum and pass on the responsibility of electricity to the landlord. Hence, there were actually no lights or fans in any of the three Anganwadi centres we visited, as the landlords had removed the electricity connection.

We are children; we spread happiness and cheer wherever we go. What do we do with this darkness all around us?

How do we go for poop?

All the three centres did have wash-room. But, you can imagine the chaos when there are 2-3 adults for 30 children who need assistance to visit the washroom. In fact, when we visited the first centre, what welcomed us was the sight of a 3-year-old girl doing pee outside the room, in the open.

So much for Swachh Bharat, we cannot let our PM down. We are not going to pee and poop like this.

What exactly is the time for us to play?

On paper, Anganwadi centres are open from 9 am to 4 pm. On the ground, children come at the time when food is disbursed or one-two hours prior to that. They take food and go back home unless their parents are too busy to come and pick them up. So, either it is jam-packed or there is mostly nobody around.

Is it a place to play or collect food and hang around for some time?

Where are the teachers?

I do not have any idea about the qualifications of Anganwadi in-charge so I will stay clear of it.

What was visible was 1-2 women remaining seated, as there was not much place to walk, and trying hard to control the situation of 25-30 children. One woman was deputed to take care of the food to avoid raids from the children. The result – a hapless lady surrounded by a crowd of hyperactive children. There are no teachers, as such, practically not possible.

Where do we sleep, if we want to?

We are children, below 4 years and we like our afternoon siesta. But here, there are no fans and no dedicated place to snooze; apart from children all around us.

We like to play and keep ourselves busy, but here there is actually no place for us to either play or rest. What are we supposed to be doing?

Pre-school education?

We were anyways looking at Anganwadi as a place for getting play-mates, so this point did not matter as such for us.

Pre-school education is a stated objective of Anganwadi, however, the practical aspects governing the set-up makes this completely redundant. One cannot expect anything in an adult:child ratio of 1:30 at worst or 1:15 at best.

Conclusion

No, we do not want to go to this place called Anganwadi and we do not want any of our fellow children to go either. It is not meant for children. We want a place to hop, skip, jump and run with fellow children and not a tiny and dingy room with no place to move about with children half our age.

The above is what O +ve and B +ve would have communicated to us if their language skills would have developed.

Yes, we did want to send our daughters to Anganwadi to expose them to the reality of India, but we developed cold feet and backed out of Anganwadi when we actually saw the reality ourselves.

Our search for finding play-mates for our daughters continues. Also to give them all-round exposure, what our country has to offer in its real diversity.

As far as Anganwadi is concerned – Whose children are they anyway? The government surely thinks and acts so.

Anganwadi Visit – A Child’s Perspective

Our daughters do not go to pre-school/nursery/day-care. One of the unintended consequences has been the lack of play-mates for the girls.

There is no common play-area in the apartment apart from the terrace and the ground-floor parking. 1-2 children in the apartment of their age/near-by age do not come to these places. Public parks are at a minimum distance of 1.5 km one way and that too is not of much use. There is nobody to play within the public parks of the non-residential areas. The public parks in the residential areas are so crowded that there is actually no place to play. We were raking our brains and we came up with an idea – Anganwadi.

What is Anganwadi?

Anganwadi is a part of Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), the only major national program that addresses the needs of children under the age of six years. It seeks to provide young children with an integrated package of services such as supplementary nutrition, health care and pre-school education.

We have not used any of the Government offered services till now in either the education or the health sector. So, we thought, we might as well try out and see what good use our taxes are being put to.

Anganwadi also applied to our mindset that our children need to see different facets of life apart from the privileges that they have. Children need to have upbringing to make them adaptable to all situations and the spectrum of people that they will interact with. We want our kids to be all-terrain friendly, see the real world and not restricted to limited views from the comfort of the gated community.

We enquired and got to know that there is an Anganwadi centre in the lane next to our apartment. On our visit, we were told that there are two more centres in the vicinity. We visited all three in a span of two hours.

We had told the girls that we were going to a place to play with children of their age. I know that they are not articulate enough and they did not tell us in as many words what I have written below. However, if they were able to, their response would be on the following lines. This is what we could make out from their limited verbal reactions and ample body language signals.

Where do we play?

There were about 25-30 children in the first two Anganwadi centres and 10-15 in the third. All crammed into the area of one and a half room, approximately about 600-750 sq ft. From the experience of our twin daughters, we have learnt that what children like the most are running and jumping as their part of playing. Here, leave aside the place to run and jump, there is no way that they could have walked 5 steps in any direction without bumping into another child.

Where do we play?

What do we play with?

Women in-charge of Anganwadi centres did tell us that they have been given some equipment to engage the children and to give them to play with. But, this paraphernalia is limited in nature. They are held liable in case of breakage. So, to be on the safer side, they do not bring it out.

What do we play with?

Whom do we play with?

This was a fairly interesting point. Anganwadi is for children up to 6 years of age. What we saw was a majority of children, if not all, below 3 years. We were told that parents, for their children above 3 years, put them in private schools. The parents do this so that their children are ready for their schooling straight away and get a head start. So, actually, there were no children of our daughters’ age in Anganwadi.

Whom do we play with?

To be continued…

Counting to 100 by 10s: Krishna Fruit Juice Centre

An activity for number counting to 100 by 10s – Krishna Fruit Juice Centre.

Our girls love role-plays. They love being hawkers, vendors and shopkeepers – they get to stock loads of stuff and handle loads of imaginary money. They enjoy being customers – they get to carry wallets and bags and choose what they want to buy.

So here’s one that we came up with to introduce number counting to 100 by 10s to them.

Materials Used:
  • Cardboard box, big enough to hold 20 bottles, 10 popsicle stick labels, 20 straws and 2 wallets
  • 20 bottles – we used Yakult bottles which are easy to hold and manage
  • 10 images of fruits – we used images from old children’s books picked from Sunday street shops
  • 10 popsicle sticks
  • Straws – we cut them to be just enough for the Yakult bottles
  • Coloured tape
  • Wallets – we used passport photo holders
  • Cardstock to write the numbers and make the currency (we re-used the flashcards on which the girls had scribbled)
  • Stickers to label the juice bottles
  • Hot glue gun and Markers
Activity Preparation:

1) Glue the fruit images on to the popsicle sticks. It helps to have the names of the fruits along with the images. Add the prices (10/- to 100/-) next to the images.

2) Stick the coloured tapes on the plastic bottles as per the colours of the juices that you are going to sell at the juice centre. We made 2 bottles each for every variety of fruit juice, a high probability that both B +ve and O +ve might select the same variant.

3) Label the bottles – write the names of the fruit juices.

4) Put the popsicle sticks and straws in each of the plastic bottles.

5) Cut the cardstock and make currency notes (10/- 20/- 30/- 40/- 50/- 60/- 70/- 80/- 90/- 100/-) and put them in the wallets.

6) Stick the tape on one side of the cardboard box. We wrote ‘Krishna Fruit Juice Centre’ on a flash card and glued it onto this side.

We are ready to go for counting to 100 by 10s.

Play (Counting to 100 by 10s):

Girls get super excited when they are told that we are going to set up a juice centre. Do they want to sell or do they want to buy? They want to be customers. So I end up being the fruit juice ‘shop uncle’. I take 5 minutes to bring out our fruit juice centre box, lay out the contents and set up shop on a table in our living room.

I pick up the 2 wallets, hand them over to my daughters and introduce them to the money in it. They begin rummaging and try getting a hang of the stuff that is in there.

It is O +ve’s turn first. She checks out the labelled bottles, the labelled popsicle sticks and is very happy to find her favourite lemon juice and right away orders for it. B +ve immediately says ‘me too’. They read out from the number-price label that it costs ten rupees. So, they dig into their wallets, fish out the money and hand it over to me.

The girls’ order for another juice, read out the numbers on the labels, take out the matching currency from their wallets and pay me. I hand over the bottles to them along with straws. There is, of course, nothing in the bottle but air, but they get so excited about having made a purchase that they start making all kinds of slurping sounds with their straws. Whilst at it, we speak about the particular fruit – colour, taste, seasonality, benefits, which part of the country it comes from and all other related trivia. The girls also try reading out the names of the fruits. This continues until they drink all the juices and their tummies are full.

Whenever they have their grandparents, uncles, aunts or friends visiting, the girls want to play this with them. We have done this activity a number of times and the girls still love slurping and making all kinds of sounds.

Way Forward:

As they get comfortable with counting to 100 by 10s, we now plan to change the number labels and the corresponding currency notes as well to familiarise them with other numbers. Inflation has got us as well, you see. Also, we might have to introduce new flavours onto our menu, just to keep our little customers happy and asking for more.

Fruit Juices are tasty, healthy and also help in counting to 100 by 10s.

Visit to Chacha Nehru Park, Hyderabad

It was another Sunday afternoon in late June, a cloudy sky with no forecast for rain. The weather was pleasant and we felt outdoorsy – so we were on our way to Chacha Nehru Park to make the most of it.

We took the tickets and as soon as we entered the park, a kitten popped up to greet the girls. Both, B +ve and O +ve, kept running behind the kitten till the time the kitten decided that it was better to jump off the wall on to the other side of the park to protect its privacy.

Once the kitten was gone, we focused on the park in front of us and out of nowhere it started raining heavily. We rushed back to stand below the entrance gate to save us from the heavy downpour and the girls found the sticks of the security guards to amuse themselves.

It stopped raining in 5 minutes or so. The rain left behind many puddles to jump into. So, it was celebration time for the girls. They spent loads of time making ripples, swirling the waters, creating waterholes and splashing water all around to their heart’s content.

After the puddle play, the girls moved ahead to explore the park. They saw a miniature hippopotamus carved out of stone and both of them got on to it. After domesticating the hippo, they turned their attention to a giant globe lying in a corner. O +ve’s name means the Earth in Sanskrit. She started jumping up and down in excitement that she found herself in the park. Both of them tried to move the globe. After quite some effort, when they realised that it did not budge even an inch, they lost interest and stopped trying.

We then saw the moss filled pond at the park – the green coloured water disappointed the girls. They had loads of questions to ask as to the colour of the water, the filth around it and the absence of ducks near the water body.

Running along the walkway, we reached the children’s play area. The girls entered with eager anticipation and to their utter dismay found that more than 80% of the equipments were broken. With the remaining, there was so much of crowd that they realized they are not going to get any turn.

Coming outside, they saw a large drainage pipe. Both of them sat down on either side, calling each other’s name and enjoying the echo that reverberated through the pipe. They actually tried entering the pipe but with their shorts, they got worried about their ankles and decided against it.

The girls saw an unused man-hole opening and assumed that it was a tunnel. They actually found out the other end of the man-hole opening which was also unused. The debate raged on whether it was the snake’s burrow or the rabbit’s. We, of course, did not find any to ascertain the identity of the owner.

Then, the flowers and sticks and seed-pods lying strewn on the walk-way got their attention. There was a tree with a bent trunk. The girls loved climbing onto it and swinging from its low lying branches. Their nature bag started getting filled with seed-pods of the Pink Shower (Cassia Javanica) and the flowers of the Indian Medlar (Mimusops Elengi). B +ve likes having nectar of the Jungle Geranium (Ixora Coccinea). She tried out with all the flowers that she could lay her hands on but her bee glands had to go empty stomach.

Now, the sun had come out in its full glory and I was dragging my feet behind them. And I was continuously being told – Come On Papa, You Can Do It. A hawker was moving around selling football sized balls for kids. The girls bought it and kicked around for quite some time. Once they were done, again they got back to filling their nature bags.

Just as we were about to leave, the girls came across slopes of lush green grass. The girls ran to the top of the slope and began sliding and rolling over to everyone’s amusement. After putting up a good show, it was time for us to head home.

An evening well-spent at Chacha Nehru Park.

Little Moments: Memories with our children – 2

Little moments of beautiful memories of life with O +ve and B +ve. For the first part, please click here.

Lies and Lice

The girls are growing up and are in a phase where they want to know the meaning of all that they hear and speak. So, one afternoon, whilst singing Johny Johny Yes Papa, O +ve asked me the meaning of the word ‘Lies’. I was dithering, trying to put together an answer without getting into worldly affairs of lies to three and a half-year-olds. B +ve came to my rescue and told her sister that Johny’s father was asking if Johny has “Lice” and dandruff in his hair.

Thanks to lice, there are no lies.

What will Mowgli do when he grows up?

The girls love watching Jungle Book. One fine day, B +ve raises a pertinent question – What is Mowgli’s age? It never occurred to me until then as to what could be Mowgli’s age. It is easy in the age of Google to answer such questions; I looked up and answered her that Mowgli is 10 years old. I was happy that I was able to satisfy my child’s inquisitiveness. But, what I was not ready for was the next barrage of questions. What will Mowgli do when he turns 30 years? Will Mowgli come to stay in the city like us? What is the age of Bagheera and Baloo? Why doesn’t Mowgli ever change his dress?

Sir Rudyard Kipling, please help me with the answers.

What is Life?

B +ve is playing with her Ammamma and suddenly she asks – What is Life? My mother-in-law got nervous on hearing the question that a great many philosophers have failed to answer in their lifetime. She immediately directed B +ve to her grandfather, who answered her question by offering the Telugu word for ‘Life’ – ‘Jeevitham’. Unsatisfied, B +ve again got back to question her grand-mother – What is Jeevitham?

The question continues…

The role-play of Mommy

O +ve has taken it upon herself that she is my mother and I am her child. So, every now and then, she dons the avatar of my mother. I will be instructed to call her Amma, Mommy, Mom, Mummy – all the different words of mother that she knows. She goes around calling me Baby and I have to call her by any of the chosen names that she gives me from her repertoire.

When my mother is around, I might get 2 replies when I call for her.

The tears dropping around

B +ve had a shampoo done and she came out crying from the bath. No amount of cajoling and coaxing can console her right after the gross injustice that has been meted out to her. Her sister tries her luck. O +ve remarks that  B +ve is crying so much that her tears would be passing through the floor, seeping into the house of the neighbour who stays below us and he is going to come complaining to us for the water in his house. The next thing we know, B +ve is amused and is completely silent thinking about whether it will really happen.

Water leakage and water flooding due to tears, OMG!

Why do girls only wear frocks?

We do try to keep our daughters away from the gender stereotyping (my being at home and my wife going to work certainly helps). Well, I suppose not much. B +ve has popped up a question – Why do only girls wear frocks? And, we have not been able to answer this simple (!) a query.

The girls’ initiations to real-world differences seem to have started.

In the daily rush of things, we tend to forget these instances that make our lives livable and leave us with a smile on our face, irrespective of the circumstances that we face.

Each one of us has such little moments. Let’s take out time for them; let us not miss out on these memories in our everyday’s struggles. I am sure big things will happen, in the meanwhile, it will be these little moments that will make life totally worth it.

Come On Papa, You Can Do It: Father’s Day Promise

“Come On Papa, You Can Do It”. This is what I get to hear often from my twin daughters when we are on our outdoor immersions. Particularly so, when they find me huffing and puffing, on my haunches, perspiring heavily, trying to catch my breath and not being able to match pace with them.

I am a stay-at-home father to my three and a-half-year-old twin daughters, who do not go to pre-school or nursery or day-care. We indulge in umpteen numbers of outings to green spaces in the city or tag along with my wife, who runs an experiential rustic travel firm to villages.

Out there, the girls get going like they are in their second home. They love collecting twigs, leaves, feathers, seeds – you name it, and they have it in their little nature bags. Irrespective of the size, every rock, stone, pebble gets their attention. If it is big, they try to ascend on to it, if it is tiny; it goes into their personal stone collection. They chase squirrels till the time the squirrels run to the top of the tree. Armed with magnifying glasses, they love following the trails of insects and looking out for animal and bird droppings. They are still trying to get a hang of climbing trees and swinging from the tree branches and aerial roots. The girls have the liberty to visit the parks during non-peak, no crowd hours and it gives them the freedom to indulge in themselves to the core.

Just that, I have to keep an eye on them as they dash off in different directions. Run behind them, roll with them, and answer them as to why the squirrels and pigeons are not willing to play with them, help them get onto the rocks and trees. I end up losing tempo soon enough whilst the two bundles of energy would have just got started. I tell them to slow down and I get to hear “Come On Papa, You Can Do It”.

We accompany my wife on her village trails. Along the way, we get down in any place that the kids wish to explore. The girls get busy picking tomatoes or leafy vegetables or weeding or making farm bunds or checking out earthworms and I have to drag myself along with them. Under the sun, my energy levels dip right away and the girls continue as if they are on an awareness mission about the significance of Vitamin D. I tell them to slow down and I get to hear “Come On Papa, You Can Do It”.

In the current state of ‘no schooling‘, I am my girls’ go to playmate. They want me to not miss out on any of their playful exploits. But at times, they see that I am down and out. They ask me as to why I get tired. They get a bit upset that their father is not able to keep pace with them and they keep prodding me all the time.

I understand that their energy levels are only going to increase in the foreseeable future and I cannot let their enthusiasm to experience and experiment wither away just because I cannot match up to their liveliness. I realize that I have to be more fit and energetic to be there with my daughters. This is going to happen only if I take care of my health and improve on my physical stamina. A must if I have to ensure that my daughters do not miss out on any of their escapades.

While watching LittleBabyBum videos with my daughters, I came across this sweet message from Future Generali where a daughter is pondering over what to gift her father on Father’s Day (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l_yr_EUGD2E&feature=youtu.be%5C). She realizes that her father has everything but hasn’t really taken good care of himself. It resonated with me for my daughters keep telling me “Come On Papa, You Can Do It”.

This Father’s Day, I would want to promise to my daughters a physically fit and an energetic father who can accompany them in all their quests. This is #PromisetoMychild. They may not be able to say it as such but I know that they really mean #Aapkihealthmereliye for their father.

Yes Girls, Your Papa Will Do It.

Visit to Jawahar Deer Park Shamirpet

It is early June in Hyderabad. Finally, the weather is becoming a tad pleasant with a couple of showers announcing the arrival of monsoon. The sky is dotted with black clouds and a cool breeze is blowing. The weather forecast predicts that it will not rain, but shall remain cloudy through the day. So, we set out for a Sunday outing to Jawahar Deer Park Shamirpet.

After a pit-stop at the twins’ grand-parents place and a sumptuous lunch, we reached the Deer Park.

Till now, we have never been required to buy a ticket for our twin daughters. All rules notify us that tickets need to be bought for children above 5 years. Now, the rule seems to have changed. The Shamirpet Deer Park informs us that a half-ticket needs to be bought for children between 3 – 6 years and a full ticket for children who are above 6 years.

O +ve is very happy that finally, she has her own ticket. She waits at the ticket window, takes her ticket, looks at it fondly and immediately tears it into two pieces; this is what she has seen happening at the entrance to all parks and gardens. Good observation and execution!

There is a small play-area before the deer enclosure. When we go to residential public parks the girls have to stand in queues to get their chance because of the crowd. In public parks in non-residential places, we have experienced that there is no crowd but the play equipment are mostly dysfunctional. At the deer park, there were two other families in all. And for a change, all the rides were working – so the girls enjoyed themselves wholeheartedly.

O +ve and B +ve kept running back and forth from one space to another in their quest to have it all. And we had to keep running behind them, as they cannot get onto the see-saw, merry-go-round or swing by themselves. O +ve loves to swing faster and higher; she loves the feeling of fresh air on her face and the wind blowing through her hair. B +ve is all for safety and speed limits; she loves to swing and slide at her own pace, she is never in a hurry. All in all, both the girls enjoyed trying their hands and legs at each and every ride out there.

We normally prefer walking and playing barefoot in parks and gardens. At the deer park, there were a variety of ants, bugs and centipedes which caught the girls’ attention and then they followed their trails for a pretty long time. They tried to figure out where they live, but after a while, some red ants got onto O +ve’s foot, resulting in loads of shrieking and wailing. Well, the insects were left behind to mind their own business.

It is around 4.30 PM and we remember that it is the time the deer are fed. We rush to the enclosure place and see the deer having a hearty meal. The girls were very excited to see the deer, albeit from a distance and began calling them to get their attention. The deer did notice them but had no inclination to leave their food and come towards the girls. After a while of incessant questions about the deer and their everyday life, all of us spent time in listening to the peacocks’ calls and in watching the deer walk back into the thick green foliage.

We were called by the staff to get going as it was their time to lock and leave. On the way back, the girls started focusing on the trees and plants on both the sides of the walkway. They had fun blowing the seeds of the yellow bells (Tecoma stans) and loved watching the swirling motion of the seed pods of the Flame of the Forest tree (Butea monosperma). They also picked some feathers, stones and seed pods of the Pongamia tree and the Ranawara tree.

B +ve saw a spider’s web in the adjoining plant and she was too intrigued by the same. Thankfully, she understands that she cannot take it home. Once outside, their mother saw a neem tree in full bloom with its low-hanging fruits. We plucked the ripe yellow fruits and B +ve had a go at it, she liked it so much that she started picking fruits from the ground and eating them. In fact, she wanted us to pluck fruits to last her for at least a week. A pity that she will never be able to find it again in the city, with such peace.

Despite being a small green space, the park offers immense scope for engaging kids with its boulders, green foliage, bird calls and cries, fluttering butterflies, fascinating insects; and of course the play-area and the deer.

Jawahar Deer Park Shamirpet, we are coming again…