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.

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.

Little Moments: Memories with our children

In about three months, our twins will be four years.

Feels like yesterday, when I held them for the first time outside the delivery room and went with them to the NICU in the ambulance.

Time flies. The girls are growing up real fast. And all along, there have been little moments with the girls – moments that are memories of a lifetime.

Moments of innocence, moments of craziness, moments of wit, moments of exasperation, moments of wisdom, moments of fear, moments that have us holding our tummies and laughing our hearts out, moments that bring a tear to our eyes, moments that bring us all into one big bear hug.

Well, this section is all about such beautiful moments of life with O +ve and B +ve.

Over to you girls.

I am so cool

O +ve was doing alphabets. Her mother showed her an Igloo and O +ve remarked, “Ice starts with I, Ice-cream starts with I, Igloo starts with I and my name also starts with I. Everything that starts with I is cool,  I am so cool”.

I guess she is.

I drive the people

B +ve’s name means The Sun in Sanskrit and she knows it pretty well. So, yesterday, a remark from her “When I get up, people get up; when I sleep, people sleep. You see, people do whatever I do”.

She seems to take it literally on to herself what her name means.

Google search to be brave

A while ago, one evening, while running on the terrace, O +ve fell on her knees and had a minor scratch. She continued playing for an extended period, had dinner and slept. The next morning, she gets up, gets her toy laptop and tells her mother that she is searching on the net as to how to be brave when injured.

Seems the Google God yielded good advice, she has been brave throughout.

Why do you speak Gujarati?

B +ve is perpetually asking questions.

She asked me – why do you speak Gujarati? I explained to her that my mother-tongue is Gujarati, I belong to Gujarat and hence. The second question immediately followed – why does Amma speak Telugu? I again explained to her that her mother’s mother-tongue is Telugu, she belongs to Hyderabad and hence.

She then asked as to why she and her sister spoke both the languages – Telugu and Gujarati. I told her that they have learnt by conversing with both of us and hence.

So, why do you not speak Telugu and amma not speak Gujarati? If you can teach us, then why have not taught each other?

Clean bowled!

A Lion Story – Spoken by O +ve

Lions live in chimneys. Lions help customers. Lions are everybody’s best friends. Lions eat leaves, strawberries, grass, hay, and mongoose. Lions live in ponds with fishes. Lions do not drink water.

I am sure she knows these lions very well.

I realized that 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 every day’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.

Why is my poop pink in colour?

What is poop made up of?

Why do we poop?

Why is my poop pink in colour?

From where do birds and snakes poop?

What happens to poop after we poop?

My twin daughters have a number of enlightened discussions with me and one of them revolves around poop.

I understand that the curiosity of a child must be fulfilled. One of my daughters’ favourite subjects is poop and I try to ensure that I answer all their questions, – to the best of my googling capabilities. As they are twins, we have twice the number of occasions to delve into the fascinating world of poop and pee.

The girls know that poop is made up of 75% water and that their pee is made up of 95% water. With the help of Google, they have been introduced to the rest of the constituents also. They have been very keen to know how poop gets made. So, they have seen Youtube videos of small and large intestines and all that happens along the way.

We have a pet love-bird and a pet fish at home. At times, the girls stare them down for a considerable amount of time to check out how they poop. They don’t want to miss any action. Of course, they are learning to be patient and observe. But I do strongly feel the pressing need for teaching them to respect the privacy of everybody around.

Whenever they have beetroot, they eagerly look forward to their poop the next day. They are extremely fascinated by the fact that eating beetroots lends a pink hue to their poop. The girls’ overbearing excitement at meal times and their colourful anticipation of the next day’s output make it nauseating enough for their mother to let go of her meal. And I have to take the blame for her going empty stomach. Some reward for encouraging a child’s inquisitiveness.

The girls have learnt the Finger Family Nursery Rhyme and somehow they have connected it with their poop. So, when they poop, basis the size, they identify them as members of the poop family – Papa Poop, Amma Poop, Brother Poop, Sister Poop and Baby Poop. And when the quantity is less, they sadly announce that their Poop Family has remained incomplete. Imagine there could even be such a practical way of teaching nursery rhymes!

The girls have been on Iron supplements on and off. During these episodes, their poop is black and hard. They get enthralled by the black poop and its hard texture, as they see it as a welcome change from their routine daily output.

If they don’t poop for a day or if their pee is yellow, they know the course to be followed – eat bananas and drink lots of water.

The minute they realise that either of us is in the washroom, they stand and start asking us as to what we are up to, how is it going, how much did we poop – a repeat of all that we tell them when they are into poop. So, yes, it feels great that they understand every bit of it but the role-playing at times just goes too far!!!

The girls love their poop and we are fond of discussing it, as and when they feel like. And this happens very often.  Nothing gross at all – it is all about good health and my daughters will vouch for that.

We are a three member potty club, open for memberships.

Anyone interested?

One potty incident.

When the girls were around two and a half years old, not sufficiently potty-trained and still in diapers, we had gone to a children’s playhouse.

The care-taker noticed some poop on the play-mat and asked me to clean it. I have been cleaning the poop of my daughters and knew that what was on the floor was not theirs. I asked my daughters about the poop – both said that they did not do and their diapers were also empty. The owner of the play-house lectured me on putting diapers properly and asked me to act responsibly.

Anyways, I cursed my luck and cleaned up the potty. After coming out of the washroom, I saw a 7-8-year-old boy standing outside, wearing a night-suit and there was potty below his pyjamas. Realizing that the boy was doing potty standing outside and what I cleaned had an eerie similarity to what that boy was doing, I asked the boy about the place of his earlier relief and he showed me the place where I had cleaned up. I called the owner, showed him what was down and the boy. No apologies whatsoever, he just walked off to call the father of the boy.

I had no interest in whatever happened further. I left with my daughters, never to return to the play-house again.

S*IT happens in life.

10 must-do activities of stay-at-home-dad Part – II

In the first part of 10 must-do activities of stay-at-home-dad, I mentioned about cleaning the poop, potty training, feeding and putting to sleep – the basics.

Here goes the second part of 10 must-do activities of stay-at-home-dad.

Tidy Up: The girls haven’t still gotten the hang of tidying up the mess that they create every day. They like to play with everything they can lay their hands on and that’s about it. They do not care much about returning the stuff to their respective places. So, after they sleep, I have to pick up the pieces of the day and put them back so that the girls can start afresh the next day. I am gently and at times vehemently being pushed by the wife to get the girls into this habit. So hopefully, sometime soon.

Grocery, vegetable shopping: A task that has to be done with the girls in tow. In the hypermarket, both of them want independent trolleys and even if they sat in one, there would not be any place left.  So, we end up providing ample entertainment to fellow shoppers as I try to navigate the two trolleys in the busy aisles, trying to pick up stuff from the shelves and explaining to the girls what it is all about. In the road-side markets, it is even more difficult. To navigate the traffic and the dogs, bargain with the vendors and make payments and hold the stuff and the girls. So far we have struggled and survived.

Giving bath: As I show no inclination for the girls’ breakfast, their mother feeds them whenever she is at home, but it also means that she never has the time to give them their bath. So, 30-40 minutes spent daily to convince them to come inside the bath, clean them up and again convince them to come outside the bath. It is also the time that we have un-disturbed peaceful conversations about many a topic that get left out in the rush time of play hours.

I hardly have an appreciation of colours and designs. So when it comes to dressing them up, I have worked out the easy way. The girls get to choose what they want to wear depending on whether we are staying at home or going out.  I only help them don their respective stuff as they are yet to do this task independently.

Waking up in the night: This is again one task, which I took on once the girls were born. Throughout the day putting up with them, my wife and my parents/in-laws (whoever available) would be dead-tired by the night and I would come back energized from my office. Whenever there was a requirement – they were ill, they over-slept in the day, they were plain cranky, I could do the night-out with the girls. And this aspect remains with me, even now.

Staying away from the internet: I have never owned a smart-phone, but do have an I-pad at home. I have realized that if I want some peace around, it is better to have my eyes and mind on the girls than wandering on the internet. Even when India is playing a cricket match or election results are getting declared – whatever. I am glad that I was never hooked to Whatsapp and Facebook.

Putting up with tantrums: The list, of course, would not be complete without putting up with the tantrums. A day going on just fine, and one melt-down and it makes a complete mess out of everything.  I have realized that I can do as much as I can to prevent but if it has to happen, it will happen. All in a day’s work.

To be honest, these are the tasks that their mother once did when I used to go to the office. And now that she does and I am at home, I do these tasks. Just that, she was not asked, as often, and I do get asked, almost all the times, on what I am up to for the whole day.

Believe me, spend 24 hours, even 12 hours with three and a half year old, single-handedly, and it will be an eye-opener on the work done by the mother in the upbringing of the child, along with all the household chores.

Though meant for stay-at-home-dads, fathers who have full-time jobs can also always pitch in and do the above-mentioned tasks whilst they are at home to experience the uncensored joys/bliss of hands-on parenting. None of these is earth shattering and mind you, there is no MOM science in any of these.

What are the activities on your list?