Life's Like That

Friday, August 10, 2007


I opened the door for my maid at around 7 a.m. a few days back and saw my neighbour from across the hall, crouched over her son's tricycle outside their door. The son in question...a little 3 year old boy stood sleepily next to her, watching her reluctantly as she spun the pedals of his cycle in one direction and said "Rohan, this is clockwise". Then spun it in the other direction and said "Now see, this is anticlockwise". I thought I had heard it wrong...surely she couldnt be teaching that tiny little boy clockwise anticlockwise movement at that time of the morning!!? But, turns out she was doing exactly that...Rahul verified once I had dragged him to the door to see for himself. Holy shit!!! Can a 3 year old read the time? Does a 3 year old even understand the ticking of a clock's hands? Though I think this particular child is a complete brat and have often expressed a strong desire to slap him hard (specially when he runs up and down the hallway shrieking at the top of his voice on Sunday afternoons when I am trying to sleep), I couldnt help feeling very sorry for him. Poor thing, he looked completely disinterested in clockwise anticlockwise movements of his cycle pedal.

My friend was telling me the other day of this playschool near her house where they could hear the teachers teaching kids, barely able to speak in full sentences, "Haati kya khata hai" and "Sher kya khata hai" and more horribly "Vulture kya khata hai". Thats very inappropriate information for a toddler. I agree that its best to be honest with children and tell them about the facts of life and death, but this is carrying honesty a bit too far. ..this is just plain morbid. I think I will need to go through the curriculum with a magnifying glass before I admit my child to any playschool. Can you imagine the pictures that would have accompanied the answer to "vulture kya khata hai"!!??

I feel sorry for kids these days. Schools seem to be absolutely torturous places to be in and parents seem to have lost their senses. Though Im not a parent myself, I understand every parent wants his /her child to do really well in school and in life. But this is completely ridiculous. Don't they get it that pressurising their kids in this manner is not in their best interests? Education is not an option..sure..I couldnt agree more, but what kind of education requires a 3 year old to know clockwise anticlockwise when he, in all probability, cant even read the time? Thats just plain idiotic. I doubt if I would put my child through something like this.

My sister had a bit of a learning problem when she was a toddler. My parents didnt think twice before deciding to make her drop a year. When we moved to Bangalore, she joined this lovely playschool called Shiksha. The same kid who howled nonstop in the school in Calcutta, and pretty much failed to do any task set by her teachers, turned into this enthusiastic intellegent bright child who loved school. After Shiksha my parents went through entire lists of schools till they found something that promised a different curriculum and way of teaching. She went to NAFL where there are no examinations till the 5th standard and no text books. The kids are given hand outs and encouraged to learn through projects. I can confidently say that my sister is way more creative than I can ever hope to be. And she is not a bad student. Despite my mother's grave misgivings about her academic inclinations, she managed to do pretty well in her final exams, even topping certain subjects. Not bad for a kid who was made to shuttle between 3 cities and 4 schools over the last one year.

My point is, it is upto the parents to decide what kind of education and school they want to subject their kids to. Not to mention how much pressure to put on their kids. I know of mothers who have branded their kids with hot ladles because they failed to write the alphabet perfectly. Such people are psychos who are complteley unfit to be parents. also know mothers who sit outside their childrens schools and compare their progeny's progress vis a vis other kids ( go to any school in Calcutta..and you will see this bunch of jobless crazed women saying "aamar meye toh puro kobita r boi ta mukhosto kore feleche" and other rubbish) and then pounce on their kids the moment they come out only to snatch their exercise books away and compare their performance against others. I wish I could help their children.

Sometimes when I see these kids with their misguided parents and I see the terrible way they behave in public, I cant help but wish that the parents would stop obssessing about their marks and grades in school and spend a little more time disciplining them. The lady across the hall for example. If I were her son, I would be highly upset at being woken up at early in the morning and made to stand in the hallway looking at incomprehensible cycle pedal movements. If a terribly boring session at school,complete with dietary habits of vultures and rodents, followed this cycle session, I would most definitely feel the need to vent by shrieking at the top of my voice the moment I got home and running up and down the hallway.

Education is not cheap, and "different" schools like NAFL and Shiksha even less so. But, if I were a parent, my only concern would be my child's physical and emotional welfare. And if that meant a few sacrifices on my part to ensure he/she went to a school that didnt try to traumatise him/ her, I think I would make those sacrifices. Coz thats what parents do. And if I were totally unable to afford a decent school, I at least try to make the whole experience as un- traumatic as possible by not putting additional pressure on my kid. Cliched as it may sound, coming first in class is not everything in life, its way more important to be a well balanced sensible considerate human being.

Disclaimer : Those of you with kids, who don't agree with me, please dont leave predictable comments telling me how wrong I am, and how my perspective will change once I do actually have kids. Believe me, I have given it some thought. I am at an age when a lot of my friends are having babies and the thought of having one myself is not as horrifying as it would have been a few years back. I know what I want for my kids..if and when I have them. Thank you very much.