Reservations unlimited – 24.05.2006

So another old post I’ve dug out. I used to do a lot of current affairs in the good old day. I notice that has dwindled. Anyway, be gentle. These are old posts.

WEDNESDAY, MAY 24, 2006

Reservations unlimited

And another viewpoint on reservations by Purushottam Agrawal. Here’s yet another article I loved by Amit Sen Gupta in this week’sTehelka. And since you need to subscribe to it to read it, the only way I can get it to you is to paraphrase some of the points he makes.

To begin with, how many of those protesting actually plan to stay on in the country? From the IITs to the BHUs to the little universities tucked away in Punjab and Tamil Nadu… almost every student is taking examinations to go abroad. So they don’t want to give seats, they want to study in colleges that are subsidised by tax payers’ money and they want to take this education abroad to benefit others?

Next, exactly how do you define ‘merit’? By your ability to study in the best schools and attend the best coaching classes that teach you to beat the system? I don’t think that would be right.

Moving on – the next argument is that Indian educational institutions will lose their competitive edge. Oh but that would be terrible! We wouldn’t want to lose out on all the brilliant research and inventions that the IITs and IIMs give us! And we certainly wouldn’t want Silicon Valley to lose out on the steady flow of worker ants they get from India. No sirree. We just need to keep subsidising higher education with our taxes, sending our children to coaching classes to find a way to “crack” the entrances and then send them off to the land of milk and honey to benefit the white masters. And we certainly wouldn’t want to send those who don’t make the cut.

Something I had no inkling of – The southern states have a much higher percentage of reservation for backward classes and they seem to be doing better than the BIMARU states who are vociferously objecting. Valid point I must admit.

The inability to cope is equally valid. The system needs to be sensitive to those taught in the vernacular. Almost every educated Indian speaks three languages. Everyone of us has a mother tongue that is not English. So why not take that into account?

He makes many more valid points but those are also part ofPurushottam Agrawal’s write up. And my oldest favourite AnilThakraney and his piece on The warring students.

Having said that. I would still oppose reservations because simply, they don’t really achieve their purpose. And the scope for screwing up in this corruption ridden country just increases manifold. All it gives us is a few more students starving to death and a beautifully divided vote bank.

 

Because it’s been a while since we talked about the Brat

The OA, Brat and Bean are reading Dr Seuss. The OA points to a picture and says, ‘This is ham.”

Bean: No, that’s a fish

OA: It’s ham

Bean: No, it’s fish.

OA: I said it’s ham and ham it is.

Bean: No no no. It’s fish.

OA: Who is reading the book here? You or me?

Finally a pained Brat  intervenes: That’s enough both of you. If you can’t read a book peacefully, then don’t read it!

Classic Bean – sticks to her guns. Classic Brat – aims for peace.

—————–

The Discovery Channel is on and the Brat who has his nose in a book looks up and says Is that a Columbian mammoth or a woolly Mammoth or a… ?”

I stare at him in utter confusion. I have no clue.

This is the kind of thing that drives the OA to despair. Our little chubby cheeked son goes down to the playground and while other kids are discussing the finer points of RipJaw and Omnitrix, he wants to talk to you about Servals and Caracals. The kids listen to him for a minute and they drift away. He is forced to drop his topic of interest and join in the game of football. There are fathers out there telling their sons that real men don’t cry when they fall and scrape a knee. The way we mould our children is so vastly different even though we live in a complex full of couples with similar socio-economic backgrounds, that last common denominator. The forced alpha male bravado. The insistence on femininity. The girls don’t join in the football and the boys don’t sit by the sidewalk chatting. How much of this is real and how much of it is social conditioning? What if my son wants to do neither?

“He’s going to be a loner,” says his very social father. The OA is a charmer. He smiles easily and genuinely. He doesn’t get into controversies. When last night I snapped at an extremely rude yuppie type and walked away, he stayed on to smooth ruffled feathers and later gave me a conciliatory smile too. He watches his son lie on the ground and observe a dragonfly. Yes, my green thumb has filled up my little balcony in dusty gurgaon and we have a profusion of sparrows, pigeons, butterflies and dragonflies fluttering around, filling the little garden with the sounds of nature.

The OA observes again – “What social skills are we helping him develop? He walks up to other kids and right after hello, he says, ‘Do you know the different kinds of bears? I’ll tell you. There are pandas and grizzlies and american black bears and…’. Which kids are going to like that?” I have no answers. I don’t know. But I do know that he is happy. That he is earnest. That his school report card says he shows an unbelievable connect with nature. That he stopped a bunch of boys from killing a grasshopper.. “Don’t do that. We’re giants compared to the grasshopper. He is scared just by our size. Why do you want to kill him? Is he bothering you?”  I am touched that the school noted down the anecdote. That they appreciate my little gentle child with the soul of a dreamer and his love of nature. I am grateful he isn’t growing up in my small town of UP where a kid like him would be beaten up and broken down.

Everyday I thank God for something new. Today I thank Him for this child being born into this home. That he was not born into a home where it would be whacked out of him. That he was not born in a home where he’d not get the opportunity to nurture it. But most of all I thank Him for giving me this child with a beautiful soul. And for giving us the opportunity to learn from him and to keep the gentleness intact. For giving us this child who will strive to preserve the connection man and nature are losing. Two of God’s beings, working to maintain the balance.

Lessons learnt

The OA is sitting on a chair with his legs stretched out on to the bed. The Bean comes along, crawls on to his leg and then wraps her arms and legs around until she is dangling upside down. The OA raises his leg cautiously and examines the 12 kilos hanging off it and asks, “Whats up, beanie?”. She responds – “Nothing, I’m just a koala bear right now.”

—————–

The Bean and the OA are later going through her alphabet book and she goes – “C for cat, C for camera, C for cone, C for..” and without missing a beat… “big yellow city”.

The OA looks at the page and cracks up – it is a golden crown!

—————–

G’pa and the Bean are putting together a puzzle and the Bean thinks it over and in a jiffy has it done. A proud grandfather grins at her and says, “Sweetheart, you have my brains…”

“No G’pa, I have my own brains and you have your own.”

—————–

I am visiting school friends left, right and centre for pujo  and almost all of them have dogs. The Brat and Bean are getting a real life course in dog breeds. This is a Beagle, this is a Dalmation, this is a Pug…

And then we’re back home and the Brat tries to remind the Bean of the lesson by pointing to my parents’ dog – “And that Bean, is a German Shepherd…”

The Bean nods wisely and says, “Yes, and he’s also a dog.”

 

The One Where The Bean Grew Up

or – The One Where The Bean’s Feelings Were Hurt

or – The One Where The Bean Started School

or – The One Where Lumpy Was Abandoned

Take your pick – any title would suit this. As I’ve said before, I don’t know what it says about me as a parent that my kids love school and strangers. And so it was that the Bean began school on Monday. I took the lift down and the OA drove me and her to school slowly. She ran off to play while we were completing admission formalities (no, this is not the Brat’s school, just a stand alone playschool) and soon decided to stay there. So home the OA went, to get her a tiffin and bottle. We were reluctant to go into class and give it to her in case seeing us made her want to come home, but we bit the bullet. I found her in a sandpit, ‘making cakes’.

“You go home, mamma, I need to bake some cakes for the other children,” says she busily. Right, I nod, handing her bottle and tiffin to the teacher. And then I limp back to the car, feeling older and more lost. Why is it that the children who have flexitime/WFH/SAHM at times, mothers like me, fly away so fast? I’m the mother who would have stayed with her for as many days as she wanted, to the exclusion of all else. Kids are just so perverse. I am sure if I had a travelling job the damn kids would have wanted me more, just to spite me!

She came home happily and wanted me to carry her to her room. With my knee the way it is, I shook my head regretfully, told her that she was a big girl and too heavy for me to carry, but offered to hold hands and walk to her room. She mournfully agreed and walked.

A little later she appeared at my side holding a spotted, stuffed dog. “This is my new baby, Spotty,” says she.

“Where is Lumpy?” I ask, missing her fifth, purple limb.

“Oh, he’s growing up and turning bigger and bigger. Now he’s too heavy for me to carry. So I got myself a new baby,” she explained.

It broke my heart and I rushed to gather her in my arms (knee be damned) and we hunted Lumpy down. But it was too late. She fell asleep hugging Spotty last night and had breakfast with Spotty this morning while I foolishly sat there holding Lumpy, hoping she wasn’t still feeling rejected and somewhere deep down, crying for Lumpy too. Yes, I’m an ass. I don’t need to hear it from you.

PS: She’s gone to school very happily today with Cousin J (yes, Cousin K’s little sister who has got through a Delhi college. So now I am local guardian to TWO teenagers and mother to two brats. House full at all times) and as I watched her walk away confidently, her little three year old shoulders carrying a pink bag and pink bottle, and thought of the Brat literally hopping from foot to foot in impatience to get to school, this whole move seems to be justified.  Lost phone, 4 hour commute, aching knee and everything. We’ll be okay. And here I shall hark back to Amanda Marshall. Cry Armana, cry.

Phew!

So don’t be surprised if I don’t publish comments tonight. I am going to sleep better than I have in two years. The house is flooding again, I still can’t get cellphone signal in parts of the house, the kitchen is still a mess, I don’t know where my head ends and my ass begins, but the Brat loved school. Yes, the school loved Brat and the Brat loved the school and we love the school and we love the Brat too. So err, seeing how coherent I am, it is probably a better idea to call it a night. Thank you good folks for your wishes, your blessings, for the hand holding, the tear wiping, the loving emails, the text messages, the good vibes… Somehow it felt today like my whole life had been leading up to this moment. I can now exhale. It’s all good.

PS: When we walked in to school, bright and fresh and early, he skipped to the classroom without looking back, after giving me a brusque, “I need to go now Mama, you go home.” Yes, you do darling. It’s about time this little bird flew the nest. Happy flying!

First day of big school

Dear Brat,

It’s happening. The chain of events that you set in motion with your admission. We’ve moved, we’ve changed our lives and you start school tomorrow. I just want you to know that we’re behind you 100% and more (is that possible?)  – if this is what it takes for you to be happy, this is what it will be. This evening I came back from work and went hunting for my babies. I found your sister gathering rocks. And then I saw a pink cheeked, sturdy legged little boy with sweat-spiked hair running around playing football, screaming out to another little boy  - Dost, dost.. idhar!! I love your strange accent. I love how you make friends without even knowing their names. I love how all that matters to you right then and there is the then and there. For you and from you, I’m going to learn to do the same. To not whine about Gurgaon and to see the silver lining.

Have a lovely first day at school and may this be the beginning of something beautiful.

I love you,

Mamma

On moving

Dear Brat,

A little while ago you and I had a moment that I wanted to store up. A cool dark room – the hot, Delhi summer raging outside. A mother and son skipping lunch and sitting on the cool marble floor, eating ripe peaches and mangoes, dripping juice over themselves and the floor.  Your eyes twinkled in the dark. Your mouth curled up at the edges, a little pink tongue darting out to catch the runaway juice.

This is our last day in this home as a family, darling. I’m taking you to visit with Nani-G’pa and when you return, it will be to a new home. In the suburbs. A new life beckons.

Why are we doing this? Well, because you’ve finally got through a lovely school, all by yourself. Oh they grilled your father and me. But they talked to you and the Bean too and you got in on your own steam. Something I am grateful to the good Lord for. I really didn’t want to be beholden to someone for getting you in and we’ve been spared that situation.

When you got through the school, we were overjoyed, your father and I, mostly because it was a school that fit our philosophy and ideology. It wasn’t like  getting into just about any old school. And then they dropped the bomb that we’d have to move closer. I will admit that I went home and cried into my pillow. I don’t know what to say. It’s the end of an era. I’ve enjoyed every bit of motherhood until now. Your father and I have been the parents who took our 4 day old to a car show room, trekked with our 5 month old in a sling. Partied, picnicked, shopped, travelled, done late night drives with the baby asleep in his car seat… the list is endless.

I’ve not grudged you the years of my life I stayed home with you, the cesarean, the colicky nights, the puking down my front, nothing. But if there was one thing your father and I clung to, it was the life in the city. We’re good parents if we say so ourselves, hands on and enjoying it. But what kept us going was the ease with which we could slip out after you’d gone to bed. A movie, a night out at a pub, a walk around one of the old monuments… anything. A quick cup of coffee with friends.

I’ve often had debates on this blog where people said – “Oh, you’re staying home with your kids now and you’ll end up being the mother who tells her kids she sacrificed so much for them, and guilt trip them endlessly like most SAHMs.” After a point I didn’t bother to correct them.  I knew I was happy and I knew I had never done anything for the kids that I didn’t want to do. I was expecting you at 25 and I know I’ve missed out on a lot of fun that others have had, but I didn’t really mind because your father and I really do live it up.  No real regrets. But we didn’t want to become boring old suburban parents who were exhausted after the long commute home and only crawled into bed and turned on the TV. And yes, very frankly, the resentment raged on for a couple of days.

And then we had no more time to think of it because the madness began. Househunting and looking for a school for the Bean. I don’t mind admitting that I carry some more guilt over that. It’s quite unfair for a younger child to get dragged around for the older child and it’s going to take some time for me to make my peace with that. At some point as we examined houses and checked them for playgrounds, security, safety within the home, proximity to school, ease of getting to work from there in the hot blazing, Delhi summer, dehydrated, cranky, snapping at each other… we forgot to be resentful.

It must have been the nth house around which your father and I forgot the heat, the sweat, the distances and began to have fun. Between the hand holding and the running around to smack him on the head for making fun of my tired bum knees, a broker asked us how long we were married and looked surprised when I mentioned that we had two children waiting for us at home. I doubt it’s because of your father’s shock of black hair (not!!) and my slender (not!!!) figure. It was because we were just having so much fun.

And just like that, we went over to the dark side. Sold out. And made our peace with being suburban parents. And began in earnest to look for swimming pools, tennis courts and all those amenities that make the suburbs tolerable. I’ll tell you my prob with suburbs in India. They’re the frickin opposite of suburbs abroad. You move out of the city and instead of ducks and rabbits like Tambi maama has frolicking in his garden, the skyline is dominated by high rises, concrete and neon signs. Its quite disgusting. Try any of the major cities and that is all you will find in the suburbs. Or else you will find neat little row houses that are too small to accommodate even my big toe and all that remains is to have Noddy come around the corner honking in his little red and yellow car. The grey dreary buildings all have awe-inspiring entrances and lush green lawns but the sameness of the buildings makes my skin crawl and it doesn’t matter how well you do up the inside. I refuse to accept my home beginning and ending within those four walls. I hate opening my doors into a balcony that has another along side, where our conversations are overheard and we’re subjected to someone’s early morning love of *gasp of horror* Himmesh Reshammiya, maybe!

One of the complexes we saw had young mothers with babies in strollers, maids walking dogs (!) and old people watering their hedges. Dada looked approvingly at this picture of suburban bliss while I felt panic fill my heart and I looked around for a hole in the hedge to escape through.

What’s wrong, asked your father, sensing by the look of absolute horror on my face that something just might be. Astute man, this one.

I’d rather die, I confessed.

You weird, twisted woman, he grinned… I love you.

And so it is that after much debate we settled on one of the complexes. We have friends nearby, a nursery school for the Bean at hand and it fit our budget. We’re not over the moon but we’re already seeing the silver lining to this cloud. You’ll have friends in the complex, your security is taken care of and I might even go back to full days of work because you’ll have a half day of school until three, after which you will come home and wash up, have a snack and probably run off to play with your friends. You won’t miss me. (Cue for mournful music). You won’t need me :(

I feel like a bit of a traitor moving houses while you are away and I have told you about it but I don’t know if you understand. I shall bring you here to visit when you come back from Nani-G’pa’s house.

For now my darling, soak in this moment, this home that has been ours for five years. With its three stories of endless, bone jarring stairs, its wide open balcony where the winter sun warmed our frozen limbs, your sunshiny room filled with music, the cool darkness of mama’s bedroom, the corridor you learnt to cycle in, the windows we sat at and watched the skies darken and the rain come down, the always occupied guest room, the lawn that you played ball in, the driveway where you stood and watched traffic go by. I’m glad you’re going away. I don’t do farewells very well. I don’t want you to watch your mother break down and cry as I leave the home you took your first steps in and your sister was born in.

Tonight I take you to Allahabad, to your grandparents, uncles, aunts, dogs and fish. And then I come home to a house that has sent its soul away… and soon I will leave the empty shell and move on too.

I write this to you so that you know why we moved to the suburbs inspite of my strong feelings on  living in the heart of an ancient and strong city like Delhi, feeling its pulse and soaking up its history. And should you ever feel that I resented doing this for you, let me tell you, that in that one moment when you looked up at me, your innocent eyes shining, your cheeks pink with health and mango dripping down your lips on to your little Batman-vest encased belly, I lost my heart all over again. And all I could think of was how I’m going to spend my life ensuring that you never lose that light in your eyes, that you keep smiling as delightfully and that we’re always in Delhi in the mango season!

I love you sweetheart

Mamma