Crushed Dreams

As a little child, all she wanted was to go to school with her older brother, but she was sent to another school. Later she realised that it was the cheaper one.

As a ten yr old, she was told to come straight home from school and help out her mother.. while her brother got to play with his friends.

As a teenager, she was told to dream within ‘limits’. To just hope that she gets married quickly and does not remain a burden on her parents.

As a college going student, all she remembers is lots of people coming to ‘see’ her…

As a bride, all she remembers is her parents telling her to not let them down, to be a good bahu and not cause her in-laws any reason to complain..

As a wife, all she remembers is the violence, both mental and physical and not being able to even tell anybody.. she had no friends of her own, she had no money of her own.. her parents did not want trouble, her siblings did not want her to rock the boat… Did she have any choice but to go back to her marital home and live her life .. crushed dreams and all.. just the way she had been trained to do so from the time she was born..

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I keep wondering, what it is that makes it so difficult for women trapped in unhappy relationships. with or without domestic violence, to step out.

What makes them victims?

Why do they find it so difficult to walk out, even when they are educated and financially independent?

All I can blame is their upbringing.. the fact that they have never been allowed to speak up, that they have been drilled not to expect too much, that they have been told that once married off, that they cease to be their parent’s responsibility.. They have been told that their duty lies in their marital homes.. and that if they violate any of these ‘rules’, they can certainly not expect any support from any quarter.. This is her ‘fate’!

Even educated, independent women, find it difficult to stand up for themselves, for the fear that they will lose all ‘respect’ and support from society, forgetting the fact that they never had it in the first place..

It breaks my heart when I hear of accounts of women trapped in marriages like this..Read more at IHM’s and Gunmeen’s.  All I know, that I can do, is make sure that my daughter knows that she is never helpless, and she has to stand up against injustice and that we will always be there for her. She is never alone! If every parent did this – don’t you think it would make a difference, eventually.

What we learn with pleasure we never forget.

What we learn with pleasure we never forget.
-Alfred Mercier

Scene 1

Friend 1: The syllabus here is so bad. My daughter is learning nothing in school

Me : Is it? She is in nursery, isn’t she?

Friend 1: Yes, and in India, she would be learning spelling and writing and everything.

Me:  But, she is quite young isn’t she? She is not even 4.

Friend 1: All they do is sing and play.. Take them on farm visits – no proper studies! I have brought the syllabus books from India and I teach her in the evenings.

Scene 2

Friend 2 : My daughter is enjoying school a lot here. She used to be terrified of school in India(They just relocated to UK).

Me:  ‘She was just in KG wasn’t she?’

Friend 2: ‘Yes, but they had started teaching them properly. They expected them to start writing and there was a lot of criticism if the children could not do spellings. I find that my daughter picks up things much faster here because she is not under any pressure.’

Me: ‘Oh – that’s a different view. Most people I have spoken to talk about how little is taught here.’

Friend 2:  ‘That was what I used to think too.. Until I saw the difference. Here they encourage imaginative play, let them think, let them grow into their personalities, instead of a fixed syllabus. I think the initial years here are quite good.’

I had been having a lot of discussion earlier, to figure out how much of a difference there is , between the school systems in UK and India. Since we are clear that we do want to go back and live in India – the question just was ‘what was the right time to do so’ . And to be honest, even after all the conversations that I have had, it is still quite a confusing subject for me.

The Advantages of the system here that I hear of is,

  • It is a more relaxed way of learning.
  • Children learn important life skills through the structured ‘play’
  • Children are allowed to develop at their own pace.
  • No tests

And these very points translate into disadvantages

  • It is too relaxed. There is no pressure on the children to excel, no homework
  • Not enough ‘teaching’
  • Children are not ‘pushed enough’
  • no tests – so we can never be sure of how the child is actually performing.

All this just adds to my confusion. I want my daughter to enjoy her childhood. I am not quite sure if forcing her to study is the best way. Isn’t it better for her to get interested in subjects that be forced to ‘learn’ stuff. I hear parents talk about -‘which child likes to study? No child will study unless they are forced to!’ But is that really true? Do we need to be forced to study? Is that getting an education or just learning by rote? Are we missing the point somewhere? Isn’t it better to get the child to actually enjoy studies than make it something to dread and worry about?

It all just makes me wonder about what is the perfect balance? How do we ensure that children get the best possible education, they understand the value of education and at the same time are not under undue pressure to perform and remain competitive in a healthy way?  It is so important to get the balance right, isn’t it? I have heard about children here who get no encouragement from parents though they are brilliant in studies. Apparently teachers sometimes have to convince parents to encourage their children to take up exams. That is another end of the spectrum, I guess. I always hear people saying that children studying in UK  are not ‘pushed’ enough, not forced to study.

When I was growing up, I remember that until I was in Class 3, my mother used to keep an eye on my studies. Then, my brother developed some medical complications so both my parents could not really concentrate on my studies. Surprisingly, that year, I performed so well, that I was given an award for exceptional improvement – an Enid Blyton book which totally made my day – but that is another story for another day 🙂 From an average student, I jumped to being a good student. So I used to joke with my parents that I do better without supervision – and they left me to my devices since then. I was always told that they were around if I needed them for any clarifications – but they wouldn’t check if I did my homework or stuff like that.  And I think I liked it that way. I remember visiting a friend once to find her flanked by both her parents – busy teaching her. And I remember even at that age thinking -‘ I am so lucky that I am allowed to be independant’. And I did well all through.

That did not mean that  I was not competitive. I was fairly competitive. I knew what I wanted. I knew that I had to get into engineering , so I think I had my goals set out – without it anybody pushing me to things. Again, that might have been because of the environment that I was brought up in. Maybe, somebody from a different background might need more active guidance from teachers or parents.

What really worries my these days is how much more parents are competitive about studying, and education, extra curricular activities.. etc. One of my friends was relating to me about how, when she took up Abacus instructor training in India, she found parents forcing children to take up Abacus simply because it had become a ‘status symbol’! They wanted their children to do it – simply because all their relatives and friend’s children were doing it too! Apparently the teachers had talked to the parents quite a few times that their children were not interested in it – but they just refused to listen! While I hope that parents like these are exceptions, isn’t it horrible, that they exist at all? Isn’t it better to put our children in classes or extra-curricular activities that they actually enjoy? And is not perfectly alright, if for some reason the child is not interested in any such activities?

‘Why , why, is there, this big pressure to conform’

Is conforming to what society expects all that important? I wonder how I will react if my daughter comes up and says that she wants to take up something obscure. Something that might not draw the big bucks? Will I then get off my high horse and tell her that all her dreams mean nothing? That what she wants, has no future at all? I certainly hope not.

I have hopes that by the time she grows up, things will change. We will have more opportunities in India, which is beyond performing extremely well in academics. I have hope that performing well in academics is not linked to rote learning. That everything is not judged by parameters of failure or non failure. That the ‘so-called’ professional degrees lose their importance- that they become just another career. That a degree is not assumed to be an ‘education’.

Which is why, Kapil Sibal’s ideas for education – makes me glad. For a change, we have an education minister who is actually talking about policies that make sense, instead of just changing the syllabus to suit their ideology or changing symbols, left right and centre . He talks of having common entrance exam should determine college admissions, plans of getting rid of exams totally, eventually, he talks about foreign investment in education and of increasing opportunities. I am not sure how much will happen in this term – but it makes me happy that somebody has taken notice of children committing suicides because of exam results and the huge pressure that Indian children seem to be under. He talks like someone who has analysed the issues with our education system and wants to make it better!

Education is not the filling of a pail,
but the lighting of a fire.
Wiliam Butler Yeats

I think, that is what we need to remember – to light the fire, not just fill the pail!

PS : Kapil Sibal’s interview in which he details out his plans.

http://www.ndtv.com/news/videos/video_player.php?id=1129905

Fiery Curry

Well, we’ve all heard of jokes of how ‘spicy and hot’ curry have wrecked havoc with the delicate palates of people not used to the ‘heat’ of the dish, here is one curry powder which diverted the course of a flight.

Apparently, a bag of curry powder triggered the fire alarm of the plane! Talk about curry power 🙂

These sort of false alarms do have precedents, apparently,

In 2004, a Mumbai-London Air India flight was diverted and made an emergency landing near Bucharest after an alarm went off in its cockpit. As no fire or smoke was detected on inspection, the ground officials surmised it must be the strong smelling consignment of mangoes in the cargo hold that triggered the alert. The mango boxes were removed and the aircraft had an uneventful journey to London. There have been a number of other instances of smoke alarms in Boeing 777s going off due to fruit cargo.

Air safety experts say that these false alarms are apparently triggered off by consignments of fruits like durians, mangoes which cause unusual humidity and temperature conditions in cargo holds.

This certainly reminds me of the time when some of my British colleagues decided to experiment with mixing Vindaloo with Tabasco. Their course , for the next few days was also considerably altered 🙂

I love You….

Internet! What were you guys thinking?

Well, I know, I know, but I had to say this because right now, I am feeling so, so very indebted to the Internet.. You see, I was about to start baking a cake for my daughter’s birthday – when I thought that I should check whether I had icing sugar or not.. For some reason I had checked out every other ingredient except this! I remember seeing a pack – so was quite confident.. Well, turned out that the pack was there – but the icing sugar was almost over 😦

So what do we do now? Too late to shop for it – had to find a substitute. So turned to my agony aunt – my beloved google – and it found it for me!  Thank you Google!!! You are the greatest!!!

I have so many such moments – and I never cease to be amazed, more than the actual amount of information – the fact that there are so many like me – who seem to have the exact same question 🙂 Sure makes you feel like you belong to a club 🙂

The other day – I had another question – How to find out if expired baking powder can be used – and lo and behold – lots of people with that very query and answers too. And happy answers , because it turned out that I could – just needed to test it each time before using it:) So if you have any of my cakes – be warned – made of expired baking powder 🙂

PS :I could use some advise on ‘how to keep a very excited, almost three-yr-old away from cakes’ 🙂

Are we an unclean nation?

Every time we visit a tourist spot in the UK, we end up asking this question – Why are our tourist places in India’ not as well maintained? My previous post had a lot of you commenting about this and I really felt that this needed a post of its own.

There is something about India and cleanliness. Most of our public places are atrociously dirty. We would find miles of rubbish and no dustbin anywhere. The saddest part is that even our holy places are more or less covered in filth. Now, before you guys start beating me up, let me try and analyse it out.

Some of the reasons that I can think of are

Government Apathy . I believe strongly, that governments with a will can make a difference.  We had gone to beautiful lake in Wayanad. It had all the right messages – ‘Do not litter’ , ‘No plastics’ etc.. it even had litter bins! And to be honest, there was no litter around – at least by Indian standards! However, even in this place, government apathy was visible. There was a small fresh water aquarium there and most of the tanks had sick looking fish and water that looked as if it had not been cleaned since ages! I found that so, so sad! When this is evident to a normal person like me,  why is it not evident to the authorities? Or is it that they just prefer to look the other way?

Isn’t it sad that so many of us, have seen so much more of places outside India, than in India. I find the Incredible India campaign really exciting! It makes me really sad that the beauty of a lot of these spectacular places get dimmed, when people talk about the inconvenience involved.

One thing that gave me solace though, was the fact that even the Eiffel Tower was covered in graffiti – made me happy that we Indians are not the only ones who feel the need to profess our love to so and so 🙂

In another tourist spot, in the same district, we came across the same noble messages, and this was a waterfall. So when we reached the waterfall – we found every kind of litter possible, hanging off trees and bushes. Now the waterfall is a few steps down – from the tourist information center – where they had provided bins and stuff. Clearly, people did not bother bringing up their litter – they just had to throw it where they stood.

That brings me to the second point

Apathy of the general public – I have had experiences of being called an ‘angrez’ – long before I even came abroad  – when all I had done was tell somebody that they could refrain from throwing garbage anywhere that pleased them. The attitude of so many people is – ‘I don’t care’!  Haven’t we all come across railway carriages full of peanut shells, sweets wrappers, newspaper bits.. anything and everything! I remember being told very strictly by my parents that throwing garbage anywhere else except the bins, was not done! And this basic rule, seems to have eluded most of us, Indians! And how do we change this? Clearly, we will not do anything unless there is a monetary aspect to it – so maybe the government should fine anybody who litters!

And why do I see most of you shaking your heads in disagreement? Because, we all know that fines are never really properly implemented, are they? Corruption in every level will probably ensure that fines would not really help.. Still, I think, it might be a step forward. Atleast the fear of fines, might prevent some people from throwing rubbish all over the place. I remember an old Doordarshan info clip, showing how we keep our houses spotless but would not think twice before dumping rubbish in public places! I remember someone saying that we, Indians, have a great need for ‘shuddhi’ (purification), but no real need for cleanliness!

Another complaint we keep hearing about India is the lack of public amenties like toilets. Most of us would not use a public toilet anywhere in India, thanks to the high hygiene standards that they adhere to! Here too, I think public apathy comes into play. While it is extremely easy to complain about it, I wonder how many of us do the basic things to ensure that the next person who uses the toilet is not inconvenienced! This is evident even in toilets in flights to India.. Within a minutes, the toilets would have water everywhere – toilet seats dirty, toilet tissue everywhere.. And this we do not get to see in flights to other destination. My husband was mentioning how at the client’s place, they had circulated a memo on the ‘correct usage of the toilet’!  Apparently people have complained that the condition of the toilets have deteriorated after the Indian vendors moved in! That is so shameful!

While, I do agree that we have a lot lacking in terms of infrastructure, we also have a lot of issues with people’s attitudes towards cleanliness and hygiene. I think, each of us can do our bit, by trying to, at the very least, leave the public toilet in a clean condition for the next person to use.. And teaching our children about the need to keep public places clean.

Littering does not just happen because people just go around throwing garbage wherever they please. In most of the cities that I have lived in, I had not found a very good system of household garbage disposal either. Most people leave the garbage outside their houses in polythene bags and these are shredded by neighbourhood dogs – if they get a chance! So now most people try and bring out the garbage, just before the garbage collectors come.. This might vary in some cities – I am just putting down my experience.. I do hope its better in some places at least! When we were living in Jamshedpur, in a Tata colony, I have to say  – the system was as good as the ones abroad. They had a huge garbage bin where everybody of a particular area would throw the garbage and this was periodically and systematically emptied! If one city can have this – why can’t this be replicated across? I think it has become a complex interlink of government apathy and public apathy.

Population is another aspect which we just cannot ignore.. With our steadily increasing population and so many people without access to basic amenities like water, expecting the country to be spic and span is a probably expecting too much! There is so much more to say, that I could go on and on… The one thing I feel strongly about is that , instead of pushing everything on our government, we could all do our bit. And that would make a difference.

Is it so difficult, to try throw garbage only in the bins provided, if there no garbage disposal system, carry back your garbage and dispose it off in a proper disposal?

To try and stop another person from littering?

To try and join local communties to see how we can make a difference…There is a lot being said about voting, but if we really want to make a difference, maybe, we need to get involved more.

One of the places that I had been to, during my last trip to India, had rubbish on the roads, pigs gorging on it and little children playing amidst all this – oblivious to all this! I certainly hope that one day, scenes like this – would truly, be something of the past! What do you think?