When Love becomes a poison…

Last night, we watched BBC’s India’s Super Size Kids.

It was a scary watch,to say the least. They followed the lives of two young people. A 13 year old and a 20 year old. Both of them obese and addicted to fast food. The program was following the impact of Western fast food joints that have mushroomed in the Indian cities and how it has resulted in the obesity crisis among the adolescents of India.

While I am sure that the fast food and the general eating out culture has a lot to do with the crisis, I was more appalled by the attitude of some of the parents,who saw nothing wrong in their children being overweight or eating badly. And these weren’t the uneducated or people who wouldn’t know better, these were parents who should have known better, who should have the tools necessary to find out more.

It reminded me of a family we met in India. Their teenage daughter looked overweight to me, not obese, but definitely overweight. In the conversation, the mother talked about wanting to buy the best for her children. It made me wonder, what the ‘best’ was, when the she said that she loved it that her house was centrally situated to two KFC outlets.

Another friend was telling me about a friend of her’s who would make gulab jamuns in ghee for her daughter, on a regular basis, until they realized that they had an overweight 10 year old on their hands.

Daughter’s school had some performance night, and I remember being a little surprised that the children(adolescents mainly) seemed a little on heavier side. Another mum told me that it was because all that children want to eat these days is junk food.

I’ve heard parents proudly claiming that they want to give their children ‘everything they didn’t have while growing up’. It makes me wonder if that attitude has more to do with the current crisis. Pampering with food and inactivity. Every wish of theirs pandered to.

While I am sure the fast food outlets do need to be responsible, surely, we as parents, have a bigger responsibility to ensure that our children are eating right? We all love our children, and sometimes, that love might mean that we have to stop them from doing things that our children might love, if it’s not right for them. And really, it is far easier if we start off right, rather than having to set things right after things have gone horribly wrong.

As I read this back, I do feel that I’ve been rather judgemental. Probably because, the feeling I got was that eating out regularly at junk food outlets, seem to be aspirational not just for the kids but also for the parents. And that saddened me, so much so that I woke up still thinking about those kids who are eating their way to bad health.

The Best and the Worst of two worlds..

Living away from a place, in a lot of ways, makes you a stranger, ill equipped to deal with simple things, sometimes..

– Talking about the weather doesn’t make a conversation starter. These days, if I start a conversation with the weather, more often than not, I am met with a blank stare. I’m sure the other person must be thinking I’m a little soft in the head. On the other hand, if you ask about their children – you can be rest assured that you might not need to contribute much for the rest of the conversation 🙂

– You feel decidedly unhappy when it rains, and people think you’re crazy. Yes, the sight of sun streaming in, still makes me happy 🙂 Years of yearning for the sun does that to you, I guess. Just this morning, I rearranged all my balconies such that my plants get the optimal level of sunlight. The only complaint I have is that at the moment, one of my balconies – the largest one, gets no sunlight at all. Can’t get everything, I guess.

– You almost buy clothes without trying them on, only to remember that I can’t just return them later. It sure helps in reducing random buying though. It works only for clothes – I wish it were more effective for food as well.

– Random people being rude to you, for no reason at all. While I do understand that it must have been the over all stress and chaos that makes them rude, it takes me back at first, because I start wondering, what I did to trigger it.

Of course, there are plenty of habits which I’ve acquired here, that is going to make my life tough if/when I do need to go back. I’m going to miss the delicious breakfasts I get to make -ready made dosa batter to the rescue. And of course the gorgeous weather will ensure that my batter will rise- when I end up buying a grinder. Being able to step out on a Sunday evening and not feeling desolate at the sight of closed shops, even if one had no plans of shopping.

But what I will miss the most is the ease of meeting family. I had family over last week, and it was such a wonderful time. Going out, meeting relatives, sitting around, chatting, gossiping, eating.. What fun it was! Of course, it helps when you have aunts and uncles who are closer to your age than your parents 🙂 How lucky would I be, if I could get all this in one place 🙂 Or at the very least, get to stay on here…

For now, husband is going to be here on holiday in December, tickets are booked, plans fixed and we can’t wait! We’re counting days now!

The Bad, Bad West!

If I had a penny for the times I have heard people blaming every single problem on the West, I would be a millionaire!

Starting from credit cards, teenage mothers to joint families breaking up – blame the West. Every culture has its own drawbacks and its own positives. Surely, our culture has its own problems. Why be so blind to those and blame just the West.

People talk about credit cards as if they are the most evil invention in the world. To be honest, I use credit cards, and have not paid interest even once. It is a great convenience, helps in so many ways. I don’t have to carry cash everywhere. And my card also gives my cash back. Just as any tool, it can be used in both –  responsible and irresponsible ways. So why blame the poor credit card for all the problems? Then again I wonder, why people in the wonderful east are so bothered? After all, our culture is the one which has ‘so much to teach the West’. Surely we should be the ones to show the Evil West, how their evil inventions can be used so well rather than shunning them?

Western culture breaking up joint families is another thing we get to hear so much. I can’t help wonder if some people are blind(and deaf as well). While joint families might work for some, it just might not for others. Why does it have to be the norm? Can’t people decide what works for them, without being condemned for it, or being told off for aping the West?

Credit cards are just another form of loans, aren’t they? Money lenders have been part of every culture in this world, I believe. Haven’t we all heard stories with money lenders in them? What was so different about them? They lent money, and charged people for it. In case of credit cards, we don’t incur charges, unless we don’t payoff the money in time. Loans are much worse – then, again, loans are not really a western thing, is it? I grew up in a time where credit cards were unheard of. Yet, I have heard of people making unwise financial decisions and facing a tough time. So who was to be blamed then?

As for teenage motherhood, IHM has said everything about it here. And anyway, after living here for 8 years, I am yet to meet those teenage mothers we hear so much about in India. Where, where are they all hiding? Poor me, I expected to see them at every corner!

Nothing about the west goes without being blamed. I have heard people saying that schools are useless in the West. Imagine my surprise when I find wonderful schools, where children do learn a lot- contrary to what I had heard!

And then of course, there is the convenience factor. The West believes in convenience, while we, we believe in hardship – even where it is not required. I can’t figure out what is wrong with convenience? One lady told how it is going to be very easy for her to relocate to India because she does not even use the microwave(as opposed to people like me who like to use conveniences, you see). Somebody, please tell her that we do get have things like microwaves in India 🙂 Of course, it is sacrilege to use conveniences, Indian food has to be cooked the way to was cooked 500 years ago, for it to be authentic, you see. No ovens, no food processors, no microwaves – all influences of the evil west. Only lazy people use conveniences, and of course the west is full of lazy people, who do not look after their children, or cook proper meals. Funny, isn’t it, especially when some of these people are happy to be living abroad, while pretending to look down on all aspects of the West.

Parenting in the West is another topic that I am too afraid to even get into. It will take me a whole post, and some more to talk through that.

We are returning back to India next year. I get two reactions. One, talking about how great a decision it is, how my child would be saved from the evil influence of the West, and the great things about living in our culture. The other one is about how difficult it is going to be. How everything is bound to be bleak, and how we might regret it.

The truth will probably be somewhere in the middle. Yes, we might love it there, but might face some new challenges. Some aspects of living in India might delight us, while some might take some adjusting to. Yes, we might miss some conveniences that we have here, but might love other conveniences there. Just the way it was, when we first moved here.

One thing I wish I could tell such people is that people make bad financial decisions every where, people are lazy in every culture, things go wrong even in families who have had no western influence whatsoever. We are all humans, after all. we make mistakes, we may or may not learn from them. No culture is perfect, and no culture is totally imperfect. We all have our imperfections, and our strong points. If only we could pick the positives, learn to adapt and balance our lives, and live life the way it works for us.

PS: On a side note, I just completed reading ‘Growing Up Osama’ by Jean Sasson. It is about Omar Bin Laden, Osama’s fourth born son, and his first wife Najwa Ghanem Bin Laden’s memories of their life with him. One of the things that came to mind while writing this post was that Bin Laden had a similar phobia of all things Western. He believed that Westernization was the cause of evil, and forbade his family from using basic things like the refrigerator – in places like Saudi Arabia and Sudan! It is a fascinating book.