Just to make note of a milestone..

.. daughter’s very first exam!

She did take a ballet exam last year, but this would be her first academic exam. And I am the only one worried about it, it’s just another day for her!

She woke up at 5:30 this morning, and says,’I can’t wait to get to school today!,’ my ears couldn’t believe it! Really? That excited about exams? But then she went on to say, ‘I can’t wait to wish S on his birthday!’. It’s her friend S’s birthday, and clearly birthday are far far more important than exams 🙂

If she remains this cool about exams, I would certainly be the happiest mum!

Parenting throws you a googly…

…every now and then, having you wonder about your choices and decisions. And for me these days, everything becomes a trigger to wonder if we made a mistake about relocating.

Not relocating actually, but probably having moved before husband got a job in India, adding to the confusion.

The last two days, daughter has been waking up – tired. She had been sleeping slightly later than her regular time, but I thought that she would be alright. Yesterday and the day before, she woke up – tired and weepy. That never happens. She is my sunshine girl, always bright in the morning, up with a bounce, cheerful and full of beans at 6 in the morning. The day before, she was a little less bright, but was fine by the time she went to school. She was her usual self when she returned. Yesterday, she woke up grumpy, despite having gone to bed on time. She claimed that she was tired. She did not seem unwell in any way. So I tried to cheer her up, acted goofy, tried everything – but nothing would bring a smile to my normally cheerful child.

I managed to get her ready and just before boarding the school bus, she burst into tears. I was taken aback. I asked her if she wanted to stay home – she never ever likes missing school. Not even when she is ill. Never in her life has she cried before going to school. She normally just waves me off, all excited about her day ahead. Yesterday, all she did was shake her head and look miserable. The teachers in her bus gave her hugs and told me that she would be fine.

As I walked home, all I could hope was that she would be alright. A hundred doubts ran through my mind. Was I too hard on her. Did she feel that she could not tell me what she was going through. Or worse, did I ignore some important message that she tried giving me. Was there something happening at school that made her miserable. Wracked by guilt and worries, wondering, questioning everything, going right back to the relocation issue. Should I have just sent her to an international school rather than the ‘middle class’ school that this one was. All sorts of worries and doubts. Finally, I made up my mind to go and see her at school at lunch time. Her school is quite nice in that sense. They had no problems with me dropping in to check on her.

Waiting for mid-day to come was another torture, but finally it was lunch time and I rushed into the school, and cast my eyes on the field. Where was daughter? Oh! There she was – cheerfully playing with a couple of her friends. I went up to her to surprise her. Was she excited! She came running, flinging her arms around me, at the same time, questioning me,’Amma, what are you doing here? This is school time!’. When I told her that I just wanted to check on her as she seemed upset in the morning, she says, ‘But I was just tired, I’m fine now’.

And that was it. All I could feel was relief washing over me. She was fine… I must have seemed like a mad, crazy parent, but those few hours really were torturous for me. Normally, I might not have worried so much, but with all the confusion that is our life right now, all I can try and do is be there for daughter, and that morning, I really felt that I had perhaps let her down.

Thankfully, she seems fine today. I got her in bed early and she woke her to her normal cheerful self.Nothing, absolutely nothing felt better than seeing her happy face in the morning, reading a book, while sipping her milk. All I can hope for is for her to have – sunny mornings all her life. And for this single parenting business to end soon. I so miss being able to talk to husband about these things. By the time it is his morning, the issues would get resolved.

Swear words and bad bad songs

During daughter’s last week in school in Leeds, she came home and said, ‘Amma, you need to tell me what swear words are’.

Me: ‘Swear words are bad words, that we should not use.’

Daughter: ‘I know that! I want to know some swear words so that I can recognize them when some one uses them’.

Me: ‘But for that I will have to tell you the words, that means, I will have to say bad words, isn’t it? That won’t be right, will it?’

Daughter: ‘Hmmm. You know, there is a song which has swear words’.

Me, Flabbergasted,’ Which one, and how do you know!’

Daughter: J(a British Asian Classmate of hers), was humming- Sheela Sheela Shaani, and A( another British Asian classmate of hers) told me that that song is a bad, bad song, and has loads of swear words’!

Apparently J goes to Bollywood dance lessons and learnt the song from there.

On a different note, Daughter is happy in her new school – so far, fingers-crossed. The only thing that puzzles her a bit is the fact that all the children have ‘strange names’ 🙂

The Right to Education

Some thing most of us take for granted, but is out of reach for so many of our fellow Indians.

Every since the Supreme Court ruling judgement upholding the applicability of the Right to Education Act (RTE) even to unaided schools, has come out, I have been reading up articles, opinions, blogs related to it. I have an added interest because we are moving back  to India this year, and I wanted to understand how it would affect us.

Let me clarify, that I have managed to secure admission in one school in Bangalore – not the school that I wanted – but the only school which had vacancies for Grade1, which indicates that most schools are completely full. I am happy to go with what we have got, with the hope that daughter will be fine, and where ever the school lacks, we will be able to pitch in and support her. My choices were further reduced because I did not want to opt for schools that ask for donations – as far as I could.

Now, going on to this RTE debate. I am not entirely sure where I sit on whether the 25% quota is a good thing or a bad thing. Clearly education is a fundamental right, and it is sad that so many of our children go without education. And something definitely needs to be done about it, I am just not completely sure if just reserving 25% seats in private schools is right or even enough.

In order to understand the statistics better, I was trying to look up information. According to Wikipedia(not always the most accurate, so if you have more reliable sources, please can you let me know? Would be really grateful), 80% of all schools in India are Government Schools. That makes the government the largest provider of education. But here is the interesting part, despite 80% of schools being government schools, 27% of the children in India, are being educated in private schools. Which begs the question, are the existing government schools being utilized to their full extent? Are they being monitored? Are there parameters set to figure out how the schools are performing.

My daughter goes to a state school in the UK here. We pay nothing for her education – not a penny. We could easily afford private education for her, but chose not to,mainly because good state schools are comparable to private education – at least in the primary years. Of course, all state schools might not be great, just as not all private schools are really good, but we’ve been fine, thankfully. Here, only about 7% of the children attend private schools. Since then, I have also heard of the ‘snob factor’ that is there in private schools, and it makes me happy that my daughter is not in an environment like that. I am happy for her to be in a more inclusive environment rather than a super-privileged environment. Of course, there have been times, when I wonder if I were too idealistic in my beliefs, but so far have been convinced that the school she is in, is great for her.

There are all sorts of state schools, and one thing I have noticed here is the accountability of the teachers, the staff. The fact that there are independent agencies like the Ofsted(click on the link, and you will be able to see how they work), which review and rate schools. Schools that are not performing to the expected standards are evaluated and the govt takes measures to ensure better performance. If I wanted to find out how the school works, I can find full reports with all the information I might need. Some schools still don’t perform as well as others due to other factors that affect it, but at least we don’t feel as cynical as we do about the Indian govt.

I would have been delighted if I could send my daughter to a state school in India as well, but clearly, that would be out of question for a variety of reasons.

If the real reason children do not have access to education is the lack of seats in government schools, then I would entirely agree that private schools need to do their share of giving back to the society. For some reason, it feels to me that the government is shirking its responsibility of providing education to every Indian. I would have been more impressed if it came up with a methodology to bring up the existing state schools to a level where every parent would be happy to send their child, rather than make it a refuge for parents who can’t afford better. After all, not all government schools are bad, why can’t we try to get all our schools to an acceptable level?  I do believe that some states have better govt schools than others. What stops us from replicating their success? Political will, I suppose. The RTE act itself has a lot of good guidelines in regulating the school conditions, but why have no measures been chalked out yet, that the government would undertake to ensure that schools run at the minimum acceptable standards.  If along with improvement schemes to the existing state schools, the government also included the 25% quota, I, as a parent, would have been very happy. In the current scheme of things, I can’t help feeling that this is more of a quick-fix measure, which might not really make a huge difference in the years to come. A law can only do so much. Law enforcement is as important as drafting a sensible law, in my opinion.

As for the  ‘class divide’ question which a lot of parents feel concerned about. I feel that the class divide needs to go. It might not go in a hurry, but things might change if our children grow up without the class divide in their minds(and if we try not to put these things into their minds). If they learn to accept that their friends come from different backgrounds, and just having more money or a more plush lifestyle does not make a better or worse person. I think it would do our children, a world of good, to be able to the person, rather than the packaging.

So what do you think about all this?

PS: I’ve mentioned again and again how wonderful daughter’s teachers are! And when I see adverts like this, I feel like teaching! Along with RTE, I wish we had a campaign to encourage people to go into teaching. After all, most of us will have at least one teacher, who left a lasting mark on our minds..

Edited to add: Check out this campaign by HT.

Parenthood, and all that jazz…

.. is all fine, but sometimes, it puts you in positions, where you keep wondering if you did the right thing.When all you can do is hope that what you do, works out for the best.. That the tiny life that is entrusted to you, is well taken care of..

Deeps had asked if we can choose our children’s friends.. I came across a similar dilemma last week.

Poohi woke up last week and started telling me about how her closest friend A has been ‘telling her off’ for various things. Things like ‘You drawing is just a scribble’, or ‘You are being rude’, when Poohi, according to herself, has no idea what she did wrong… At that point, I explained to her that maybe we need to find out what is happening, and why A feels like that. Although A passing judgement on Poohi’s drawing was unnecessary. I asked Poohi to go and play with other children – but she says, that A does not ‘allow her’. Now this seemed a little too much. So I said, why don’t you tell your teacher, and maybe she could work out things between the two of you? And pat came the answer ‘A does not let me, she says it is not allowed’.

I tried explaining to her that she has all the right to approach a teacher, in case she is upset about something, and that I would have a word with A’s mum. A’s mum is a lovely, approachable lady, so I thought I would speak to her first before going to the teacher. So that day at school, I had a word with her – and she was lovely – she said she would have a word with A.

That day at school, was fine, according to Poohi, and I started to wonder if I should have waited before talking to A’s mum. But Poohi was so distressed in the morning that I thought it best to talk, rather than not.

The next day was a Friday. Every Friday, one child in every class gets a ‘Star’ award  for doing something exceptionally well. This week, Poohi was the Star. She cam running to me and showed me her star, proud and happy. Then suddenly a shadow fell on her face, when she said, ‘But I am not sure I deserve it, because A said it was a dummy star on me – because I should not have go it’. It broke my heart to hear her say it, Here she was feted in the entire assembly by her teachers and she still does not believe it, because her friend said so!

All through the weekend, we explained to her how some people behave like that, and how the best thing to do is ignore them. She seemed to be better by Monday, and I decided to wait and watch and then decide what needed to be done. Monday evening, it was the same story again – A had been rather nasty to Poohi. She told her again that she did not deserve it, and kept taunting her the whole day. Poohi could not play with any other child, because apparently, if she did, A would go and tell them not to, because Poohi was rude. The poor thing was so upset and so very scared of A. We had a play-date planned(planned a few weeks ago, before all this happened), and she just did not want to go. So I had asked her to tell A that is she continues to be rude, Poohi will not come to her playdate – maybe that would make her see sense. But Poohi refused – she said that, saying that would make A angry and she would call Poohi rude again! She wanted me to tell A’s mum that we would like to cancel the play-date.

I decided to talk to A’s mum one more time on Tuesday morning, and also maybe to the teacher. On Tuesday morning(yesterday), it happened again. A told Poohi that she couldn’t wear the star because she was rude – and this time it happened in front of me. She did not realize that I was around. All Poohi had said was ‘Hi’. We had just reached the school grounds. So I told A that it was not right to talk like that, and that I would have a word with her mum about it.

Later when the children had gone inside, I spoke to A’s mum again, and she was very understanding, and shocked that her child was behaving like this. She said she would have a word with A in the evening. After speaking to her, I was again in a quandary. Should I bring this to the notice of the teachers or not.. Should I give it more time..  I had spoke with a friend that afternoon, and she strongly recommended speaking to the teachers. Because it happens at school, they need to know.

So I went in the evening and decided to have a word with her teacher. When Poohi came out, and I told her that we needed to wait back to talk to her teacher, she panicked. ‘No, A will be cross. This morning, she told me not to tell you, her mom or  the teachers anything, she will be cross with me’. That sent up red flags for me. A six year old, who already knows how to manipulate? She had convinced Poohi that no matter what she said to her, Poohi had to keep it to herself. The very thought sent chills down my spine. All I could do was thank my stars that Poohi still confided in me. I had her down and explained why we need to tell the teacher. Explained why A wanted her to not talk about it – because she knew that what she was doing was wrong, and that she would be in trouble if it came out in the open. Finally Poohi agreed to talk to her teacher.

I spoke to the teacher, and I have to say, that the way they handled it, made me feel so much better. The teacher hugged Poohi, and asked her not to worry. She said that they would have a word with A, and asked Poohi to come and speak to them, if she something like this happens again. She also told her that if anything makes her unhappy in school, she has all the right to come and talk to the teachers. It made me feel so much lighter, I just can’t describe it.

This morning, A’s mum made A apologize to Poohi – hopefully this will be the end of it. Hopefully, it will be the last of it. I am just waiting till the evening to know how today was.  Although if you ask me, I have a feeling that A has some issues of her own – I have a feeling that she is being targeted by some older children, and is perhaps implementing the same tricks on her friends? Hopefully her parents will be able to resolve them for her..

This whole episode makes me scared. It was all the more scarier because Poohi has been best of friends with A since the time she started reception in this school – 1.5 years back. All through they have been close. Just when you think your child is happy in her environment, something like this happens and shakes you up…

Makes me worry, and also gives me hope that we will find ways of handling it. There is hope that this will make Poohi stronger for the experience.. And the hope that she will find it in her to talk to me about stuff, even as she grows older.. That she knows that whatever might be the problem, we as her parents, are always with her…

Just because some things need to be recorded – 3

December comes with all the Christmas cheer and excitement, and of course the all important Christmas Concert at school.

From mid-November, concert practice happens in full swing, and all I get to hear is Christmas songs, and Christmas stories and other related stuff. And every year, I end up teary eyed at the actual Christmas concert. Tell me, you older parents, will that ever change? Will we get used to our children performing on stage? Or will it always bring tears to our eyes, lumps to our throats?

Yesterday was Poohi’s Christmas Concert. She was one of the narrators. Needless to say, I was teary-eyed, and full of emotion, as were most parents. And I can’t thank the teachers enough for the wonderful job they do. Every thing beautifully coordinated, wonderfully organised, and they manage to get the children perform so very well! Nothing short of a miracle, in my books.

She has two ballet performances lined up, and all of us are equally excited. Husband is missing all this because he is away, but we have pictures and videos ready for him. Just makes me glad that at least one of us can make it to all her performance.

In other, related stuff, her Christmas concert was all about how gifts(like hugs,kisses, cuddles) from the heart are more precious than all the riches in the world. So I tested it on her, telling her that maybe this year, Santa would get her a hug or a kiss instead of toys and stuff like that 🙂 Needless to say, she was not impressed.

By the way, at what age do children figure out that Santa is not ‘real’? Poohi came back from school the other day, saying that some children in her class told them that Santa was not real, and their mums and dads buy them the presents. ‘That’s not true, is it?’, she asked. Not knowing how to answer that, I hedged asking her if she believed Santa was real. ‘Yes!’, she said. ‘That’s it, if you believe, he is real for you,’ was the best I could come up with. I suspect though,  that very soon, this answer is not going to work..

Talking of Christmas, I still have not put up the tree. We’ve been rather lazy around here. I had planned to put it up today, but managed to not get it done again. Tomorrow, hopefully.

Leaving you with Poohi’s favourite Christmas song.. And oh yes, I finally updated the ‘Poohi Speaks‘ page – after people started threatening me with all sorts of consequences 😦

Christmassy fun!

It is nearly Christmas, and usual, we are made aware of it in more ways than one. Everything is lit up and the holiday feel is already here.

Our Christmas tree is up, and someone is very busy singing Christmas songs and all pretend-play is based on the ‘special baby Jesus and Mary and Joseph’. All the after effects of the Christmas concert at school.

Today was the special day. She woke up all excited. We had been issued instructions on how we needed to be early, and how we need to be in the first row(which we could not make, there were parents who were quicker than us). But we did make it to the second row. It was Husband’s first Christmas concert experience, he did not make it to last year’s performance. I don’t think he is going to miss any more Christmas concerts(or any other concert that daughter takes part in), ever again.

I was reading through what I wrote last year, and surprisingly, it was exactly the same this year. I was still moist-eyed at the end of it, despite having seen it all last year. Can we as parents, ever have enough of seeing our children on stage? All of us parents were buzzing with excitement, and the sight of our children had us waving, in delight and excitement. The excitement levels were so high that they first had a ‘big wave’ to get it out of the way!

The performance was so beautifully executed! The teachers gently getting the children to follow the cues, they managed small hiccups like a little boy getting upset beautifully, without making him feel worse, and the children, they were so cute! They just gave it their all! Singing, performing..just having a wonderful time!

Every time I attend an afternoon like this, all I can do is be thankful for the loving environment that Poohi has at school. The genuine care and concern of the teachers makes me count my blessings. I just hope that daughter gets a happy and safe environment everywhere she goes.

And now she has the school Christmas party to look forward to – what a fun life! I want to be a child again! I wonder if they would take kindly to a mother gate-crashing?

Public Displays of Affection

.. that I love!

Daughter hugging me and planting dozens of kisses on my cheeks in the middle of an aisle in a supermarket buzzing with weekend shoppers, kind of made my day. Even more so because there was no real ‘reason’ for it 🙂 It was just a spontaneous display of affection that she just had to make!

Every time I see her, I marvel at the big girl that she has become. All set to enter the threshold of ‘big school’. Proper school finally, with uniforms and all. Last Friday she had a  story telling session at school, and off she went without a backward glance. Broke my heart and made me proud at the same time.  She had been going to nursery since last year, but big school is big school. Now she gets to go to school ‘everyday’, the thought of which makes her beam with excitement.

As she crosses milestones after milestones, the happiness is mixed with a tinge of sadness that my baby is not going to be my baby for too long. Soon, such public displays of affection will not be ‘cool’ anymore, and I might just have to read this post to remind me of the time when I was so adored by daughter!

You know you are hard up for time when…

..  You have no time to think

– when you waste no time, and yet, have most of the things that was planned for the day undone at the end of the day,

– when you end up chatting with dear friends over the FB scrabble game or on the blog, instead of writing a nice long mail or calling them up,

– when the car knocks up over 10 miles in under 2 hours while finishing off errands,

– when the clothes go into the dryer, despite the wonderful weather outside,

– when you have no time to comment on blogs, or reply to comments on yours. I can’t tell you how bad I feel about this.

– have loads of unanswered emails,

– when you go to bed at 11:30pm  and still feel guilty,

– when two suitcases have been lying open, and empty for the last three days.

– and worst of all, when you have no time to read all the books sitting around. Can you believe it, I have ‘The Space Between Us, Shantaram, A house for Mr Biswas and the The Sari Shop waiting to be devoured, and I have no time to read. Thankfully, I found out today that the library has a concept called ‘Holiday Renewal’, that might be my only hope. That and if I manage to convince husband that it is absolutely essential that I carry these books with me on the trip..

I am in the midst of getting ready to go on our India trip, and nothing, absolutely nothing seems to get done. To add to it, it is Poohi’s last few days at her old school. Come September, she is moving to ‘big school’, a wonderful school near us. It is all wonderful, but she is so going to miss all her friends from her old school. So in the middle of all this, I still plan playdates with her friends as all of them are going to be very busy once school starts in Sept. I feel bad that she will miss all her friends and wonderful teachers.

I have been getting, ‘knock, knocks’ over my ‘disappearance’, so I felt I had better explain my absence, before you guys accuse me of ‘selective commenting/reading’ 🙂


I consider myself one of the lucky ones.

Lucky that my school years have been some of the best times of my life. That I had teachers who I adored.

This video had been shared by one of my batch-mates on a social networking site. It says ‘memories of the 2007 batch’ – but surprisingly,  it could have been mine. The school grounds, the classrooms, the library I used to haunt…, the annual days, even some of the teachers who taught me are there in the video. To say, that I choked on emotions would be an understatement. It has been 17 years since I graduated from this school – but it feels like yesterday.

Last I went there was in 2005. I was pregnant with daughter then and it was to be one of my last visits to Jamshedpur. Dad was to retire the next year and move to Kerala. I had pulled husband along to come and see one last glance of my school. He had been surprised to meet teachers who still enthusiastically remembered me – one of them even told him that I was a ‘gem’ 🙂 Have to say, that made my day 🙂 It had felt wonderful to see some of my old teachers, the place where I spent 15 years of my life.

Whoever made this video, did not  just capture his memories – he gave me back some of mine – tucked away, almost forgotten memories.  As I always say, I just hope that my daughter is equally lucky with her school and her teachers.