Aadyaa is raring to go! She is a few months beyond five and studies in a progressive school where they take it fairly easy in introducing basic concepts and she has just about finished covering the alphabet. However, she is a big fan of Udai, who is nine and is grade 4. Result: We have a super aggressive learner on our hands right now. She wants us to assign her 3-digit addition problems and we struggle to ensure that they do not have the carry-over issue to deal with. She wants to read and write.
Today she has been working on writing out a description for an illustration she has made. This is happening in the other room. So there is a writing pad going back and forth in which I write out a word and she copy-writes it onto her creation. I haven’t yet seen the product of all this activity, but am totally amused by her little frustrations and triumphs.
Learning is such a fun process. Why do we make it such a drudgery? Why do we link learning to fear- fear of failure, fear of punishment? I see the joy Aadyaa takes in discovering each new fact, each new formula (Udai was the same in pre-school) and in contrast, I see Udai starting to get bogged down by the compulsions of learning, and starting to somewhat lose the excitement to discover new ideas. There must be a good way to keep excitement levels high through middle and senior school! Technology, perhaps, could be a good tool, but I see school hesitate to go that way for various reasons.
Thinking back, I found some subjects painful, especially in grades 11 and 12, but now I see the lethargy was either because of poor quality teaching or too many distractions and I’m none the worse for that short phase. For the most part, I have found learning a lot of fun and continue to do so. In fact, I can learn and study all my life! On that note, let me get back to my work….a part of which is trying to find flexible ways to pursue a PhD in migration and urban planning.
Ok, I managed to click a few pics of what she is upto….here you go!
This was a bit of the Rock Garden experience in Chandigarh that I was saving for a separate post. As usual, there was me walking around with my camera, clicking anything and everything that caught my fancy. Udai and Aadyaa decide to explore a dark cave in front of us. I pick up my camera to idly look through the viewfinder, when I see an eye slyly stare out at me from behind a pillar. Click. Then a face appears. Click. Then two faces dart out. Click. Then another naughty eye. Click. And so on….
We play the game of peek-a-boo, my camera and the kids, I and the kids. Us. All.
We have so much fun.
Most of us have childhood memories of vacations with cousins. Watching the kids all day today has revived mine. What is it about family that enabled children to revive connections instantly? It took five minutes for Udai and Aadyaa to be running around in glee with Golu and Raman in Kota last evening. The drive to Jalwara, our village, this morning and the rest of the day has been intensely pleasurable for the little ones.
No fancy games. Just a lot of screaming, urging Rahul to drive faster and overtake tractors and bikes on the highway, plastic guns and false bullets bought from the local store for a few rupees, and then on our fields, holding ducklings and chicks, picking fresh amrood, playing with water, running wild….
The dynamics are interesting to watch. Udai the oldest, the gang leader of the foursome. Aadyaa and Golu, the chirpy ones, who have formed a close bond already, the tomboy gals. And Raman, the one with the conscience, fruit eater, the gentle one.
As night falls and a freshly slain rooster is cooked over a coal flame, we sit on charpais on family land that goes back two generations. Skies are clear, a sliver of moon looks down at this happy sight. The kids are tired, but not done yet. A pile of sand is now their occupation and sand laddoos are perhaps what we will be fed for dessert!
When Udai was about two years old, we had had our full of Gurgaon’s malls. We barely ever go unless to eat or buy something specific. This Friday, we decided to try the ice skating rink at the Ambience mall in Gurgaon. And we weren’t disappointed.
It’s well organised and wasn’t crowded. You need a pair of socks and you can either carry your own or buy them. The ankle sorts won’t do, you need the regular longer sports socks. You rent skates and you’re all set! The hour plus experience costs Rs 400 plus taxes per person.
The younger kids (they allow kids above three) had a ball! We rented a penguin for them (rental Rs 150), essentially a life size doll with handles they can hold on to so they don’t slip on the ice. Aadyaa promptly went off careening all over the place! Was a treat to watch. The rest of us started with holding the edges and taking tentative steps on the ice. Scary to feel that loss of control but exhilarating when you learn to let go. Udai turned out to be the best of us despite never having ice skated before. He was on the go in about ten minutes and skated the entire hour, picking up speed and improving his control as well. Rahul and me had tried this some twelve years ago in Houston, so we got the hang of it after a bit. I tried to spin around in place and fell on my bottom, which is also a part of the experience. A bunch of young boys skating with us seemed to be having more fun bumping into each other and falling than trying to keep their balance!
All in all, an active and fun outing. Highly recommended for those who like to try new things and don’t mind falling! Don’t worry, there are efficient marshals skating with you who help out and pick you up when you crash. Do carry a light jacket though even if you go in summer. It’s chilly in there unless you are really skating around. It’s good exercise and I thought it was worth the money for a healthy fun family experience.
I woke up Udai with ‘Ganpati Bappa Morya!’ this morning. And the first thing he said is “Why didn’t you take us to Goa this year for Ganesh Chaturthi?”. That stumped me and pleased me and brought the tears to my eyes all at the same time.
When I was a kid, I remember making the trip to Goa for Chavath only once. In my mind, it is a blur of song and dance, firecrackers and new clothes, glowing excited faces and noise. I don’t think I ever asked my parents why we didn’t go more often. I was very much embedded in my role as the cousin-who-lives-far-away, an outsider of sorts, a tourist in the family. I knew we did not have the means to travel every year and that it entailed my parent’s taking leave as they did not have vacations at this time of the year. Logistics ruled our lives and that was that.
This is a different generation; many would say more technologically oriented, with an ability to take rapid changes in their stride. A privileged generation, secure and able to make demands without compunction. But that’s not what made me feel all warm and glowing inside. I was amazed and gratified because Udai’s reaction exhibited his recognition of the family bond, enjoyment of rituals and festivities and the security that comes with the unconditional love and affection my kids have got from all our relatives in Goa.
And in the end, isn’t that what festivals are all about. The symbolism and even the details of how we celebrate may change from Christmas to Diwali, from Thanksgiving to Hanukkah to the Chinese New Year, but festivals remain a means we employ to reinforce age-old systems, institutions and values like family, tradition, respect, love, faith, joy, etc. Myriad forms of expression, through art and craft, through elaborate culinary preparations often specific to the festival itself, make the occasion an opportunity to savor new experiences.
Last year, in Goa for Chavath, we got together to make a rangoli (pity, I don’t seem to have a picture of it), learning new techniques from older aunts, singing old songs together, laughing insanely at comic impersonations of characters from old Hindi films or family legends. What a good time, we had. Ganpati Bappa sat there presiding over all this frolic, a broad smile adoring his face. Now this is what I’m here for, we heard him mumble!
Here are a few pics from last year’s Chavathi celebration in St Cruz, Goa. Missing all of you cousins and kakas and kakis and above all, Ajjee, a lot today 🙂
Ever since I stopped working full time and slowly adjusted myself to serious mommy hood, one of my most enjoyable experiences has been to watch children at play. Aadyaa has a veritable girl gang and watching them, even while continuing to work, read or cook offers the most entertaining moments of the day.
This morning, the kids and me were visiting friends. There were other kids over and it became a gang of six. For a while, the division was the five girls against the lone boy, Udai. That involved the gals ignoring him for a bit, then immensely enjoying pommeling him in a pillow fight! He had strict instructions not to use anything but pillows. Outnumbered and restricted he had to submit to the girl attack and he did so sportingly.
Briefly all six came together as they looked for the missing rabbit. Fudge, the rabbit, was found under the bed but the process of looking was immensely enjoyed!
Finally, the group split into the three older kids and the three younger ones playing separately and there was peace for a bit.
Another great memory from this week is all of Aadyaa’s park girl gang going round full speed on the merry go round screaming their lungs out! Sheer joy of abandon and the carefree spirit of childhood. We adults have to spend oodles of money or bungee jump to get a high somewhere close to this!
The first half of yesterday was spent attending the school PTM. Fortunately, in Shikhantar, its not a typical deal where you hear what the teacher has to say about your child, where she can improve, how good or naughty she is, etc. We usually have a short group session in each classroom where general observations and concerns are shared and curricular goals discussed. Then parents of a single batch are brought together to discuss something relevant to the age group. I always complain that many of these sessions become criticisms of modern parenting methods and laments on current lifestyles and not much constructive emerges.
This time was different as the session was conducted by E K Shaji from Jodo Gyan, an exemplary non-funded, non-profit organization that focuses on making math fun for kids. They work with kids in government schools and train teachers at some private schools including Shikshantar, which is a liberal institution, one of very few in perhaps the entire country that isn’t scared to break the mold and act in the true interests of children.
Shaji is an entertaining teacher, using humor, drama, narration and discipline in equal measure to hold his audience. He demonstrated simple ways to teach grade 3 kids the concepts of fractions and multiplication.
Here is some stuff that struck me particularly:
- Concept of math for children is totally different from the adult conception of math
- The entire objective of primary school math education should be to make children fall in love with math
- To make kids understand math, it has to be set in a familiar context and have some emotional content. Also, the problem has to be worth solving. He demonstrated by narrating a story of a kid who loves cake going to another child’s birthday. There he finds several tables, each with identical cakes on them, but with different numbers of people, 3, 5, 7, 9 seated at each table…Where does he sit? I tried it at home and bang on…the kids knew the table with the least number of people would mean you get the biggest piece of cake! Ingenious 🙂
- Challenge is what drives kids to learn. The idea to expand their horizons and make them see the limitlessness of math, not give them repetitive problems to solve…..
Shaji emphasized the role of practice in being able to develop math skills. He also enlightened us about recent research that shows that even right brained people, previously thought to be not as good at math at the left-brained variety, go on to become brilliant at math if they have good math teachers during pre-primary schooling.
Essentially, the foundations of good math are being laid in nursery and kindergarten, through conceptual clarity. I picked up a couple of Jodo toys yesterday for Aadyaa who is 4 and I’ve had several at home for Udai as well. They are simple and allow young children to make endless patterns, strengthen their fine motor skills, make connections and have a lot of fun while at it. Its like having many variations of Lego-type blocks (which I think are the best ever toys for kids!).
For grade 3, they have games focused on place value, fractions, multiplication, division…strengthening concepts that are essential to moving to more abstract mathematics and algebra in middle school.
We spent our Sunday at home playing another math game, that coincidentally my mum got back with her from a recent trip to the Netherlands (that’s where one of the institutes that collaborated with Jodo Gyan is based; 55% of their content is adapted from R&D in Netherlands, Scandinavia and Belgium). I played Rummikub too as a child and it’s great for developing the concept of sequences and its super family entertainment. Like Scrabble, it will challenge all age groups. In the first round today, Udai seemed to be just abut getting comfortable, but I predict many hours will be spent playing Rummikub in the soon-to-commence summer vacations!
A few days ago, I decided to park in the basement of a new, large mall in Gurgaon. When I say new, I guess it must be a year old. We give retail spaces a long birthing period here in Gurgaon now. Earlier, no sooner than a mall opened, shops would mushroom inside and it would become the latest hip destination for people from within and outside the city to hang out in, mostly without purpose!
So this ‘new’ mall, which is called MGF Mega City Mall and has Lifestyle as its anchor tenant along with SPAR Hypermarkets, looks like this…..
Here on Sohna Road, where I live, they continue to build retail space. A short stretch of about 3 kms now has 4 malls, only one of them with any decent level of occupancy. Its a depressing situation and I avoid going to malls like the plague (except to watch movies, because there is nowhere else to watch them!)!
Last Friday, a few of us families took our kids to the set of malls at Vasant Kunj. We did the very mall-y things like rides in the kiddie amusement center, spent time at the play area, walk around aimlessly, eat, check out the loos! I have to admit it was fun, mostly because of the company and because the malls had open shops in them, and people! Duh!
Practices evolve, but the spirit of holi endures: Innocent love, playfulness and looking beyond appearances- March 8, 2012
Holi has always been a festival of complete abandon and enjoyment. It always strikes me that people transform on holi, letting themselves go and allowing the spirit of the festival to take over.
Traditionally, holi is strongly linked to the bhakti tradition and is chiefly about love—in the guise of romantic, mortal love, we indirectly express love for the creator. Krishna dominates holi as its chief hero. Innumerable songs express Krishna’s naughtiness, how he teases the gopis, how Radha and he celebrate holi in dance and song. Sufi tradition also worships pirs like Hazrat Nizamuddin I the context of holi and the worshipper imagines himself in a state of bliss, playing holi with the pir.
It is interesting, this concept of innocent love and though we no longer consciously link our celebrations to the story of holi’s evolution; we usually practice holi exactly in this spirit of congeniality, bringing out our inner impishness on this day, letting our more formal facades drop to let in and give out the love, share the moments even with people we have no relationship with ordinarily. With close friends and family, of course, holi serves to cement our bonds further, creating more wonderful shared moments to commit to memory.
Today, Aadyaa was upset by her parents being unrecognizable; she didn’t like the smeared and strangely colored faces. After she was done with playing with colors and she was comfortable again, we talked about this being another facet of holi. To recognize that appearances are superficial; you relate to people from the heart, not by how they look. She agreed and Udai voiced this, “Mumma bhoot ban kar bhi meri mumma hi hai! (Even if she looks like a monster, she is still my mother)”!
Indian culture gives considerable importance to festivals. And while Diwali, the chief festival, starts with a family puja and culminates in community fireworks; holi is an out and out community festival, to be enjoyed out in the galis and streets. In the suburban context I live in, holi entails a DJ belting out the latest Bollywood hits intermingled with familiar holi-centric songs. Families gather in a common space, dance, throw color, create a mess, kids run around with pichkaris, squirting water on everyone, people drag others out of their homes to smear them with disgusting stuff, you get the drift. The DJ replaces the beating of the drum (dholak, dhol) and the singing of traditional songs that no one remembers anymore, sadly. But otherwise, the spirit remains intact. I hope modernization, globalization, the new economy and all of that stuff they tell us will happen doesn’t change holi!