I think, therefore I write

Category: US & ADITI (Page 1 of 3)

Kids and gender bias

I admit that I was that rebel kid who constantly questioned unfair treatment, just because I am a girl. To the question whether rebellion got me anywhere, the answer is – it’s complicated. It solved my issues at times but it made things worse at other times. But my stand has always been and is still that, just because you cannot change anything about it at the moment, it is not right to stay compliant and swallow the pill forced down your throat.

If I trace back, gender bias is so seeped into our lifestyle that I am shocked to discover the many, many, normal things that we do are colored by unwanted stereotypes. Like when we unconsciously pick out a barbie doll or a cooking set for a girl’s birthday party while cars and trucks are piling up for a boy’s birthday. Like when we unconsciously tell a story or pretend play, where amma is cooking and appa is watching TV. Like when you find only pink colored shoes for girls and not for boys. These are the most famous stereotypes and given the struggle I have to go through to avoid these, I am pretty sure that there are many more where these came from.

It is not news that kids are easily suggestible, impressionable, and more importantly, super observant. Fighting against open oppression seems easy than weeding out the ideologies that are intertwined into our lives. But the reality is that neither is easy. Each demands a different method, voice, and effort. That’s a topic for another post. So with kids, it is super important to question yourself on every word (you can use the 5 whys method) before you tell them something.

Some things that I do, in an attempt to create a gender-neutral growing environment for my daughter:

I go out of my way to pick neutral colors for my daughter’s toys, clothes etc. Sometimes I encourage her to pick a blue toy, when given the choice. This does not mean I don’t pick pink at all. I just ensure that she does not associate any labels with the colors. This is not easy because the market out there does not have enough choices unless you are willing to do the stereotype ride.

I talk about my husband cooking in the kitchen, even if it is a small attempt. I openly appreciate my husband for making dosas for me. Some people may think this is overkill but I think that this is necessary to balance the scale to neutral.

In any story that I tell her, I twist the narrative from time to time to create a gender neutral scene. For example, if I tell a story about a family, I present the scene in such a way that the dad is seen doing a household chore (or something else that is often unconsciously perceived as a woman’s chore) and the mom helping him out. The next time, I do it in the reverse so that my daughter does not associate gender with a chore. And every time, I need to get something done by my husband or vice versa, we call it as asking for help. I think this encourages children to think of a family as a group of people helping and supporting each other, rather than taking things for granted.

When we go to my parent’s place, I addressed it as “grandmother’s place”. It is such a simple thing but you wouldn’t believe the unease that registered because everyone else was calling it as her “grandfather’s place”. No matter what others addressed it as, I stuck to my narrative.

I teach her household chores as life skills to her. It is not because she is a girl but because she needs to learn to be independent. Since she is our only kid, I often refer to my nephew and his activities when I teach her household chores, pointing out that my nephew, her cousin, learnt it and how he is able to handle things independently. I think this helps her focus on the skill and not who does it.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Every time I do a new activity with my daughter, I analyze it for any bias, not just gender bias, and try to see if there is a way out of it. You could even say that I am obsessed about doing things the right way. Some people say that this is not sustainable but I don’t see any other way out of it. We, as adults, created this biased, judgmental environment, based on our context, our opinions, and our thoughts which are purely subjective. And when you experience the innocence of a kid, as a parent, your core is shaken. Kids are the epitome of pure, non contextual, non judgmental love. Why teach them something bad and then crib that the society is filled with ungrateful youngsters?

Do you know any other ways to break out of this destructive shell? How do you engage your kids in gender neutral activities? Think now, act today.

Until later 🙂

A parent’s anguish

My almost-3-yr-old has been extremely cooperative and understanding of the situation considering her age, what with us being holed indoors. I try to be positive but as days turned into months which could now turn into years, there are times when worry eats me. The worry is mostly for my family, with an at risk husband and a toddler whose life seems to have been turned upside down. She does not know it but I do. And on bad days, the knowledge of what should have been and the memories of what were, breaks my heart.

My heart breaks into countless pieces,
When I see you holed inside these 4 walls,
You are peeping out the window,
Achingly looking at the playground,
That was your second home until a few months ago.
You don’t understand what changed and why,
All you know is that there is something out there,
Some call it corona, some call it the virus,
You get that it is something scary,
Something you don’t want to catch,
And that’s why you can’t go out.
Even the few occasions you stepped out for a walk,
With your Amma and Appa, you wore a mask,
You wore it with enthusiasm, the new cool thing for you,
You thought you were part of a grown up ritual and exulted,
Little did you know of my anguish at that sight,
Of you having to wear a mask to stay healthy and probably to stay alive.
At your age, you hardly remember a world before and after,
For you, what you see is what you get.
Hold on tight, my baby, for hope is the only thing keeping us going,
Hold on tight, to us, your parents who seem to be the world for you now,
To the vague memories of going out to that restaurant or mall,
To those memories of your birthday celebrations that just escaped the clutches of this pandemic,
To those dreams of going to your first school and playing with new friends,
Just hold on tight, let’s hope, this too shall pass.
Just so that I don’t break,
Let me believe in miracles, and
That the world will be yours again to explore.

Until later 🙁

A worthless gift

Something I wrote in a bleh state of mind, thinking about children of today who are to be the keepers of this world tomorrow.

Oh my precious little one, my hope was still bright
When you stepped into this world
Today, I am not so sure if I was right.

The world I gave you doesn’t seem so ideal
Most days, it does not show any promise of getting better
Nor does it promise you anything that’s real

The rational part of me says, this is not your battle to fight,
Do what you can to your best and teach as much
But I cringe, wondering if you even got your birthright.

Clear air, water and a place to live is all you need
Even those are hard to come by and,
Nature’s already looking for ways to trim the weed.

I really hope you get a chance to
Love what you have, and
Live how you want,
Cherish your life as you rest.

But hope is all I got,
For I am also one part of all this havoc,
Nothing else can I say except that I am sorry,
For giving you the world in this state.

Until later 🙁

Recreating memories

By this post, you would know that my interest in cooking is fairly recent. It still is a chore for me on most days but I manage to get by knowing that I can cook up a delicious meal, when needed. Anyway, as I made my way through different dishes from amma’s culinary repertoire, trying one at a time, I realized that the newly discovered interest has a backstory after all. One that’s so obvious that I am surprised that I missed it.

I miss my mom and her cooking.

Though this has happened when I first moved out from home to my hostel, then dealing with various cuisines of PG food (ugh!) throughout my spinster life and so on. I have missed amma’s cooking earlier too but that was different. This time, with each of us locked in different cities in the pandemic, it’s been a while since mom got a chance to pamper me and my daughter I got a dose of her pampering. It’s amazing how she never gets bored with cooking and always has the energy to cook up something delicious.

Anyway, this week as I tried my hand at making Vaazhaipoo urundai (A type of falafel made from banana flower), Vaazhaithandu adai (A patty with banana stem – a variant of the first dish), paruppu dosai (My favorite dish with coconut chutney, always ready when I visit home from hostel), Mushroom curry fry, Masala dosa and many more of mom’s signature dishes, the aromas wafting through my kitchen reminded me of my childhood memories, particularly around food that I enjoyed the most as I grew up. I could just close my eyes and see amma working her way around in that dingy kitchen of the monumental house that I grew up in.

Amma in the kitchen was the norm for us. I was a pathetic daughter who didn’t help around much, I did an odd chore here or there but that was it. Yes, I do feel bad that I didn’t do more for her. I would ask her why she keeps at it and how she is not bored day after day, doing the same chore and she would reply, “You enjoy the food, right?” I couldn’t imagine the level of selflessness it took to have that attitude, even if it is for one’s own daughter.

For more than 30 years, she has never tired of the kitchen and cooking. Every time I cook something, my mind automatically compares it with amma’s. The comfort of childhood memories with amma combined with the comfort of food just makes my heart fill with content to the brim. That’s probably what made the experience better for me with time – else I was unhappy that I had to work to develop the interest unlike amma for whom it just came naturally.

Of course, there is a benefactor to all this – my daughter. She is happy that she is getting a variety of dishes as opposed to the mundane routine of rice and sambhar. I don’t think I’ll ever get over amma’s cooking, no matter how old I get. I hope my daughter retains some of these memories as nostalgia when she’s all grown up. I am surprised that she, unlike me, shows an interest in cooking and household chores at such an young age. She loves sitting in the kitchen and watching me cook. And narrating the recipe to her as I cook does make the chore less boring. Sometimes, I put on music and we do a bit of dancing jumping around as well.

So if my daughter looks back at one of these evenings and thinks of it as fondly as I think of my mom in the kitchen, I’d consider it my greatest reward.

Until later 🙂

P.S: Maybe, I should start posting some recipes. Lemme think about it.

Weekend nothings

Haven’t you heard about sweet nothings? Not just when you are in love, but you can have those when are deep into marriage and then once in a blue moon, when you have a toddler too. Yeah yeah, I hear desperate parents asking, “Really?”. But I am telling you out of personal experience. It can happen. Don’t keep looking out for it, just enjoy it when it happens.

Adit and I were always the too-lazy-to-go-out kind of people (him more than me :P). So the first 5 years of our marriage, with just us and no kid (directly translating into no great responsibilities), we had weekends and weekends full of time to do nothing. Yeah, while some were out partying, meeting up with friends, exploring different pubs and restaurants, we were very comfortable in the cozy nest of our home, more specifically, our bed.

We had a week full of our jobs, then evenings filled with watching TV/shows mixed with office meetings and then we had the weekend nothings. We would sleep in, get up late and scramble something together for breakfast. We would then have a long debate about whether we can cook lunch or eat out. It ended being 50-50. And then with all the time in hand, we would eat, sleep, play some games, watch some shows, blog, read books, repeat.. You get the point. There have been weekends when we closed the door to our home on a Friday evening and then came out only on a Monday morning, with the exception of taking the milk delivered at our doorstep in.

Yeah, I hear you. We were that lazy but the point is that we kind of enjoyed it. Here’s probably why: We were brought up in highly ambitious families, running behind grades, winning contests, and scoring seats in acceptable colleges and this independence to slow down and enjoy not-running-a-mad-race actually helped us unwind. We had also had a pressured couple of years trying to get our parents accept our decision to marry each other, then trying to get them to actually marry us off, then being coerced into booking a flat when we practically had no money and hence ending up with a huge house loan… you get the point, right? I don’t know about others, but it caused a lot of subconscious tightening. So the weekend nothings were actually enjoyable. As for seeking out friendship, we had each other as best friends. So I guess that part never bothered us either.

After 5 years of doing this, we decided it was time for a kid. Again, we spent a few months being backed into a corner by friends and family telling us it is time and us not really knowing whether to cave or stand up until we are ready. Not to mention, we caved. So once Aditi was born, our weekend nothings vanished without a trace. There was some chore to be done. Always. And we got through all of it just like most parents do. Cribbing and then dusting ourselves off. Okay, I did most of the cribbing and Adit did most of the pick-me-up bit. But that’s also because of the chore imbalance in our situation. Practicality dictated that I take care of the baby and household along with my job while he focuses on the primary income of the family and his health.

Anyway, I had given up on our sweet weekends as our baby grew up into a toddler, demanding more attention and time when this weekend sneaked up on me in being nice. It just fell into place. We did get things done, like deciding the pre-school for our daughter, taking a picture of our daughter for school and going out on an impromptu snack trip to the mall. But, the rest of the weekend was relaxed with minimal tantrums, playing around at home, cooking the bare minimum that was needed (I never really enjoy cooking). In fact, this afternoon, my paranoid mind started to think that there was some storm coming up this week to make up for this calm. But then, whether I worry or not, I will have to deal with the storm when it comes. So here I am, sitting on my couch and writing a post (something I haven’t done in a really long time) enjoying the rest of my doing-nothing-weekend.

Until later 🙂

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