Sunday, February 26, 2012

Mommy Maddest

To people who don’t have kids, all parents appear the same — a large, quivering mass of dementia. Loopy adults who hover around small human beings, cooing, muttering, and fussing. I mean, who in their right minds and over the age of 25 would obsess over tiffin boxes, water bottles, medicines and fussy, large bags full of sanitisers and safety pins?
People who have kids, that’s who.
Certainly, we can be broadly classified under the title of Parentis Lunaticus, but if you were to look at us carefully, you would see subtle differences. And the best place to spot these differences is outside the average well-heeled school. This is where parents of a certain class gather in large numbers at regular intervals — and gravitate towards others who are a little more like themselves. (When I say ‘parents’, I really mean mothers; because despite my best efforts to not think in stereotypes, rarely do I see dads in these primitive huddles!)
Waiting to give their kids dabbas or to pick them up, are armies of mommies. Some are exquisitely coiffeured, perfumed and designer-kurta-clad; others are in the JLo/Beyonce mould, bumble-bee-glares, skin-fit jeans and all. Then there are those who wear leopard-print stilettos to match leopard-print capris in the exact same colour as their recently-gone-blonde hair. The rest are a broad swathe of well-dressed women, with a few stragglers, like yours truly, who look like they barely managed to pull on something before leaving home.But the real difference between us moms is not how well-groomed we are. It is the level of naked ambition we feel on behalf of our kids. Everything we wept at during Taare Zameen Par is quickly forgotten once inside the bubble of naked ambition and hysteria that exists around schools. This is Comparison Central, where certificates for extracurricular activities won by kids are shown off, gifts for teachers are secretly planned, and next year’s classes are discussed.
Generally, you can spot the really ambitious moms easily. Firstly, they talk non-stop in glowing terms about their kids and the classes they go to, and secondly, they flatter teachers and sidle around them on occasions like Teacher’s Day, Christmas and Divali, coaxing them to accept cakes, gifts and bouquets.
Each school has its own demographic, and in ours, the most ambitious moms huddle in two large and mututally-exclusive clusters. The larger, chattier cluster is made up of Gujarati moms. The smaller is made up of equally driven South-Indian moms (being a Malayalee married to a Gujarati, I scuttle around the fringes of the Southie cluster).
Each cluster has its own mores and manners. The Gujju moms have all the hottest tuition teachers and classes on speed dial. They know everyone who matters on the PTA; have direct access to the teachers, and can tell you the best places to eat, play or study. Nothing can come between their kids and success or happiness, because all’s fair in love, dhando and education. But refreshingly, they also believe in the ‘everyone’s invited’ approach, and are generous when it comes to sharing information. In fact, with them it's the-more-the-merrier - heard of Groupon, anyone?
In our tribe, made up largely of Tam-Brahm moms, information is power and is rarely shared. Tam-Brahm moms, incidentally, are India’s original ‘Chinese Mothers’ — driven, determined and definitely very secretive. Their kids never study enough (patently false); their kids never take part in any competitions (actually, they take part only to win). With them, you get the feeling that the next milestone is an IIT seat, and seriously, dude, you're just in the bloody way, aren't you?
Luckily, there’s a mini-cluster of sensible moms. Moms who recognise that education is a means to understand the world and refuse to send their kids to random classes; who refuse to suck up to teachers (which the school specifically asks us not to); and are secure enough to love their kids no matter what.
Some of them are, interestingly, Tam-Brahms and Gujjus; a couple are Punjabi, some are Goan and a few are Maharashtrians. Thank you, ladies — you keep me sane!

A slightly different version of this article, with a different title, appeared in the DNA of Sunday, Feb 26th.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

New books mean new joys :)

and bringing joy into my life on an otherwise dull day was this new book, drawn by the wonderfully talented shilpa ranade :)
it was written three years back and has been two years in the making, but what a louliness!
more strength to pratham, the guys who have created this space for affordable picture books that are pulished in english but are also translated into 5 other indian languages. i'm waiting for my language copies - hindi, kannada, mallu, marathi etc :)

you can see the book on pratham's page here