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The Moment Of Truth

posted Aug 8, 2017, 2:51 AM by Kanika G   [ updated Sep 26, 2017, 9:53 PM ]

This story has been moved to my new website here

I sat in the clinic chewing my nails. It was all so surreal. How had I got in to this ridiculous mess? I mean, it could be a matter of life and death, for god sake. What was I thinking? Evidently, I was not.

Me, not thinking, is quite unthinkable. I think about everything. I have contingency plans for my contingency plans.

Some call me organized and a meticulous planner. They are the polite ones. Others call me a control freak or tease me about my obsessive compulsive disorder.

I plan my vacations at least 6 months in advance and thoroughly research the place on the web. I wash fruits with drinking water before eating them. I am careful to follow dosage instructions precisely on medicines and research side effects. I think things through and almost never act impulsively. Almost never ...

Then why did my cautious nature fail me this time?  This time, when it mattered enormously, I was careless. And now, I may have to pay a very heavy price for it.

There was a long wait ahead. My token number was fifteen. The nurse had only just called number three. It would take a while. I couldn’t help but think about what landed me here.

The circumstances had conspired against me. The firm had hired a consultant to streamline our processes cut costs and improve efficiency at the testing centre.

I was assigned to work with him. I explained the entire process we followed from the moment the patient came to us to the moment the report was mailed. He listened without interrupting, but all the while he made detailed notes. His style appealed to my OCD nature at least until ...

He started to change everything from the way information was collected from the patient to the way it was organised in our files and presented to the patient. I hate change and he irked me terribly. Now I would have to change my well organised system, perfectly honed over the years, to most efficiently and accurately accomplish my job.

I was borderline rude, but it did not seem to bother him at all. Like a machine, unperturbed, and focussed, he methodically went about his business. That was kind of hot.  As his plan unfolded, I could not help, but admire how much more efficient he had made the whole process, but I still hated him for imposing changes.

On his last day, he walked in to my office room, and asked me what I thought of his improvements. I grudgingly acknowledged their merit.

“You hate having to deal with the change, don’t you?” He laughed. “Let me take you out for dinner.” He offered.

“What? Why?” I was caught completely off guard.

“To make it up to you of course. I know how much change annoys you. Even when you know the change is for the better.”

“You do? How?” I was amazed.

“I have been working with you for a fortnight and you don’t exactly have a poker face you know.” He winked. “Dinner at eight. I’ll pick you up here.”
He left before I could respond.

The man annoyed me and excited me at the same time. Now I know what a dangerous cocktail of emotions it is. If he could read my expressions so well, did he know how I felt about him? I could hardly concentrate on my work. My thoughts kept drifting to him, his salt and pepper hair, sharp features, athletic body and most of all to his casual arrogance. That’s when I knew he was bad news and I had to decline his invitation. But it was too late.

A sharp knock on the door drew me out of my reviere. My goodness, it was 8:00! Where had the time gone? The office was empty save for the two of us. I usually left later than everyone else.

“Come in.” I called out from my desk.

He entered, dressed casually, in jeans and a T-shirt, looking better than ever.

“Sorry. I am swamped with work. I can’t make it.” I apologised.

“That’s a lame excuse.”

“Best I could do with such short notice.”

“I see. I guess I should go. It was good working with you.” He turned to leave.

I had expected him to protest or woo me. I had got exactly what I wanted, and what I knew to be for the best. But it left me dissatisfied and longing. “Wait.” I called out wondering how much I was going to regret this impulsive act.

He turned back. I walked up to him. “Don’t go.” I whispered.

“Why” He asked, looking me in the eye.

“Cause..”I put my hands on his shoulders and stood on tip toes. We never went out for dinner, but all my cravings were satisfied.

I heard the nurse call my name. I still couldn’t believe I was here. But it was better to know. The man was promiscous, no doubt, and it was the first time I had been stupid enough to have unprotected casual sex. The pills only prevented pregnancy. It had just occurred to me yesterday while I watched  a TV show, that HIV was still a possibility. At least, I would know by tomorrow. And if I was lucky, well, I won't let it happen again. Some things are worth being anal and OCD about.

#Fiction #WomensReads #MomsReads #Health #Safety #WomensHealth

Censorship Is A Double-Edged Sword

posted Aug 6, 2017, 9:31 AM by Kanika G   [ updated Aug 7, 2017, 1:26 AM ]

Recently, social media has been flooded with angry posts about some TV show called Pehredaar Piya Ki. Seeing so many people agitated about it, piqued my curiosity, and I read a little about it. To me, it seems somewhat silly, but again, I have not actually watched it, so I am going to refrain from judging it any further.

There is no shortage of silly stuff on TV, and don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against TV. Just like any other medium of content distribution, I have found a wide range in quality of content made available on television, from the awesome to the awful.

What surprised me, was the people clamouring to ban this show. On reading some posts and comments, I came to understand what inflamed people about the show. But even if this show is really bad, why ban it?

Censorship is hardly productive, especially in today’s age of the internet. There is no point banning stuff, because the content (and worse) can always be found somewhere on the internet. Banning a show to cure some social vice, is like putting a band-aid on a gaping wound. If we want our kids to grow up with certain values, we need to talk to them, discuss what we think is right and wrong about various ideas and why, and have them participate in the discussion.

Besides, demanding a show be banned, is the sure fire way to bring it to the notice of more people and thereby increase its popularity. I wouldn’t even know this show existed, if people did not demand to ban it.

But, more importantly, censorship is a double-edged sword that slashes both ways. Many people wanting to ban this show, were probably upset with the censor board for trying to ban Lipstick Under My Burkha.

Either we are open to free exchange of ideas, or we are not. We may not like some of the ideas being aired, but then censorship is not the answer. Remember, that is how the censor board, that annoys so many of us, got here. Who is to decide what ideas are good, and what ideas a bad? Why should anyone or any organisation be given the power to suppress some ideas? What makes them always right in making such subjective decisions?

If we want free speech and exchange of ideas, we have to take the good with the bad. Everything in this world comes at a cost. Isn’t censorship is too high a price to pay, for getting rid of bad content?

Also, sweeping a problem under the rug, does not solve the problem. Instead, it festers and grows and spreads noxious fumes. The very fact that a show (and this is about any show one feels the need to ban) exists, and is fairly popular, implies that there are enough people who appreciate it. If such a show champions disagreeable ideas, then the show is only a symptom. The real problem lies in changing the mind set of a significant part of the population, and that will come with time and vigilance.

But in the mean time banning a show will not achieve anything, other than making the idea of censorship acceptable. And that does much greater damage than a show can do.

Yes we must speak up against, be outraged by, and even ridicule certain ideas. But censorship usually goes a little too far.

#Article #WomensReads #Censorship #MomsReads #ParentingBlogPost #Blog

The Happy Ending

posted Aug 1, 2017, 3:03 AM by Kanika G   [ updated Aug 5, 2017, 2:13 AM ]

Maya was euphoric. Life could never get better than it was today, she thought, as she waited for Rakesh. The last two months had been frustrating.

Most unexpectedly, Maya had fallen in love a couple of months ago, right at the height of her IIT JEE preparation. Her parents reminded her how hard she had worked for this goal and how important it was for her to stay focussed in the final stretch. She had agreed and coaxed Rakesh to wait. The exam was only a a couple of weeks later and Rakesh had agreed.

But, once the exam was over Papa added a new clause. He insisted that Maya wait for the results. If she got in to IIT, she would have his blessing to date whoever she wanted to. If not she would have to focus on figuring out her future and a relationship would be a distraction. Maya was furious. Rakesh felt cheated. But then Maya said, “It's only 6 weeks to the results. And we have a lifetime ahead of us. It would be nice to have my parents approval.”

“What happens if, God forbid, you don't get through?”

“I will.” Maya was confident. “And even if I don't, at that point, I'll talk to my parents and make them change their minds. I am not going to let you get away so easily. It's just that, for a matter of 6 weeks I don't see a point in fighting with them. Don't you think this is best in the long run?”

“Why do you have to always be so sensible?” Rakesh complained, but he relented.

The two talked on the phone planning their first date. It would be at Marine Drive. They would take a walk, hold hands and watch the waves.

The 6 weeks seemed like for ever. Sometimes Maya worried that she may not make it through the JEE. She did not want to have to fight her parents. They had always got along so well, even through her teenage years.

No point agonising over it now, she decided. I'll cross that bridge when it comes, tomorrow. With that thought she tried to sleep, but sleep eluded her.

This morning, with trembling fingers, Maya logged in to the website to check her result. Her all India rank was 43. Wow! She would have her pick of both subject and location. She gave her parents the good news and rushed off to call Rakesh.

Now Maya could not stop smiling. In her eagerness, she had got to Marine Drive half an hour early. She walked and jumped and pirouetted, unable to contain her happiness. Lost in her own perfect world, she wasn't paying any attention to her surroundings. Suddenly she was engulfed in a huge wall of salt water and washed away by the sea.

#ShortFiction #WomensReads #ShortStory  #MomsReads

Image courtesy:

When The Clock Struck 18

posted Jul 31, 2017, 3:47 AM by Kanika G   [ updated Aug 5, 2017, 2:14 AM ]

Anu was agitated. She had barely slept last night. Not even the sound of the waves soothed her today. Did she have her contacts on backwards? It certainly felt like it. No agitated was a mild word. What she felt was furious. What a sham her 18th birthday had been. Her parents had offered her a glass of champagne and welcomed her in to adulthood. What did that mean to them?

The more she thought about it the faster the rage built up inside her. Every little thing that had ever bothered her about her parents bubbled up to add fuel to her anger. Flecks of bitter angry tears blurred her vision. But she continued to run. At dawn the beach was almost empty.

Anu was so lost in her thoughts, she did not hear someone approach from behind. Suddenly she felt a hand on her shoulder and froze. Who could it be? She turned and heaved a sigh of relief. It was just Aunty. Anu saw this wrinkled grey haired old woman almost every morning running on the beach at the crack of dawn for an hour in her purple track suit and sneakers .

Anu admired Aunty's physical strength, determination and discipline. Aunty put most people, a third of her age, to shame. Only once before, about 6 months ago, had she talked to Aunty. Overwhelmed by curiosity Anu had asked Aunty her age. Aunty had frowned sternly. “Don't you know that it is rude to ask a woman her age?”

Anu had looked flustered, but then Aunty laughed. “I am kidding beta. I am going to be 75 in a few months.”

“Aunty, you are so cool!” Anu blushed wondering if she had said something stupid. But Aunty just winked and continued on her run. Ever since Anu and Aunty smiled at each other and waved when their paths crossed during their morning run.

Aunty's touch was comforting. “Beta is everything okay?” Aunty asked.

Anu brushed away her tears. She wanted to say everything was fine. But one look at Aunty's kind, concerned eyes, and she broke down crying like a baby. Aunty made herself comfortable on the sand and urged Anu to sit. “Why don't you tell me what is upsetting you so much? Talking helps to put things in perspective. You don't want those bitter thoughts to fester and grow until your pretty little head explodes, do you?”

In spite of everything Anu wanted to smile. She had been working herself in to a frenzy and now this 75 year old lady thought that she could snap her fingers and shrink her mountains back in to mole hills. If only it was so simple. “Aunty, its just teen stuff.” She shrugged looking around helplessly.

“You think I am too old to understand your problems.” Aunty observed.

“Aunty I did not say that. You are the coolest old person I know. But this stuff...” Anu blushed.

“So it is about a boy, isn't it? What's the worst that will happen? You'll speak your problems out loud. May be I won't understand. But it may help you clear your head and I promise not to be judgemental.” Aunty looked at Anu, and resting her chin on her hands, she waited.

Anu stared wide eyed at Aunty for a moment. Then she sighed and began her story. “I have always been an obedient child. My friends sometimes resent me for it because their parents are always telling them to be like me. My parents and other adults have always said I was sensible and prudent.”

Anu paused to gather her thoughts and then continued. “For over a month I have been exchanging emails with a boy in my class. And with time we found ourselves attracted to each other. I was so excited about it. I never thought a boy would be attracted to me. But this one likes me. He is so easy to talk to. At some point we both knew that we wanted more than friendship. It wasn't an awkward moment. I feel comfortable with him and yet my body tingles when we get really close.” Anu had a distant gaze and a smile on her face as if she were reminiscing a blissful moment.

Then she suddenly remembered she was talking to Aunty and blushed. “This all sounds very good.” Aunty said. “So what's the problem?”

Anu frowned. “It's my parents. When I told them, I was so excited. I was sure my parents would like him. He is intelligent, well read, soft spoken and considerate. What could they object to, right?”

“So what did they object to?”

“Nothing. They said I was too young to have a boyfriend. They said I was too young to commit to marriage and Mum said a fling was unacceptable. Dad said, it did not matter how wonderful the boy was. I am 18. I can vote and drive and soon I can even fight for my country, but they won't let me have a boyfriend.” Anger and resentment seeped in to Anu's voice

“You broke up?”

“No. I, meant to. But I couldn't do it. It felt like giving up too much.” Anu noticed the beautiful colours of the sky just before sunrise. She had almost missed her favourite part of her morning run. It felt like the sky was mocking her. Her problems were so insignificant to the sky, which would always be bautiful at sunrise.

“So you confronted your parents again?”

“No. I just continued the relationship without telling them. The odd thing is, I am a terrible liar. I cannot mask the guilt I feel when I lie. But this time it was different. I felt no guilt. I was sure I had made the right choice and I had no qualms about lying to my parents. That's what made it doable.”

“Then why are you so upset?”

“I decided to tell them the truth. I thought if they saw how well the relationship has been going they may change their minds. I do want them to get to know him.”

“I see. You told them last night? Are they very angry?”

“Yes.” Anu's tears flowed thick and heavy. “My mother is particularly angry about the lying. Doesn't she see that she left me no choice? How could I explore this possibility any other way? How can I stand up for a choice without exploring it first? At the same time, why should I give up something with so much potential just because she tells me to? My parents did not even do me the courtesy of meeting him. For years I obeyed them without question and when something was so important to me, they could not even bother to hear me out. They just tried to shut me down. Why won't they give me a chance? Why won't they trust me? Haven't I earned that?” Anu punched the sand in frustration.

“It must be upsetting for you. But do you see how strange this is for them? For years you have listened to everything they have said and now suddenly, when it is such a crucial matter, you wont. They don't understand it. They don't know what's making you act this way. They are worried they are losing their sway over you. They desperately want to guide you, but the method they have always used successfully is failing and they don't know what to do.”

“So you are saying they are right?”

“No I am saying they are confused. You are changing faster than they can handle.”

“So what should I do?”

“That's for you to decide. Whenever you want to grow up and take charge of your life, it is going to be a difficult battle with your parents. Humans find it very difficult to relinquish control. If you want to make this decision for yourself, own it. Being an adult is not just about making decisions, but also accepting the consequences. Growing up is exciting and scary. The question you must ask yourself is if you are ready to grow up and face every aspect of it. This is not about your parents or anyone else. This is all about you.”

“And what if things go wrong?”

“Yes. What if they do? Do you trust yourself to get past it? Are you strong enough to deal with regrets? These are the questions for you to answer.”

Suddenly, as sunlight flodded the horizon, enlightenment dawned. It was such an amazing revelation and yet so simple. Anu finally understood that this decision was only partly about how her parents felt and how trustworthy the boy would be. These were all circumstances life was placing her in.

In future there would be many more difficult circumstances and far more terrifying decisions to make. What really mattered was, if she trusted herself.

Did she trust herself, not only to make the best possible decisions she could, but also to deal with whatever consequences her decisions had? Could she rely on herself to be emotionally strong enough to deal with failure and find a way to move on and rebuild. If she could believe in herself, then she was ready to grow up.

Anu looked at Aunty and nodded. Aunty smiled and gave her a hug. Aunty had not made her decision any easier, but now at least Anu knew where to look for answers, and she knew how futile getting angry with any one else was.

#ShortStory #WomensReads #MomsReads

A Review Of Mambi And The Forest Fire

posted Jul 24, 2017, 9:54 AM by Kanika G   [ updated Oct 19, 2017, 10:37 PM ]

This review has been moved to the new website here.

Mambi And The Forest Fire is a gorgeous picture story book by Nandana Dev Sen, illustrated by Saskia Pekelharing.

Mambi is an adorable, bright eyed, excitable, monkey living in a tall mango tee in the middle of a forest. Koko the crow and Tonga the turtle are her two best friends. They are both self confident and have amazing abilities. Koko can fly and glide through the air and Tonga can swim and glide through the water. Mambi finds both these things exciting but to her dismay, she can do neither. Koko and Tonga laugh at her as she tries to fly and swim and fails spectacularly both times.

Mambi is sad that she does not have any special abilities of her own. But she loves her friends and she is happy for Koko when Koko's eggs hatch and three perfect chicks emerge. With that happy thought, Mambi falls a sleep on a hot dry summer night.

Late in the night Mambi is woken up by the scorching heat of flames from the forest fire. In this crisis situation, Mambi discovers her own special ability. But will it help her save her friends from the hungry flames? Read on to find out.

  • The illustrations are gorgeous.

  • Mambi with all her goodness and self doubt is lovable and easy for kids to relate to.

  • The book shows that courage is not the lack of fear, but the ability to do the needful in spite of being terrified.

  • Mambi does not let petty resentment hold her back, when her friends really need her.

  • This is an excellent story to read out loud to a group of kids. The plot is simple, so it is easy to follow in a group reading, but there is also enough drama and suspense to keep the kids hooked. I read this book to the kids in my daughter's school, and they loved it.

The book is suitable for 3 to 6 year old kids.

Monkeyshines are good for something!

You can buy the book here.

I want to thank PlusMinus'N'More for all they taught me about doing book reviews.

#ChildrensBookReview #BookReview

Bonding With Kids Through Games

posted Jul 20, 2017, 4:09 AM by Kanika G   [ updated Aug 5, 2017, 2:16 AM ]

The older one is eager to play games with Papa and me these days. We got her some board games. She likes playing them, but she also gets very upset about losing. Neither Papa nor I like the idea of losing to her on purpose. But we don't want her to lose confidence either, by losing too often. So we play these games sometimes, but we are trying to come up with other games too, which are not so much about winning or losing but more about having fun together.

We did consider a collaborative attempt at jigsaw puzzles. But the youngest one is only two and half and at her destructive best. She wants to contribute to making the puzzles, but with limited abilities she ends up doing so by chucking pieces around the house and trampling on the parts we have made. We did try to give her the job of handing us puzzle pieces, but after a while she found it boring and resumed trampling and chucking. She makes it difficult for us all to play board games too.

A couple of days ago, on the way to school, in the car, I came up with a fun game. The older one has been doing show and tell regularly in class. Usually the day before Papa and I discuss some ideas with her and put together 3 or 4 sentences, she can say in front of the class, just as the teacher has asked us to. Thinking about show and tell led me to come up with this idea for a car game. My older daughter and I take turns at giving each other a topic to speak 3 to 5 sentences about. The topics are simple like, your favourite fruit, a rainy day, your last vacation, your favourite book, etc.

Each of us has to come up with topics for the other to talk about, and each of us has to come up with 3 to 5 sentences on the topic we are given. The game makes us think creatively and forces us to think quickly. It also helps us connect because in a way we are talking to each other about our likes and dislikes and learning how we think about things and what we consider important. Sometimes, through this game, I discover interesting facts that my daughter has learned in school from friends or teachers.

The older one is getting better at choosing things to say. Initially she would only give her opinions, but now after hearing how I handle my lines, she is learning to mix information with opinion and throw in some simple analysis (reason for her opinion) that makes her lines more interesting to listen to.

Today, the younger one too wanted to play the game. She had been listening to us play for a while so we let her join in. The younger one is only two and a half. So her language skills are tenuous. But today we discovered that what she lacks in vocabulary and grammar, she more than makes up for with her imagination. Her topic was tree and this is what she told us:

I love apple tree. Apple tree is tall. I can't reach apples. I climb the ladder on the fire truck and get the apples. (She had a fire truck in her hand that she was fidgeting with) Then she giggled.

Before going to bed every night, Papa and the older one have started having a 15 minute discussion about some topic. Last night it was about the phenomenon of day and night as a result of the rotation of the Earth. The night before it was about the freedom movement in India. Papa says a few thing but mostly encourages the older one to do the talking. Papa was amazed to hear how coherently and confidently the older one could talk about the freedom movement since she was taught about it in school.

Kids absorb and learn a lot of things, but they don't often like to answer direct questions. May be it makes them self conscious or may be they just don't want to be interrogated. But through these games and discussions, I have learned so much about my daughters in just a few days. No amount of just asking could have yielded so much information about them  and provided so much insight in to their way of thinking.

Additionally, the show and tell game (as I like to call it) and short discussions on interesting topics are a great way to pass the time while travelling or going on family walks. Taking turns in coming up with topics gives everyone a chance to discuss what they find interesting and everyone else in the family gets to know the one who is speaking a little better.

#parenting #bonding #sharing #learning #fun #games #family #ParentingBlogPost #KidsGamesActivities #EntertainKids

The Bamboozling Shenanigans Of Bum Biter

posted Jul 14, 2017, 11:28 PM by Kanika G   [ updated Aug 5, 2017, 2:17 AM ]

My two bundles of chaos were chasing each other around the massive sofa chair in our living room. Suddenly the smaller blur spotted Papa, changed course and charged after him. The bigger blur, was unfazed by the sudden change of direction and remained in pursuit of the smaller blur.

Papa was nursing an irate eye from over exposure to chlorine in the pool and was barred from his usual activities of reading and working. So naturally he enjoyed being chased around the house by his offspring. Soon a train of oddly mismatched bogeys was rampaging through the house.

The younger one was bouncing like a beaver hyped up on caffeine, so she looked like she was going to bite Papa's bums, thus earning her first super hero title, Bum Biter.

Predictably, soon there was an accident and they all got entangled and fell. Bum Biter squirmed out of the wreckage looking like an oversized frowning puchka with arms crossed and complained, “I don't like it!

On Friday morning, Bum Biter and her older sister were feeling their oats. They decided to poke and prod me, AKA, Volcano Mama. The older one having experienced several massive eruptions knew when to stop poking and quickly gobbled her breakfast. But Bum Biter was feeling particularly brave with her new super hero identity.

Perhaps she thought an eruption may be most amusing. Her expression certainly seemed to convey that. Well a volcano can only be pushed so far before it starts spewing hot lava.

But seems like Bum Biter had adorned her self with heat proof armour (I wonder where she got it ... I must reprimand her supplier) and considered herself to be up for the challenge. She played offence too, with charming smiles and giggles. It was a heated combat that Volcano Mama won by wearing down the heat proof plating and Bum Biter finally ate her breakfast just as Volcano Mama collapsed with exhaustion. But there was no time to lounge around. The clock was ticking and they we were running late for school.

As the driver sped through the crowded Bombay streets swerving and snaking through traffic to make it on time, Volcano Mama had switched her schizophrenic personality (we moms call it multi talented) to Yakety Nag mode. YN nagged BB to eat her breakfast quickly in future, muttering the dire consequences of the failure to comply whist occasionally yelling at the traffic lights for slowing them down. BB was quite unfazed, but she conceded. “Okay Mama. I'll eat my breakfast quickly mama.” And then came the disarming smile and the the small condition for compliance “But you'll give us pizza for breakfast no mama?” She asked as if it were quite a reasonable compromise.

BB's most unexpected and ridiculous statement struck right at the heart of YN's Achilles heal. Stunned yet amused YN cracked a smile. Way to go Bum Biter!

Now in a better mood, I patiently explained the importance of a nutritious breakfast and the problem with the morning time crunch and Bum Biter nodded along as if she were following my well crafted arguments. Finally I asked. “So you'll eat your breakfast quickly from tomorrow, right?”

Bum Biter scrunched up her face in to an adorable frown, puffed out her cheeks and calmly but firmly and said “No!”

Steam started to escape my nostrils and I could feel myself switching back to volcano mode. Bum Biter did not seem concerned. She was busy telling her sister, that Abol Tabol by Sukumar Ray, must be a book about towels and started bouncing around on the back seat of the car.

On the brink of volcano mode, I held on to her tightly and launched in to an elaborate explanation of the dangers of bouncing around in the car and asked her to sit back and stay still.

Bum Biter squeaked, “But why mama?”

Gritting my teeth, I was finding it really difficult to clamp down the brewing eruption.

Still on my lap, Bum Biter did not wait for an answer that did not really interest her and launched in to song. She sang Sa re ga ma na adhinayak etc etc an absurd khichadi of Sa re ga ma and the national anthem which was later seamlessly transitioned in to some other songs too.

I was caught between amusement and despair feeling like Sukumar Ray himself had scripted my absurd life.

This exaggerated piece of fiction is loosely based on the shenanigans of my youngest offspring.

#ParentingBlogPost #Forlaughs

Have You Met Caillou?

posted Jul 11, 2017, 10:37 PM by Kanika G   [ updated Aug 7, 2017, 1:56 AM ]

My older one is now 5. She doesn't show much interest in TV, but occasionally wants to watch something. Personally I have nothing against TV in moderation. But I did want to find a show that would be fun for my daughter to watch and yet subtly advocate open mindedness, curiosity and sensitivity.

My older one is easily frightened. She cares immensely about babies, children and animals and can't bear to see them in any sort of danger. So whatever I found for her to watch would have to be non-violent. My daughter speaks fluent English and has an above average vocabulary. In searching for shows for her, I came across Caillou and it was perfect. Even the younger one enjoys it.

What makes Caillou a good show for a 3 to 6 year old kid:

  • The episodes are available on youtube so my daughter can watch them whenever it is convenient and does not have to adhere to a TV schedule. The show can be fit in to her routine rather than the other way around. This also affords a lot of flexibility. My daughter does not get any TV time through the week but over the weekend she is allowed to watch 3, twenty minute episodes of Caillou. Sometimes she watches them all together and sometimes she watches them spread out over the 2 day period. She gets to choose.

  • The episode can be interrupted and paused at anytime and easily resumed later. So if she needs to pee or stop her sister from sneaking off with her favourite teddy bear, she can pause the episode, take care of the emergency and then resume watching.

  • The show is about everyday experiences and deals with concepts like sibling rivalry, learning to ride a bicycle, going on a family picnic or camping trip, losing a tooth, time spent with grandma, interacting with older kids, dressing up in costumes, preparing for show-and-tell, which, in a way, reminds me of my own Tania series.

    Kids love these kinds of stories because they are so easy to relate to. They like seeing how other kids react in familiar situations. Sometimes the show introduces them to unfamiliar situations they are likely to encounter sooner or later and helps to prepare them. These stories inspire them to try new things like eating with chopsticks or making birthday cards or helps them find the courage to do away with training wheels.

  • The show embraces diversity. Caillou's friends belong to different ethnic and racial groups. Caillou is curious about and respects different cultures. There is an  episode where Caillou meets a deaf boy at the park and learns about sign language. The show encourages open mindedness.

  • The show encourages creativity, sensitivity, resourcefulness, imagination and out of the box thinking. The language is clear but not simplistic.

  • There are some interesting online games using simple logic or for exercising creativity on the Caillou section of the PBS kids website. You'll find the games here. There are also a number of printables and activities on the website.

According to Wikipedia :

A study had three groups of four-year-olds each engaged in activities; one group watched Caillou, another watched SpongeBob SquarePants, and the third group drew pictures. After nine minutes, the children were tested on mental functions; those that watched Caillou had very similar results to the group that drew pictures, both of whom performed significantly better than the group that watched the SpongeBob episode

On the downside the character sounds really whiny. It doesn't seem to bother my kids at all but it can get on my nerves after sometime. Ear plugs to the rescue.

On the whole I'd say it is one of the better kids cartoons that our little ones can enjoy without much for us to worry about.

#Review #Kids #TVShow #Videos #children #cartoon #diversity #ProductReview

The cover picture was obtained from a google image search for Caillou.

When The Building Opened Its Doors

posted Jul 4, 2017, 10:30 PM by Kanika G   [ updated Jul 5, 2017, 1:44 AM ]

Nishi walked up to the 64 storey high rise. It was one of 4 towers, a part of the newest housing society in Malad east. It was the only completed tower. The rest were still being constructed. Her sister, Nikki, was planning to return to Mumbai after living in the USA for 8 years. She was pregnant and she and her husband wanted to raise their daughter in Mumbai, where they themselves had grown up. They wanted her to grow up close to family and in a place where they would not be foreigners, a place Nikki associated with all the warm and fuzzy feelings conjured by the word home.

Nishi looked for the sales office. Nikki wanted her to check out the place and find out the price and payment and completion schedule for apartments in the towers still under construction. The location was perfect, half way between where her parents and in-laws lived. Nishi spotted the security guard. “Bhaiya sales office kaha hai?” She asked.

Following the man's instructions Nishi pressed the button for the 9th floor on the elevator. That's where the building lobby was. The lower 8 floors were for parking. As Nishi exited the elevator on the 9th floor she faced several doors. Which one is the sales office she wondered. The security guard had not specified. She decided to start with the door on the door on the left side of the elevator.

She was about to open the door when she saw a notice board. She decided to check it out. There was a notice about drivers, maids and other domestic help not being allowed to sit anywhere in the premises. They must especially not be seen in the lobby area or gardens. What about the maids who did multiple jobs and had to kill some time between jobs Nishi wondered. And what about the drivers. Were they supposed to sit inside the car all day? Nishi was disgusted with the attitude of the society committee.

Clicking her tongue Nishi opened the first door. She could hear voices. There was some sort of meeting going on. Clearly it wasn't the sales office. Nishi was about to shut the door when she heard  something that piqued her curiosity. “Do you think you can just come here and have affairs with our husbands?” A lady shouted in Hindi. Nishi could not resist the urge to find out what was going on so she opened the door a crack peered in.

Inside, there were about 30 women standing around. 3 women stood on a pedestal. “Do you think we will let you get away with it. We will watch you and get you fired and call the police if you ever do anything suspicious. You better focus on your jobs and don't you dare even talk to our husbands.” One angry lady on the pedestal was shouting. Nishi couldn't believe what she was hearing. This had to be a joke, right?

Suddenly a voice from the crowd of standees could be heard. “Madam when you go to your office, is that what you do with your bosses? Why would you think that we come here for anything other than work?” Nervous giggling was followed by hearty laughter. Nishi grinned. You go girl! She wanted to say.

That's when one of the women on the pedestal thundered “Silence!” Everything became quiet. “You Savitri are fired and you will not be allowed to set foot on the premises again. I don't want to hear back chat from the likes of you. The jobs here are the highest paid in this area. We pay well so we don't have to put up with your uncivilized attitude. Keep you mouths closed and heads down, do your work and leave. Am I making myself clear?”

Nishi did not wait to find out what happened next. What she had heard had made her nauseous. She wanted to just get away. But when she turned she could no longer see the elevators. Where did they disappear? She never had a good sense of direction, but this was ridiculous. She decided to try the next door. May be it would be the stairwell or may be she could ask someone there.

As she opened the next door she almost choked on the dense cigarette smoke coming out of the door. She coughed but no one heard her. Inside were 4 men playing cards and smoking. They talked in loud voices. She was amazed she hadn't heard them through the door. “Cant believe how many women smoke and drink these days. The world is going to the dogs. Just a few months ago there was that girl who had rented 505 A. She came home at 11:00 pm with two other girls and a man. They were all smoking. The girls too. How disgusting. Then, God alone knows what they did in her apartment till 2:00 am.” Mr. Enormous Mustache said.

“Dragon Behenji had her evicted. At least the Dragon is good for something.” Mr. Bald  sniggered. “She is on the society committee and she wont let anyone rent their apartments to single working women. We can't let those filthy females invade our reputable society.”

“Oh I am sure that wench of a widow is good for a lot more.” Mr. Toothless winked lecherously and all 4 of them snorted and laughed.
Nishi shut the door alarmed. She absolutely needed to get out of this hell hole.

She was afraid of opening the next door but what else was there to do. The elevators had disappeared. This must be a bad dream she hoped. With no other course of action Nishi opened the next door. This time she saw a tastefully decorated apartment. But then the sight on the dining table shocked her. A woman with dead eyes lay limp on the dining table while a man had his way with her. “There is no such thing as marital rape.” He said. “If there was what would be the point of getting married. Women who believe in marital rape should never get married. They should just go knocking from door to door with a consent form when they get randy.” Then he laughed like it was the funniest thing he had ever said and then he climaxed.

 Nishi closed the door in horror. What was this awful place and would she ever be able to get out of here?

There was still one more door. “Please let it be the fire escape” She prayed. This time the door opened in to a coffee shop. She knew the building had one. May be she could get a cup of coffee and calm down. But then again she heard a conversation. “Homos disgust me man. They are so creepy. I mean you never know where they are and what if they grope you at a bar or something. They must be desperate for action.”

“Yuck! Stop saying such gross things. I'll have nightmares man. Pansies give me the heebie jeebies.” He shuddered.

Suddenly Nishi understood something. All these people were just like these two. They were not strong or scary. They were frightened. Frightened of a changing society, insecure about their social position, worried they may not be attractive, terrified of something they did not understand, something so unfamiliar that they found it creepy. Fear made all these people monsters. Desperate to regain control, they clutched on to cruelty and name calling.

Nishi shook her head, sighed, and closed the door and then the strangest thing happened. All the doors disappeared. Behind her were the elevators and in front the glass door to a sales office. Even the notice board had disappeared.

Confused Nishi walked in to the sales office. She got all the information Nikki wanted. As she waited for the elevator to leave she felt dazed. Had she been hallucinating? Should she see a neurologist?

Just then she spotted  a crumpled paper on the floor. She picked it up and straightened it out. It was the notice she had read on the notice board when she was hallucinating. Nishi was confused. She entered the elevator and almost gasped. Inside were Mr. Enormous Moustache and the nasty woman on the pedestal. There was no mistaking them. Those faces had been burned in to her memory.

What was all this supposed to mean?

It was as if the building had tried to reveal its deep dirty secrets to her. The hypocrisy behind the shiny exterior and modern amenities. Nishi wondered if Nikki had factored all of this in to the rosy picture of Mumbai she carried in her head resulting from her sheltered up bringing. Then again, may be, Nikki was just afraid of being a foreigner and if one really thought about it, these problems were hardly unique to Mumbai.

As Nishi hailed a cab, she noticed the woman with the dead eyes. She had packed up her possessions and was leaving. Her eyes were no longer dead. They twinkled with the joy and terror of breaking free.


The Stalker

posted Jun 28, 2017, 9:09 AM by Kanika G   [ updated Jun 28, 2017, 8:50 PM ]

Radhika was nervous. She never should have demanded that the driver take her through the small alley ways so late at night.

But the highway was so badly jammed. Bumper to bumper stalled traffic choked the city's main artery for miles. It would have taken her hours to get home. Weaving through the small lanes, some of which were barely wide enough for a single car, had got her close to home in 30 minutes. So close...

But just as they were winding through one of the city's major slum areas there was a sudden bang, like a gun shot and the car came to a stand still. “Sorry madam, tyre puncture hogya.” The driver said. Radhika heaved a sigh of relief. Okay so it wasn't a gun. She paid the taxi driver and decided to walk.

It was only a 15 minute brisk walk and it would not be easy to get a taxi, or even an auto here at this time of the night. As Radhika walked on, she suddenly realised how alien her surroundings were. She had driven through here several times in daylight but that was when the market was open with crowds of people around. Right now it was a quiet with dim lighting and a few random people loitering, mostly middle aged men, and a few youngsters she would have called riff raff.

She looked around and people were staring at her. In her crisply ironed white shirt and tight-fitting grey pant suit, she was quite out of place. One of the teenage boys wolf whistled. She wished she hadn't worn her favourite dangling ruby earrings. What was she thinking taking this road so late at night. Everyone around her seemed so sinister.

She tried to keep calm as she hurried along and then she suddenly had the eerie feeling she was being followed. She looked back and saw dark haired man with a lush moustache, shirtless and wearing a green and white checked lungi. He did not seem to be the least bit concerned that she had noticed him. He continued to follow her every move. Scared, she quickened her pace. He matched her step for step keeping a distance of a few feet.

Why is he following me? Does he want to rob me? I don't care about my stuff. I hope he doesn't hurt me. What if he rapes me? I have to get out of this area. How could I have been so stupid to take a risk like this just to save an hour? Radhika cursed herself.

She prayed to be out of there safely. Thankfully the man did not seem to be closing in on her. In a few hundred yards she would be out of this awful, dangerous place.

Just as soon as she exited the slum area, and was almost on the main road again, she saw a man in a blue suit and a pinstriped shirt. He looked like an office going man. He seemed to be heading for the McDonald's a few blocks away.

The man from the slum was still following her. So she approached the man in the suit and struck up a conversation with him. As they walked a few paces ahead, for a short stretch, the road seemed more desolate than ever. Radhika was relieved, she had found this man. Now she wouldn't have to worry about her creepy stalker. He would never dare do something with this other guy around. She smiled cheerfully at the man in the suit and then she gasped.

Suddenly she felt him groping her. He covered her mouth to muffle her screams and slammed her against the roadside parapet. She fell and hit her elbow on the parapet. It was bleeding. Radhika scrambled to get up, but faltered when but she noticed pure evil in those pitiless eyes. How had she missed it before? She begged him to let her go but a mirthless cold laugh was the only reply she got. Then suddenly he collapsed.

Behind him was her stalker, the shirtless man in the lungi. He helped her to her feet, and escorted her to the gated society behind the McDonald's.

As they approached the gates the society watchman walked up to Radhika and asked “Madam, is this man bothering you?”

“No Ramesh Bahi. I am fine.” She said and waved him away. But Ramesh continued to to eye the man in the lungi with suspicion. By the time Radhika turned, the man had already started walking away. Radhika called after him. He stopped.

Radhika thanked him but could not meet his eyes. “Were you watching out for me?” She asked, her voice breaking.

“Yes. I almost left when you chatted with the man because I thought he was a friend you recognised. But then I remembered I had seen him once before. And that time I was too late to help.” He walked away without another word.

#Stalker #Judgement #ViolenceAgainstWomen #ShortStory #Prejudice

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