My ebook: Journeys with the caterpillar

My ebook
Journeys with the caterpillar: Travelling through the islands of Flores
and Sumba, Indonesia
" is available at
this link

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The unfortunate world of pre-teens in India

There is a case for arguing that middle-class housewives in India are having the best time ever (more on that later); but who are having the worst time: must be the pre-teens. Even before they are born; mothers make them listen to Beethoven and Ramayana by fixing headphones on their pregnant bellies. For the untrained and underdeveloped ears, both the ninth symphony and Ramanand Sagar’s chants may be pretty disconcerting. After the initial trauma of childbirth; they have a few good months till they gain some sanity. And then the onslaught begins.

Most parents start home tutoring their kids by the time they are 1.5-2 years old. And within a few months they have to start spending time with other kids in play schools. These play schools; which have the most profitable business models in the world serve two purposes: they provide the mothers break from the kid’s whims for upto 3hrs a day; and they help develop immunity in kids by exposing them to infections from other students.

After 3-4 years of pre-school education, begins the actual school. The kid is loaded with upto 15 subjects including such hilly-billies like handwriting, dictation, drawing, moral science and General Knowledge. The school bags start weighing over 5 kgs; and dubious sessions for physical training (PT) where the PT teacher standing in the shade gives verbal instructions to kids under the onerous Indian sun; provide the kid valuable lesions on why power is important.

The parents at this time get an additional adrenalin boost. They ensure that the kids have after class sessions in swimming, painting, computers, and in many cities, fencing!!! As the kids get little time to engage in sports and other physical games, the parents, alarmed by news of diabetic American kids, start putting controls on their food intake. Entertainment is limited to rationed 10 minute sessions of cartoon; and kids have to mostly do with Discovery channel and NGC (which are extremely boring because of their repeats and recurrent themes) in time slots unoccupied by the Saas-Bahu soaps and Lata Mangeshkar nights. Followers of Indian tradition, who never miss a business opportunity, entice parents to enroll their kids for Vedic mathematics with the CAT and JEE in mind. With little chance for social interaction; the kids are forced to take advanced conversation courses by their parents.

As time goes by, it becomes impossible for these kids to continue with such Da-Vinci style diversity of interests and they have to start focusing on pure studies. While the media would make us believe that most kids now aspire for alternate carries like Miss India; the truth is 99% of them have to aspire for the career of a software engineer. And by the time they become a software engineer, all the learning from diverse areas quickly fade away: Art means a few names like M F Hussain, Picasso and may be Van Gogh; literature is all about Chetan Bhagat and Michael Crichton; Rang De Basanti becomes the best propaganda movie ever made (is battleship Potemkin Russian version of Titanic?); the number of Indian states become 25; poverty becomes a simple problem that can be solved by demolishing slums; and a handicam replaces the ability to observe and feel surroundings.


Jayesh said...

This is an absolute scream...One of your bests

Anu said...

How do you manage to put humour in the most serious topics. Everytime I see my friends forcing their kids to do multiple things, I try to see where they are coming from and what is teh driver behind all this and the only answer I have managed to get is 'peer pressure', i.e. the parent's 'peer pressure', like that old time RIN 'uska kafan mere kafan se sfaid kaise'...