Boredom

Today has not been a good day for me. For one, I woke up late. Which in turn, meant my plans to cook a nice spread for lunch went down the drain. I was still determined not to order in, and so proceeded to whip up some easy dishes for lunch, whereupon I managed to slice two of my fingers open. After mentally cursing myself and bandaging them up, I got back to cooking. TS was heading out and he asked me a couple of times if he needed to stay back, or order something for me and the Peanut. But I was determined to cook, and that was what I was going to do. Yeah, I can be extremely bull headed at times; and for the weirdest of reasons.

TS heaved a dramatic sigh and walked out, leaving me to my own devices and the Peanut. On weekdays, I manage to cook easy meals; and I usually reserve my cooking for the evenings when TS is also home, so I don’t have to handle Peanut all by myself. If at all I cook in the mornings, its something easy like a peas pulao or some vegetable fry that I can manage when the Peanut is splashing away in the tub or playing with his toys. Worst case scenario, I put him in front of the TV or the iPad. But since the past week, I’m on a mission to reduce our reliance on gadgets to keep Peanut occupied, so I was determined not to put him in front of the TV today. Suffice to say, the ensuing three hours were crazy. I was interrupted every ten minutes with some request or the other- Pick up my toy for me. I need water. I am hungry. I need to pee. I want to see what you’re doing. I want a bowl and a spoon to play. I need to pee. Watch me throw the toys all over the living room floor. And now the couch cushions as well. I’ve gotten garlic from the pantry. You can fish the garlic pods from under the couch tomorrow maybe. I need to pee. Watch me spill water on the couch. Oops, accident on the carpet. 

My head was reeling and I was this close to whacking him to keep him from bugging me. I finally had to give in, and plop him in front of the iPad. And through the red haze of my anger, I realised something. I realised I myself was extremely dependent on gadgets. I read on my iPad and the first thing I do in the morning is check my phone. Plus, most of my friends being in different time zones, I’m always on the phone checking and replying to messages. I have thought many a time that I would restrict gadget time to just a few hours a day, but I haven’t been able to manage that. And I realised Peanut was dependant on them too.

gadgets

(Image Courtesy: Google Images)

Having just moved to a new city and living in an apartment, Peanut gets to go out very little. And he’s bored at home. I have to depend on gadgets to keep him occupied. But that got me thinking. is being bored so bad? After all I grew up without any of these gadgets. Even my TV time was severely restricted. And if I complained I was bored, I was made to help out at home, or find means to entertain myself. The Peanut does help out at home. I’ve made sure of that from the time he was about two, but when he’s bored, I almost always resort to gadgets. Before Peanut was born I had made up my mind that he wouldn’t be one of those kids who always had their head in some gadget. And till a certain time, I managed that. While I was with my parents, Peanut was never interested in gadgets. But then, I was at home. We had space for him to run around outside. There was birds and bees and butterflies and flowers. We would go to the temple and temple festivals. We would take him to my mother’s and father’s ancestral homes where there was enough and more space for him to run around and play.

Once I was back with TS, the amount of time I got to spend with Peanut dwindled. I was taking care of everything at home and I had no help. We were stuck in a high rise apartment. Peanut got to go out everyday, but he got tired of the slide and the see saw at the play area pretty quickly. Meal times became crazy for me. While back home he would have his lunch watching the neighbourhood cats and dogs and the crows, there was nothing now to hold his attention except the traffic on the road and that got old pretty quickly. After bouts of screaming and tantrums and wheedling, I had to give in and put him in front of the iPad. And so the tradition of eating in front of the gadget started. From then on, it got worse. If he was out and we were eating at a restaurant, he wanted the iPad. If we were out shopping, and he threw a tantrum, only my phone or the iPad would calm him down. If we were out on a long drive, he got bored after a while and demanded a gadget. After a while, it got so bad and so routine, that I would just give it to him before the tantrum started. And unconsciously I was teaching him that being bored was not acceptable. Something had to fill the void all the time. Giving him a gadget was easier for me as well. I didn’t have to try hard to keep him occupied. I didn’t have to think up stories and games and ideas. I didn’t have to clean up messes. I didn’t have to endure glares from people when he threw a tantrum in public. And it also gave me time to do things that I wanted to do- like watch a movie, or read a book, or talk to my friends.

But these days, I’m making an effort to let that not be the case. I’m still dependant on gadgets for his mealtimes and such but I’m also making the effort to spend time with him. To tell him stories I made up, to show him stuff I cook or explain it to him, to do puzzles or read books together, to paint, to actually laugh and play with him when we are at the park and not check my phone then, to not capture everything we do on the phone, to play car games with him or sing along with him to nursery rhymes when we are out on long drives, to put on some music and dance with him, to just chase each other from room to room, to play hide and seek, to stop if I’m using a gadget to actually listen to him when part of my mind is irritated at the interruption. To think of something to do to fill the time when both of us are bored, and annoyed, and not to fall back on some gadget to keep us entertained. The Peanut is hardly three, so some days, things go my way and some days his tantrums and crying get so bad that I give in. But as he gets older, I hope to teach him that being bored is ok. That you needn’t be occupied with something or the other all the time. That sometimes, you can just watch the rain fall or the wind blow, or trace the path of a falling leaf, or watch the trees sway in the wind, or just lie down on the grass and stare at the blue sky, or talk about random things, or ask me a million why’s, to find shapes in the clouds, to count the stars, to try and see the girl in the moon. That sometimes its good for your mind to just be in the moment, and stay still, and take stock of things and maybe even be bored and not do anything at all. Someday…

Missing Women?

I came across an article on Yahoo! India today, that said that women in some villages are forced to marry more than one person from the same family due to a shortage of women. Some of them end up being married to 4-5 brothers in the same family. I had come across a similar article a long while back in India Today. I think I was in school then. The presence of this article on the site today, shows that the situation has gone from bad to worse. This horrifying scenario can be pretty much attributed to one single factor- female foeticide. Girls are simply not being born to keep up with the number of men, and society has to resort to such measures to keep their families moving forward. I find this concept, horrifying, disgusting and more than that frightening.

These families justify their stance saying that a single wife in the family will ensure that their property will not be divided among many households and some such drivel. But just imagine the plight of the woman. Lets think about why a situation like this has emerged. Since the institution of dowry started, there has been a steady decline in the number of the female half of the population. Leave alone villages, even in metros, parents consider a son as a blessing- someone who can earn and take care of them in their old age. Whereas a daughter is always a burden- someone you bring up only to get her married off, with a sizeable dowry to ensure she stays alive, and if at all she happens to be employed, the minute she is married her in-laws will have more claim on her salary than her own parents. There is no guarantee that her parents will be taken care of. And among some staunch Hindu’s, there’s the belief that only a son performing the last rites will ensure moksha for them. To this day, I hear people repeating this. And if a couple is not blessed with a son, in spite of having daughters, it is always a nephew who gets to do the last rites.

I digress. Daughters are a burden- in addition to the hefty dowry and the money “wasted” in educating them, there is also the angle of safety. Who in their right mind would want a daughter in a society where abuse starts right from the hospital bed where the girl is born? Sometimes, in spite of all the safety you can provide a daughter, tragedy still strikes. And that kind of “disgrace” is the worst kind- it doesn’t matter if it was for no fault of the girl. She will still be blamed. Sometimes, even I feel scared when I think of having a little baby girl. What guarantee is there that I will be able to protect her in this society? There are none. She could be assaulted, raped, shot, killed, have acid thrown on her face- disgraced in every way possible from the minute she is born. A son, on the most part, needs no such taking care of, no such protection. So why not avoid the headache and have a son instead of a daughter. Sex selection and foetal sex determination are banned in India. Yet, it happens. The rich decide to get the pregnancy terminated, while the poor, who often have no access to such facilities usually wait until the kid has been born to take action. The number of cases (reported & unreported) of female foetuses being killed, girls being abandoned minutes after birth and even killing of the girl child has shot up drastically. And recently, I read about a motion to legalize sex determination in our country. That will be the end, I tell you. We might as well be heading towards an all male society. Women will become a scarce resource soon.

The article I read today also mentioned that for most poor villagers with daughters, this scenario was a boon. Their daughters are a scarce resource, and they have the power to bargain now. In olden days, the guy’s family had all the power when it came to a wedding and the dowry demanded was often hefty, something that a poor farmer could never be able to afford. Now the tables are turned. Women are in short supply and so, their parents have the power to bargain. They see this as a golden opportunity to get their daughters married off sans dowry. In some parts of India, the situation is so dire, grooms families are paying the brides parents to give them their daughters in marriage. And for these parents, the fact that their daughter could be married to 3-4 men does not matter. They are simply getting rid of a headache. Simple. And does this situation teach these people anything? No. Am sure once the woman is married off, to one or all the brothers in a family, she will still be under pressure to produce a son. And the vicious cycle continues.

For the rich, educated class of society, dowry is still one of the reasons most prefer to have a son rather than a daughter.After all they have to give their daughter enough depending on their social standing. For some it is a matter of passing on the family business etc onto the “responsible shoulders” of a son. For some it is all about having someone to carry the family name forward, since the daughter is always “paraya dhan”. For some it is about the security of having someone stay with them and take care of them in their old age. The reason and excuses abound but, the fact remains, that these excuses make no sense. All these are non- issues if you make up your mind about it. If you decide not to give dowry, then it ceases to become an issue. It is as simple as that. Somehow people fail to see that. Some are scared that without dowry their daughters will be ill-treated in their in-laws place. It is a legitimate fear, I agree. We hear and read about these issues on a daily basis. But a hefty dowry again, does not ensure a daughter’s happiness. She could be tortured in spite of it. There is never any guarantee.

And thus the male: female ratio keeps dwindling. In spite of the best efforts of the government and various other non- profit and non- governmental organizations, the situation has scarcely improved. The numbers have steadily fallen and one sees no signs of it improving anytime soon. Something needs to be done to change this mindset of people. The government has to crackdown hard on anti- female practices and policies. The time for surveys and studies and declarations are over. This is not the time for false promises or fake declarations to implement suggestions. This is the time for action. This is the time to come down hard on stupid rituals and policies that make a girl unwanted and unloved. This is the time to effect a massive change in society. Lets all pray before it’s too late. Else, am sure the day is not far off, when “women” will be a category on India’s list of imports.

Reality Bites..

Everyday, I take the bus to and from work. Its a short journey of probably 25 minutes or so, stretched to a painful hour or hour and 15 minutes by the rush hour traffic. Yet, one endures because one has no other choice. And everyday, I notice the same thing- everyone gets in, many plug in their earphones and start listening to music while also playing games or facebooking or reading things. Another group opens their newspapers and dives in, eager to devour their share of the morning news. Another category starts to flip through fashion magazines and some I can see are busy chatting away. There is pin drop silence in the bus on most days broken, only when someone’s phone rings or when someone decides to turn up the volume on their ipods. But most days, noone speaks and most of all, noone ever just sits and looks out of the window. Even the ones standing have music plugged in or somehow manage to hold on with one hand while clutching a book or their ipad in the other. Everyone sits, heads bowed down, lost in their virtual worlds.
(Image Courtesy: TS)
I’m guilty of listening to music too. And maybe, if reading on the go didn’t make me sick, I would have had my nose buried in a book too. But, there are a number of days when I’m just content to look out of the window and do nothing- not read, not listen to music, not play games, not do anything. I have seen only kids doing that- looking out of the window with a mix of curiosity and wonder and happiness writ large on their faces. I don’t know, somehow, we grown- ups seem to have lost that curiosity and that appreciation of the everyday. I know there might be nothing new if you look out- you see the same sights everyday, the same places, the same people, the same road. But somehow, I like to believe, everyday is different. Somedays the sky is blue, some days its grey. Some days it rains, some days the sun shines bright and some days the sun is blanketed by a layer of clouds. But noone seems to notice. I love to just be and stare out of the window. I like being alone with my thoughts. Yes, I think all the time. I like to look out and think of the world. I like to look at the kids playing outside in the many schools I pass by on my way to office and think that soon they’ll also grow up to be like us grown-ups. The teenagers are already there. Always plugged into their virtual worlds and loving their virtual identities more than their actual ones perhaps.
I like to watch the people at their bus stops, hurrying to get to their offices and wonder what they are thinking, what goes through their minds, what has shaped them and continues to shape their lives. I like to watch brand new mommies pushing strollers with their precious cargo, out for their morning walk, that happy, beaming, content look on their faces. I like to watch old couples out for their morning walk, sometimes holding hands and sharing a joke, sometimes just content to walk together- the continuation of a journey they started years back. I like to watch the schoolkids in their small gangs- laughing and giggling, carefree. I like to watch the fitness freaks out for their morning jog- intense, focussed on their run and nothing else. I like to watch the homemakers-on their way back from the market, shopping carts laden with fresh vegetables and meat and what not.I like to watch the busy food courts, the school playgrounds, the parents walking their kids to nursery schools. I like to watch the rain and shine, the falling leaves and the patterns the raindrops make on the window. I like to watch life go by.
And I wonder, why is it that people prefer to bury their heads far away from the world? Is it because they find the virtual world more interesting than the real? Is it because they are too afraid to be left alone with their thoughts? Do they find the things around them too boring? Do they find the real world too real for their taste, and want to escape to someplace in their imagination- someplace virtual? I don’t know. I can only speculate. And yes, I do love technology. I love the fact that I can check my mail anytime, anywhere. I love facebooking and chatting with my friends. And I’m guilty of doing these things on the go too. Yes, somedays I shut out the real world and immerse myself in the virtual. But, I do enjoy everything about the real world too. I’m glad I’m wired like that. I’m glad the first thing I do on waking up is to draw the curtains and watch the sun, and not check my facebook wall. Yes.. I’m glad I have found some balance. And I hope that the people I see everyday, the ones who sit with their heads bowed down, lost in their virtual worlds, are also, on some days,taking the time out to truly live…