Overparenting….yes, there really is such a term


Yes, there is such a term called ‘over-parenting’. Read this Wikipedia article about the same.

I first heard (or actually read) about this particular phenomenon some months ago when I read this article about the book ‘Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother’ written by Amy Chua. You can read enough and more articles supporting and against this particular book and its concepts all over the internet, just google “Tiger Mother” and you will find hundreds or even thousands of articles.

What prompted this post was the fact that I came across this article in Firstpost about how today’s parents put too much pressure on their kids to perform well not just at school and academics but also outside of school, in the playground, at home, wherever they are, whatever they do.

My wife and me noticed the fact that most of the lanes around where we stay in Bangalore are crowded with pre-schools/play-schools and how all of them seem to have some or the other summer camp going on. From teaching kids painting, dancing, crafts, and all other assorted types of hobbies. We have started this daily walk habit and everyday we take a different route to walk in, and everyday we notice new pre-schools and play-schools, but one theme is common, all of them are in the Summer Camp season right now. This led to both of us wondering what we used to do when we were kids. And the consensus was that we pretty much used to spend time either at home, or at an uncle’s house with our cousins doing nothing focused, playing games at random, enjoying the summer sun, and the glorious outdoors with minimum adult supervision. Yes, we might not have realized our true potentials as painters, dancers or singers, but we turned out Ok, didn’t we!!!

Having said that, our parents led less hectic and tedious lives. They didn’t have to travel 25+ kms a day to office, they didn’t have to drive through ‘road-rage’ filled traffic, they didn’t have to contend with as much pollution, they didn’t have to fight tooth and nail to get good appraisals and promotions, they didn’t have to worry too much about job security, etc. As parents nowadays, all of the above items are realities. As adult individuals, if we face so many problems, then just add the children variable to the equation and it is quite clear that today’s parents are screwed.

Today, we have to necessarily worry about our careers and the money we make simply because pot loads of money is what is required to ensure that our kids have a good future. Something as basic and simple as a pre-school costs at least INR 5000/- for a trimester, and I am not even talking about the world-class pre-schools, but regular neighborhood aunty-variety ones. A school admission in any decent school (meaning one with qualified, accredited, good teachers) does entail some kind of donation irrespective of whichever politician or policeman you know. Add to this the cost of uniforms, books, school bus, other related items such as stationery, accessories, etc, and all of this in today’s prices adds up to quite a bit.

And guess what, given the number of kids that are enrolling in decent schools, the competition for any decent degree such as a BE, B’Tech, B Sc, B Com, BA, etc has also exponentially increased. Making our kids employable is another costly story which I am not even getting into.

The above two paragraphs kind of explain why today’s parents are anxious to ensure that anything and everything related to their kid’s development and education happen without a glitch. Where today’s parents make the mistake is when they get personally involved with their kid’s learning (not education but the learning process itself). Today’s parents are not allowing their kids to make mistakes and learn from them. Yes, kids require hand-holding, but it is only when kids fall down will they learn that falling down hurts, but they also learn that when they fall down, all they have to do is to stand up, brush themselves off and continue walking once again. They need to learn that falling down is only a temporary setback and not a permanent one. As parents, our responsibility is to ensure that kids learn to stand back up on their own, learn to brush themselves off, and teach them to start walking again. We need to teach our kids how to overcome temporary setbacks, rather than taking steps to ensure that they never face setbacks or failures.

In fact, this wonderful article from The Atlantic goes on to talk about why parents should allow their kids to fail once in a while, as it makes the kids tougher, grittier and stronger to face bigger failures when they are older. This other article from The Atlantic talks about how parents from different parts of the world perceive their children’s state of mind, and it is interesting to note that American parents seem to focus more on the cognitive development of their kids whereas European parents seem to focus more on the state of mind of the kid. Europeans seem more laidback when compared to Americans in terms of how their kids develop ‘scientific skills’ compared to ‘life skills’. I personally would love my daughter to develop more life skills as I believe these will anyways help her pick up scientific skills later on an ‘as-required’ basis and thank God, my wife agrees with me on this.

Image courtesy: http://blessedexistence-blessed.blogspot.com

English Vinglish and Diamonds are Forever



Wondering what the title refers to….well, given that I have run out of creative topics to post about, just thought I would try and get back into the groove of writing by providing short synopses of two wonderful articles I just read today. So, here goes….


The first article I read today (or actually the second one, but am quoting it first as it deals with the first part of the title “English”. Hey, it’s my blog and I can post it in any order I want, can’t I ???

Coming back, the Tehelka article [Link to article] talks about how English as a language has proved to be an empowering tool for various common men and women from various walks of life to improve their overall standard of living. From being a luxury sometime ago, English-medium education today is being viewed as an important necessity all over India today. The article cites examples of a survey of private schools in Hyderabad, a garbage collector from Delhi, a taxi driver in Mumbai, a Dalit writer, an educationist from Pune, and others to bring out the point that almost the entire country today considers English education as an important tool in equipping their children, the future generation for the future, which in their perception is going to be very ‘English-driven’, for lack of a better term.

The fact that English as a language is probably only around 2000 yrs old [Link to Wikipedia article] has come such a long way and today is universally accepted around the world as the common medium of communication, goes a long way to prove the Tehelka piece right. Wonder what all the so called ‘opponents of English’ and ‘supporters of mother tongue’ will have to say if and when they read this article


The second article [Link to article] (Warning: Really long and really old article from 1982) that I want to bring your attention to relates to De Beers and their almost 90 yr old monopoly on the Diamond distribution business. While all of us are aware (and women more so) that a diamond engagement ring is probably the best way for a man to propose to his loved one, how many of us know that this was not necessarily the case until the 1930s. It was only then that De Beers with the help of their advertising agency came up with this ad campaign which created the image of a diamond engagement ring being a symbol of everlasting love which created the famous by line “A diamond is forever”. This particular campaign went on to capture the imagination of the United States which was soon copied by Europe, Japan and the rest of the world.

The article provides great detail as to how De Beers the company went on to have a strangle-hold grip on the way diamonds were distributed and sold across the world and how they tightly controlled the demand of the gems so that the prices always remained high and they would make their profits on the same. Even when other diamond cartels were formed in Russia and Israel, the De Beers conglomerate proved savvy enough to win them over either by force or by negotiating them into their cartel. For a more brief version of the De Beers history read this article [Link to article] which ends with the bittersweet conclusion where the conglomerate has been bought over by its sole competitor as the family which ran it for so long is no longer interested in the business.

I personally had always wondered why diamonds had such bad resale value and this article answered all the questions about that. Wonder if there are similar stories for other precious metals such as gold, silver, platinum, etc. I guess I will have to see if the web throws up similar articles for these as well.


For readers who saw the title and came here expecting movie reviews, visit these links instead 😀

English Vinglish [Wikipedia link]

Diamonds are forever [Wikipedia link]


Image Courtesy: Google Images search for “Queen Elizabeth diamonds” 😀

The end of role models


Being an avid quizzer right from my high school days, my earliest exposure to Lance Armstrong, the cyclist was the fact that he was the up and coming star of the sport (I am talking about the 1990s here, before he became the sporting superstar that he went on to become). I kept reading news here and there about how he was winning quite a few tournaments, and how he was well in the process of redefining the sport of cycling as a spectator sport.

By virtue of his achievements in the sport, Armstrong contributed to cycling becoming another sport which started enjoying a sizeable fan following. And the story of his comeback to cycling post his cancer treatment, and winning all those Tour De France events, well, that is the stuff that sporting legends and sports movie scripts are made of. His most famous and visible contribution to the world was The Livestrong  Foundation, which to this date has the following words in its manifesto – “We fight to improve the lives of people affected by cancer.”

Coming from somebody who is a survivor and not just any survivor but a multiple championship winning survivor in a tough sport, Lance Armstrong has always served as a role model to lots of youngsters the world over, and also as a very strong inspiration to all people fighting cancer across the world.

All this being said, the events over the past few months have cast a huge shadow over the aura of Armstrong. While it was the allegations of using performance enhancing drugs a few months ago, his public spat with the USADA and the WADA put a large shadow of doubt over the entire cycling community. The fact that he not only rejected these allegations outright, but also went on to blame all these authorities of trying to unjustly malign him struck me as quite funny. What took the cake was the fact that he even refused to fight his lifetime ban from cycling, the sport which had given him all that he has in his life today.

And yesterday, the news that he appeared on Oprah Winfrey’s show and supposedly confessed to engaging in the usage of performance enhancing drugs simply took the icon Lance Armstrong and converted him to a villain of sorts. While it might have been “acceptable” (and I use this word with caution) for a normal sportsperson to engage in this sort of behavior to gain an unfair advantage, the fact that somebody as inspirational, as influential, as iconic as Armstrong did this, and probably ran a huge operation to cover it up as well, makes it quite an unpardonable crime.

While the USADA, the WADA, courts and other people might sue Armstrong for his last dollar for having actively concealed his doping practices, who will answer for the millions of people who absolutely adored and idolized Armstrong for being their inspiration to fight cancer. The fact that he robbed them of inspiration, hope to succeed in life after cancer, who will take Armstrong to courts for that? Who will sue him for cheating a lot of people by pretending to be a role model for them?

The fact remains that Armstrong is just another in a long line of inspirational sportspersons who have ended up using public affection and public love for them wrongly (Hansie Cronje, Tiger Woods, Mohamed Azharuddin to name a few that I can think of immediately). All of these above mentioned people were clearly aware of the fact that they enjoyed public love and affection due to their achievements in the sporting arena. They clearly understood that they were in a position where their actions could influence the way their sports was viewed by the general public. They understood that they were role models for youngsters who followed their sport. But the fact that they still chose to break the rules is in my opinion, quite unpardonable.

While a normal individual like you and me can break rules (even that is unpardonable if you ask me), our scope of influence and control are only over a few people who actually know us. However, when public personalities, especially popular sportspersons break rules so unflinchingly, the wrong sort of message is sent out. And that is a tragedy for anybody who loves sport, and who enjoys sport based on the understanding that sports probably is the only place in the world where rules are respected and is participated in “sportingly” (for lack of a better term).

What have you ‘learnt’ today?

Since the time I can remember I have always being against the current Indian system of education where an unnecessary premium is paid on ‘rote learning’, ie, learning lessons and topics by-heart rather than understanding them and applying them. How many of us reading this post can truly put their hands up and say that they clearly understood all that they learnt in school in the various subjects such as Math, Science, Social Studies, etc. All of us put in efforts to ‘mug’ these subjects, the lessons in them purely with the intention of replicating them in our answer papers during the various examinations. In my opinion, all of us swallowed mundane facts, figures, etc. and then ‘vomited’ them in appropriate places in the examination answer papers without necessarily ‘digesting’ them properly.


Net result, most of us have a half-baked knowledge of all the subjects. We have only enough knowledge to figure out basic math and not necessarily understand how complicated equations such as the ones that measure the distance between stars and planets are measured. In fact, not too many of us even know the ‘concept’ behind such measurements, let alone understand why we need to measure such distances.


While Math historically has remained a reasonably insurmountable barrier to most human beings (beyond normal arithmetic), Science as a body of knowledge which is so very important for our everyday survival suffers from the same fate. How many of us really know why ‘deep depressions’ are formed in the Bay of Bengal which results in all roads of Chennai being flooded due to subsequent rains? How many of us are truly aware of the effects of ‘global warming’ (if any) on the Chennai weather? How many of us really know about the effects of our ‘carbon footprints’ we all generate as part of our daily lives? These are fairly simple concepts and topics which most of us read about daily in newspapers, but how many of us really understand them enough. Why is it that we struggle to learn something really new? Because our brains have been conditioned to ‘learning’ new things only when we see any ‘material use’ of such ‘learning’. Right from the time we joined schools, we have been taught to learn only when it is required to replicate such learning in an examination somewhere. When was the last time we really learnt anything just for the fun of learning it? Probably never…


I read this brilliant article on The Hindu website (http://www.thehindu.com/education/careers/nobler-than-a-nobel/article4136659.ece?homepage=true) which talks about how we Indians as a society place such a premium on recognition, rewards, trophies etc. in every field that we inherently forget that there is more to life than just these things. The article quotes Nobel Prize winner, Venkataraman Ramakrishnan (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venkatraman_Ramakrishnan) where he says that before he won the Nobel Prize, his lectures used to be attended by around 300 people, and now that he has won the Nobel Prize, his audience levels hover around the 2500 people mark. The sudden surge in numbers is not because of increased audience interest in his subject or his lectures, but is more to do with the fact that Indians just want to glimpse a ‘Nobel Prize winning celebrity’, want an occasion to hear him talk in person, if possible shake his hand and take a photo with him. That is the kind of deification that is promoted in India today. For somebody to claim that he is good at what he does, he better have a few international accreditations, some medals, some prizes, some mentions in the Barrons/Forbes/Time Magazine lists, etc. Otherwise, he is not an ‘expert’ in his field.


The article goes on to highlight the fact that for somebody to truly excel at his field, the first prerogative is that the person should be deeply passionate about the field, should be completely committed to excelling at the field, and should be more than willing to put in hard work to excel at whatever he is doing. The fact that the Indian media and Indians in general overplay an award or an international recognition goes on to distort all of the above pre-requisites that are required in the first place.


Tying the first part of my post which was a rant on how I absolutely detest the ‘rote system’ of learning and the second part of my post which talks about the pre-requisites for excellence, I personally believe that the current Indian education system still has a long way to go before we can truly claim that we can produce ‘world beaters’ in any field. All credit to the true ‘geniuses’, if any, will have to go to the individuals and their support systems and NOT to the education system. The system, if anything, probably proves to be the biggest hurdle to be crossed by the genuine achievers in India. Wonder when that will change…

Image courtesy: http://www.cartoonmotivators.com

The Simpsons – My love affair…

I don’t really remember when I first watched the Simpsons, I am guessing that I noticed one of my US returned nephew’s son (who by the way is only like 4 yrs younger than me, more on that later) wearing a Bart Simpson T-Shirt. Well, he didn’t really call him Bart, and called him ‘Banana Man’ for some funny reason. I am guessing the fact that Bart was (and still remains) banana yellow in color had something to do with it. In any case, like I said earlier I simply cannot remember when it was that I watched my first full episode of Simpsons. All that I know is that this particular series remains one of my all time favorite TV series then, now and probably forever.

Think about it, the Simpsons has it all, a typical all American family with a bumbling dad, a well meaning but kinda troublesome mother, a brat of a son, a brainy daughter, a drooly toddler and to top it all off a stupid dog as well. What more can a typical American family look like. In any case, apart from the fact that this series pretty much depicts all that America and Americans stand for, the fact that it uses humor as a medium to talk about all that is right and wrong with today’s America is what makes it stand out among the crowd.

Each of the characters stands out in his/her own way. Homer with his bumbling ways at work, at home, with all his relationships, Marge, his loving wife, the only person that pretty much holds things together in this family, Bart, the omnipresent trouble maker, Lisa, the brainy little sister and Maggie, the drooly lil kid, all of them hold their own among a much larger and regular cast of characters in this series. Although the show primarily revolves around Bart Simpson and all his antics, each of the characters have enough ammunition in their personalities and their little lives in Springfield to make up for a lifetime of memories.

Why am I writing all this now? Because I just happened to catch an episode of Simpsons on TV after quite a long time, and funnily enough some parts of this one is loosely based on the movie – Face Off. The best part about this series is that this family never grows older, wiser or boring as the years go by. Wish all our lives were like that, where we could retain the good, funny parts, and never grow older.