U for Unapologetically Human

I grew up in the eighties when life was much simpler. The options for entertainment had more to do with people communicating with each other in person than staying hooked on to their mobiles. All the nine houses on the street (para in Bengali) that we stayed at had neighbors who knew each other well, visited each other’s houses frequently and celebrated festivals together. My closest friend in the neighborhood came from a family where both her parents were working. Her father, Uncle K was also my father’s close friend and colleague. Despite the fact that they had full-time help to take care of her and her elder brother. I don’t remember an afternoon where she wasn’t having lunch or taking a nap at my place. 

I studied in a primary school for four months before my parents applied for admission to the only Convent school in my home town. Unlike Tuneer, I loved going to school. In the first primary school, a few of the teachers happened to be the wives of my father’s colleagues. Because of their occasional visits to our house and vice versa, I was already familiar with the aunties that school never felt any different after I saw them in the classrooms.

My life at the Convent school started amidst turbulence. On the night before the scheduled date of interaction, my paternal grandfather passed away. As per his last wish, his dead body was taken to his native village for cremation and my father had to go for the last rites. The rules of the admission process had clearly mentioned that both the parents had to attend the interaction session along with the kid. Ma had lost all hopes of getting permission for attending the interview alone with me. But Uncle K took it upon himself to go to the school and explain the situation to the authorities. My friend and I both had our separate interaction sessions after Uncle K convinced the authorities that I deserved a chance. For him, I could never be his daughter’s competitor but her best friend.

Life before teh era of photoshop - with my parents
Life before the era of photoshop – with my parents

Both of us studied in the same school but in different sections until she moved on to a different institution for high school. While we went ahead and made many more friends in school, I don’t remember any of us crying beyond the first day because we had each other. While there was competition in academics and extracurriculars, it was never reason enough to cut ties or devise strategies to beat so-called ‘friends turned into opponents’. My interaction with my core circle of friends went beyond the school boundary walls because their parents always made me feel welcome at home. A couple of months back, when I went to the birthday celebration of the daughter of one of my best friends from school, it never felt like we were meeting after two decades. 

Last year, I met different kinds of parents for the first time after Tuneer started preschool. Until then I had never given much of thought to the kind of parenting examples we were setting while raising Tuneer. In fact, I had never even attempted to write any parenting article until then. I knew that I was the kind of clumsy mother who believed in having a lot of fun in this journey of parenting, even if it involved kinds of silly mistakes. In no time, my approach towards parenting had a reality check once I got to meet the following kind of parents –

  1. The ‘extra’ competitive ones – The kind of parents who wanted a monthly progress report for their preschooler (not kidding!). They believed that it was the responsibility of the school to start training the kids for interviews immediately (even if the child still failed to say his/her name properly). Their standard question in every parents-teachers meeting included ‘when will you introduce writing’.
  2. The ‘I will make others competitive as well’ kind – these are the people one must really be scared of. They didn’t just believe in being competitive but also considered it their responsibility to take up the roles of mentors to make the people around competitive. They judged everyone else’s choices while trying to influence their decisions.
  3. The ‘I pretend to be balanced towards competition’ types – These are people who actually considered every child a threat kept a track of their progress on the sly. But the kind of attitude they pretended to the word was staying unfazed towards competition.
  4. The ‘I am not bothered about anything’ kind – These are people who are either very rich or have a confirmed upcoming on-site posting. They realize that they have more important things to attend to rather breaking their heads on competition or education.
The unforturnate truth of technology addiction at such a young age
The unfortunate truth of technology addiction at such a young age

Even before Sr. T and I could discuss anything about Tuneer’s future schools, a group of parents strictly belonging to the second category already took it upon themselves to have an opinion of the list of schools which were suited to our educational qualifications and professions. When I expressed my reluctance to pick up the admission form of an elite school situated more than twenty kms away from my residence, a few of the parents couldn’t believe that I was ready to let go of the creme de la creme institution for a mere two and a half hour up and down journey. I soon ended up disappointing a few more by picking up forms from the new age schools which were too substandard to make it to their list.

While I escaped unscathed, one of the more simpleton mothers fell prey to this kind of grooming. Her husband who works in a very senior position in a Financial Management firm has made it a mission of his life to get the two and a half-year-old child admitted to one of the reputed schools located far away from home. The school has a ridiculous method of evaluation which involves the parents sitting for a written test of the English language. I am told that there are two tutors who come to his house these days – one has been training the child for her interviews and the other one is entrusted with teaching English to the Bengali medium educated mother.

Keeping himself entertained through non-living things
Keeping himself entertained through non-living things

It has just been a week of Tuneer’s new school. While Sr. T and I are still breaking our heads trying to figure out the process to help the boy settle down, I see a plethora of messages on the three WhatsApp groups that I have been involuntarily added  to (one as per Tuneer’s class, one as per section and the other involving those availing the pool car facilities). There’s already daily discussions on studies (that are yet to begin), activities like crafts and sports (that the kids refuse to share details about) and queries on missing tiffin boxes and pencil boxes (the most entertaining ones)

At times I wonder how my parents managed to stay connected with the parents of students in my class. There was hardly any mode of communication than except meeting them personally. Unfortunately, we turned out to be more of a technology-led generation where the size of our apartments grew in size but the space in our hearts kept shrinking. When I look around, I see most people including me get comfortable with the idea of texting frequently, calling occasionally and meeting rarely.

Last weekend, I decided to fix this unsocial behavior of mine by inviting Tuneer’s first friend in school at home with her parents.  The kids had been classmates in the preschool for over six months and they live just two building apart. Yet we never made any effort to connect until now. When I saw both of them bring the house down with things flying in all possible directions, I realized that these are the bonds that build relationships which act as the basic foundation for becoming a ‘human’ in the truest sense.

This is one of the few posts that came straight from the heart and probably that’s why it has very little humor quotient in it. I paused multiple times to analyze my own thoughts while writing it and I sincerely hope it makes you think as well. Please come back to read my next post on ‘V’ tomorrow. You can catch up on the previous posts here.

Author: Sonia Chatterjee

Who am I? An erstwhile banker turned blogger/writer/author. Any qualifications? A Post-Graduate degree in Chemistry followed by a second Post-Graduate Diploma in Management. I completed a one-year MFA in creative writing course from the Writer's Village University, U.S. in Dec 2020. Though I must admit that I am still trying to figure out how and when I can connect all these dots. Have I done any real work? If two years in market research, six years in banking as a branch head, three-plus years of blogging, writing, and publishing a book can be considered as real work, then yes! Where do I live? After spending life like a nomad for sixteen years in Delhi, Bangalore & Mysore, I am back to where it all started from - Kolkata. My favorite things - Books, coffee, travel, food, and my five-year-old son. What is this blog about? Through Sonia's musings, I intend to explore writing in various genres, create social awareness, spread laughter, and give words to emotions. Anything for readers? You can check out my book 'Deal of Death' on Amazon Kindle. If you like fast-paced thrillers, this Detective fiction introducing the woman sleuth, Raya Ray could turn out to be your perfect weekend read.

32 thoughts on “U for Unapologetically Human”

  1. When my son started school, I came upon varied types of parents. Some were too haughty to talk with other parents, a set of parents wanted to know everything of another child (read competitor), some were unassuming.
    When I grew up , admissions and parenting were very simple.
    Liked the photo of you, Sonia, with your parents before the era of photoshop. I consider that era of simplicity and innocence.


    Liked by 1 person

  2. “Where the size of our apartments grew in size but the space in our hearts kept shrinking” very beautifully said. I don’t have any personal experiance but I can relate. I have seen my cousins who fight the same battle. Sometimes I feel we are making our kids very sensitive.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Nice post on memories of days gone by. You are so true about so many different types of parents. We are an easy going type. We think things will work out. But we are also the butt of jokes for being lazy and not taking enough measure to secure our kid’s future. About crying while going to school, I don’t remember crying. I spent in boarding school from class six to eleven. I went to boarding to avoid getting a beating for failing maths test in class five. So crying was not my cup of tea. I also had teachers visiting home. Because, my mother was teaching in the same school. That was all the more reason why flunking test would be humiliating from my mother, and quota of beating would be go up.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Haha Sonia I can’t believe you thought this had no humour in it! I loved your descriptions of fellow parents and the varying degrees of competitiveness. Not to forget those heinous and endless Whatsapp Groups!
    You’re absolutely right, somewhere along the way, the ability to make human and lasting bonds has been affected.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Only the other I was contemplating over these WhatsApp groups. They add to the extra luggage that comes with schooling nowadays. Mostly have parents worked up more than kids and they just land up spilling over the tension to their children.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Beautifully written piece, Sonia. Especially liked your analysis of different kinds of parents. The world becomes harder every day, doesn’t it? Many of my friends remain glued to WhatsApp groups of parents; they endlessly discuss their kids’ homework, arrange playdates…The few who find it all overwhelming risk being sidelined and called arrogant.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I remember standing in those queues for nursery admission, when the discussion would be about which preschool has started writing process.
    What’s app groups even I detest them but considering my kid who would not bother to tell me any homework they are life saver at times

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I love the list of parents you had shared and I had also observed the same thing too..exceptional write up as usual and I have become a big fan of you after reading posts in this series. you are super awesome!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Loved reading your analysis of the different kinds of parents. I get to do that too, at my store! 😀 Of course, many a times, their kids totally falsify all their big claims, when they start doing their own thing! Haha!
    Yeah, it’s difficult to retain your independent thinking these days. Too much pressure to conform.

    Find my U post @ How Often Should You Update Your Blog

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Our parents were most definitely more chilled out and warm. My mum would readily feed any friend that came home. But these days we hardly socialize as families. My sons call their friends home but never with their parents. Most parents do the work of picking and dropping. And I’ve never understood WhatsApp group for parents. Luckily, I haven’t been a part of these horrendous groups. I always opt out. That way I keep my sanity. Also I am not active on WA so these groups will not serve any purpose anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Welcome to the parenting journey! 🙂 Parenting is an interesting journey and there are different types of parents that will surely delight many a writer(like me!! :)) and those Whatsapp groups… the less said, the better!! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  12. These type two parents are everywhere irrespective of whether their child is in same class or even same school as yours. They can meet you anywhere and start grilling. What kids see is what they do.they see parents more dependent on tech than people hence they do the same and then we want them to behave the way we used to behave as kids. Creating further confusion for them.
    Amazing article, great points touched.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Nice post. I loved the way you categorised the parents and the WhatsApp groups. But trust me our times were different and yet our parents knew almost everything that was going on in class and school. These days though we have come closer due to technology trust me we have become really distant.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Nice presentation of some facts with two different eras, naturally it can hardly contain any humor, the division of different types of parents is very logical, have noticed all those four kinds, The “Race begins” from the very childhood days now a days and the mental attachments are being replaced with the “Competition”, having the experience of primary school i can relate with the old days, mentioned here, very deeply.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. “I see most people including me get comfortable with the idea of texting frequently, calling occasionally and meeting rarely” so me. I was quite a social person but I have a significant change in myself…not at all for good I know.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. There is yet another type of parent who makes it a point to walk into every family friend’s house boasting of his/her child’s prowess in academics. Their usual refrain is, my son/daughter is first in this or first in that. So how are your children faring? I can understand a parent’s pride in a child’s achievement but to go around doing a comparitive study with every child under the sun with the sole aim of making others feel inferior is malicious. I used to come across quite a few such parents when I was a kid and even now I find such parents in my daughter’s school.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yes Jai. I am yet to meet this kind of kid, probably because my experience is just limited to the preschool. But I have had friends with parents like this. My goodness, the achievements never ceased to be highlighted enough.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. An oh so relatable story Sonia. U r absolutely correct… we have to consciously work towards creating those real bonds especially for our kids. The friends made early in life are friends for life and our kids would really need those strong friendships in their lives.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. This is such a beautiful post. Surely technology is doing more harm than good. The real human connection is diminishing. But who is to be blamed for it? Your childhood picture with your parents is adorable and so is Tuneer ‘s photo.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. A thoughtful post indeed. Each word resonates completely with me. We sure lived in simpler times. Sometimes I think, how did we stay in touch while traveling…I had started making solo bus journeys during class 11th to home during vacation (I was living in a different city for studies) and there was no mobile phone that I possessed…no one was taking frequent updates like – are you seated, did you eat food, etc. every hour or so (which has become the norm nowadays). Of course, safety is undeniable, but we are abusing technology and becoming more restless than ever.
    I am glad that you took the initiative to call Tuneer’s friend and tried to establish a human connection than a virtual one.
    Read my U post here UBUNTU

    Liked by 1 person

  20. A thoughtful post indeed. Each word resonates completely with me. We sure lived in simpler times. Sometimes I think, how did we stay in touch while traveling…I had started making solo bus journeys during class 11th to home during vacation (I was living in a different city for studies) and there was no mobile phone that I possessed…no one was taking frequent updates like – are you seated, did you eat food, etc. every hour or so (which has become the norm nowadays). Of course, safety is undeniable, but we are abusing technology and becoming more restless than ever.
    I am glad that you took the initiative to call Tuneer’s friend and tried to establish a human connection than a virtual one.
    Read my U post here UBUNTU


  21. Loved this post, Sonia! I agree that technology has changed some things for the worse but it is upto us to ensure that our kids develop ‘real’ social skills through interaction and unorganised playing.
    I would like to add another category to this parents list. The ‘ever cribbing’ ones. They’re never happy with the school, the hobby class or any activity their kids are part of. What more, they try to instigate other parents too.

    Liked by 1 person

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