My posts in the A2Z challenge started out as a fun-filled narration on my experiences related to school admissions. With time, I realized how my thoughts were peeling off layers of issues hidden under the security blanket of education.The moment a child is born, a doctor announces its gender to the parents first. And there begins the first step of discriminationbecause the birth of a baby girl is considered as a burden in a lot of families while a baby boy is a reason to celebrate even today. And from there on begins the set expectations from each gender.
I grew up in a household where equality was the norm. I have seen my father take care of the kitchen as and when required with the same expertise in which he handled his teaching job. Nothing was assigned to be a job based on gender in my home. But the world outside is never so kind. Glass ceilings are a harsh reality for women and I have faced such biases at various places of education and work. But if there was something that I had decided for my son, it was to raise him sans any gender discrimination. But the ‘well-wishers’ can obviously not let me have my way with the child without garnishing our lives with their opinion in generous doses.
As Tuneer learned to play, the first thing that he was drawn to was a kitchen set that I had purchased for him. It used to be his favorite set until recently when the love swayed towards a newly purchased supermarket set. But weren’t kitchens supposed to be a girl’s domain?To those ‘well-meaning souls’, it didn’t matter that the mother hardly entered the kitchen because what was important was to let the child know that he was expected to play with toys befitting a boy. Some went a step ahead and commented on how I was raising him as a girl. With a smile on my face, I would often reply as to how I was so proud of my MasterChef who already knew how to keep his foodie mother happy.
This is my 11th post in the A2Z challenge and I already feel so exhausted. My fingers and eyes need a break from the constant writing and reading schedules. I shudder at the thought of the coming week when Tuneer is scheduled to start his school. I start wondering about managing daily writing with helping him settle down in the new environment! Desperate times call for desperate measuresand I decide to grab the bar of Bournville Dark chocolate (apparently purchased for the kid though he has long made his dislike for dark chocolate vocal) and finish it clean within minutes.
Well, this has been the story of my life for as long as I can remember. I eat when I am happy and I also eat when I’m worried. I don’t think my coping up mechanism towards any circumstance, good or bad will work until I savor some of my favorite dishes. I have been that rare kind of child who could never contribute to any conversation that had people speaking about the time when they were not overweight or when they were thin. The weighing scale always tilted towards the right ever since I checked it up for the first time.
When I moved away from home for higher studies, a lot of the acquaintances had expected me to return slimmer. The girls’ hostel of Presidency College, Kolkata indeed served food that could kill anyone’s taste buds. But two things happened soon – I discovered a foodie who is still my best friend and together we spotted the chat/samosa/cold drinks outlet outside the hostel. To cut the story short, I can say that I had been one of the most valuable contributors to the growth of this outlet in my three-year duration in the city. The story wasn’t any different in Delhi, my next destination in student life. Here the hostel food was equally delicious.
Sr. T and I belong to families who have a strong faith in the Supreme power. In his family, we worship the two hundred plus year old family deities of Krishna and Radha known as Shaam Rai. Despite the fact that both my parents believed in puja and prayers, my faith suffered a massive hit when I lost Ma overnight in 2011. I had stopped believing in God and refused to even pray for some years.
Our faith is often triggered by our own fears and insecurities. And I happen to be the kind of mother whose life is defined by her son’s happiness to a great extent. After Tuneer was born, I was back at our puja room although not whole-heartedly. I had made it amply clear that I still had unresolved conflicts with Her (my God is a woman).
Other than the grand celebration associated with Durga Puja in Bengal, my all-time favorite Goddess has always been Ma Saraswati. Every year Baba would perform the puja, Ma would make a lot of delicacies, the house would be decorated with flowers and alpana (hand artwork using rice and flour paste) would be drawn on the floor. I would finish giving pushpanjali and eagerly wait for the bhog prasad.
A part of the ritual involved keeping books in front of the idol during the puja and letting it stay overnight. In my house, it would mostly be a couple of Mathematics books(belonging to my Professor Dad), a few pens and my complete set of textbooks for that particular year. I had this strange notion that if I left out any book, that subject would end up not being blessed by the Goddess. Keeping rationality aside, I couldn’t afford to take the risk.
As an erstwhile Banker, the topic is lucrative enough for me to get distracted and start writing on the need for diversification of funds, tenure of and right time for investment. But a glance at the fee-book of the school where the boy’s future has finally been sealed brings me back to reality. We will have to make a visit to collect books (you read that right) from his school tomorrow and like any other cautious parent, I am keeping the documents ready just in case they decide to recheck if we have actually paid the money!. In my husband’s words, they might ask for proof of existing investment in education before deciding on a further amount of investment for education to begin.
Until recently, we were a dual-earning family with major areas of expenditure covering luxury travel, books, movies, and gastronomic adventures at multiple restaurants. Then Tuneer happened. Expenses were channelized towards diapers, baby clothes, baby carrier, perambulator, walker and so on. Next, I decided to follow my passion and ventured into a profession famous for not having a financial prospect (that too, at my age when most of my counterparts have been promoted to the level of AVPs in Banks). It didn’t bother much though. Primarily because Sr. T is usually supportive of my decisions (those that are not related to the child) and I was making some money for my own survival (since my idea of survival is about eating Momos for lunch and dinner).
But we came face to face with the expenses related to education when Tuneer started his preschool last year. Of course, a metro city meant that the expenditures were meant to be high but the one-time admission plus quarterly fee exceeded all our expectations. Well, it was just the beginning of our long-term investments in this field. Once the school admission brochures were handed over, we realized that the new age schools had taken the concept of development a tad too seriously by quoting an exorbitant amount in the name of development fee.
I have often spoken about my relationship with Sr. T. We grew up in the same small town in Bengal. We were batchmates studying in different schools, had labeled each other as arrogant based on other people’s perceptions and went on to study in Kolkata in two adjacent institutions for three years before I moved out to Delhi. We suffered heartbreak in our individual relationships coincidentally at the same time and finally got in touch through Orkut in 2009 when he was working as a Doctor in Kolkata and I was heading a Bank branch in Mysore. It took us very little time to realize that we were meant to be together and in June 2011, we became a couple officially (a detailed post on our love story is available here).
Our honeymoon period barely lasted five months before I lost Ma to pancreatitis. Our relation underwent a sea change as he turned out to be my Rock of Gibraltar in the most vulnerable stage of my life. The loss was irreversible but the pain became bearable with time. Eventually, like almost every other couple, we started having fights about my OCD to keep things in place (read books only) and his frustration at my refusal to give up on eating out every alternate day. But our similar priorities and outlook towards life made the foundation of our relationship strong enough to survive tough times.
This was until Tuneer popped out into this world in September 2015. Trivialities suddenly started becoming issues. The decision to run the AC at 26 degrees(as I wished to) against 27 degrees (his idea of a perfect temperature for a newborn baby) almost led to a war-like situation at home. The kind of diapers that were to be purchased for the baby (disposable v/s reusable) and the need of a baby carrier(his refusal v/s my insistence), were few of the many items that put us at loggerheads. Penguin Dads like Sr. T definitely deserve a shout-out but the truth is that a few of them also end up giving tough times for opinionated mothers like me.
In my fifth post E for Examination Expectations, I wrote about a certain school following a ridiculous assessment methodology. That post had details about the final steps of the evaluation process while the first step of a Group Discussion involving the parents and decision-making authorities of the school follows here.
In his tenure of being a medical student and then working as a Doctor in various cities, Sr. T had never even heard of the concept of Group Discussion or GD, as we prefer to call it. As a B-school student, I had been part of this terrifying process twice in my life. The first time that I was a part of a GD group was to get through ta B-school and the second time happened as part of the campus recruitment selection process by a certain organization. This school was the only one who spoke of a GD and our curiosity to see how crazy things could get landed us in the school on the date of interaction.
On the scheduled day of the interview, there were a bunch of parents with their respective kids sitting in a posh air-conditioned conference room waiting for their turn. Post verification of the documents, a group of five parents and their kids were asked to walk inside a meeting room that had the Head of the institution and a child counselor already waiting for us.
The Head welcomed the kids with a toffee each wherein she expected every child to say ‘Thank You’ after taking the toffee (later she claimed to be checking the social skills of the child). After the initial formality of introducing ourselves, she threw the forum open for discussing the old and new parenting practices. Sr. T had a wide grin on his face as he looked at me. All through my student life, I had been the kind who raised her hand first in response to a teachers question. Also, I happen to be quite an opinionated person. He knew that I was raving to go at this topic. Little did I know that the group composed of someone who was more enthusiastic than me.
I have always been my Daddy’s girl. So much so that all through my school life, the moment the bell rang at 6:30 pm, I would run downstairs to welcome Baba back. In the three minutes that took us to climb back to the first floor, I would finish narrating my day at school. Ma found a special mention in case I had received any scolding from her. At times she would get so annoyed by it that she would refer me as his ‘chamchi’. I lost Ma seven years back but till date, my father is my biggest support system.
Sr. T grew up in a joint family amidst his paternal grandparents, uncles, and aunts. He was shielded from any form of scolding by his grandparents. He shares the warmest relation with my mother-in-law. With my father-in-law, he shares a relationship full of respect including a comfortable distance in their involvement in each others’ daily life.
After Tuneer was born, the general perception was that he would eventually turn out to be Mamma’s boy. Shattering another stereotypical thought, Tuneer turned out to be a complete Daddy’s boy (not a very pleasant thing to admit, I must say!). Sr. T had picked up his four days old son for the first time when the newborn continued hiccuping for a straight twenty minutes. That day had sealed a life-long bond for the father-son duo.
Sr. T’s posting outside the city enables him to stay in Kolkata a day to two at the maximum. Every week, when he returns from his outstation posting, the two meet in a way akin to long-lost friends for a decade or more. In the entire duration of his stay, the boy refuses to let his father out of his sight even for a minute. Not that the father has any problem in such an arrangement.