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.
I usually don’t write posts in advance for it kills the thrill of writing. Today when I was brainstorming about the topic for my post, I came across a sheet of paper that got me giggling like a kid. It mentioned Assessment format on the top. The first line began as ‘The expectation from this examination is to assess..’ and it went on for about a full page. Can you guess what examination we are talking about here?
Well, a new age school in the city that resembles a corporate house more than an educational institution had handed over this leaflet as part of the nursery admission brochure. The school still doesn’t have any board results to its credit but definitely has huge claims related to facilities and technological advancements. I am all for the holistic development of a child. There’s definitely much more to a child’s’ development than academics only and any school that encourages extra-curricular activities and sports has my support. However, when the same school has ridiculous standards of selection criteria, the hypocrisy gets too prominent.
This particular school had two levels in the selection process – the first part involved a group discussion of parents and the later part was about interviewing the child. The leaflet spoke about the parameters on which a child was to be judged. It spoke about his knowledge of English alphabets, numbers, a couple of rhymes, his social skills, his ability to answer basic questions (glad that they didn’t mention oratory skills already) and his writing. Yes, you read it right! A three-year-old was going to be assessed on his ability to draw lines or a circle and write alphabets by joining the dots.
At the cost of sounding like a nerd, I must confess that I have always loved academics. After completing my second post-graduation, I started working as a Branch Head with ICICI Bank in Mysore. In 2015, when Tuneer was born, I was working as a Senior Manager / Branch Head with HDFC Bank in Bangalore. I took a sabbatical in 2016 only to return as a writer in 2017. For me, writing had become a profession for me, not just a passion anymore. This was the time when I had also started toying with the idea of my third post graduation in creative writing (certified nerd now!).
It took very little time for this bubble to burst. In our country, creative fields are great as hobbies but never as career choices. One of the primary reasons for such an attitude is also because of the lack of support and financial prospects in this profession. A Banker can gain accolades as a writer but if one decides to become a ‘writer only’, it is often met with caustic or sarcastic comments.
I realized how much Bollywood had affected my thinking when I went around proclaiming that I was going to change this perception by proving how writers could make it big. But man or rather woman proposes, God disposes. I had a few life-changing experiences that got me thinking if it was time for me to update the CV and start applying for ‘real’ jobs.