Now, that the Diwali is over…!!!

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It’s been a week since Diwali! No more Chinese fairy lights blinking from people’s verandahs or windows. No more diyas glowing in the night. And (I am thankful for this one) no more phatakas waking you up at odd hours in the night. Life has resumed its dreary monotone. This is the toughest part…the aftermath of Diwali!

The whole year, we look forward to Diwali. Our life revolves around Diwali. Cleaning the home, buying new things with just one goal in mind – Diwali’s coming! And when the Diwali comes, it’s a frenzy. Snacks and (and lots of it), sweets, crackers, diyas and candles, rangolis and trains, pages and visiting the temple, meeting friends and family, baksheesh and bonus, those 5 days are a mad mad mad mad party. And then, as if in the blink of the eye, the day comes when you are preparing tiffin and getting ready for work again, and it dawns on you that Diwali has gone. It leaves a sense of emptiness in you.

Mind you, I was not a big fan of Diwali. As a child growing up in Ahmedabad, I dreaded Diwali. 5 days of post-Diwali holidays meant a never ending horde of guests turning up announced (mobile phones hadn’t found their way yet and the laid back attitude of Amdawadis stopped them from calling up before knocking at your door), serving them food and tea, and then washing vessel till late in the night (no domestic help as they took a break too during this time). I stopped applying nail paint (even though the holidays were the only time we could) because it didn’t last even a day.

Well, in Mumbai, I have learnt, that Diwali is all about celebrating the festival at your own pace. People don’t bother you, they just don’t. I prepare sweets at home, draw different rangolis, prepare for the Lakshmi Pujan, go for a drive into the city to check out the beautiful lightings in the night and have (it’s mandatory) ice cream. The next few days, we meet family and a few friends over a leisurely brunch or dinner and catch a movie or two in the theater.

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I have actually started enjoying Diwali and miss it when it is over! And, so again the wait begins for the next Diwali!

Do you feel this lost too once Diwali, Eid or Christmas get over?

 

 

 

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I am buying nothing this Diwali!!

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A few years ago, while going through old photographs of my father, I came across this particular picture in black and white. It was of my young father and his siblings standing together. What was particularly interesting about this picture was the clothes they were all wearing… because they were all wearing the same clothes. The same vertical line high collared shirts and plain bell bottomed pants. All the girls were wearing the same salwar-kameez. On inquiry, my father reminisced about his old days, “Those were the days. Can you imagine, we would get new clothes only on Diwali or on a family member’s wedding. Not even birthdays!”

On looking at my shocked face, he said,”We didn’t have luxury in those days to choose our own clothes. Once a year, that is, on Diwali, our father would ask the local cloth merchant to deliver a few rolls of cloth, the tailor would come home and take the measurement of each child and thus on Diwali, all clothes in the exact same colour, pattern and style were ready.”

We were slightly better off than our parents. Apart from Diwali, we would get a new set of clothes on birthdays. That’s it!

And, today, the scene is totally incomparable. I buy clothes for my daughter without consulting the Hindu calendar. Whenever I feel like or whenever there is a sale (both online and offline), I get new stuff for her. She has more clothes and shoes than occasions to wear them.

While doing my Diwali cleaning, I realized how much materialistic we have become. I have clothes lying in my cupboard with their price tags intact. Our life has become all about acquiring and possessing. More, more and more!

Holding on to this thought, when the big Diwali sales  announced on all major shopping sites, I refrained from buying. Not even a single pair of shoes for me or a dress for my daughter. She is going to wear an old dress on Diwali, and that is alright. Millions of other children do, she will do too.

I want to teach my daughter the true value of Diwali – (no, it is not to buy new things, but) to be content with whatever you have, to share them with others and to find joy in the small things of life.

I want her to grow up not fretting over Diwali shopping, but thinking of Diwali as the festival to be enjoyed with family, friends and the less fortunate ones.

PS: My daughter and I have already taken out a horde of things; clothes (some old and new), hair accessories (even unused ones), shoes and toys which we are going to go on the New Year day to a nearby orphanage and the YWCA and offer to the people there.

Daan Utsav doesn’t have to be limited to a week, it can be whenever you want! So, why not on Diwali, the festival of goodness and kindness!

 

 

 

Why don’t I give my daughter juice?

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A few years ago, my friend and I took our kids to a park. After playing for a while, the kids got hungry and demanded food. I looked into my bag and realized that I had left the tiffin box at home. But, my friend, fortunately was carrying hers. She took out 2 tetra packs of mixed fruit juice and a big pack of biscuits.

“I got juice and oat biscuits, at least kids will have something healthy than those chips!” She announced. I chose to stay silent. My daughter was hungry, and I didn’t have anything else to offer to her. So, she got a treat of packaged juice and biscuits.

On reaching home, I narrated the whole incident to my husband. Shock, indignation and disappointment were writ large on his face.

“This country is doomed forever if its educated citizens think that packaged juices and oatmeal biscuits that come out of a packet are healthy for kids!” He cried.

See at the back of any tetra pack containing fruit juice – it would say natural fruit sugars and added sugar. Natural fruit sugars is fructose and added sugar as we all know is pure white sugar. Also, there is no mention of any fibre of the fruit, because the juice contains none. So, basically, we are giving our kids an overdose of sugars. It causes blood sugar levels to rise rapidly resulting in a burst of energy that is short lived. High blood sugar levels cause the body to store the excess energy as fat. Also, once the sugar gets stored in the body, the blood sugar levels come down leaving the child tired and cranky. So, giving a packaged fruit juice to your child doesn’t the purpose.

But, wait it doesn’t get over here. Learn what all it can do to your child.

As the blood sugar levels come down, the body craves for more sugar that it just lost. So, the child will start demanding for sweet stuff. You got him or her into this vicious cycle!

Juices are overloaded with calories, empty ones. Your child is not getting fibre, or enough protein and healthy fat out of these. No wonder, we see child obesity and type 2 diabetes on a rise in India. Juices, cola and sweets all contribute to it!

And to all those who say juice contains real fruit, no…it doesn’t! It contains fructose-concentrate juice. 1 orange juice (200 ml) = goodness (what does it even mean) of 3-4 oranges (yes, I read it on the advert of a popular “no added sugar” orange juice…it said 17 oranges for 1000 ml pack!!). 1 apple juice (200 ml) = 4-5 medium sized apples.

Now, tell me honestly, can our kids eat so many oranges and apples at a time. No, right! Then, why are we feeding them so many fruits in the form of juice?

My daughter loves juices so much, she can finish the entire 200 ml pack without taking a pause. Yes, kids love sugar…don’t they just! However, I restrict these juices to occasions…she can have them as treats at birthday parties or at picnics.

I have stopped giving her homemade juice as well. Why?

Simple rule – drink not what you can eat!

If she can eat 2-3 oranges and 2 apples, I have told her, she can have her juice, which hasn’t happened so far! So…..

Read more about myths and facts about fruit juices here – http://bonhappetee.com/blog/2015/10/27/myths-and-facts-about-fruits-and-fruit-juices/

It’s not only about fruit juices, but pretty much about everything that we eat and feed our kids. Let’s be informed before we put stuff in our kid’s mouth. Parenting is not only about sending kids to the best of schools and classes, buying them the best of toys…but it is also about feeding them the best foods.

Oh, and now I always make sure I am carrying a dabba of snacks from home!

Mummy – kal, aaj aur kal?

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This happened a few days ago when I was visiting my parents’ house in Ahmedabad. I was cajoling my daughter to finish her food. Being a Sunday, my father was at home and was observing the whole scene.

“You know, we never had our mother running around us to make us eat!” He commented.

I looked at him to elaborate on his remark, and he complied. “We were 11 brothers and sisters, and amma (he called his mother amma) was always overworked. She kept our food and milk glasses on the table – 11 plates and 11 glasses for each of her children. But, then she never stood there to see if everyone was having his proper share. So, there were a few who would drink 2 or 3 glasses of milk, and others would not get anything. No one went to amma asking for more; not that she wouldn’t have given us more, but no one had the heart to add on to her already big pile of work. And studies, well, being an illiterate woman, she could neither help us with our homework, nor did she bother. We sorted matters ourselves.”

A big insight into the days of their lives 50 years ago!!

We are three siblings. My mother made sure that we had proper nutrition, each one of us. Thankfully, processed foods weren’t that much in demands those days. Maggi had just been introduced, and breads (double roti) were consumed rarely. Having three kids and not having sufficient domestic help, she couldn’t sit with us and make us study, but she encouraged us to study ourselves.

I remember clearly the day, I must have been 6 years old, when I came home with a note in the school diary. I asked my mummy to sign it. She was busy with my 1 year old brother. She said, “Bring it later. I am busy!” Afraid to forget it later, I signed the note myself. Of course, the next day, the teacher realized it was me who had signed and called my mother to the school for an explanation. A big drama ensued!

When we went out to play, she never bothered to ask us where we were going. There were kids in the neighbourhood, and she knew we would be playing with them, however, we had to be back at 7:30 for dinner. There were no lessons on safety, no good touch or bad touch (in fact it was something I came to know when my daughter was 2 years old). Happier times they were!

And, then I see my style of parenting! My daughter being a single child, my whole focus is on her. Whether she has eaten enough, has she exercised well for the day, what’s her homework, has she prepared for the projects…!!!

And, of course, she is not allowed to go and play alone in the park or in the society compound. I know where she is at all times! Yes, gradually I am encouraging her to be more independent; she sets her own bag, bathes and brushes on her own, dresses on her own, helps in the house…but still I doubt she will be as independent as I was at her age!

So these are the 3 generations of mothers. My grandmother’s role was to provide food to her children. My mother saw to our health, education and comfort. While I am looking after each and every aspect of my daughter; from her nutrition to education, comfort and physical, mental and psychological development. With time, a mother’s role changes too! All mothers do the best they can do for their children, according to their capacity and understanding. There is no right or wrong, that’s what I have understood!

My fight to go sleeveless

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Image Credit: Pexels.com

I wore a sleeveless top today. It transported me to the day (of many) when I had an argument with my mom. In fact, whenever I wear sleeveless tshirts, I remember the times I had an argument with my mom. You see, I was not allowed to wear a sleeveless.

In today times, when city girls wear spaghetti tops without a moment’s thought, a sleeveless for me almost 20 years ago was a big big thing. All my friends wore sleeveless, but I could not. So I would argue regularly with my mom to let me wear one. I fought my case with so much convinction (or with so much persuasion) that she finally caved in. But, not without putting forth some conditions of hers like not to wear it before my dad and no thin straps. It was all acceptable! So, at the age of 19, in my second year of college, I wore a sleeveless shirt for the first time in my life. It was such a hurrah moment for me, a victory of sorts!

Today, however, I do not feel so! Because, today, I am a mom! You know your mom when you become one! And, being a mom I have understood that allowing your child to wear a sleeveless dress is not merely about clothing, but a small part of a mother’s deep philosophy. Will she start experimenting with her freedom? Am I letting her have too much of it? What next? What she will ask for next? Am I being a good mommy? Are the clothes too revealing? Will someone look at her with lustful eyes? Will someone take advantage of her?  

And, when my daughter wears a frock or a skirt, I am forever concerned. Is she wearing a bloomer or not under her skirt? Which places she will be visiting wearing a skirt? What sort of people would be around her?

So, you see, whether a 6 year or a 19 year old daughter , a mom is a mom…her concern never changes – even after 20 years! And, that is why my victory in letting me wear a sleeveless doesn’t seem so big today!

And I will let you know some thing – my father till date doesn’t like me (yes, even when I am married and have a kid), wearing a sleeveless, so I usually avoid wearing it around him.

Now, while I am it, I would like to share one more memory …

In my school, there was this cleaning lady, called ‘Balooben’ (it’s customary in Gujarat to use ‘ben’ as a suffix after an older lady’s name). She used to sit near the washroom. Now, can you imagine the washrooms of 90s, stinking like “you know what!”. Anyway, so this poor lady would always be found sitting near the washroom. And, I would always pity her plight – “Why this poor lady has to sit near this hellhole!” I would wonder!

In the wake of the recent incident where a 7-year old boy was murdered and his body was thrown in the toilet cubicle, I now get the wisdom behind stationing Balooben near the toilets.

We can argue to death that we are in the 21st century, we have the right to dress however we like….! But what we are forgetting is that the society doesn’t change just because we order it to. It might change tomorrow, day after or never…but till then we need to take care of ourselves and our kids !

A food for thought…!!!

I fund my daughter’s hobby classes and I am proud of it !!

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Image Credit: pxhere.com

Women have this innate sense of ‘saving’. As soon as the husband hands over his monthly salary to her, she starts thinking of ways to save from it. A rupee here, a rupee there, and by the end of the month, she has a little something saved for the rainy day.

I had seen my mom doing it. She was a homemaker, so she was fully dependent on my father for all the household and education expenses. After my graduation, I enrolled myself into French learning classes. It was a hobby for me. I loved the language and realized I was good at it. I decided to pursue French language at a higher level. My father didn’t understand my passion. I was supposed to get married, and not think of higher studies at my age. He refused to pay my fees. That’s when my mom stepped in. She dipped into her personal savings, the savings she had been collecting since years, and paid my fees at Alliance Française.

This was the event that made me realize how important it was for women to work. But, the more valuable lesson I learnt was the importance of saving. So, when I started working, I started saving. I quit my high paying job once I conceived, and it was a big financial blow for me. Of course, my husband assured me, “I am earning enough. Don’t you worry about finances.”

But, I worried nonetheless, for the future and my self esteem. Well, soon after my daughter came, I started working from home. I didn’t earn much (peanuts compared to my earlier job), but I started saving right from day one.

A child is mentally and physically exhausting, but gradually I realized she was financially exhausting too. School tuition fees, medical, clothes and toys…the demands were many. And, then there were extracurricular activities like drawing, swimming, tennis, singing, etc. that I wanted my daughter to enjoy and pursue. I didn’t want her to suffer because of lack of sufficient finances.

That made me invest wisely in different instruments. I bought a little gold for her (I am a mother after all, and a Marwari at that! ). I had parked my savings in fixed deposits with my salary bank account. Later on, one of my ex-colleagues who had also quit job for her baby told me about Kotak Mahindra Bank’s Silk Women savings account. Thankfully, we have a Kotak Mahindra bank branch nearby. So, I didn’t think twice before closing my salary-savings account and opened up a new Silk Women Savings account with Kotak Mahindra Bank.

I earn 6% p.a. interest per year on my savings. Secondly, I use credit and debit cards a lot. I believe in cashless economy, also I hate going to ATMs to withdraw money. And, with Silk debit card, I get cashback upto Rs. 4500 per annum on my spends. That’s not little; remember for a homemaker, every tiny bit counts. I have also opened up a Junior savings account in my daughter’s name, and got a non maintenance fee waiver on it.

So, yes, though it’s my husband who is largely running the show in the house, my contribution is not to be entirely ignored. I have enrolled her in various activities and I can proudly say I pay for each one of them. In my own way, I contribute and I am proud of it. I earn, and so I like to spend, on me and my daughter. I like the fact that I don’t have to ask my husband for every little expense. He is a busy man, he has a lot on his hands, why should I bother him with tiny details. Having said that I also want my daughter to enjoy her life. Today, she goes for swimming, gymnastics, dance and drawing, but tomorrow she might want to pursue skating, ballet, and God only knows what not. However, I am prepared for it, with my small savings that is turning big with every passing day.

I have learnt these few things in my life-

  • As a mother, we have various responsibilities – to not only feed our kids on time (to keep their bellies and bodies warm) and to keep them happy, but also to teach them to be independent. But, for that, a mother herself needs to be independent from daily financial worries.
  • Every homemaker is plagued by the fact that she doesn’t earn or earn enough. But, you needn’t turn it into a sore point of your life. Every mother I know has her own ingenious ways to save. It is just that I urge you to save smartly and wisely in women oriented schemes. They have been created for a purpose that revolves around YOU !
  • Also, don’t ridicule small savings, remember, an ocean is made up of tiny single drops.

So, save and let the power be with you !

What are 6 year olds talking about these days?

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Image Credit: I couldn’t find the photographer, but I still couldn’t resist using it, because of the powerful and unmistakable message it sends out.

On a recent phone call with my friend, I came to know that her daughter who is also my daughter’s friend and classmate, brings home her school tiffin untouched. When my friend probed her daughter, she came to know that a couple of girls in the class told her, “If you eat a lot, you will turn fat!”

That I was shocked beyond words wouldn’t even superficially touch what I felt on hearing that. Seriously, the ‘body shaming monster’ that plagues every girl right from her teenage to the day she dies, is rearing its ugly head and is not even sparing little girls.

6 year olds, what do they know about being fat? No, really, it couldn’t be their words. These words have been implanted in their mind. And by none other than the family and the society. So when they hear their mommy or daddy complaining for the umpteenth time about “how she needs to diet because she has put on weight” or “he needs to eat sparingly to cut down that flab”, they create their own perception without really understanding the whole picture. What they listen and understand is “eating makes one fat!”

Things like this are the reason little girls develop eating disorders and start hating their body.

Yes, India ranks third in child obesity in the world, and yes, we need to take extreme measures to rein it in. Yes, obesity leads to many lifestyle diseases like thyroid, diabetes, PCOS…but, that doesn’t mean, children should stop eating. When has dieting or fasting helped anyone, let alone children?

Eating a lot is not good; not for anyone, irrespective of their waste size. But, more important is the quality of food and its nutrition value. The sad part is when we feed our children processed cheese, we don’t think they are getting fat? When they gulp down an entire bottle of packaged juice or eat biscuits and chips, we don’t complain much. But, when it comes to dal, roti or subzi…we get stressed looking at the quantity.

Here are a few things as a parent you should take care of:

  • Do not perpetually talk about your weight gain or loss in front of kids. They don’t understand the context and more often than not interpret it the wrong way.
  • To an older child (once she turns 6-7 years), you can make them understand that being fat is not bad. But yes, one should eat right (junk should be limited to once a week) and exercise every day.
  • Teach them about the quality of food. Tell them eating 2 rotis are better and healthier than 1 bag of chips. Food is first about quality, and then quantity.
  • Pack tasty but nutritious home made food in your child’s dabba. Fortunately, we are in/come from a country that has hordes of regional nutritious recipes. Plus, Google is always there to expand our recipe repertoire.
  • Body shaming starts at an alarming early age nowadays. Monitor her influences (friends, social media, siblings, etc.). Teach your child to be confident about her body and the way she looks.
  • Don’t glorify thinness or slimness in your home. Instead of fat or thin, focus on being fit. A person can be thin, and yet not be fit.

Let’s not snatch away the innocence from these little kids. They should be talking about dolls, legos and stuff, and not worry about weight gain at their age. What do you think?