Raising Emotionally Healthy Children


Life has been kind enough to give me the opportunity, to view it from different perspectives. I had been a corporate-woman once; and now a mother and a teacher. The role of current generation teacher is to teach children, how to score good marks, wade through the cut-throat competition and earn a living. My corporate experience taught me, what this kind of earning a living can entail and what cut-throat competition can do to your body and mind. These seeds of drudgery and frustration are sown quite early and the entire system works in clockwork to propagate this misery and despair. In a world, where degrees and qualification determine your worth, then who cares about knowledge and real education.

I have seen children, really feeling stifled, for not being able to perform well in a specific subject. Howsoever good they may be at other subjects and things, but the stigma remains attached. We shout about uniqueness of every individual, but when it comes to education, then no such provision has been made to accommodate diversity of human mind. Today we are pushing children so much towards the abstract, that their link with the real world is gasping for breath. Kids these days are no longer in sync with their surroundings and are totally unaware about the practical stuff. I will try to substantiate my point with some of my experiences. Once I asked a child of eighth grade, where do we get LPG from at our homes? The child came from an educated family and was totally clueless. Shocked to hear that? Once I asked a child that if you are given a pot and you put it below a tap, but still it’s not filling, then what possibly could be wrong. To my surprise, the child was blank. Who is to blame? The parent, the teacher or the system, that are fostering ascent towards this abstraction, when most of the children are still struggling with practical knowledge. I read a status somewhere that “how common is common-sense” and the fact is, that it indeed is getting uncommon.

What a poor child can do? His entire day is planned and packed, in an attempt to keep him occupied all throughout the day. School and activities consume most part of the day. Now even the weekends are structured. We have planned birthday parties, organised dinners, structured play areas and what not. Where is the time for some randomness to creep in, some boredom to grow and for some thought to bloom? Avenues which can spur the curiosity and can give wings to the imagination, are increasingly becoming rare. In a race to top up the intelligence, emotional health of the child is taking a back-seat. No human is born worthless. It is just a label that we provide to the child, based upon our own pre-determined parameters. A child who grows up with such feelings of worthlessness,  is bound to become an insecure adult. An insecure adult will never say that he is insecure, but he will spread his insecurity, by making others feel insecure. This is how this vicious cycle of misery continues.

Marks and degrees can just give a kick start and provide a job. Something more is required to keep that job and to excel in it. Children, who are raised in an environment, where temperament of the parent is volatile and changes with the scores, are going to imbibe the behavior and will apply it to life. Life, as we all know, is not a bed of roses. It has its share of flowers and thorns. We need to prepare our children in such a way, so that, they not only smile at the flowers, but also laugh at the thorns.


But I wanted to fly……

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It was very late. Nilofar had just returned from her friend’s place. Once again the home was full of giggles and laughter. The once so morose Duffy had sprung to life and was incessantly wagging its tail. Shahal, finally gave his newspaper a break and came out hurriedly to receive his share of sunshine. Fatima, who was till then monotonously rolling the chapattis in the kitchen, came out of her reverie and rushed through her daily kitchen routine. So much she wanted to share, as much she wanted to listen, for Nilofar was quite a babbler. That day was also no exception and so were many days, that were to follow. The child had the exuberance of the world, strong will to conquer the odds and a unique ability to speak her mind. Little did she know, that she were to find her nemesis, in those innocuous attributes of hers.

She had barely entered her teens and was desperate to come out her cocooned existence.  A cocoon which every parent creates diligently for his/her kids, in the hope that one day , the child will take his much cherished flight of freedom and soar high into the endless sky. Her grit, spirit and determination had never been a secret from anyone. It was to be seen that how high would she fly.

One day, a bunch of self-proclaimed well-wishers seeded a doubt in her mind. Daily she was fed the thought that how fragile her wings were compared to theirs and her flight of freedom shall always remain a flight of fantasy. So hurt was the girl, that she internalised the idea to the extent that when she finally tried to fly, she stumbled miserably. A single jibe, shattered  all her dreams, hopes and moreover, shook her confidence. A possibility had been wiped out, which had the potential to blossom and touch the countless struggling lives, with its magic.

Sounds familiar? Do you know or remember any Nilofar from your life? I spot countless Nilofars in my surroundings, in my classrooms and everywhere. Perhaps, you have guessed it right. I am talking about bullying, which is often pushed under the carpet or is given little importance in our society. The shortest  guy in the society is everyone’s  “chhotu”. The overweight girl in the class is casually called “moti”. The darkest child in the family is “kaalu”. The person with oriental features is plainly “chinki”. The seemingly light hearted banter is done for fun, but it’s not for the faint hearted. Only few braves can see through the day and rest all internalise the tagline for their lifetime. For a child, on whom this all is inflicted, this is not fun. Everytime a child tries to soar high, the very next moment his spirit is weighed down by the burden of these sneers. The child first denies it, then tries to rationalize it, accepts it and finally lives with it. Can you imagine the roller-coaster of emotions that the child is put through at such a tender age?

Many developed nations have stringent laws to prohibit and control bullying, but unfortunately in our country it’s taken as a part of growing up. Over the years, the damage that has been caused to generations, is difficult to evaluate and account for. As parents and guardians, we strive to raise healthy children, but the emotional health is often ignored. Do you think this is funny? Do you want this to happen to your child? Do we want to live with this feeling of making someone’s life less lived? Let’s save our children from bullying. I am determined to save my child and my students from bullying. Are you?

Let the Child Toil, in Soil

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Such luxuries are occasionally allowed by my busy schedule, but whenever I come home early, I try to take my daughter outdoors, to a park. Last week, we ventured out to a park and needless to mention that she was extremely happy. After exploring a few rides, she again got fascinated by her favorite friend, the soil. She asked me gleefully and I allowed her instantly. She baked many a cakes, made many a castles and what not. I was intrigued by her imagination and at the same time was feeling nostalgic, thinking about my own childhood. There used to be hardly any construction work in our locality, whose raw material wouldn’t have got baptized by our little feet and hands. I got drifted to a time, when I used to make castles in sand and not in air. I was brought out of my reverie, by the glance of a passing mother, who seemed to be confused at our behavior. She was carrying this look on her face as to how seemingly an educated person like me, can allow her daughter to get dirty in soil. What about the hygiene? What about the consequences of impending attack by pathogens?

I have seen in my friend circles and family that nowadays many people fret over excessive hygiene and super cleanliness, especially when kids are concerned. Advertising has further made us paranoid about cleanliness. While it’s good to maintain basic hygiene but excess of anything can be bad. Yes, you heard me right. Even excess hygiene can be bad for kids. Man was not created to sit indoors, in super clean surroundings. It is important to go outdoors, smell the air, bask in the warmth of sun, run after the dandelion, adopt a street pet and get smeared with mud.

Wonder, why soil is good? Well, following are few of the reasons-

  1. It’s important for child’s immune system to be exposed to a variety of microbes, so that, it will instigate body to produce valuable antibodies, which will last in the body, for a long time. It is a natural way to ward off infections. The obsession for cleanliness, will lead to an immune system in fragile and weak state.
  2. Frolicking in soil is a good way to ward off allergies and inflammation caused after wounds.
  3. Playing in soil, fosters creativity in child, which no plethora of creative stuff available in market can supplement. Remember, if we introspect deeply, then most of our creativity has come from nature only. A 2010 study done by Sage Colleges in Troy, New York, found that a bacterium naturally found in soil, Mycobacterium vaccae, can accelerate learning and brighten moods by stimulating neuron growth and raising serotonin levels. Serotonin is a natural mood stabilizer, combats depression and regulates sleep, appetite and digestion. You can read more about it in 5-reasons-let-your-kids-play-dirt.
  4. Children are often not very good at expressing things. Playing with water and soil can be good ways through which pent up emotions and frustration can come out.
  5. I know, this sounds philosophical but it’s equally true that from soil we come, and back to it we go. So, our connection with it, in the lifetime, keeps us happy and grounded. Some connections can soothe our mind at a subconscious level. I think this is one of it.

Today, we are paying a huge cost for our modern lifestyles, full of comfort and convenience. We are living in a time of commodification of everything. Packaged water is there as drinking water, summer camps are there for leisure, vacation packages are there for family time, video-games are replacing outdoor time. The trade flourishes due to our ignorance and makes us increasingly distant from the real and physical world. The age old wisdom of our parents and grand-parents mixed with a tinge of scientific thought, is all that we need, to judge the right from the wrong. As we age and mature in life, such things fall perfectly in perspective. Whatever they say, sometimes may not have logic, but a little research can find the logic, which must have been lost in the sands of time!

Antibiotics Misuse : A Sad Reality

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I ain’t any doctor though, but when it comes to my child, all my senses go in overdrive mode and i try to put all of my understanding and little knowledge, into action. I remember vividly, my daughter was about 8 months old and was down with high fever. It was difficult to wait, for the night to get over and we rushed to her doctor as soon as the day broke. Being first time parents, we were nervous and tense. It was difficult to watch our little bundle of happiness, going through such discomfort. As soon as the doctor arrived, he checked her thoroughly and asked us to admit her. She had acute bronchitis and according to doctor, that warranted 2-3 days of stay at the hospital. We were scared like hell, having little or no knowledge about the condition. The doctor also prescribed some antibiotics and some tests. Initially, i was a little reluctant in giving those antibiotics but had to succumb finally. She got well, in a day or two and we got back home.

Now, months later we sent her to a daycare. It meant more interaction with people and some compromise on hygiene. To add to it, the immunity of most of the kids is weak at this age. So, the frequency of mild to acute bronchitis increased and so does our visits to her pediatrician. Thankfully, this time he agreed that we can administer nebulizer to her, at home, as we were not at all willing to admit her. Again he wrote some antibiotics. I couldn’t comprehend his fixation with those medicines. Why was he, in such a great hurry to prescribe them? On one occasion, i couldn’t stop myself and asked him point blank whether the infection was bacterial or viral. He said that he couldn’t confirm without tests. I wondered, that how could he be then so sure about prescribing antibiotics. I asked him, if we could wait and watch for few days without them; and he agreed easily. We came back and gave her lots of fluids and anti-pyretics. She was fit and fine in 2-3 days.

Many of us must have faced this situation, at some point in our lives. I wonder, why we don’t ask? I agree, that we need to trust the doctor with our lives, but in today’s time, majority of them act like service-providers. Earlier, in good olden days, doctors used to take it slow. They advised to wait and watch, but today most of them are in an unexplained hurry. We live in dangerous times, when our food is poisoned with pesticides, our spaces are full of radiations, our bodies are full of medicines and our mind is full of tension. But at least, what can be avoided, should be given a try.

Every time my child falls sick, i get involved in an argument with my family members. I no longer want to rush to a doctor, immediately. I want to take it slow. It’s not that the mother in me doesn’t feel scared now, but i have figured out that in order to ensure long term health of my child, the mother in me needs to be brave now. Following are the general guidelines which i follow in case she falls sick:

1. Don’t be scared of fever. Fever is our body’s natural response to fight off infection. A little fever of around 100 degree Fahrenheit, is a sign,  that the immune function is active and fighting properly.  However, if it rises above 100 degrees then one may give anti-pyretics, in order to reduce discomfort caused by fever. If the fever lies in the range of 102-103 degrees, then cold swab treatment is necessary. Our initial response to fever, should not be of panic. If the fever lasts for more than 2 days, then it’s important to consult a doctor, just to rule out any major infection.

2. Most of the infections in children are viral. No antibiotic can work against viral infections. The treatment of viral infection lies within our body and that is our immune system. Taking a balanced diet, will keep immune function in robust condition. Ensure intake of lots of fluids and proper rest.

3. Antibiotics should be taken as a last resort. These drugs should be taken only when absolutely necessary. Even if they are to be taken, then the entire course should be completed religiously. Antibiotic misuse is a growing concern world-wide and leads to development of resistant bacterial strains, which are totally drug resistant. Problem lies in the fact that these strains really spread fast in a population and the so-called innocuous infections can also turn into lethal ones. Unfortunately, research and development in the field of antibiotics has not been able to keep up the pace with the rate of mutation in bacteria. It’s like a ticking time bomb, which can explode anytime and repercussions will have to be faced by the entire humanity.

4. Always ask your doctor, if it’s really necessary to use antibiotics. Believe me, a competent doctor shall never feel offended by your concern. If he gets, then please change the doctor. At the end of the day, he/she is just a doctor and has no right to play with our health. I appreciate the valuable service being rendered by them but that shouldn’t keep us from making informed choices. Consumer rights are gaining momentum in every field but it’s sad that nothing concrete has so far been achieved in medical field.

5. No need to pay any heed to what society says. When in doubt, trust your intuition. It’s nature’s way of safeguarding the best interests of your child. As the bond between the two of you grows, so will your intuition. The umbilical cord has been snapped off, in physical sense but an invisible cord will continue to connect the two of you, life long.

At last, don’t let panic, take over the better of you. Trust your instincts and make informed choices.

What Will Be Your Legacy?


Often we don’t acknowledge our deepest desires, while they inherently drive the basis of our existence. The hustle and bustle of life makes us so mad, that in a race to acquire means, we forget about the ends, the larger picture. I often wonder that what is the ultimate quest of human being, which often gets disguised behind the illusion created by materialism, relationships, rivalry etc.  Which force drives the human endeavour to scale new heights and push himself/herself to the limit.

Why do we work so hard? Is it just to acquire wealth? Is it just to ensure a comfortable life? Why do we procreate? Do we like to spend many a sleepless nights? Do we get out of our mind to create chaos in our otherwise peaceful life? To dig down further, ever wondered, why a vast majority of society favours a male child? Why society is going gung-ho about Y-chromosome, which anyway contributes less than 3% to our genetic material? Why so much importance is associated with after-death rituals (shraddhs)?

The answers to these questions are not very simple but one basic thing which is the guiding force behind all these, is the human’s innate desire to leave a legacy behind. This is the urge of our existence that we want to be remembered, even after our time has come. We want to hoard material comforts in the hope that our children will remember us and will feel gratitude towards us. We procreate because we want to leave a part of us behind, this is our way of gaining otherwise impossible immortality. People desire for a male child so that the family (“Vansh”) name will continue, it doesn’t matter if they themselves see the light of the day to witness this grand drama unfold. A child works hard to gather attention of his/her parents or teachers, as he/she wants to be remembered as a good student. A mother works 24 by 7 because she wants to be remembered as a good mother, a good wife. While living life, we all in a way are writing our own Obituaries as to how we want to be remembered as.

I often wonder, for what kind of traits, we mortals are remembered for? What kind of people i still remember from the memoirs of my life? I have so far succeeded in making an ambiguous list and perhaps i will add more as i progress further in this journey called life.

First and foremost, people are definitely remembered for their kindness. How someone makes you feel, that feeling is absolutely indelible and is always carried by the subconscious. I still remember fondly, some of the kindest souls, whom i was blessed to meet with. Some of them are my kind teachers, friends, bosses. If we are looking forward to leave behind a legacy, then definitely “Kindness” can be our biggest legacy.

The legacy which we can leave behind for our children and relations, is our love for them. Our children are surely going to remember our love in their darkest hour. Love, which they will carry in their hearts will keep their boat safely anchored during the time of harshest of  storms. Material wealth is volatile, it will get you mind-space as long as it lasts. Love, though subliminal, will evoke fond memories forever.

Our legacy for a complete stranger could be our compassion and empathy. Even if we can’t contribute with tangibles, these intangibles are surely going to strike a chord with many.

Money will be a short-term legacy. Mind-less parenting will accord remembrance until empty nest syndrome knocks at your door. After-death rituals will just be an yearly event, which is done by many just for the sake of it. The family name may continue but “You” from the family will dissappear. The pre-condition is set that we all want to leave a legacy behind or want to be remembered. So what is going to be your legacy?

My daughter’s Kabuliwala


Of all the  short-stories of Tagore I have come across so far, my favorite one is “Kabuliwala”. I  remember faintly of having read it  for the first time, sometime when i was still in primary school. I used to wonder with awe about the tender bond of love that developed between the little girl and the Kabuliwala. The man’s fatherly love for the little girl, his inability to visit his native and meet his own daughter and the emptiness in his heart after getting  released from prison, the realization that his own  daughter would be of marriageable age by then etc are all enough to make one teary eyed. No one captures human emotions better than Tagore.

For very long, i had been carrying the little girl of Kabuliwala in my heart. I could visualize the  twinkling in her eyes, her innocence, her unadulterated smile. A strange tranquility crept in no matter how many times i read it again and again, oblivious to the fact that one day i might witness that little girl  in my life, within the confines of my home.

My daughter, who is two and a half years old is the center of attention of our household. While, we look  for joys in big things, she on the other hand derives pleasure from little things of life. While we focus on novelty, she finds happiness in routine things like folding clothes, playing with raw potatoes, utensils etc.

It went unnoticed initially as to how she developed a bond of friendship with our maid, who comes daily for cleaning utensils. Initially, she used to watch her in silence, out of her  bouts of “stranger anxiety”‘. Part of the problem was language barrier. We speak  Hindi and maid speaks Gujarati. Gradually, the bond blossomed  and conversations started in half-baked languages of both. Now, the situation is, that the moment the bell  rings, my daughter runs towards the door in anticipation and when i tell her, that her friend has come then the mother in me can’t miss the twinkling in her eyes. My daughter sometimes insists on having her meal with the maid, to which we don’t object.

I shudder at the thought,  that the day will come when my little munchkin will be aware  about the world view which divides us into caste,  colour,  creed, religion, economic  status. A day would come , perhaps when she would not like to keep this friendship any longer. Perhaps, she will just forget about her “Kabuliwala”, oblivious to the fact that what the kabuliwala(our maid) will go  through. She will miss the little girl(my daughter) she knew once and i will miss my little girl with twinkling in her eyes.

Unfortunately, i have no answers as to how i can prevent this from happening but the mother in me will try for sure!