Saturday, 1 April 2017

The Admission Raucous

Image: Google
Last week I came across quite a few instances where parents let down their children, setting them up for failure in the future. The first case in point was that of parents who applied for admission of their three year old to some 30 odd schools across the capital. The toddler was selected in none. Not in the first list, not in the second list, (and I thought the lists needed to be waded in college. Clearly, I was out of tune with current times.) Now the fault here obviously lay with the parents in their inability to gauge their levels of intelligence and refrain from producing another of the kind, or in the fact that they could not produce a girl who could have secured alumni points at the mother’s alma mater. The husband is new to the capital.
The second case was that of parents who had alumni and sibling points for their three year old’s admission to big school. Unfortunately, the little one did not know her colours, and was recommended to repeat PreNursery at her play school. Who cares the little one could voice the phonic sounds made by 13 alphabets of the English language, could count till 10 and could identify basic mathematical shapes as well. But she did not know colours, you see. Another goof up by parents in their lack of ability to gauge their foetus’ grey matter. What a waste of points for admission.
The third case in point was the Jat agitation for reservation. Now that made sense cause the three year olds will become big and be left with no other saving grace but reservation.
Last but definitely not the least was the career help question that was floating on WhatsApp. The question was asked by a concerned father for his offspring entering standard five. Which institute was best for his child keeping in mind the child’s goal of entering one of the IITs in a reasonably distant future. The response was rather sarcastic. But desperate times call for desperate measures, dear Counsellor.
Now, as a mother of a three year old, should I laugh or cry?

Sarcasm aside, clearly something is wrong with our education system. As a mother, my grievance starts at:
There being no clear starting point for formal education. Some schools start at Pre-Nursery, some at Nursery and others at KG. Then there are day cares that take in children as early as 6 months of age and like the behaviourist theory, repeatedly display to the child colours, alphabets, numbers. Over 3 years of repetition, the kids seem to identify the text more than they get the idea of exploration, the world outside and free play. Kids who don’t go to day cares/preschools since 6 months of age fall behind this curriculum, but are better with exploration, play and social awareness. Unfortunately, there is a difference in prerequisite knowledge at starting point instigated by over achieving day cares/preschools. Thus, causing parents to start running the marathon at a child’s early age. The mad race never ends. Eventually, children replace parents, killing passions, talents and differences in their wake.
Second, there is either a shortage of schools or good schools. If parents have to apply to 30 - 40 schools and still be rejected, there is most definitely a shortage of supply. We need to make sure our government schools come up to standard and people are not rushing, sending 3 year olds as far as 40 Kms one way to that one good or even not-so-great school where they could manage to secure precious admission.
Third, in higher education again, the focus needs to be on building skills that are employable. The top most universities and institutes will remain, that’s the reward for hard work. But what if my child does not hit that extremely rare layer, there needs to be a second layer that is not too far below the top most one. Institutes at this and lower layers need to empower students with skills that are employable. Ultimately, all adults need to work and earn a living. Institutes, universities and the government need to ensure appropriate skills imparted to this vast majority of students who cannot make it to the top most layer. Else, they will all need reservation.

Of course, we need employment opportunities and lesser population would definitely help. But that’s a different topic. For now, this mother of a three year old is worried whether her child will enter Nursery, ever at all.

© 2017 by Donna Abraham

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

The Promise of an Amusement Park!

It’s been a while since I put up a post on my blog. Reason, I needed to get back to my younger frame of mind to write this post and it was tough. Ironies of life, I say, getting back to the past seems tough when I never managed to get past anyway.
Now that I’m here, we visited Dubai for the winters and I was whirled back to my old love, an amusement park. I need to give it the due.
The adrenalin rush on a roller coaster, is what I crave for. Perhaps, something my mother did when I was in her womb, jump a lot, give an extra bounce to her belly; I’m obviously clueless.
As a child, most of my birthdays were celebrated at Appu Ghar, the erstwhile Appu Ghar, Delhi’s only claim to an amusement park back in the day. The tryst began when I was six. We were to head out to some place for my birthday treat, and my sister and I had no clue what was in store. We dressed in our birthday finery, devoid of frills. A decent pleated dress that could be used for multiple more occasions till it either appeared piecemeal on the kitchen slab or on a younger cousin in the country in a lighter shade. Pristine white socks, mid-calf. Shiny black or cherry colored leather shoes to top the icing.
I was, after all, the star of the day and waited for my parents in best behaviour. The treat still held a threat of cancellation. One raucous exploit, and it could get decommissioned without notice. After an unbearable wait playing “Statue” with my sister, we finally left home, butterflies fluttering in my belly for I knew not what joys and challenges the rest of the evening held. As a child at six, the world was still a container of unexplored experiences, and that meant anxiety. The walk to the taxi stand under an umbrella, for the late afternoon sun and dust, eased the anxiety to excitement. I sat on my mother’s lap in Sardarji uncle’s black and yellow taxi, and a familiar sense of security engulfed me.
Appu Ghar turned out to be everything I had hoped for from the evening. It was beautiful. At the entrance stood a giant elephant welcoming us in a sort of skip. It didn’t really skip; now wouldn’t that be great!
Inside were rides on little trains and toy helicopters, a dragon, an aerial swing and more. Tucked away in a corner was a dome shaped theater that played a movie along its walls, simulating a roller coaster experience for the viewers who sat on the floor.
I sat on various trains and helicopters at Appu Ghar, enjoyed speed and splash in limits and watched the simulated experience of a roller coaster in the theater.
Perhaps I should not have, cause soon I realized that I wanted it live. More speed and higher flight was what I needed, but could not have. I saw Dad get off the dragon with hair pulled back, eyes wide open, and a resplendent smile, like he had experienced joy beyond imaginable permits. I wanted it too, I could see the promise it held.
I ran from swing to ride to experience similar exhilaration, alas!
I begged the guards at the dragon to let me pass, I was turning a big girl that day. Alas!
That day, I wasn’t disappointed only determined to return when older.
Appu Ghar happened for many years to follow and I experienced the rich promises of my imaginings. I grew older, climbed up on more challenging rides and experienced adrenalin rushes like never before. The Dragon, Appu Columbus all after my fantasy. I would run for the last seat, the highest drop, the fastest ride.
Eventually, the rush died down and the last seat was not far enough, the highest not high enough, the fastest not fast enough. Appu Ghar died its natural death in my mind.
It was at ten, that I saw home videos of a friend’s vacation in Disneyland. And, with that Disneyland became my dream destination, a dream I nurtured over to adult years. Through the years higher, faster, bigger, risqué amusement parks made it to the papers, but I was loyal to the wonders imagined at ten. I worked hard to make the money, life butted in, but deep down I retained the goal, a secret one, a childish desire my children sat in awe of. So as a mother, I decided to feed them on it too. I showed them the glitter, the pinks, the purples, the princesses, the adrenalin. I made my dreams, their dreams. Yes, I was selfish!
Thus, when my children got their passports, the first destination I pinned on the map, drum rolls, Hong Kong Disneyland.
Thus, after decades of dreaming, one bright, sunny day I entered Disneyland. At the entrance, stood a statue of Mickey Mouse balancing itself on top of a water fountain. The magic! I refuse to talk about this scientifically. You’ve got to believe in the magic.
Disneyland was everything my heart desired and much more. The magic, the strange miniature lands, the oversized plastic make believe gloss, the picturesque displays, shops, stores, princesses, princes and characters, rides, multi-dimensional shows and the fireworks. It was a dream come true in Motion Picture Style.
Of course, we covered the other tourist highlights of Hong Kong. Ocean Park with its rides and exotic animals from habits distanced from mine, Ngong Ping where we got to experience rides on cable cars with crystal floors, made penitential climbs and prayed for eternal peace on Buddhist mounts and had fan girl moments with celebrities in wax. But Disneyland was the dream I had nurtured, strived for and fulfilled across nearly half a lifetime.
We ended our trip at Macau, where I did the skywalk on the Macau Tower. But with little kids in this gaming capital, I could only peep into the casino at The Venetian from the escalator. Though, I could not enter a casino I satisfied my chaperoned spirits with shopping. The gondolier in the indoor canal of The Venetian wooed me with the ballad “Do lavzon ki yeh, dil ki kahani…” Ladies! I was young again.
As you can see, Hong Kong and Macau were high on adventure, adrenalin and technology. After a vacation drenched in all such, I had had my fill. And, when I landed in Dubai this winter, I did not want technology or artificial parks. I wanted the old-world charm of Dubai. Except, hold on, the fastest roller coaster in the world, Formula Rossa in Ferrari World.
Wooooohoooooo! It’s over, the ride. You’ve returned from the clutch of death, People. Pray. In less than 5 seconds, you went to 240 km/h, climbed a few mountains there and landed back on Earth. Before, you realize what hit you, you’re off the machine. Let me not talk much about it, cause the ride is exactly that, no introduction, no conclusion, pure ride!
I leave you here with an image of the mean machine. That mild stretch you see before the climb, is the killer 240 km/h in 5 seconds.

Image source: Google

In conclusion, all I can say, “There’s life before Formula Rossa and there’s Life! after Formula Rossa.”

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© 2017 by Donna Abraham

Sunday, 25 December 2016

The Warmth of a Hug

In this season of cheer, joy, love and peace, I discovered the warmth of a hug. A gesture that encompassed other tender sentiments in its hold. Mrs. T has the warmest hug. I wish my mother had it. It’s a full-bosomed, tight hold that makes one believe all is well, all can be fixed, all solutions exist within the circle of that grip.
I am not a touchy, feely person. Infact, I discovered the social hug pretty late into my adult life and the air-borne half kisses, which are quite the rage, is still alien to me. I fumble around awkwardly, when an opportune moment shines bright.
It was in one such awkward moment, when I was merely following the leaders of our meet that I stumbled upon this most warm hug. It was evident from the moment go. It struck a chord. I perceived its quality as I entered its embrace, and I could sense a masterpiece emerging through the fuzz. The instant transfer of love, the feelings of warmth, openness, welcome and an all encompassing trust and honesty; much like apricity. The emotions overwhelmed me, and I dislodged immediately. I was wary of displaying a childish greed, losing propriety, cutting out a source.
The next time I met Mrs. T, I saw her hug the others of the group. From the corner of my eye, I looked, I hoped, I pulled back. I wanted one, but did I have the right to it? I was merely an acquaintance. I lined up, anyhow, and pretended to be part of the queue. And, I got my turn. This time, I confirmed my analyses. My assessment of the quality had been perfect; she did give the warmest ones.

By the third instance, I was eagerly standing in queue and was thinking of writing this piece, as well. And then, I spilled the beans to Mrs. T. I’m glad I did, cause now I get hugs that are warmer than the warmest. Sometimes, that’s all you need.