November 22, 2011

That infectious gesture

Roaming aimlessly at the promenade near symphony of stars in HongKong, we noticed a little frenzy. An organization had setup kiosks where kids were painting and playing games. Interested, we enquired whether Pranav could participate.

'Of Course!', one of the volunteer beamed enthusiastically.

She started to explain Pranav, 'When children have a disease or fracture etc. they feel discomfort. We will try to paint with that discomfort to better understand what they go through.' She showed him eye glasses which were opaque and had only a tiny hole to see through and asked whether he was ready to wear those for few minutes and paint ?

Pranav listened every word attentively and nodded his head gently. I could see it was like a challenging game for him and he was obviuosly interested. I waited for the lady to give him the tools to start. Instead, she smiled, looked up at me and said, 'I think he does not want to do this. He is saying NO'.

Umm...what was the confusion ?
And then it dawned on me suddenly ... Pranav was nodding his head from left to right all through the conversation. I muffled the itch to laugh out loudly...and said...well what he means to say is ..'Yes'..he understands and he is ready to take it up. She looked confused but gave him the paints and got busy with another child.

A lot has been said about this typical Indian way of nodding the head sideways to mean 'Yes' or 'I understand' or 'I agree'. But this was my first time to actually witness a confusion because of this. What I wondered most is how kids adopt these ways ! This isn't something that we have taught him and I never realized when he picked this up. It's an infectious gesture which we all indians just pick up, unconsiously.

Rest assured...the faster the head moves...the more the understanding !! This head Wobble crosses the language and cultural barriers and unites India....second only to cricket !

November 11, 2011

Thus starts the Cycle of Money

"Will you give me 10 cents for school?" Pranav, now 6, asked, lying lazily on the sofa one morning. "With 10 cents I can buy a super lemon candy in recess. If you give me 20 cents I can get 2, 3 for 30 cents, ... and 10 for 100 cents. But actually to buy 10, you will have to give me one dollar. Yesterday my friend bought a super lemon and he did not even share with me." The monologue went on.

Overall, I was happy that he could do this much of practical math and after some dos and donts talk agreed to part with 10 cents.

In the evening, we were super excited to hear his story of how he could not eat his lunch because he had to stand in the queue for a long time to buy the super lemon which was oh sooo lemony. How he sweated because there was no fan near the queue. How super lemon can be eaten by only older children like him because the kindergarten kids will find it very spicy.

After a few days, while running already late for the school bus, he asked for 20 cents so that he could share a super lemon with his friend. There was no time to argue and somehow I could not ignore the cute request. I handed him 20 cents just in time before the lift door closed. This time it was a sob story in the evening as he dropped and lost those coins in the bus. After some thought he said "If you can buy me a wallet, I will never lose money like this". We ignored it, but his request continued day after day with daily calls in my office - "I really hope that you can get my wallet today". I finally bought him one which has become his proud prized possession and he now refuses to wear any shorts or pants that do not have a pocket.

All was well till Pranav dropped another bomb - "See how empty my wallet looks with only a few coins.I want some 'notes' for my wallet. Will you give me one?" Welcome to the cycle of money and possession. What started as a  'request' for 10c has now become a 'demand' for 2 dollars (In SG lowest note is $2 ) and the battle of wits continues....!

We have been trying to avoid the topic for a while. 
No prizes for guessing who will emerge as the winner in due course !
Looks like the time has come for some serious money talk.

March 20, 2011

The chicken or egg dilemma !

I was helping Pranav complete and understand a puzzle depicting the life cycle of a hen. It was like this.....

It was just a simple puzzle and probably did not need much explanation to a 5 year old. But as with all children, Pranav didn't buy it and asked how can it start with an egg....there should be a hen first....!

I was taken aback for a moment...but then I said ..umm ya ok...that's also possible....we can start with hen and then the life-cycle could be ... Hen->Egg ->.....and so on... . This confused him further and he asked - then how did the hen come ?

I was amazed at the question and the thought process of a 5 year old ! Kids have such open mind without any pre-conceived notions but as we grow older we stop questioning a lot of things.

It is such a simple question and yet so complex. The little one did not know that he had just asked a fundamental question about life and universe.... a dilemma...a question that has perplexed generations from the times of Aristotle or even earlier.

I was in a catch-22 situation- whatever explanation I gave, the cycle had to start from somewhere. Every start led to another logical dilemma.

For the first time I tried looking into what exactly is going on in this regard and found that various practitioners have tried to find answer to this in their own ways.

Wikipedia summaries various beliefs regarding this question here.

Interesting to know is that as per the Hindu Mythology, the supreme 'cosmic egg' from which the whole universe originated comes before all creatures and this egg is called 'Brahmanda' = 'Brahma' (Creator) and 'Anda' (Egg). I knew the meaning of Brahma as the creator but never knew the break up of the word 'Brahmanda'.

The only convincing theory seems to be from the Darwin's evolution according to which a mutation might have taken place at conception or within the egg such that an animal similar to chicken (but not chicken) laid the first chicken egg.

Very recently in 2010, British scientists claimed to have solved this mystery saying ' The scientists found that a protein found only in a chicken's ovaries is necessary for the formation of the egg, according to the paper Wednesday. The egg can therefore only exist if it has been created inside a chicken.' Which means that the hen came first.

But many do not buy this theory and are of the view that this is exactly the same as what has been stated in the Bible and so is not anything new.

CREATION, DAY 5: "And God said, 'Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky.' So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them and said, 'Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.'" –Gen.1:20-22

So there still isn't a conclusive end to the argument. But now, after all this study, when I tried to strike a conversation about this with Pranav, with the intention of explaining him that he had asked a very good question to which there isn't a definite answer, he seemed to have made up his mind that hen came first and no longer wants to argue on this topic :-(

January 08, 2011

Will Santa's magic work !

Pranav was asking us for a scooter and a Ben 10 watch. We thought Christmas to be the perfect opportunity to gift him what he desired. We also planned to use it as a bait, to lure him into sleeping on his own bed.

How difficult can it get !

When I presented to him, the idea of asking Santa for scooter, he plainly rejected, saying 'Santa will not be able to deliver such a heavy gift' !

It took a lot of reasoning to convince him that Santa will indeed be able to deliver. Phew ! Next step was to make him believe that Santa will leave the gift only if he finds children sleeping in their own bed. He said that he'll think about it. I considered half the battle won as he did not out-rightly reject the idea ;-)

As Christmas day neared, he stated plainly, 'I think Santa will know where I am sleeping' ! We felt cheated. Kapil and I tried to coax and cajole, threaten and even used some emotional attyachar. But he had made his decision. We could not make out whether he was sure that Santa will deliver his gift or he wasn't too keen on the gift or if he did not really believe that Santa existed !

In any case, we saw no doubt in his eyes and  I wish I could be as decisive as him !

So we all again snuggled together at night, somehow, on the queen size bed...Pranav peacefully, with his Christmas stocking by his side, and we restlessly !

In the morning, in a bid to save our faces, Kapil suggested to keep the gift in the other room, on his bed.

As soon as Pranav woke up, he went to check the stocking. We felt more excited than him to see his reaction ! He opened the gift wrap and found a real watch with Ben 10 figure on it. What followed is difficult to explain....his face lit up and he did a jig with his fist and cried, 'I got it ! I got my watch !' He did not even try looking for scooter and we had to remind him to search for it. He was happy to get the scooter but the watch had made the day for him.

When we mentioned to him that, 'look Santa left the big gift on your bed' , without blinking for a moment, he replied - Santa has made a mess...throwing one gift here and another there ! Ha ! how does these things come to kids ! In our own interest, we stopped the discussion here.

Finally, he got what he wanted without compromising on anything ! We are happy that he has a strong mind of his own and are, secretly, already thinking of embarrassment saving ways in such situations !

May he always listen to our directions , at least sometimes listen to us, always make his own decisions ;-)