Thursday, January 10, 2019

Life lessons that we can take from 3 Idiots

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3 Idiots - a movie that released during Christmas 2009, starring Amir Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Madavan, Sharman Joshi, Boman Irani, Javed Jaffery to name a few. I wrote a quick short review, when I first saw this movie during the Jan 2010. I even received a comment for that post mentioning that it already has a cult status. Now after 9 years of first seeing this movie, I must have seen it countless times and still haven’t gotten tired of it, those review pointers are still relevant. I even saw the Tamil remake of it in 2012 - Nanban starring Vijay, Ileana D’Curz, Jiva, Satyaraj, Srikanth, S.J. Surya. Personally, I prefer the Hindi version (probably because I saw the Hindi version first, but both are equally good)

Every time I see it, depending on the stage of my maturity I have seen layers in the movie that conveyed a message to every role that I have played till now. You might ask, “How”?. Here is a break down of what I saw and learnt from the movie:

Warning - For those who haven’t yet seen the movie there are a lot of spoilers on the story line and the characters. Maybe this is your chance to see this movie yourself and if you are a parent, please do see it with your children (age 6 and above will surely enjoy this movie)

Phunsuk Wangdu -The main character (protagonist) - called by many other names in a movie (mainly Rancho by his college mates), is a lifetime learner who keeps his creativity alive. His thirst to 'learn it all' (any way you can) along with the aspect of wanting to simplify it for use for the development of the community and make the process of learning enjoyable is very contagious. His character is inspired from a real life role model Sonam Wangchuk. His target is not marks or grades but the quest for information and how to use that information to attain efficiency and effectiveness with limited resources. 

Learning
  1. He teaches us the importance of staying a lifetime learner and how that can keep you younger than most and stress free.
  2. Every failure can be a learning experience.
  3. Always stay calm and stay in your ‘Zen state’ in order to be able to achieve better.
  4. Studies is just a means to reach your destination.
  5. Encourage out-of-the-box thinking, practical applications of learning, & keep the creative trait alive by using it to enhancing life skills.
  6. Learn to question authority when necessary and when they deserved to be questioned.

Virus (Dr. Viru Sahastrabuddhe) - the antagonist - the strict college principal who has a very strong conviction about doctrinal method of teaching and is unyieldingly stubborn in believing that being the first (top) is the most important target in one's life (Winning the rat race). He is also quite miserable most of the time as his target is always to be at the top which naturally creates stress.

Learning 

  1. A little bit of flexibility to deviate from norm when needed.
  2. To be humane towards the needs of the students.
  3. Focus on performing to the best of one’s abilities.
  4. Rat race and winning it, is not everything in life.
  5. Challenge the monotonous and outdated curriculum and teaching methodology of institutions.
All the above are welcome aspects for one's personal sanity and contentment.

From a parent's perspective, 
  1. Mad rush towards the tag of “Engineering” or such professional courses isn't the only career option. 
  2. Career / course option should be more by choice than force.
  3. Learn to listen to what your child is saying, to identify the strength of your child and support them to explore untried path as well as long as it is not detrimental to their progress. 
Virus’s son (gets mentioned when Pia, his daughter, reveals the real reason why her brother took his own life) and Joy Lobo (the boy who begs Virus for an extension for project submission date which he denies) 

Learning
  1. By giving up they might have found a way out of the personal humiliation that failure might bring but in the process they end up giving life long pain and suffering to their family and friends. 
  2. It is inhumane to pressurize people by threatening/humiliating them with failure. 
Curtsey Google Images
Farhan Qureshi - a student from a middle class background who is torn between the fact of wanting to live his parent’s dream of their child becoming an engineer and wanting to follow his heart and pursue photography as a profession but is unable to muster the courage to speak to his parents. Eventually with Rancho’s support speaks to his parents and convinces them to let him pursue his passion. He then goes on to have a fulfilling career once his internship is completed.

Raju Rastogi - a student from an impoverished background with an ailing father, a older spinster sister, and a retired school teacher mom who keeps reminding him that it is he who needs to shoulder the family’s responsibilities once he finishes his studies in flying colours and gets placed in a white collared job during campus recruitment. He finally manages to break free of the stress (that pushes him to attempt suicide) that this combination of expectations and doctrinal educational methods create and goes on to become a successful executive.

Learning from the above two: 
  1. Turn the focus from Fear Of Failure (FOF) to Fun Of Learning (FOL). 
  2. Build confidence to speak your mind (to parents and authority figures) with mutual respect & confidence in self. 
  3. Be ready to learn and adapt.
  4. Attempting to end one’s life is never a solution to escape from stress.
Pia and Mona Sahastrabuddhe - daughters of Virus who in their own individualistic ways play a part in standing up to their father’s wrongful convictions and methods. Eventually, they do nudge their father to accepting the (above) three students that he despises the most due to their antics. 

Learning 
  1. Have the courage to stand up to your parents/authority when you know they are wrong.
Chatur Ramalingam (nicknamed Silencer) - A Tamil speaking student who has little knowledge of Hindi (In the Tamil version of the movie, he takes on the character of an Anglo-Indian who doesn’t know literature Tamil). When Rancho changes the speech that he delivers on stage for a college fest, he is publicly humiliated which turns him to despise these three for almost a decade. Eventually, though he is the VP in a USA based firm, he still has to run behind targets and deal closures for his job security. 

Learning
  1. Difference between fun and public humiliation (to be avoided). 
  2. Being the top in class is not everything.
With exams around the corner, it would be nice if parents and children together watched this movie again to refresh on what is necessary and what is not, re-evaluate priorities, and approach the exams with less stress and more joy as exams are one of the many means of evaluating one’s level of understanding. It is not the end of life and it is surely not a reason to end one's life!

Friday, December 21, 2018

Are you conscious of Teen Driving without license?

After a great weekend at my parents’, I was driving back home with my two children on my scooter. About a mile away from home, a teenage boy (but still a few years short of legal driving age) came out driving his Scooty suddenly from a side lane Thankfully I did not lose control of the vehicle but, for a moment, I wanted to shout at him. But I saw him struggling to keep his vehicle balanced and hence did not want to risk his safety by shouting at him from behind.

It was quite a narrow road and being a Sunday, the traffic was reasonably less. Just as I thought he was going to stabilise, he wobbled and tapped on the leg of a biker, who was just about to start his bike from his parking lot. I was hoping that the boy would stop now, but he kept driving.

This biker raced after his scooter and stopped him a few yards ahead and picked the key of his scooter. Then he slapped the boy hard… not once, not twice but kept doing it. As I crossed the scene, something in me, wanted to stop and intervene. By then some of the passer-bys (on foot and bikes), a few of the shoppers and an auto-driver had gathered around.

We all tried to stop the biker, who was physically hurting the boy and shouting at him for riding the bike and throwing slur on his parents for letting him ride the bike. I tried to reason out with him saying that he was right on the point that the boy shouldn’t be riding the bike, but physically hurting him is not how he should insist on this point.

“Take him home to his parents, talk to them about the risk that the child poses to himself and to the others on the road by riding the bike while under-age. You can also add the fact that they should be the responsible adults to teach right from wrong to their children and make sure that the child waits till he is of legal age, apply and get a valid driving license, and then take a bike on road. You can’t physically hit a child (especially in the absence of the parents) for a blunder he cannot fully comprehend. It is the parents that haven’t been responsible enough to say no to his requests of riding a bike or they themselves could have told him to run a small errand for them, as this was not a main road/highway.”

But,the biker was still agitated and angry. A father on a bike with his daughter (one of few who had gathered around), who also witnessed the entire thing unfold from the point where I saw it, supported what I said, “That Madam saw the entire thing happen as I did too. This child tapped him lightly. When the boy rode ahead, the biker was removing the stand of his bike which the boy did not anticipate.”

This seemed to agitate this biker even more. By now, the boy was badly shaken and in tears. The auto-driver planted himself between the biker and the boy and took back the boy’s scooter key. All this aggravated the biker’s anger, but being outnumbered he decided to retreat and hence sat on his bike. He still wanted to prove he was justified in hitting the boy and he decided to pick the weakest (according to him) among the crowd to terrorise next - a Mother with two children in tow on her two wheeler - which was me. He directed all that anger on me and said, “Do you know how painful it will to be hit on the leg that has gone through a surgery? I will show you by hitting you with my bike.If it were my son, I would not allow him to ride a bike at all”. Saying this he removed the stand of his bike and made a lunging action towards me without starting the bike.

For an instant, I was worried for the safety of my children as they were also on my scooter behind me (though wearing their helmets). I wished I had parked my scooter at a safe distance, secured my children before I came to the help at the scene. Thankfully some people around us stopped him and said that he was being bull headed.

Father on the bike: “Even if the child had made a fault/blunder, you have no right to physically abuse him.”

Passer by 1: “Sir, please stay back. We agree that he shouldn’t be riding a scooter, but that doesn’t warrant you to vent your anger on a small child and terrorise him. Madam is right.”

Auto Driver: “Are you leaving or I am going to call the police. You can file a complaint against the boy and his parents for what they did and we will all update them about how you dealt with it”.

The biker knew he was outnumbered and things were taking a different turn where he might also be at fault. So he left.

The boy was shaking due to fear. We all advised him to head back home and not ride the bike here after till he was legally allowed. I was hoping one of the other adults who did not have a child would drive him home, but the auto driver gave the key to the child and asked him to go. I volunteered to take him home but I could not leave my kids with strangers. So I rode behind him with my heart beating so fast (due to fear for his safety) that I felt palpitations.

Thankfully we went into smaller lanes which were empty and soon we reached the shop (not house) where his Mother was manning the shop. He parked the bike, locked it and ran into the shop and went behind the racks to hide and probably cry. His mother was concerned. I parked my bike in front of the shop, took my kids and went in and had a word with the mother. I narrated the entire incident and told her that she was lucky that the child did not end in any major life threatening accident. He is shaken up due being slapped by the bike multiple times and this would be one bitter experience he would carry through his life. I also requested her that she doesn’t allow him to do anything that he shouldn’t be doing for his age for his own safety.

While coming back, my son (the younger one) said, “That Anna (brother) did something risky. Children shouldn’t ride bikes. And he wasn’t even wearing a helmet. He must wear one like you and I have, to be safe.” I agreed with him and felt proud of what I have been able to instill in him as a parent.

Once home, I looked at my elder daughter, who was silent and asked her if she was okay and she said, “I am shocked that a child gets to ride a bike in India… A BIKE FOR GOD’s SAKE. How could his parents let him do that?” I was happy that she knew where to place the blame.

I said, “Some people are like that. They think it is cool that their child is doing things like these.”

Shocked she says, “This is NOT cool. It is dangerous. He could die.”

“I know. I just hope that the mother realises her mistake, waits till he has his license to let him ride again.”

“Amma, I was happy that you helped the boy and took him home safely but maybe next time, you should get off your bike before you start talking to crazy adults who attack children and their parents so that we all can also be safe.”

I was brimming with pride by my children’s reaction to the incident, and I learnt my lesson for the next time while I show people that I am not to be taken lightly!

Enough has been talked on this topic of teen driving in our media and there have been cases where the parents' have been penalised for the troubles they get into, because of driving (without a license) and still this menace seems to be on the rise. This incident left a huge impact on me and my children.

I wish parents:

  • Be role models for their children by doing what is right and ensure to not engage in any activity that are not age appropriate (like teen driving, creating fake profiles online to play games)

  • Set clear boundaries not give in to their tantrums or excuses (like one-off permission to drive without their license, getting their school project done, without involvement from the child...)  

  • Do not lose cool and act at the spur of the moment (like this man who physically assaulted a child on the road, instead of considering his safety and having a word with his parents about it).

  • Be responsible & sensible adults, who can have meaningful conversations with their children about their safety and social responsibilities (like importance of learning to drive and having a valid license at the right age, wearing helmets...)
Originally published by me on Momspresso on 04, Dec 2018. Adapted for my personal blog.

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Are you a "knee-jerk" parent?

Recently, had an interesting conversation with my first born (FB), who is in 6th grade.

It all started when I picked her up after school. All the children were running out of the school lobby, with bright smiling faces. My FB came out with a long face and said she had something she wanted to talk when we reached home. This statement had me worrying and I had to ask her, “Can you give me a gist of what it is about?”.

She drops a bombshell that she kind of has started hating specific subject class, as the teacher was being unfair. So I asked her, “What do you mean unfair?”

She starts her detailed explanation with the statement that the teacher says that “the boys in our class are better than the girls” and she never tells us what we need to do to improve our submitted work, so that next time we can do better. All she says is, “This isn’t up to the expectations and I can’t tell you what you need to do better”.

The feminist mother in me immediately reacts with, “What the hell? How can a teacher in a position of responsibility, make such a biased and unfair statement?”, but thankfully I was sane enough to keep my mouth shut and told my daughter that we would continue the discussion once we reach home.

We come home, I dispense my SAHM duties of giving my children their evening drink and snacks, catch up on my WhatsApp messages and then asked her, “So, now tell me what were you talking about in school about the class you did not like?”

So she starts off with her narrative again and this time with some additional information.

“Amma, we had a few group projects we had to do as part of our class work and the teacher put us in groups of 4 comprising of all girls or all boys group. Every time we finish our class work project, we are marked and today the teacher said that that in our class the boys seem to be more creative than the girls. She always gave them high marks and we got 4/10.”

I had to struggle to curtail my instantaneous reaction to want to cajole my child and say she was the best and find out the whole thing before I jumped to any conclusion. “Did you ask your teacher why you were marked so low and what could be done better for your work be termed better?”

“Yes. We did.”

“So what was her answer?”

“She said she couldn’t tell that but just that we had to improve on our creativity, presentation and catchiness”.

I was a bit annoyed that this would be the answer that a teacher would give a child studying in 6th grade. But then, my trust in the schooling system and the faith that the world around you is the best teacher and whatever happens, always happens for a reason, kicked in. So I proceeded to prod further.

“Okay… So are you allowed to check out each others’ work after it is marked?”

“Yes, Amma.”

“So did you check the work of the group that was given more marks than you?”

“Yes.”

“What did you think of their work? According to you, did you think that their work was worthy enough of getting more than you or was it like yours or bad?”

“It was better than ours.”

“Okay. Now I am confused. If it was better than yours, then why do you think that your teacher was unfair to mark them more than you.”

“If you put it like that…. But she told that the boys were way better than the girls. That was hurtful.”

Now, slowly the problem surfaces. So I ask, “Okay I agree that such a blanket statement could have been avoided, but the world is unfair in making such stereotypical judgemental statements. So we do not have a choice but to deal with it. And in this case, it was a factual statement, though a bit harshly put. Is that the only reason you are hurt or is there more to it? Did someone tell you that your teacher was being unfair?”

“Yes, my friends said that this teacher is always partial with the boys and that in all the classes she goes, she says these kinds of statements.”

“Let us now stop with this thought process and focus on facts. Do you feel or have your experienced first hand that this teacher acts partially in her approach or do you think she was just making a factual observation as far as your class is concerned?”

After a couple seconds of thought, she answers, “She was making a factual observation.”

“Does she always make such stereotypical remarks in the last few months you have been attending her class, or was it just the first time she made this statement and that too after the work was evaluated and the statement was justified by the work displayed?”

“This is the first time…” Her face breaks out in a smile and all her frustration, disappointment and hurt vanishes. “Thank you for helping me see clearly. Next time I will try harder.”

“If you still think the teacher was wrong and unfair, I can come and talk to her about it.”

“No Amma, I was wrong. I started thinking she was unfair because all my friends were saying so and I believed that and became kind of biased. I couldn’t see it as clearly as this. How do you do it Amma?”

“Very simple. Next time before you get angry or frustrated about something or someone, evaluate the entire situation with just the facts, rather than the opinions of others. What I did now was only help you see through the facts and filter out the opinions. Once you have done this, and you still think that the anger or frustration is justified, then work towards finding the way to remove that anger/frustration and fix it once and for all. Sometimes it might not be that simple and you might just have to let it go with no fix… In such cases, take your time to vent out the frustration in a constructive way and then move on.”

“Love you Amma. Now I can go and do my homework peacefully.”

I smiled and thanked my mother to have given me this kind of practical thinking and a sense of “detached attachment” to be able to see the big picture before I jump to conclusions. So my question to all you parents are, do you instantly jump to comfort your child when they are frustrated or complaining OR do you help your child analyse the situation, and arrive at a practical conclusion to help them out of their frustrated mood?

Note: Originally published by me and featured in Momspresso (Showcased as "Article of the Month" for October 2018) as Are You Actually A Knee-Jerk Parent? .