To be or not to be-A Well rounded child..

Honey, colleges are looking for well rounded kids! Are you sure you want to give up foreign language? And music, you need music. Don’t tell me you are giving up sports! And what about clubs?

Seems familiar? Those are today’s helicopter parents or Tiger Mums and Lion dads living their children’s life. I feel quite sorry for those currently in high school.  A gifted athlete is expected to ace chemistry/physics, study nothing but  AP Calculus BC as a senior, be proficient in at least one musical instrument, engage in clubs, volunteer regularly and maintain great grades. Oh I forgot speech, drama, debate and a lot more.

At around this time last year we were one of the parents whose kids were receiving those self explanatory envelopes from colleges- slim and small with apologetic best wishes or big and thick with congratulatory acceptance. The husband and I were driving the daughter and her friends to a school engagement. Now I am sure all will agree that listening to conversation in the car does not classify as eavesdropping so we couldn’t help but hear the animated discussion going on. ‘Oh I got accepted into some and rejected from a few’, ‘yet to hear from my dream college’, ‘really, you got into Berkeley’! ‘Oh, she walked into USC on a full ride and he has been recruited by Cal Tech’. ‘Her parents must have done something really right for her to be accepted into so many colleges’! Huh. Parents?

6a00d83451db8d69e201116895da84970c-1Since when did college become about parents? To cut the long four years of high school short, the kids are vying to be that well rounded, grounded child so much so that childhood is long forgotten and eventually lost. Politically correct behavior overrides honesty and innocence and by the time they are ready to fly the nest there is an acute case of apathy, cynicism and saturation- only to begin the next race  of employment by the best.

The car conversation set me thinking about the lack of simple random chats about anything and everything beyond the focus of school, grades, clubs internships and college. There seems to be an underlying  sense of rivalry, partly evident and partly hidden laced with jokes and general leg pulling and this is not limited to the teens. Mind it, parents are not too far behind, in fact in some cases they are the leaders of the pack generating and nurturing the current mindset.

There is a constant endeavor to build, develop, accentuate, elaborate, augment, enhance that resume, that long, exhaustive resume beginning as a naive teenager, consistently showcasing a well rounded hard working child with excellent GPA combined with super SAT/ACT scores along with excellent essays, an array of extra curricular activities in addition to magnificent community service and eye catching internships. Phew! Is that what high school is now about?  A child excelling in one particular aspect is compelled to embrace much more without actual inclination or enthusiasm just to showcase a balance. Is a nice kid with average aspirations,  simple ambitions and zero aggression a misfit in today’s world? Will the quiet kid get beaten at school, college, job interviews by the illustrative one?

What are your thoughts on the pros and cons of the well rounded child against a child following a singular self chosen path?

 

Picture courtesy: http://www.andertoons.com &  www.toothlessstoops.com

 

 

 

 

 

We are the world, we are the people…

Trees!  Big, small, tall, short, green, brown, yellow, red, orange, flower-bearing, fruit-bearing, barren, shade giving or just joy giving trees- they surround us. They have been around since the beginning of time and will be well  beyond and after us. With increased awareness about climate change and environment, measures are consciously being taken to conserve, protect, reuse, reduce and recycle. This is a story of a tree…

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A tree that brought and continues to bring joy to all ages, all races, men, women and children in our community, more so after it was cut down. Just another random tree inconspicuous  amongst all others lining the road until it was found to be hazardous and cut down. And then it came to life! Because those living in the neighboring home converted the loss of the tree into a gift to the community. They had it carved into the most gorgeous trendiest bear south of Lake Tahoe and this one had the privilege of being dressed as per tradition. Be it Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentines Day, St Patricks Day and now Easter, Bubba the Bubb road bear has become an icon of happiness, bonding the community as those passing by stop, smile, take pictures, ask passerby to take their pictures and chat around him.

In a world conflicted by discrimination based on  race, religion, color, ethnicity and more, it takes one person living in a small town of Northern California to strengthen the community by just carving a tree into a bear. The community anticipates the next look of Bubba bringing conversation, smile and much more. On a trip to the Grand Canyons during peak winter I recall seeing plenty snowmen built by tourists with different artistic capabilities all over the canyon trail . There were short and fat snowmen, tall and thin snowmen, one had lost an arm and I smiled as I saw the son fix it with a new arm and add a cute little hat. No one vandalized them, no one was seen jumping on them to break them either, as people, vehicles, animals walked around them, preserving them until they melted into the ground. Similarly on trips to the beach one sees castles, dungeons, tunnels, all made with great precision with the abundant sand and again I don’t recall seeing anyone purposely breaking them or walking over them. They are wiped out by nature as the waves wash ashore.

The inherent character in humans is to build, create, preserve, nurture much more than destroy, demolish or eliminate. Little acts of thoughtfulness, small gestures of kindness, living in selflessness go a long long way to achieve what a sum total of aggression, suppression, ignorance can’t.

Do you find those little acts of thoughtfulness in your community? Has someone shown you that small gesture of kindness and made your day? If yes, do share and pay it forward and if not, how about beginning it today to mark a beautiful Easter weekend. Bubba the Bubb road bear joins me to wish you folks a Happy Easter…

Pic courtesy: http://www.shutterstock.com & yours truly

 

 

 

The Joys and Woes of Technology…

“Why lah! Why did you ask me to bring the server down lah?”  Said the banker to the software engineer as he struggled into the support hub carrying a server in his arms. Uh ho hmmm. A friendly pat on the back with a laughing reply of- “I didn’t want you to literally bring down the server lah!” confused the banker further. It surely does not mean that the banker was not smart or that the engineer was ultra smart, but it does emphasize the predicament of most people in the last few decades with technology changing, evolving, challenging and simplifying matters to some while mystifying the others. I am guilty of falling in the ‘mystified’ group and while the learning at times is exasperating it does have entertainment value.

imagesThose working in the field of technology are not strangers to these tech-jargon caused confusions. The most common one encountered was in Malaysia, ‘how to get out of window lah, it is bolted’ to the instructions of-‘now get out of windows.’ Seriously! Is Bill Gates listening? Oh why oh why call it windows of all the things! And then came Steve Jobs and suddenly apple is not just a fruit! Discussions on mouse usually are not referring to the rodent, cookies are not just small flat baked goodies, thread is NOT limited to sewing while crop is rarely associated with cultivation and cloud is not the white fluffy thing full of water floating in the sky. Oh yes, I can go on and on and on…..

While on a date with the hubby, I wished to check on the children and phoned home. Phoning teenagers and expecting the call to be answered was truly being unreasonably optimistic and repeated calls to both the son and the daughter went unanswered. Did I say that the hubby is a computer technology engineer? Not that it takes that particular qualification for application of most of the ‘tech stuff’ but what he  did next impressed and amused yours truly. He ‘found his mac’ forty miles away from ‘his i phone’ and remotely switched it and the apple TV off.  Lo behold, it didn’t take five seconds for our phones to ring with calls from the teenagers from home. And at that moment I fell in love again, with my enemy this time- the technology.

What could be technologically challenging in listening to music? The family has an account on spotify for this purpose and I begin my day listening to religious songs moving onto the mood of the day ranging from Pink Floyd to Taylor Swift. The other day just as my slow melodious Hindi religious songs of ‘Gayatri Mantra’ began, my phone rang. I heard laughter  in the background as the daughter giggled, “hey mommy, are you listening to spotify?” Hmm yes, why? Well, it so happened that she and her friends in college were also listening to  ‘their kind of music’ on spotify and when I switched on from the same account, my religious songs overrode their music to play “Gayatri Mantra” in their dorm 2500 miles away. (hysterical laughter…)

With apologies to the tech savvy people, many of my girl friends are technology challenged just like me and some are unable to follow this blog. The daughter has set it up for yours truly and  has made it very simple- just go to http://www.unnecessarydetailsblog.wordpress.com and to follow, like, comment, receive e mail about an update all one has to do is scroll down and subscribe. Thats all for now folks…Enjoy the rest of the week, and don’t forget to write in the challenges you might have faced with tech- NO logic….

  Pic courtesy: http://www.glasbergen.com

Living in Pressure Cooker…

I had heard of college towns and when we moved to this little town in the San Francisco Bay area, I felt that we had reached a school town.   In a radius of a few miles we have five high schools, six middle schools, seven elementary schools and a community college. Would one like to guess what is common amidst most main streets? They all sport multiple huge neon sign boards advertising SAT tutorials, College credits classes, PSAT/SAT/ACT prep classes, Kumon, improve math, home work help, learn Spanish, learn Mandarin, learn English and  much more. Individuals and small companies specializing in training, reviewing, editing and in some instances helping to write college essays to make them outstanding amongst a million such essays are cropping up in every street corner and Skype lessons/guidance are common norm. Let alone high school kids, middle schoolers are seen adding ‘voluntary’ service hours methodically, with professional capabilities enough to shame a corporate honcho. Though I feel that there is nothing voluntary or service oriented in something done to gain hours or enhance resume. If a school doesn’t offer ‘enough’ AP classes, students add those by enrolling in community colleges, and I do wonder on how much is ‘enough’. It does appear that the aim of good education is now getting good grades and not acquiring balanced learning. Isn’t it ironical that most are concerned about being proficient test takers rather than proficient learners and accomplished doers! tests-human-resources-cartoon-400px

The daughter graduated from one of these so called immense pressure  high school and was accepted into some renowned colleges and not accepted in a few. The common factors were that both the acceptances and the non-acceptances letters sang accolades of her accomplishments and the only difference was the first sentence of congratulations, you are accepted or you are in! Do note that I didn’t use the word ‘rejection’ using ‘non-acceptance instead. Have you felt that the  use of negative words in current days are not acceptable? We have been rebuked for saying ‘rejection’ though the daughter was least affected. For sugar coating I even looked up synonyms for the word and wasn’t impressed with elimination, exclusion, repudiation, dismissal etc etc.

The son is currently in high school and struggling like most others,  just as the daughter did because good is not enough in a class where everyone is good, constantly striving to be better if not the best. March is the time for college acceptances /non acceptances, and exactly at this time last year one of our high school kid ran away from home. The school, students, community joined resources with the law enforcement agencies to find him. Two weeks back another one was reported missing. Both were found, under huge pressure probably taking a break from a world created by students like them and parents just like their’s. The schools per se should not be blamed because they are striving to build a whole child repeatedly giving presentations to the community, stressing on grades being part of growing up similar to sports, drama, music, clubs and socializing. Do you feel you are growing up in an environment of imbalance? Or your child is under pressure while sleep evades you?

Albert Einstein said, “Everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid”. On that note I wish you all the geniuses out there, a great weekend…

Picture courtesy: http://www.pinterest.com

Killing me softly with synonyms…

The language that tops as the most spoken language in the world is English, followed closely by the languages spoken in two of the most populous countries in the world- China and India. Considering this, conversation, expression, communication, discussion, consultation, observation, query etc etc should not be difficult for anyone knowing basic language skills. That we would be challenged by the language we learned since kindergarten was unthinkable and when it happened it didn’t exactly shock us but yes, 20 years on it has the ability to make us grin.

It was Hari Raya, a much looked forward long weekend in Malaysia. The hubby and I along with some friends were planning to explore Taman Negara- the National Park a few hours drive from Kuala Lumpur. Not owning any tents between us, we needed to rent them and consulted the google of those days- the Yellow Pages and started calling stores renting camping gear.

The first call- “hello I would like to rent a tent” was answered with “what lah! no rent lah” and the phone was disconnected. Simply!  In the second call we explained better or so we thought- “hello, we are going to Taman Negara and can we rent a tent?”, which was followed by “can not rent lah, cannot lah” and were disconnected again. Maybe in the sixth or seventh call we were rewarded with a sliver of hope- an understanding, when the person answered, “we don’t rent lah, we only hire, you want to hire?”6a00d8341d417153ef00e553d24ceb8834-1 Hallelujah!!! Oh yes, you bet, we will hire the tent, no worries at all. And then the slightly risen hopes came crashing down when the gentleman added, “but you too late lah, all hire gone, you call someone else and ask to hire not rent. Hire can, rent cannot”. Armed with this new found knowledge, we again began the calls with renewed confidence and enthusiasm-“we would like to hire a tent lah”. We thought we were fast/quick/rapid/swift learners. And the answer was, “no lah, you cannot hire tents lah, but you can rent.” In my peripheral vision I could see the hubby holding his head, shoulders shaking, tears streaming down his face in helpless laughter while I gaped, flustered, sputtered and begged to hire or rent whatever. “But no lah, not possible lah, too late lah! Can not lah!”

People familiar with Malaysia would be accustomed to the suffix  lah to sentences as well as can-can for an affirmative and a long stressed cannot for a negative. However when I accompanied guests from overseas to a restaurant and their request of, “can I get a can of coke please” was met with a quizzical frown, followed by a quick understanding on the part of the waiter as he quipped happily, “can cannot lah, but bottle can!” Go figure!!!

Story of our lives…

Growing up in the 1970s and the 1980s in India, the 90s’ seemed like a revolution. Soaps (both bathing and tv), shampoos, clothes, kitchen concepts, music, films, education and even cars suddenly had variety and options. For the overseas traveller returning home with suitable joy generating presents posed a challenge as everything was available back home. Suddenly the relative/friend visiting from overseas couldn’t generate similar joy as prior to the revolution with simple, inexpensive yet thoughtful gift of say, a bottle of shampoo like head & shoulders or a pack of soaps – camay/lux, dinky cars and soft toys.

Our generation has seen the bulky stationary phone usually black with round white dial change into a sleeker colorful version and then becoming  almost ‘extinct’ replaced by smart phones, again of multiple kinds. Just like that the television and music system too became smart and now we live in smart homes with smart lights, smart security and I already see self driving cars testing the roads leading us to an era of smart cars. Surrounded by so much smartness in gadgets, the humans are in serious risk of developing an inferiority complex.

'If I can't do it by iPhone, I don't do it.'

Not limited to gadgets and products, relationships and lives have evolved! We grew up with one television at home and we were not deprived. Come weekend the family sat together to watch any movie telecast by the only national tv station in the country called Door Darshan meaning Far sight, literally. We were awarded with bonus program once a week that showed random Bollywood songs for thirty minutes and you bet, we loved it but 9 pm sharp the idiot box belonged to the dad as he watched the news bulletin with the attention of a lioness guarding her new born cubs.

‘Gaan’- in the language I speak means music though when I blasted my little two-in-one with Pet Shop Boys, Abba,  Boney M etc my dad would lovingly call out, is that ‘gaan’ I hear or gun.  I believe the Hubby too had a childhood similar to mine albeit with much stricter parents and his one dream of listening to Pink Floyd, loud on his music system assembled lovingly over a period of time from gadgets ranging from Germany to Japan came crashing down when the kids now yell dadddyyyyy volume!! He quietly grumbles…our generation is squashed between strict loving parents and strict loving children.

With the constant changes, a scene that still warms me right down to my blue painted toes is from the time I was eighteen and  walked home to see the boy friend waiting for me with the dad, sitting together  enjoying rare music video of a different time-‘another brick in the wall’ and my dad turned to me with a smile- ‘and why don’t you listen to such wonderful gaan’. I am grateful to the hubby that the dad’s sensors in appreciation of music evolved and soon he could be seen nodding to Beatles, Deep Purple, Scorpions, Chicago and so on, adding them to his list of favorites with traditional classical Indian music- according to him, they all were excellent ‘gaan’. Now, until a similar evolution hits our grown kids, the hubby and I run to the basement to snatch those moments in their absence just to blast the system with golden oldies…

And go back a couple of years, how many of us would have dreamed of painting toe nails blue!!! Blue is the new pink….

Picture courtesy: http://www.furowaa.deviantart.com & http://www.cartoonstock.com

Living on the edge…

So there was a time many aeons ago when the husband and I lived in Lusaka, Zambia. Previous to that our only overseas living had been in Malaysia. In the early 1990s, coming from India, Kuala Lumpur was a discovery and the transfer from KL to Lusaka was um hmmm a change, or lets call it another discovery

On arrival in Lusaka, we were driven by a person sporting skills of Indiana Jones to our new residence, the first sight of which left me gaping and speechless. I almost picked up my jaw from the floor!  We had swung to a halt in front of a huge intimidating gate with spikes, walls that had broken glass on top and a cute kind of moat surrounding it, only the crocs were missing! The Zambian counterpart probably had a misconception about the Indians he was expecting because he had provided us with a house  with 7 bedrooms, 2 living rooms, 2 dining rooms ( mind you, one for the vegetarians, one for non vegetarians). The little kitchen would have fit most of my Mumbai home and the fridge room, yes we had one of that too-   a room with four refrigerators- one for the vegetarians, one for the non vegetarians, one for drinks and one huge deep freezer normally found in super markets. I guess it was assumed that great wars between my husband and me were being prevented, truly we wouldn’t fight over space or cross contamination between the veggies and meat! And did I say that the house was set amidst a rose garden with an olympic size swimming pool?

Mugging was a normal everyday occurrence as was shortage of necessities making me understand and appreciate the supermarket sized deep freezer. The muggers were a friendly lot, not harmful unless defied though a  mugger I tried to resist doubled over with laughter and left me alone. I guess being defied by  woman who barely reached his waist line, on a street swarming with people in broad day light didn’t hurt his ego. The expats community was extensive and I learned cuisine from Portugal, South Africa, Kenya, the United Kingdom while sharing Indian culinary skills of making samosa, vada etc. Food and culture are two of the strongest factors bringing communities together and we bonded over multiple cuisine, music and movies.
tumblr_inline_n6uzzkkmhL1qcyr71The Indian dessert of kheer, a kind of milk pudding made with rice/vermicelli was a huge hit in the local community and they wished to learn. My explanation of – reduce a liter of milk  on the stove until halved was heard with great appreciation making me feel that I was the next Gordon Ramsey. They looked at me in awe and  murmured, ‘and how and when did you know it had halved’. Uh er um…

Despite the safety issues we have beautiful memories from Zambia. The close bond that we formed with the locals was evident when we heard the husband’s name over the public address system as we waited to board our flight, calling out to him so they could bid him one last goodbye before he flew back home…

Picture courtesy: http://www.cartoonstock.com & http://www.quotesgram.com