Calming Crying Kids – Puneet’s Way

Puneet happens to be a gem of a jeweller friend––a burly figure; used to weigh 20 stones at one time. Although much less at 18 stones, he is no less burly; can easily eclipse two of my size. I just met him and told him about my blog He was amused when I told him about the Section on “Being Parent” and about some of the posts contained therein.

I was a little surprised when he told me that he too has to deal with crying kids, and on quite a regular basis. Parents come to his showroom with children, mainly girls, to get their ears pierced. The process lasts a few seconds for each ear. The child is confused when one ear is pierced. But when it is time to pierce the second, she becomes uncontrollable. A team of five people including the parents standby to assist when the second ear is pierced.”

Puneet has a way of calming the child. “First I tell her that the stud fitted in her first earlobe is looking pretty. If she doesn’t get the stud in her second ear, she would look funny. I show off my own studs and her mother’s earrings. If this effort does not calm her, I show her a mirror.” He says that children, girls in particular have a decent opinion about themselves; they wish to look pretty, always. They stop crying when they look at themselves in the mirror.

“I use the Brahmastra when my normal efforts don’t seem to work,” he adds. “I start crying and wailing louder than the child.” He explains that children are not used to seeing adults crying; a giant of a man like me crying baffles them. They give a pause to their crying and try to understand me. It is also a fact that their memory is short, and they tend to forget and do not resume crying.”

The formula works.

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“Happy Birthday, Mahavir Swami!”

“When you make a greeting card for a person, you express your true love for that individual. It is one way to say that you care,” Chhaya used to tell our son, Mudit. Mom’s word being gospel, the little Michaelangelo used to let go of his imagination to create masterpieces of greeting cards. A skydiver, a flower, a hut, a car, a motorbike, a bird, or even an Uncle Chips sticker––literally anything that crossed his mind when he sat down to make a greeting card––found a place on his canvas (paper).

Some of the best wedding anniversary cards we have ever received in over three decades of our happily married life have been the ones specially designed by him––they are among our most prized possessions.

Mudit Greetings 1

In due course, it became a habit with him. If it was a birthday, it was his responsibility to make a birthday card.

One day he came to Chhaya and said, “Ma, tomorrow is a holiday. The school will be closed. They say it is Mahavir Jayanti. What is Mahavir Jayanti?”

“It is Mahavir Swami’s Birthday. He is our God,” explained Chhaya. Little did she know that her reply would trigger a chain of programmed actions; those that went into designing a birthday card.

Mudit was gone for a while. When he returned, he had in his hand a beautiful greeting card conveying birthday greetings to Lord Mahavir––perhaps the first ever birthday greeting card that the Lord had ever received.

Mudit Greetings 2 Mahavir Swami

Any reason is a good reason for creativity.

A Boat, a Real Boat and a Yacht

He was rankled. He was a member of a group of two families travelling together in the Intercity Express from Hazrat Nizamuddin to Indore. The ladies of the group were discussing a wedding they were returning from. The gentlemen were busy discussing the prospects of the return of BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Sitting opposite, I was a passive participant. Two toddlers were sleeping on the top berths.

This little kid (about five) was dying of boredom. “Where are your sketch pens? Why don’t you draw something?” The boy’s mother coerced him. The boy frowned and continued to sulk.

Wanting to steer clear of the inconsequential discussion, I turned towards the boy to try my skill at engaging children. “What is your name?”

He mumbled something, which I could not decipher. In any case, I wasn’t interested in knowing his name. But I had succeeded in getting him to talk––the first major step towards negotiating a deal.

“Which school do you study in? What class…” The boy, nudged by his parents kept answering in monosyllables. His body language suggested that he was least interested in the conversation. He was under pressure from his parents to be polite.

“Shall I make a boat for you?” I threw the first bait,

“I know how to make a boat.” He snubbed me. He sounded like he had just scored a match point. Although, my proposal had fallen flat, this time the boy seemed more involved in the conversation.

“But the boat I make, looks real; it is not like the one they teach in schools.” There was silence. He became more attentive. With alacrity in his heart and reluctance on his face he gave me the honour to craft a real boat for him.

He looked intently as I folded a paper to make a real boat. By the time, I finished making the boat, a smile had returned to his face. Very gleefully he accepted my creation. The parents, who were monitoring the gradual taming of the boy, were impressed.

“I can make a yacht too. Shall I make one?”

This time he nodded a clear ‘yes’ with a broad smile.

The mSlide1aking of a yacht was interrupted by a phone call from my sister conveying birthday wishes to me (it happened to be my birthday). People around me also came to know and wished me, and so did the little boy. The kid was delighted to get the yacht. With a real boat in one hand and a yacht in the other, the little Columbus went sailing across the imaginary sea that surrounded him. The cheer that my real boat and thimg_1806-2.jpge yacht got to the little boy was a big reward for me. With that I sank into my half-solved Sudoku. I was oblivious of a greater reward coming my way. After playing with the boat and the yacht for a while, the boy sketched a colourful birthday card and presented it to me as I got up to disembark at Ujjain. My day was made!

Sometimes it takes a little Origami to engage a child.

On Doodhoo and Bickies

Learning a language to express oneself, English language in particular, is an important first step in our lives in India. Parents do everything possible so that their little ones learn to speak soon. Really soon. It is an obsession––a natural response to the need to master a skill that would enable smooth sail later in life.

As young parents, Chhaya and I observed others teaching their little ones to speak. They would use words that did not exist in dictionaries. For example: doodhoo for doodh (Hindi for milk); ta-ta for hot; kitchtchy for a kiss and bicky for biscuit… the list is long. No sooner did children learn those invented words it was time to start unlearning them and learn the right words to convey the same thoughts. Parents would say, “Sunny, it is not doodhoo, it is doodh; not bicky but biscuit etc.

Toddlers would go through a cycle of learning words; unlearning them and then, learning the appropriate words. Both kids and the parents paid a cost in terms of time and effort involved in the little ones being able to communicate meaningfully.

In our son, Mudit’s case we leapfrogged this step of teaching/ learning by making a deliberate effort to use the right word in the first instance. Thus Mudit picked up fairly decent diction right in the beginning.

Building vocabulary was a parallel process. We helped Mudit learn new words. On his part, he made use of his limited vocabulary to his best advantage. Once when he wanted a hammer and did not know the word for it, he said. “Papa, please give me a nail-pusher.” I was reminded of a 1970 Dustin Hoffman starrer, Little Big Man in which one of the characters says: “I have pain between my ears,” to convey that he had a headache.

Years later, when I was doing a certificate course in French language, our professor posed a question that had a binary answer in a “yes” or a “no”. I do not remember the exact question but it was like: “Are you an Indian?”. The student, who stood up to answer, gave a nod. It was just a nod, a universally accepted expression for “Y-E-S.” On his response, which looked comical the class burst out laughing because everyone expected him to say (in French): “Yes Sir, I am an Indian.” When the laughter died down, on a serious note our professor said that the purpose of learning a language is to be able to convey ideas and to get a feedback or a confirmation or an answer. A nod was as good as an answer formed with half a dozen words. “Do not lose sight of the aim of learning anything,” he said.

As a child Mudit, also learnt that a picture was worth a thousand words. Once we left him home playing with a friend. On our return we found the front door of the house closed and latched. Stuck in the door-handle was a rather longish message that read: “Papa, Vaibhav and I are in Vaibhav’s house…” It was enough need-to-know information for me at that moment. Therefore, I would not have read the complete message, which read further, “Please meet us before you open the door…. There is a snake in the house.” What drew my attention to the rest of the message was the drawing of a snake made prominently in the lower half of the note. Thanks to Mudit’s warning (drawing), the snake was removed and the house was secured. None was harmed.

Fast-forward a dozen years and more. It is a treat seeing Vilasini, our grandniece––based in Geneva with a Tamil-speaking father and a Hindi-speaking mother––effortlessly switching between Hindi, English, Tamil and French. And Kartik, our grandnephew (in the tutelage of his grandmother and parents), conversing in intelligible Hindi/ English and reciting Shlokas in Sanskrit.

In a fast shrinking world, ability to convey ideas will be power of sorts.

Sweet home is the university where education on effective communication begins.

I Love my India

Patriotism in our country follows a sine curve. Almost. Come Republic Day, come Independence Day, The tricolour surfaces and flutters atop everything moving and non-moving. It can be seen atop buildings and on cars and motorbikes. Forget the debate on the use of flags made of synthetic material, the sales peak around this time. Patriotism also dominates the theme of the songs played on blaring speakers in every street. Television channels vie to screen films with themes patriotic. Film producers, some more patriotic than the others, time the release of their multi-starrers to coincide with the big day.

My childhood memory of those celebrations is simple yet vivid. We kids always remembered the day more for a half day at school without school bags, and the distribution of sweets. The unfurling of the flag, chanting of national anthem, Vande Mataram and some patriotic songs did instil some good feelings, which we could hardly define. But for sure, we used to talk about Shivaji, Maharana Pratap, Bhagat Singh, Chandra Shekhar Azad,… all the year round––not just twice a year.

That was a half century ago.

Blog I Love My India Flag Fluttering IMG_3425The other day I spent some time with my nephew Lakshya, an intelligent youngster. I was driving him around when we passed a large tricolour atop a sixty odd feet flagpole. I looked at it with reverence and asked Lakshaya, “What thoughts come to your mind when you see our national flag?”

He gave me a blank look and said, “Nothing, really.”

“Doesn’t it remind you of our national heroes? Doesn’t it fill you with love for the country?” I tried nudging him into answering with a stereotype that I had in mind.

But his answer left me speechless. “Nanaji,” he said, “I have so much homework to do. I am left with little time to think about all these issues.”As we drove along, we came across a giant hoarding of Mahatma Gandhi. I dared not ask him who he was. I feared he might say, “Ben Kingsley.”

 To be concluded some day…

Calming a Crying Kid – II (Kartik)

It is always fun discussing parenting with Ravi, my nephew and Swati, his wife. They come up with innovative ways of addressing issues concerning Kartik, their son, my grandnephew.

The last time we met, I asked Ravi whether Kartik, otherwise a very well behaved toddler ever causes ruckus. And how do they calm him. Ravi said that Kartik doesn’t normally cry. He cries when he has a genuine reason to do so. Say, when he hurts himself. But then, he becomes quiet soon enough, on his own.

Ravi added, when Kartik cries because of a genuine problem, they try to pinpoint the problem and resolve it. On very rare occasions, Kartik cries purely to draw attention. He even says: “See Papa, I am crying.

Ravi says that they have discovered a way to deal with those situations; and it works.

In rarest of the rare cases when Kartik cries for no apparent reason, Ravi initiates the following conversation:

“Kartik, let’s play carom, now. Or, shall I read the story of the tortoise and the rabbit, now?” Or, would you like to drink a glass of milk, n-o-w?… … You can resume your crying later.”

Note: playing carom, being read a story, drinking milk,… are some of Kartik’s favourite pastimes.

Says Ravi, “Most often Kartik chooses to indulge in an activity of his choice and postpones his crying for an opportune moment later, which never returns.”

Agony deferred is agony lost!

Calming a Crying Kid – I (Kush)

It was another of our family reunions. My parents, my siblings, our children, and their children––four generations of us were rejoicing under one roof when the agonising cries of a child put a pause to the celebration.

Kush, one of my grandnephews (about two years and a half) was crying; a more appropriate word would be: “Wailing.” We felt he was hurt and ran to his aid. Rachna, the child’s mother took charge; I joined her in her effort to calm down the little one. He wasn’t hurt. No physical harm had come to him. He was sitting rather coolly in a chair, wailing occasionally at will. Interesting conversation ensued between the mother and the child.

“Beta! What happened? Why are you crying?”

“Because Dhruv (another of my grandnephews) didn’t play with me yesterday.”

“But he is playing with you now. Why don’t you play?”

“Because he said that he would not play with me next Sunday.”

“He won’t play with you because he is leaving for Ujjain next weekend.”

“But why did he tease me in the school, two days ago?”

The Q & A session between the two seemed endless. Kush filled the time between each question and the following answer with a wail, each of which sounded louder, more orchestrated and more dramatic than the earlier one. The problem was that there was no problem. Was Kush seeking more attention than he was getting in the crowd?

I gave the issue a quick thought.

Rachna had been blessed with a second child, a son. At home, the infant was gnawing at her time and attention, which was once entirely Kush’s. It was natural for little Kush to feel neglected at home. Then, in the family gathering, there was none to spend much time with him. It was attention that Kush was seeking. I shared my thoughts with Rachna and advised her to make a conscious effort to spend quality time with him every day. That was a long-term solution; an immediate remedy was still eluding us.

We were struggling to find a way out to quieten him when I stumbled upon an idea that worked. I urged Kush to stop crying instantly because unabated wailing was having adverse effect on his body; his features were getting convoluted. I told him, “One starts looking like a dog when one cries for long without a proper cause.” And, before his little mind could get the import of what I said, I clicked a photo on my iPhone. Then, picked the picture of a stray dog from my photo library and showed it to him.

Lo and behold! Kush became silent. The amazement in his eyes defied description.

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Epilogue: In due course Kush caught on the joke. A year later, when we met again, he made a funny face and asked me to click another picture. “How will the dog appear in the pic, if I make a face like this,” he asked with an impish smile.