December 18, 2021

All the things that make up my Dad

What makes my Dad tick? What makes him mentally this strong. He stays alone and one could call him a Loner. Once the life of a party, always having friends over, always with the open bar, always with the late nights, always the jet setter, always the humour stays afloat. Days are pretty much routine but never a dull moment. Never a moment of looking back with regrets. Never a moment of feeling lost and depressed. Never a wasted drink over burnt bridges and lost friendships.

My Dad always stays positive. No matter what he has been through. No matter the losses, in business or his personal tragedies, he never dwells on the Past. He has his fair share of both. He dusts himself off quickly enough and tries to remember the greatest lesson that he can carry forward. If anything goes untoward, he just attributes it to destiny and then without even a moments delay, he will try to salvage the situation in the best way possible.  i think this is his greatest strength. As we get older, as each year passes on, past failures seem more of a burden and less of a life lesson. Life lessons have been done with, tried and tested and now only the aching memories lie with us.  My dad has survived quite resiliently through lifes ups and downs only by looking up and moving on swiftly.

My dad remembers the tiniest details. He loves to recount the process in the smaller joys. From train journey bookings to the bus experience. How long did it take. He loves the technicalities. He may look out of the window occasionally and appreciate the view. But that's only for a fleeting moment. What he loves the most is the finer details. The ease in booking, the cost of the ticket, the promptness of the transport, the service of the airline, the meals. He will never remember the turbulence or the bad weather. He will never remark 'oh my god that journey nearly killed us! ...He will instead pronounce the Pilot was excellent, after all he was a senior that probably studied abroad because only that landing could come from someone with that kind of 'international' exposure.

A word he truly loves..'International" Anything that is home grown he pretty much finds flaws with. Thats how he guards himself from disappointment. If a national brand of TV stops working , he will immediately blame the Company and the local hands that have caused it to falter. But just mention European Car or Japanese TV and he is sure to be impressed. He loves to discuss how the country is leading in Creativity or Innovations. He will get nostalgic even and try to recollect how in the good old days he drove a reliable mercedes and it was always such a pleasure. No hiccups. No major repairs. Always the good old dependable service station. Parts are expensive but you cant put a price on luxury. If a local brand is giving trouble. His quick response is to sell it. Just sell the bloody thing. No point in sinking more monies he keeps saying. And we end up doing exactly that.

Days are pretty much set. And yet he is not set in his ways. His 10 km a day walks are mandatory but not necessarily at Joggers. Being fit and staying healthy is a way of life for him. His walks are way of balancing things out. Seldom boredom creeps in and when it does, he just makes that adjustment to the route or the day off. On the way from his daily walk , he will stop for the occasional snack bite vada pao which he just relishes.

He loves watching his first day first shows. Movies excite him. New releases at some nearby theatre will derive the most satisfaction. Theatres are ordinary but he states that tickets are easy to procure, are far cheaper and hates to book in advance which adds that extra bit of pressure. Just the idea of walking in anytime and buying his ticket minus long lines etc is what makes him content.

Early morning (around 11 am) shopping at the Bazaar for good quality vegetables and meats is what he enjoys doing. He sets off to pick up his groceries and if he finds this activity too hot for him inspite of his cap , he looks forward to his afternoon beer before his mandatory midday siesta. Any calls between 2-5 pm are unwarranted and unwelcomed. This is in practice since his working days in the Gulf that have instilled this unforced break and continues this tradition to this day.

Food is his ultimate passion. Any cuisine that has his taste buds tingling he gets very vocal and complimentary about. His favorite response at this point is..'Not Bad. She can cook. She has a good hand.' Even though he is cooking only for a single person, he takes great interest in what is being served. No compromises. No short cuts. Every dish will have a proper recipe with some extra info thrown in. Like this is 'Real Goods' latest offering. Or this is bought from a known fisherwoman so its guaranteed fresh, or the masalas in this are whole not ground. He will remember places in Goa for example, where the meal was outstanding and authentic in taste. He also loves a good breakfast. Its got to be different every day. Dosas, idlis , parathas, are all his favorites. Breakfast in Pattaya have to be his fondest memories of the land. Sausages and eggs for a few dollars makes him fall in love with the place everytime the discussion even goes there. What he does especially enjoy with his breakfast is a good cup of coffee. If Al sends home a Brazilian packet of coffee beans, he will devour the coffee slowly. With an admiration on the aroma, taste and the eventual comparison to his favorite Starbucks. No coffee is as aromatic or as flavorful as Starbucks.

Cricket has a love hate relationship with Dad. And its always the Cricketers fault when the tide turns! T20 made life easier. Shorter matches made it easier for him to pour himself a drink, grab his starters and best adapted to his short attention span. Certain teams could do no wrong like South Africa, Australia. Indian teams have since lost all former glory with him since betting scandals have erupted and he is always the first to pin the losing on some bloke who has thrown the match away. Of course, nowadays even winning is some bet that made the impossible happen! IPL matches are a complete runaway hit with dad who loves the format, the mix of the international players like Gayle, AB de Villiers, Ben Stokes, etc and back-to-back matches that keep him entertained daily.

He has a special connection with Goan cusines. As a result of his several Panjim stays and visits to the Vasco Club de Goa, he feels he has a bit of a say on Goan favorites like the Sorpotel and the beef chilli fry. There are times after a christmas lunch, he will comment on Moms or Rozzlins sorpotel and then compare it with the one he had the previous year. Each year clearly marked which was his favorite !

Religion is not his favorite topic. He is clearly not a devout follower of any one God. My mother was religious. She prayed everyday. We had a mandir at home. He is god fearing but not blinded by faith. Most decision making is done in good faith but not ruled by faith. When theres a festival around the corner , he gets into the mood and does what needs to be done. If its diwali, he will pray on the day. If its Mother Marys feast, he will go to Mount Mary Church. But thats it. No discussions and post mortems on how it went and what the day represents. He always says...Believe in whatever makes you happy. Not like keep quiet and go on with your life, but more like im doing my bit and this makes me happy.

My dads got a real soft corner for kids. He hates raised voices and never finds fault with any kid. He always turns to me and says Sorry its your fault !...No grandkid can be faulted for a tantrum or punished for misbehaviour. He says Kids will be kids. You are the parent, older and wiser, figure it out! He will figure a way to pin the blame back on me when theres a disagreement on something. No kid can be spoilt enough and he finds a way to be Santa every once in a while.

His life purpose is to travel. Never to be restricted by opinions, unpredictable weather, accessibility or language. He will find a way to reach his destination and will also continue to discover the place mostly by foot. He lives his life out even on foreign and strange land. As long as there is no curtailing of freedom through either movement or expression, he loves the idea of travel. This is why most South east asian countries are more attractive to him than any other place. Its easier to get around for a older male travelling alone to find cheaper accommodation, meals and a better lifestyle all packaged in one. Of course, Pattaya is his all time favorite. He looks forward to Christmas and New years since the streets are alive and the skies lit with fireworks. He always books the serviced apartment close to the beachfront and enjoys taking the bus shuttle service to Bangkok when there's shopping to be done.

Past few months have seen him turn to closer shores. Ajmer, Bhubaneshwar, Puri, Guwahati, Sikkim. The first few were to mainly visit temples. These trips he did not particularly enjoy because of the citys state of cleanliness and lack of recreational activities. No parks, malls etc. No alcohol, High levels of Pollution, veg food are many of the things that have been off putting for him.

June 9, 2017

Why Young Girls quit Sports

This is the era for youth to shine in Indian Sports. Sania Mirza, Ashwini Ponnappa, Jwala Gutta, Geeta Singh are all Stars of this generation of young women achievers. Achievement in any sport whether it's its wrestling, cricket, badminton or athletes. They push girls to believe that anything is possible. So naturally young girls from the tender age of 5 and 6 years enrol for gruelling hours in after school private clubs or group sessions to start their sporting journey. No sport is easy and the hours are long and practice sessions are undoubtedly montonous.
Football young girls soccer time

It was never going to be easy.  Who doesn't want the best for their Kids? Nowadays, parents make it for matches, cheering along the sidelines, offering advice and even find some bonding time with the coaches. But is this enough to keep interests levels vigoured and high? This is a serious investment of time and money.
Not necessarily enough. Is it burnout or just no longer 'Fun' anymore. For most girls, something changes at the age of 12. By age 14, girls are dropping out of sports at two times the rate of boys. (Pls see here Girls drop-out at different rates depending on where they live. Sabo, D. and Veliz, P. (2008). Go Out and Play Youth Sports in America. )
Of course Girls as much as boys, need to stay in Sports, for the same exact reasons. Whether its building leadership qualities, team spirit, or confidence levels, how they view themselves, improve School grades etc there are many good enough reasons for kids to stay active and find their passion. It has always been a great way for Girls to form friendships outside of their own school. 
Lets see some of the reasons why Girls lose interest in Sports. 
Lack of Physical Education in School or access to physical playing facilities can be a major disadvantage when it comes to girls pursuing their sports sessions. 
There is also the social stigma. Bullying and social isolation are all important contributors to kids dropping out. 
As they grow older and move from Junior under 12s to Junior Under 13s, quality trained coaches may also be lacking due to less focus on that age group and the attention shifting to older boys where there is better funding. This is the reality in Sports today.
Another major influence for girls dropping out is the social media factor. Beauty is set by different standards and fitting into moulds are a struggle with the added pressure of playing sports and keeping it all together. 
Are there enough positive female playing stars that model and inspire our young girls?  As the environment gets highly competitive and there are some of the major Social and emotional changes that 11 and 12-year-olds experience that predispose them to abrupt and hasty decisions to quit sports. Do we have the Internet to blame for the way things are changing? Between the ages of 13 and 17, 92% of teens report being online every day and 24 percent are online almost constantly. As teenagers, their priorities change from who they socialize with and how they spend their time. 
The question is then how to get Girls to continue playing Sports?
Unfortunately, there is no easy, one answer fixes all, in this scenario. Being aware of these battles and the territories is important when dealing with young impressionable minds but giving them the space to grow and not pressurizing them too much is critical here. We do not want to create a negative connotation when it comes to Sports. Discussing why sports is crucial to their overall development, discovering a sport they truly passionate about or just going along with their friends to a sports practice session will be a good way to get back in. 

May 31, 2017

Learning to Drive Again

It's no mean task driving along Mumbai roads. It's literally an achievement to survive years without a warning, penalties and even more importantly an accident. It can be harder though if you're a woman driver in India. All eyes on you. You commit a mistake and get ready to be subjected to all sorts of gender discrimination. But have you driven on Goa roads? Take a Mumbai plate car to Goa and then drive through Panjim. Gender is not the issue here. It will somehow alter itself. The locals will have no reservations in shouting absurds words just for the sake of intimidation. It somehow gets justified when you envisage your options, the absolutely obstinate, illogically over priced Goa taxi driver.
So consider that after driving on any mean, tough Indian road you relocate abroad and you may have to resit your Practical and theory tests. Do you remember when and where your Driving Test in Mumbai even took place? Was it the reliable Bhogilal driving test or the shady Janata Driving class that was an unwilling aide to your own wheels. For most people, it's the quick road sign identification, some few questions of a chart, some visual aid, and the Practical manoeuvre. Seems harmless and accomplished in a jiffy.
driving tests

Well, all that comes back to haunt you when you re-sit those tests in a foreign land under stricter rules and tight guidelines. It makes me relive all those wrong turns, harmless honking, sharp u-turns, close shaves with pedestrians and the list goes on. Not insisting children wear seat belts or having them seated on our laps whilst being seated in front, have been the biggest burdens to bear. Do we subject ourselves to such carelessness that we risk peoples lives almost daily? Sometimes, our love needs to take a backseat and safety should be placed first. These are all rules that have been taught but they have never been rigidly enforced making it easy to forget they were ever there in the handbook.
There are things that kids make us do when driving deserves a special mention here. This is one of those hilarious WhatsApp forwards and one can almost relate to it instantaneously. Brings a bit of humor into everyday life skills.

Will all my earlier driving instincts assist me with my theory and practical knowledge or will I have to undo all my natural actions and work harder to understand why these rules are in the first place and the many reasons for their being?
After 20 years of driving, these tests will be a breeze and for others, it's a small bump. Because driving in Mumbai, with all the nonsense thrown at you daily, survival instincts kick in naturally.
We can fault our pothole filled roads, crumbling infrastructure but it's going to get us nowhere. There is always the hidden rules in Mumbai that take us that extra mile. Driving with the knowledge that aunty's crossing have their way, cyclists have little space, vegetable carts are pushed across large stretches and kids have nowhere else to play.
We all know the rules but along the way, we have learned to adapt. So now with all that adaption and adoption, rules will have a new found respect. Hopefully, this respect will result in a newly acquired license!
driving tests cartoons

May 29, 2017

Young Kids want Smart Savings

Who doesn't love the sound of a penny drop into their piggy bank. Its so gratifying whatever the age. I know that most kids would love the thought of owning a piggy bank every few years once the one they possess gets filled up and too heavy for anymore deposits. Nowadays they come in all sorts of sizes, colours and designs. Its no more the pig that owns this space. Traditionally, it probably had some significance but now it doesnt matter. As long as it has that all so famous slot, it can as creative and funky as it wants.
Piggy banks versus bank accounts

Where would all these savings go from time to time? I've heard they are dipped into for almost everything from toys to books and even for gaming consoles like an xbox. But is your money working hard enough for you?
There is the age old notion that its the place to go to if in times of an emergency. Maybe kids will count all they have amassed over the years and feel proud with their savings and their knack of preserving those coins for the future. However, there is a truth to this and it's something that was discovered during one of those T.V shows where families where asked to switch to more economical brands for household savings. Boring, right? Maybe, but in all that switching, one painful truth did emerge. Clearly every penny saved in the right way earns them far more than a piggy would ever do. Accumulation will no longer mean what you deposit equals your returns. There is the safety factor as well. And whats the best thing yet? The learnings that are unmatched with this option- The Bank Saving Accounts.
Its safe, reliable and your kid will pick up invaluable financial understandings that would definitely go that extra mile in making them financially independent.
So how would these work - primarily hand in hand. First don't let your deposits gather dust and simply no interest at home. It would be wise to turn them into meaningful tiny deposits and see how the money grows instead of just what you see is what you get.

There are many Indian Banks that offer Kids deposit accounts linked to your own. SBI PehlaKadam PehliUdaan, HDFC Kids Saving account, Kotak My Junior Account, ICICI Young starters, Citi Junior Account, IDBI Power Kids, HSBC Premier Junior . All of these offer attractive rates of interest with a bundle of goodies like an ATM card, withdrawal facilities and some do go that extra mile with movie tickets and discount vouchers

Grow their interest in ways that will benefit their future. These are pretty straightforward accounts with a few restrictions but this will offer them some access to learning along the way.