Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Family Outings

Family outings can conjure up many images to mind. A picnic at a park. A holiday at the beach. Maybe even an evening watching a movie ( more about that later). But, in my city, it seems, the favourite family outing is to the local supermarket.

It is not just ma, pa, two kids. But the whole extended family. Ma in law, Pa in law, granny all in tow. Our supermarkets, however big, are not enough for the teeming millions. The aisles always seem narrow. Two persons and their shopping carts are enough to create a ‘jam’. And you can well imagine the scene, when a lady and her mother- in- law are discussing which of the pastas to buy, or why the cooker should be bought at the other store where it is cheaper, while their kids are having a whale of a time playing hide and seek behind racks and weaving in and out at 100 miles per hour between shoppers and their carts.

I guess it is the great family bonding. But at the supermarket?

Well, maybe then the eateries? My daughter, tells me that in the UK, at any restaurant, if you ever hear the voices of children after 7 pm, you can be sure it is an Asian family. They are the only ones who bring their kids out so late. Wee Willie Winkie has no bearing on them. Are your children in their beds for it’s past 8 o’clock? No way!

I am no kid hater. I am fond of them. But I cannot have a screaming kid at the next table, throwing cutlery on the floor, or in this situation still playing hide and seek, but under the table. While I sit nervously through the meal, wondering when the table cloth will be brought down with the butter chicken and the biryani, the family is enjoying theirs with no worry or anxiety. Next to me, is my companion, gritting teeth and holding a fork so menacingly, that it adds to my tension. A mild… beta, baby, sweetie and other endearments occasionally being uttered. Am I glad to finish and get out of the place? You bet.

As far as I am concerned, kids, loud and ill-behaved, even if they are mine, are brats.

Late night movies are no exception. Any given day, there are children as young as five who are watching movies with their parents . They must be getting into bed well after midnight and setting off for school the next day, all bleary eyed.

I do realise that the disappearance of joint families may be the cause for kids tagging along with parents to social dos and such outings. But some amount of ‘sacrifice’ on part of elders may be appropriate.

Before the children arrived, we watched movies every week , dined out, met friends and generally had fun. The elder one arrived and all that changed. Everything came to a halt. We did not step into a movie theatre for almost two years.

Finally there was this movie that was a big hit. My father in law, a movie buff, had seen it four times already. We decided to go and watch the movie, almost a month after it had been released. With an understanding that F-I-L will take the child outside if required. So we trooped into the theatre. The theatre was full! I guess everyone else with the exception of us, were watching it for the nth time. The ‘baby’ enjoyed the ads, and as the lights dimmed, we hoped she would fall asleep. Somewhere after the first half hour the theatre guys turned up the sound, disturbed her slumber and she whimpered. We looked at F-I-L, but he was engrossed, even quietly singing along. Out went the father. A good fifteen minutes later, feeling rather guilty, I went out too, hoping our absence would be noticed. But it did not work. We went home, without watching the movie. FIL enjoyed the movie the 5th time.

I narrated this to the elder one recently. Told her when she had kids she could perhaps stay at home, so that unpleasant situations in public places are avoided. Gave her my favourite sermon that ‘adults need to make sacrifices’. ‘Stay at home’. ‘Missing a social event, a movie is no big deal’, I told her.

‘Why should I?’, she said, 'when I can leave the kids behind in your care?'

Life has come a full circle. The next generation family outings will just be the adults minus kids. While we would still be home holding the fort.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Go Slow

For some time now there has been a debate whether Google has made us stupid.  And now it is also said that internet encourages fast reading.  We are constantly doing so many things online at the same time.  So many tabs open.  Reading news, reading/writing blogs, social networking, mailing, speaking over the phone....even working... and in the process only skimming through information.

And that according to Nicholas Carr, is only making us stupid. He says our mental faculties are getting slower.

The Stanford Poynter Project has also been researching this aspect for the past four years now. Initially it was to gather information of what people were reading. Now they even have eye tracking equipment to track where people pause to read and how much they skim matter online. Early results suggest that many no longer have the concentration to read articles. People are in general becoming less attentive. The process of analyzing information, contemplation is no longer there

And this has also a similar impact on the printed word. People are becoming less attentive book readers.

It has even led Pierre Bayard a Paris University literature professor, to write a book that went on to become a best-seller -  How to Talk About Books that You Haven't Read, so that "It's possible to have a passionate conversation about a book that one has not read, including, perhaps especially, with someone else who has not read it".   Bayard  offers tips on how to cover up ignorance of a "must read" book.  I must add here that I am just writing what I read about the book, I have not read it.  Nor do I intend reading it.

But let's give some credence to the research that is going on.  After all it is does not hurt if we did slow down reading. 

Personally, I could stay away from the internet maybe for a week.  I do not want to try that. It would have been of immense help if I had access when I was a student.  Maybe I am wiser ( in the absence of internet).  Who knows?

Anyway.....it is time to -  Slow down and Feel Groovy.

Slow down, you move too fast.

You got to make the morning last.
Just kicking down the cobble stones.
Looking for fun and feelin' groovy.

Simon And Garfunkel - The 59th Street Bridge Song
PS: Is the word 'groovy' in usage?  I only hear words like hip, hot and cool.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Life Rocks?

This is a temporary slum that shelters construction workers.  These workers have just finished constructing the five star Park Hotel that is a stone's throw away from their dwellings.

To waterproof their homes they use flex, vinyl material that is discarded.  It is ironical that one of them has a flex that proclaims 'Life Rocks'. 
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