Saturday, September 25, 2010

Grandparents on Strike

Grandparents on Strike
Not in India. But the UGT ( General Workers Union) in Spain has asked grandparents to protest and go on a strike the coming Wednesday ( 29 September). Some have called it a ‘generational revolt’. Half of the grandparents’ population in Spain looks after their grandchildren on a daily basis. They take care of their daily needs, feed them, bathe them, take them to school, putting in atleast 8-9 hours of work each day

Spanish work culture has probably something to do with this trend.  Long lunch hours force the workers to stay back longer and employees are not allowed to leave before the boss leaves office.  Work hours thus get stretched. Child care is expensive. And parents are obvious choice for free child care.

It is a fact that the unpaid work of the senior population  in Spain has helped prop up the country’s economy. Children are free to pursue their careers.

 The UGT has urged Babysitter grandparents to say NO and not feel guilty about it.  It would be interesting to see what actually happens next week.

While it is tiring, most grandparents do enjoy having the children in their care. Doctors argue that this keeps the elders active and healthier and happier, but there will always be some for whom this is a burden.

My children missed having their grandmothers around, but the grandfathers made up for it. My father loved having my children at home with him during the day. Of course, there was someone to change the nappies. He was not too good when they were still babies. But as soon as they began to respond and gurgle and laugh at his little trick of sliding his spectacles down his nose, he would warm up to them. And when they showed signs of understanding the spoken word, he was at his best. Teaching them nursery rhymes, no not the simple Jack and Jill,  but longer ones like 'This is the House that Jack built..... and continously  talking or reading to them, pointing out flowers, flags, birds and animals. By the time my children were 3 and before they started school they could identify the flags of each country . Of course, it was done without pressure like only a grandparent can, and the children picked it up without any problem. It was not study, it was only fun.

The F-I-L on the other hand was great when it was nap time. He would put them across his lap and start singing carnatic songs. In the process, I picked up some songs too ( for someone who was only listened to English pop at that time, it was a surprise for me too). And all stories from Mahabharata to Three Musketeers were narrated as they grew older. Of course Rama was Raman and so on… And to this day, they are so good at Indian mythology.

This is the generation of the jetsetting grandparents. . They travel across continents. There are some who do admit it is tough as they grow older. The stress of travel, the lack of household help, the cold… but the love for both their children and the little ones keeps them going. And of course, the youngsters do throw in a visit to Niagara Falls or to the White House as perks!

I am not a grandparent yet.  I will wait ... am in no major hurry.  But I do peek into the childrens section at the bookstore and look at the colourful little books and dream of reading them to a little one sitting on my lap.  Of course, I am not thinking of nappy changing and bottle feeding.  I will worry about that later. It will take some time getting used to that again!  But going on a strike?  As a parent ....maybe, but as a grandparent... never.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

No News is Good News

No news is good news.

This saying is attributed to English King James I, who wrote in 1616, 'No newis is bettir than evill newis.'

We heard this often in times when we had no internet and cell phones. No news would be a source of worry, but also in a way comforting in the belief that bad news would have been conveyed immediately. Therefore no news, could only mean good.

I don’t hear this being said as frequently anymore. But sometimes when I watch the news on TV, I am reminded of it.

There are times I wonder if our TV news anchors watch soap operas. News presentation used to be so staid and serious, even as recent as the 90s. Those who have heard Melville Demello read out the bulletin at 9 pm on All India Radio would agree.  A subtle change in tone, to indicate the mood. No dramatics. No arrogance. No reporter screaming her guts out. And since it was only audio, obviously no visuals, no graphics.

Now, apart from news we have forums, debates, discussions where you have the same faces invited by almost all the channels. Are they the only ones who have something important to contribute or are their PR agencies doing a good job?

What is aired first is almost always some sensational news . News like good developmental work, awards that have not been bought, art and culture shows not sponsored by a liquor company are telecast at the end, by which time you have lost interest and have changed the channel.

I wonder if news channels took a different stance whether some good would result.

For instance, if a road that has been laid a year ago is still in good condition and  no potholes even after the rains.  Believe me, that is news these days! Why not call the contractor, the construction company, the municipal officer and make a big noise about it?

Or if electrification of a village has been done with turbines for under Rs 1.5 lakhs ( as it has in Dakshin Kanara district), give it wide publicity. Call the legislator, the department responsible and give them an award.

Create widespread interest. Report such activities and keep praising the good work of government bodies. There may be few to begin with, but with generated mass interest, would it lead to more? After all everyone wants publicity.

Let breaking news be good news. Let the headlines be developmental news. Interview those who are doing good. Responsible journalism may initially bring down TRPs but in the long run may win more viewers. It could be an idea? Sirjee?

Does anyone agree?

As an aside - A king's joker loved to make puns, so much so that the king, in disgust, ordered him hanged. But the king's minister prevailed on him to grant the joker a reprieve. Upon learning it, the joker immediately said, "Well, no noose is good noose." So the king decided to hang him anyway.

PS - I just read Manju's post and then wanted to check how old this blog was, and I realise that I have completed 3 years of blogging on Sept 10.  Thank you L for  that nudge.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Trivia - The Elusive Whites

Above is a nice ad by Tide on Independence Day. Think about it. Almost all detergent ads have a picture of gleaming white garments. In small print, they do mention that coloured clothes retain their colours. But there is always the image of white vs off white.

It is unfortunate that almost all schools have white in their prescribed uniform for the children, and keeping them looking new is no joke. Then of course the white socks, the white handkerchiefs, bed linen, the white formal shirts, the new white kurta…..

While the detergent industry makes money beaming ads at how their product scores over the rest, the truth is the fault most times, is in the fabric itself. 

Some facts I found interesting in this article.  India is the third largest producer of cotton in the world. Yet, it is expensive to make 'white' Indian cotton. The fibres are contaminated because of our poor harvesting techniques. And millions of dollars are spent combing out dirt from the cotton every year. It requires a high dose of chemical treatment and faces risk of damage at the same time. The fabric thus produced turns drab and dingy after a few washes, the fibre too fragile to bleach and its brightness too quick to fade.

While we ( or maybe it was just me) thought that only Coke keeps their ‘composition’ under wraps,I was surprised that the chemistry that imparts the strength and whiteness of a fabric in the textile industry is a closely guarded secret!

While all fabrics of different colours have their problems, white is most difficult to stabilize. And a lot of research and technology goes into their making. If you have wondered why the white shirt is more expensive than most other clothing, it is becase the mills in India depend on American and Egyptian cotton to manufacture the pristine white for their brands. On the international standard for whiteness, our cotton ranks 145, American and Egyptian fabric 155 and 160 respectively. The gap may not seem large, but visually the difference is huge and the whiteness in their fabrics remain longer.

While we still go and choose the colour of our toothbrush with a lot of thought and care ( who ever buys a plain white toothbrush?), we do overlook brighter colours and still go in for the white in our wardrobe. Rave and rant when it gets dull with wash.  Blame the dhobi, blame the detergent, blame the brand, blame the hard water. 

Therefore, if you ever receive a mail from your cousin in the US who is on his way to India, asking you what you want, don't hesitate, it makes sense to ask for a white shirt!

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