Wednesday, 26 August 2020

Millie's Recommended Reading List for Teenagers

Kindle a fire in a child's mind or pour knowledge into it? Grabbing grades at school or honing critical thinking skills? As an English coach I am always faced with dilemmas like these. Luckily the lock-down gave me time to reconsider priorities and focus on what's really important.

The raison d'etre of an English teacher is to enable children to learn the language - accurately and effectively. Over time I have realised that surrounding youngsters with the language is the only way to impart it. When they hear, read, write, and speak it, they inculcate the finer nuances of the language that no grammar book could drill into their heads. Thanks to the Netflixes of the world, English movies have become a staple of many a household but reading is looked upon wistfully by parents and often ignored by children.

Reading not only is a path to learning the language but also a means to expanding their world view – to introduce them to the wide panorama of human thought, achievement and failing. But most imperatively, reading teaches them to ‘think for themselves’.

To arm parents with enough ammunition and to turn around a lock-down to our advantage, I present to you a hand-picked reading list to inculcate the love of the written word.

(The genre of non-fiction is often neglected and considered boring by young adults. To challenge that notion I have given this list priority over fiction.)

Age group – 14 years above

Genre – Non-Fiction

1.     Blink – Malcolm Gladwell

2.     Switch  - Chip and Dan Heath

3.     Rich Dad, Poor Dad – Robert Kiyosaki

4.     Ikigai – Hector Garcia & Liebermann

5.     Thinking Fast and Slow – Daniel Kahneman

6.     Emotional Intelligence -  Daniel Goleman

7.     India Unbound – Gurcharan Das

8.     Ignited Minds: Unleashing the power within India – APJ Abdul Kalam

9. I too had a dream – Verghese Kurian & Gouri Salvi

10. The Theory of  Everything – Stephen Hawking

11. I am Malala – Malala Yousufzai

12. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind – Yuval Noah Harari
The fiction list has been compiled from online resources combined with my personal reading experience. Of course, I deliberately left out the ubiquitous Harry Potter series. No reading list can claim to be exhaustive but I have created mine with the intention of giving a gentle push to adolescents to embark on a life-long journey of reading and evolving with books. Bon Voyage!

Age group – 14 years above

Genre - Fiction

1.     The Maze Runner – James Dashner

2.     The Hunger Games (The Trilogy) –Suzanne Collins

3.     Percy Jackson (series of books) – Rick Riordan

4.     The Fault in Our Stars – John Green

5.     Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier

6.     The Life of Pi – Yann Martel

7.     The Alchemist – Paul Coelho

8.     The Kite Runner – Khaled Housseni

9.     All Creatures Great & Small – James Herriot

10.  My Family & Other Animals - Gerald Durrell

11.  Tuesdays with Morrie – Mitch Albom

12.  One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

13.  Cry the Beloved Country – Alan Paton

14.  To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

15.  1984 – George Orwell

16.  Animal Farm – George Orwell





Thursday, 19 September 2019

Piper pipes an offbeat tune

It’s been more than a year since I sent my elder child to hostel and unsurprisingly the one palpable emotion that I have experienced is of being judged - by relatives, curious neighbours, and incredulous friends. Why? What was the need?.....went the common refrain. But I wasn’t in a position to answer. Heart rending as the experience was, I was too proud to admit that it had had any effect on me…Nah..crying is for wimps!

Make no mistake – my husband and I had deep conviction in the decision that we had taken. And our thoughts are so well explained in a short animated film released by Pixar. Piper’ is an unusually well made movie that went viral, not so long ago. Released in the year 2016, the 6 minute long film won an Academy Award for the Best Animated Short Film. It tells the coming-of-age tale of a sandpiper hatchling, who overcomes his fear of the gigantic and harsh sea waves, to imbibe a skill that helps him corner the lion’s share of clams and oysters for himself and his clan! A secret he discovers because his mom did not hesitate to let goJust like that.

The movie set me thinking about how we inadvertently mollycoddle and shield our children from the harsh realities of life, weakening them in the process. Don’t believe me? Go to a regular bus stop and watch parents kindly carrying their school bags. I think of the time when I slogged doing the housework and did not even think of asking my children to help, because, “Poor things! They had so much homework”. Needless to say that the homework stretched out of proportion to fill the time that was available. Only when I suffered from an excruciating back pain did I allow myself to ask for their help.

It also occurred to me that a little hunger is crucial for children to achieve their potential. But do we let our children go hungry in any way at all? It would appear cruel to not concede to their every whim and demand, whether it were water balloons or a PSP game or a smart watch. If some wishes were not granted, would they not be motivated enough to push their limits to achieve the impossible?

The bird-brained are truly smarter! In the movie, Mommy bird leaves her off-spring hungry and terrified. From a distance she coaxes and cajoles him to leave his shelter and face the big, bad, brackish waves. A tug of war ensues between his  dread of the waves and his rumbling tummy. Predictably, his craving for food forces him to leave his safe terrain.

Soon, the hatchling strikes up an unusual friendship with a hermit crab who teaches him a clever trick to dig up food underwater, even while being submerged in the very waves that he abhorred! Not only had he overcome his angst, but he had also learnt to make the best of it!

Friendship with diverse people can stimulate the mind in fascinating ways. But I am not sure whether we are promoting diversity in our society. It disturbs me when I see little children launching into an anti-Pakistan tirade. And it disturbs me further when educated Muslims confess to me about their heightened sense of insecurity. Suffice it to say, that any way you look at it, our children and society at large stand to lose.

The little hatchling struck up an unusual friendship and overcame a paralyzing fear. Eleanor Roosevelt once famously said – ‘Do one thing every day that scares you’. Do we allow our children to face their fears or do we protect them? Does it hurt our ego when the child hasn’t performed well? Is it enough that she looked at fear squarely in the eye?

Kahlil Gibran, the famous philosopher avers, ' You are the mere bow that the lord hath made. You bring the child in the world as an instrument in the hands of the Lord. Bend gracefully so that the arrow may fly towards its destiny '.
Easier said than done. I have won the prize for writing the most number of emails to my son in hostel. I have been accused of being a paranoid Mom. Unwittingly, I have tried to shield my children from failure and have actually set them up for disappointments in the future.

But Piper’s mom inspires me to change. So, I am facing my fears everyday ….are you?

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Unfair darkness

Am I cute?

‘Kahin ek masoom nazuk si ladki, bahut khubsoorat, magar sanwli si’ crooned Rafi in an enchanting old bollywood number. It is a melodious composition, but the word ‘magar’ always set me thinking – why? Aren’t dark (sanwali) and beautiful, compatible?

Damaging ideas like these permeate the very air we breathe and hit us like pointed barbs. We, the descendants of the original inhabitants of the Indo-Gangetic plains - the Lord in his pragmatic wisdom gave us a melanin rich shield from the scorching sun. And we loved it. No wonder, Draupadi, the famed beauty of our epics was a dark belle. No wonder the Lord Krishna himself came to us in a dark glistening avatar. No wonder Shyam was Sundar for many centuries before the Britishers came and usurped our very identity, our very notions of what defines beauty.

 We shook off their rule on our political boundaries but not on our minds.

And so when I was an adolescent I grew up with the implicit knowledge that perhaps I would have to compromise on my choices in life because I was not conventionally good looking. I tried scraping the skin on my arms and legs with a pumice stone, meant for the feet, so a fresh layer of fair skin would emerge from beneath, but all in vain. It just stung like hell. I grew up in the certain belief that I was not good looking and that gave me minus points on my report card.

And then I got married to a dark and handsome guy. Apart from his wisdom, his glowing dark complexion surely tipped the scales in his favour!

But then again I lapped up all the praise that the family showered on me for turning several shades lighter after my marriage. ‘Wahan ka pani bada saaf hai!’ was a common refrain!

Yes, I am ashamed to admit it – I am racist too. Why else would I slather my face and body in sunscreen every time I ventured out in the sun?

But something in me changed when my daughter was born. Beautiful - not her features, not her skin colour, but her vitality, the life that sparkled in her eyes, the healthy glow that her unapologetic-ally dark skin radiated. And I realised how wrong I was all these years. If she is my splitting image then I am endowed with beauty too!

And now that she is growing into a young girl from a carefree toddler the evilness has started hitting her as well.

“Mommy, my friend’s brother called me ‘Kaliya’”
“Please, please put some powder on my face so that I can look like Barbie!”
“What can I do to become fair like you?”

The irony of it all hits me. Here we go again. When she is cast in the role of a maid servant in her school play, I wince to think it might be because of her complexion. Don’t remind me of how her friends teased her at school; that still hurts.

I brush off the often received advice from well meaning relatives. ‘Try a masoor dal paste’ ‘limit her sun exposure’ ‘swimming is the worst’…it goes on. I turn a deaf ear to people who say ‘She is very pretty but if only her skin colour were lighter’. My daughter does not. Every pernicious idea is being imbibed, gradually but surely.

They say in Hindi ‘Agar rang thoda aur saaf hota toh…’
Saaf – means ‘clean’. Who and what gave them the notion that ‘dark’ is ganda? Dirty? 

The media for one harps on this idea ad nauseum. The films, advertisements, the casting directors reinforce these retrograde ideas.‘Jiski biwi kali uska bhi bada naam hai’ is such an entertaining song after all!

So thank you Abhay Deol for calling it out. We support you from the bottom of our hearts. Thank you Nandita Das for being a role model. And forgive us, the African fraternity.

For those who live by the sword, will die by the sword too.   

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Mosquitoes – our BFF!

Peek-a-boo...but they can see you!

Consider this: This personal blog post by Bill Gates ranks mosquitoes at the very top of the list of ‘The world’s deadliest animals’! Surely this resilient fellow, as a carrier of various virulent diseases, deserves to be far more in the limelight for the disruption that it causes. (And here we’ve been frittering away all our coffee table discussions (albeit behind locked doors,) on the exploits of a bearded man who wants us to play ‘Monopoly’ without the bank rolls!) 

It always confounds me, as to how a creature of this size can be so remarkably intelligent. How do they have the uncanny ability to bite you at the most inaccessible parts of your body – like the back of your gym toned upper arms? Gym or no gym – they will get you! Or maybe your feet while you are cooking in a hurry and not in a position to scratch (or smash!) with your flour caked hands; or better still, while you are driving on a highway and the bloody creature decides to shift between your feet and the clutch by turns! (Surely it is bloody after it sucks up my already dwindling supply of haemoglobin) And how on earth does it identify the baby soft skin of a child versus the toughened exterior of an adult? And why are some people more susceptible to bites than others? They say smells or pheromones play an important role in attracting the perceptive beings. We surely need DNA manipulating medicines now!

Stories abound about the size and feats of these ubiquitous insects. A friend once spent the entire night painting the wall red, dexterously smashing droves of them against the wall of the hotel room! Then again is the poignant tale of a niece who had no choice but to continue with the elaborate marriage ceremonies even after being afflicted by the debilitating dengue.

For almost every Indian parent, night time debates run like this – what is the trade-off between letting my children sleep with  ‘Goodknight’ mosquito repellents on or with none - future lung cancer versus the very real threat of Falciparum malaria?

Of course I am manipulated everyday by benevolent companies trying to make a killing out of our dilemma. Good old Odomos versus ‘safer’ mosquito patches. Goodknight versus All-out. Herbal roll on versus Patanjali eco friendly repellents (yes the Baba sells that too!). Too many choices at a supermarket trip and my shopping expedition quickly fizzles out; let the most interesting advertisement win or else I’ll have to buy a paracetamol! 

The little vampires have the infamous distinction of making a fable out of me in my family. As a UK born four year old kid, shifting to India, hitherto unexposed to mosquitoes (and contraptions like three bladed fans, hole in the floor – Indian toilets), I was totally besieged by the attacking forces. My only line of defence was to scratch the bites out for tell-tale scars and yell ‘Maaaaa…..mosquito bite!’ You might be assaulted by your cheek-tweaking-relatives with the one-liner ‘kitni badi ho gayi hai!’, mine never fail to remind me of my mosquito fighting exploits!

Not really a laughing matter, the impact of this little vermin on our lives is appalling. Consider cumulatively the number of human lives lost, the man days lost, the school days lost, the loss in efficiency, the deterrent to tourism and one will realise that out of all the winged creatures to have escaped the fabled Pandora’s box, this one is the deadliest! Somewhere the God Almighty is chuckling and musing to himself - it only takes a minuscule insect to derail a so called intelligent species. After all, despite all our technological advancements it only takes our deplorable hygiene habits to render all our intelligent efforts in vain. 

Swachh Bharat - any one?

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

I Love Pink!

Gimme wings!

Inspired by a message forwarded on Whatsapp, I narrated the story Rapunzel with a feminist twist to my 6 year old daughter.
"And Rapunzel flew out of the window of the castle on the back of a dragon…she was freed of the wicked witch at last!"
“I can continue the story from here”, quipped my daughter. I was pleasantly surprised by her creativity.
“Sure”, I said.
“So the princess (it’s always princess, fairy, queen...) flew far away and finally landed in a forest. She fell asleep and while she was sleeping a prince happened to pass by. She was so beautiful that he fell in love with her and proposed to her. She accepted, they were married and lived happily ever after!”

So much for my heroic efforts to shatter stereotypes! The ideal of marrying a prince, the ever alluring idea of being irresistibly attractive and the ultimate achievement that we know is such a mirage…happily ever after! These are all ideas that television, seemingly innocuous fairytales, online Barbie games, a pouting Alia Bhat in movies like ‘Student of the Year’ - pound our children with; even T-shirts that croon ‘Pretty princess’, girls posing and taking endless selfies, advertisement featuring girls with long and strong hair, all apparently harmless facets of everyday life that one cannot shield our children from. You could argue that I am paranoid but there is a good reason for my wanting to hide my children from these damaging influences.
We all go through life with an image of who we are in our minds. That image is constantly challenged as we traverse various stages of life. But to have an impressionable child believe that she can conquer the world on the basis of her looks alone is hollow, self defeating, delusionary and misleading. Moreover conquering the world is not limited to bagging the best guy on the block. No Sir! It’s a lot more than that and it may not even include that particular data point!

So here are 6 hacks to shatter those stereotypes for the next generation.

1) Change the endings of the popular fairy tales

To hell with Hans Christian Anderson! I propose we start a project to change the endings of all the beloved but patriarchal stories like Snow White and Seven Dwarfs (Did she have albinism? Why this colonial hangover about the complexion ‘white’? For me ‘Shyam’ is equally ‘Sundar’!)

Rapunzel (Procter and Gamble, are you listening? We have a marketing idea for your shampoos!)

Cinderella – The story of a damsel in distress who was rescued fortuitously by a slipper hunting prince.

Thumbelina – An enchanting story about a thumb sized girl’s adventures in the animal world marred by a super saccharine boring ending in her betrothal to another thumb sized prince! Can we think a little out of the box here?
Thumbs Down!

Sleeping Beauty – A comatose princess under a curse, yet again rescued by a Prince…Very consistent indeed!

(There must have been a prolific supply of princes in those times, though I am not sure they would have helped with changing nappies or putting kids to sleep!)
This is an indicative not an exhaustive list. All readers are invited to let their imagination go wild and pen down the changed stories in the comments below. It could be our first crowd-sourced book ever!

2) Change the role models

Thankfully, in recent times, many a girl has shattered the existing stereotype and has won accolades for India. Why can’t our themed birthday parties revolve around the resilient Mary Kom or the hardworking P.V.Sindhu or the defiant over achiever Sania Mirza, or a rebellious Sakshi Malik? These are the athletes; I haven’t even got started on the astronauts – Kalpana Chawla, Sunita Williams, the bureaucrats - Kiran Bedi, the corporate stalwarts – Kiran Majumdar Shaw, Indra Nooyi,  Kalpana Morparia. We could even talk about Sanjeev Kapoor, Shiamak Davar or Ganesh Hegde, the famous choreographers. We do not lack role models. Let’s just make them part of daily conversation.

3) Stop the innocuous comments

Often I find myself saying:

‘Take a bath quickly, don’t you want to look pretty!’
‘Talk like a lady!’
‘Don’t cry like a girl’
‘You are looking so pretty’
And others say:
‘School mein dhup mein khada kar dete hain……. kali ho gayi hai’

And I am sure that the last two dialogues appear to be perfectly harmless. But think about the cumulative effects that these reactions might have on an impressionable mind. When a guest comes and regularly compliments your daughter as looking pretty, it appears to be normal party manners, but it actually could have deep ramifications. She has a tall order to match up to each time! So much so that I once heard of a lady who banished all such compliments (cute, pretty and beautiful) from her household. Yes there are such pro-active people!

4) Turn conventional knowledge on its head

The fact of the matter is that cosmetic changes won’t work until the change is rooted in reality. We are at a crossroads in time where most of us agree with the so called ‘feminists’ and yet we cannot drag ourselves out of the paradox that our lives have become. Children have the uncanny ability to come up with the most confounding questions that are so unsettling! After a couple of weddings in the family my daughter’s most common refrain were, “Why does the bride shift houses each time?”
Apparently my little one solved that issue in her version of Miss. Rapunzel.
‘…And after the wedding they will all settle down like one big family - Rapunzel’s parents and the Prince’s parents all in one big house!’
Just like a child to come up with a simplistic solution to such a complex problem!
I challenge you – Can we be the change we want to see; it could solve many of the man made problems in our lives. Can we come up with a less anachronistic and yet honest answer to this question?
So when your daughter asks you that, you can answer, “It’s flexible, honey!”

 5) Rotate the chores handed out to kids

Imagine this situation: You are suddenly expecting guests at home and have asked your kids to pitch in. So your son runs to get the samosas and your daughter cleans the living room. Right? Wrong! Don’t misunderstand me; there’s nothing wrong per se with the situation described above, but it sends the wrong signals when repeated time and again. These are deeply ingrained reflexes that we have inherited from a generation steeped in patriarchal values. We are probably not even aware of what we intuitively do and say to influence our children. So, next time, pause, before delegating the chores.

6) Be discrete in your 'casual' conversations

Do you gossip with your neighbour and casually mention that ‘I can’t hire a man-servant because it’s way too risky. My daughter is very young’?
What if your children were in earshot? She could be forgiven for thinking that she should feel threatened from men servants and all men in general. It tells the kids that they are in need of protection always. Not a very empowering thought…..
It’s tough tight rope-walking for us mothers. On the one hand we have to teach youngsters to be aware of distressing issues like child abuse and on the other hand they shouldn’t turn out to be scared wimps! After all we are the basis of their self confidence, the belief that they hold in themselves. No matter how rebellious a teenager might act out, their sense of security and well being hinges on our beliefs.

Stereotypes limit and confine us in a cocoon. They shackle children and prevent them from achieving their potential. Boys are as much at the receiving end as girls, when they are discouraged to pursue a career in conventionally 'feminine' professions or are discouraged to show their emotions. 

I will end with a quotation from the mystical guru and spiritual teacher Osho:

'Drop these ideas of being men and women! We are all human beings. To be a man or a woman is just a very superficial things. Don't make much fuss about it, it is not anything that important; don't make it a big deal.' 

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Hobbies – no trifling business!

It is hard not to be concerned when every day, one encounters perfectly normal people addicted to alcohol, drugs and more commonly, but equally pernicious, the internet. Are we missing something important in the race to educate our child in this competitive world?

In principle we all agree that a child should be allowed to follow his passion and fulfill his dreams, no matter how off beat they are. We cried with the dyslexia afflicted child in Tare Zameen Par and rejoiced when Rancho went on to become a scientist because he had studied not for a certificate, but for knowledge. But how many of us walk the talk? 

Here is something that throws more light on what, we as human beings really crave for and that will perhaps change our ideas about what education should comprise. We are a unique species not merely for the fact that we have a proportionately larger brain size but also because mere sustenance is not enough for our happiness. It seems our brains are hard wired to seek pleasure…..
Pleasure in the form of dopamine releasing drugs;
Ecstasy generated by the toxicity of alcohol;
….Or pleasure found in the healthier forms of entertainment that are addictive but not in an enslaving way

Pleasure is our basic need, just as much as we need nourishment to keep the body and the soul together. Feelings of pleasure are communicated by a neuro transmitter chemical called Dopamine that stimulates a specific region of the brain called Nucleus Accumbens. 
 ‘Dopamine is responsible for feelings of gratification, it increases motivation and stimulates motor function. It’s the chemical reason the brain associates joy with things like eating disorders, sex or completing a difficult task. This reward system is one of the explanations for why we survive the struggles we encounter in a world that isn’t necessarily easy or friendly.’
What is intriguing is that there are many different pursuits that can trigger feelings of gratification in the very same circuitry of the brain. Music lovers often describe their goose- bump moments while listening to their favourite song. Research says that it tickles that very region in the brain that is artificially manipulated with drugs. Valorie Salimpoor, a neuroscientist working at Rotman Research Institute in Toronto, Canada, explains that when we hear music we like, a part of the brain’s reward system is activated.

Many athletes claim to feel a sense of heightened calm after a strenuous bout of working out or running. It’s commonly called ‘runner’s high’ and is backed by research that says another feel good hormone phenylethylamine, is released after a moderately good spell of physical activity. So much so, that exercise is often recommended to alleviate depression. 
In fact any activity done passionately by a keenly interested individual would ultimately generate heightened feelings of satisfaction. 
However, most teachers will testify that a majority of the average school going children  would fail to get fired up about academics!
My children keep trying to convince me of the truth, with this hit number from the eponymously named movie ‘M.S.Dhoni- The Untold Story’ 

‘Padhenge likhenge toh honge kharab, khelenge kudenge to banenge nawab’

Jokes aside, I recommend that the education system sets aside time, marks and energy devoted by a dedicated faculty, to encourage excellence in at least one such non- academic subject to harness the natural drive of an individual. At the moment such pursuits do not form part of the mainstream curriculum and that needs to change. So a student, who fails in Geography, should be able to muster passing marks since he excels in playing the guitar. 
Once clear, neural pathways have been etched in the impressionable brain of a youngster, he could be tied for a lifetime, to the ethereal beauty of music or to the ecstasy of running. He would, in all probability, be better equipped to ignore the singing sirens of addiction that abound in our troubled society today.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

10 creative ways to impart SED to your kids!

Here's a little secret, honey!

For the uninitiated, SED stands for Sex Education for young adults, youngsters who are growing up and need to learn this from you and not Imran Hashmi! I don’t have anything against the actor, but I deplore the way the act is glorified in bollywood, without any information being shared about the consequences. Yes, there are the occasional ‘Phir Milenge’, ‘Kya Kehna’ but for each enlightening movie I can give you ten explicit others that can convince your kid that getting in bed with someone is the coolest thing to do! Free Lunch!

Now that my older one is 11, I have been grappling with this question for the last six months and been shamefully procrastinating. Not like he hasn’t given me a chance to explain. Just the other day, in front of my in-laws, after an entertaining advertisement, he sprung the question, ‘Mom what is a condom?’. Squirm, grimace, cringe!

So here are some creative ways that I found to break the news (assuming they don't already know):

1) Birds and Bees? Nah… bring a mammal pet home

"Dad!! Jenny and Tom are stuck together! Help them, do something!" implored my sister-in-law, as a 10 year old along with her frightened siblings. It was the mating season and the pet dogs were at it. It was the perfect opportunity for their wise dad to sit them down and explain what mating was. No shame, no cringing; plain and simple facts, much to the relief of the frightened kids. Of course they wanted the dogs to mate more often because ‘Puppies are so cute’!

The extrapolation came as a natural progression!

2)  Spark plug

Browsing on the internet, one comes across innumerable tech inspired ideas by the geeks of the world! Consider the dad who plugged in the table lamp and remarked ‘See how the sparks got transferred to the lamp. It creates light, but if not handled properly it could set off a fire.’ Smart idea and yes, one would have to explain the analogy, honestly.

Similar ideas are the mobile phone being charged by the inserted charger, a USB device transferring data to a laptop and so on. We’ve all had our share of laughs about male plugs and female ports. Time we put that to some use now.

3)  Use the videos on internet

We are blessed to be born in an age where a vast collection of visual knowledge lies at our fingertips. Well, yes, as paranoid parents, both blessed and cursed at the same time.

We could use it to serve our purpose. If you are as tongue tied as I am, try the following video on Youtube; this entertaining series called ‘Sex chat with Pappu and Papa’ will leave you chuckling and asking for more! No, I did not mean that, what’s with your perverse mind?

The candid conversations between a resourceful dad and a curious kid are the highlights of this series. ‘What is ‘masturbation’? I know what ‘intellectual’ means!’ are met with a vehement ‘Shush!’ by a visibly embarrassed dad. He recovers soon enough, but has to deal with all the old-worldly wisdom forced down by the patriarch aptly nicknamed, ‘Mogambo’.

4) Books are best!

For kids who love to read, slipping in these witty books in their hands could be a tactful and humorous way of telling them the truth.
‘Where Willy Went?’ written by Nicholas Allen,  is one such hilarious book that narrates the story of a sperm, Willy, an ace swimmer!

'Mommy laid an egg: Or where do babies come from?' by Babette Cole is another book that
is a funny take on the imaginary (BS) stories, that coy adults use to sidestep the truth. In a delightful twist to the usual story, the children show the adults exactly where babies come from!

5) Mythology

One of the funniest jokes doing the rounds during Janmashthami was, ‘If King Kans didn’t want the eighth child, his so-called nemesis, to be born, why, on earth, were Vasudev and Devaki imprisoned in the same cell?’
On a more serious note, tales abound in our mythology, about sex and its consequences. Most children are familiar with these stories.
 Abhigyan Shakuntalam, by Kalidasa narrates the story of a beautiful maiden, Shakuntala and King Dushyant.  The king forgets about the unwed and pregnant Shakuntala, when the ring, a souvenir, is lost!
Mahabharata tells us of the cursed Pandu, who inadvertently kills a mating dear on a hunting expedition and then dies, later on, when he is similarly attracted to his wife, Madri.

6) Academic and science books

'Even if we don’t tell them they will learn eventually from their academic books', is a common refrain from the earlier generation. It’s a good idea to discuss and openly speak about the relevant chapter at an age appropriate time. Biology books have already started explaining male and female parts of plants by grade 5, it could be that chance to explain how mammals reproduce and make it a matter-of-fact scientific discussion.

While we know what we should do, it’s hard (gulp!) to actually look into the face of your 11 year old and tell him, Dad and Mom played games in bed and you are our trophy! ‘Gross’ is what you’re dreading to hear! So here is part of the problem - firmly ingrained in our Indian psyche, is the association with shame and lust. That the act is a normal process and a part of all mammal life on planet earth is not something that was passed on to us as easily by the previous generation. And then somewhere in our school books, some enlightened author said, ‘Since the rural population has no other source of recreation, their population is jumping by leaps and bounds’. That sealed it forever – sex is the pastime of the boorish and the illiterate!

Hopefully we will not pass on our prejudices to our children. More importantly, we need to open the doors to discussion on such subjects so they never feel the need to solicit advice from questionable sources.

(Oops…did I say 10 ideas? Well I found only 6! Will ya guys please, contribute to this list, I’m sure you have some crazy ones of your own! It’s called crowdsourcing and I love your spirit of collaboration!)