Speaking with Kids in English? Here’s Why I Don’t.

The following conversation happened recently between the Class Teacher and us:

The Teacher: As part of giving Spruha a comprehensive learning experience, please talk to her in English at home.

I: Well, we do use English words and phrases in our conversation. But, mostly the conversation is in her mothertongue. Why do you stress speakinng with her in only English?

Teacher: It will ease our communication. She must become habitual of the language. After all, she is going to use it for the rest of her life.

I: I still fail to understand the importance of speaking in only English?

Teacher: Spruha will soon graduate out of this preschool. For her ease of learning, you must speak to her in the language that schools these days use. In most cases, they compel all students to use English, which is why I tell you to speak with her in English.

I gathered my thoughts and spoke:

I: Language is of sound importance in the first five years of anyone’s life. But, no language except for her mothertongue will help create a bond between us and her. While I certainly get your point, I find it largely impractical on my part to teach her English before helping her communicate fluently in her mothertongue. The critical part is, she must learn to communicate, and not merely speak.

Teacher: I see your point. I just wanted to tell you that schools expect certain things.

That’s when Shambhavi eased the conversation.

Shambhavi: I know what you are saying; even I have observed the same thing. But, I also see from where Suyog is driving his point home. We’ve seen people try to speak with thier kids in their own [usually annoying] versions of English the moment they see us speak with Spruha in English. People feel overwhelmed by this self-assumed responsibility of speaking in English the moment they see someone else do it out of plain habit.

We all chuckled. Then, Shambhavi added.

Shambhavi: There is also a common misconception that speaking in English makes people appear sophisticated. Basically, Spruha has to first learn to respect her mothertongue. And then, any other language. Let’s just say, we will teach her Marathi; you teach her English.

The long conversation deservedly followed an almost-equally long pause. We assume that we convinced the teacher on our point of view.

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Given that pretext, let’s get to today’s conversation. As a learning facilitator, I’ve been itching to write on this subject for long. For kids, getting to express themselves is the foremost thing to learn. But, if that’s the case, and I believe it is, why do I see an increasing number of parents restrict their respective kids—toddlers, in some cases—from using any other language in [almost] all public spaces if not for only at their homes? Are they all snob? Many bothersome questions like these underpin this post.

 

 

In India, dealing with “English” matters in public is still a matter of pride—for those who speak—and amusement—for those who don’t. Typically, when parents speak with their kids in English in public places:

  • Some people desperately try to ignore thinking that it is in fashion nowadays.
  • Some just walk off. They mentally call you an angrez (Angrez is in Hindi for people from England—or any other English-speaking nation).
  • Some feel scared. They even try to compete by faking an accent; never mention their grammar.
  • Some feel low on importance. This category will usually begin speaking a bit louder. Yes, in a common language, like Hindi.
  • Some ask the Hindi version of, “Goes to an English medium school. Right?”

7583954880_IMG_1739Aside from such funny situations (and people), this is a learning lesson for me. Let me be specific: there is a visible gap between those who use English out of habit and those who [try to?] flaunt it. If they still do it with the sole intention of helping their kids learn a new language, I can still buy their argument—so long as they don’t advertise it. There are countless reasons, such as North India-South India divide or that two people may not understand one another’s regional language.

But for the most part, most of us do it because they fall prey to a sort of social pressure. Yes, you guessed it right: the same social pressure that makes us think that one language is superior to the other and the same social presume that makes us feel that, eventually, one degree (like the Medical or Engineering) is superior to the other vocational courses. It is still a huge statement to say that some of us see kids as kids, and some, as report cards.

Let us help our kids learn to respect themselves. Let us help them preserve their core. Etiquette and skills can (and, certainly, do) follow.

🙂

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Between Then and Now

Then, I loved brushing my father’s thick facial hair,
Which, I was pranked belonging to my grandfather
And which my father had stuck on his face.
Now, a part of my daily schedule
Is my own beard that equally isn’t few!

Then, the miniature me, for whom,
Everything looked big and formidable.
Now, I laugh that nothing
Is neither so shocking
Nor so ignorable.

Then, the unpaved trails to my home
That I loved to run around in glee.
Now, all I do is smell the hometown
On the shores of the workplace,
Hoping peace to alight on me.

Then, the biggest small HOME
That was more than enough for four.
Now, a HOUSE that’s big enough for eight,
In a time where
Living together is only in folklore.

Then, the wounds that healed
Way before the pain was felt.
Now, the scars of countless stories,
Not on knees but on heart,
You know, all that is left.

Then, the little me,
Who crouched behind a chair,
Waited like stocking a prey,
Now, staring at the lurking fortune,
Would the game be any fair?
©Suyog Ketkar

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She’s that Inspiration

I usually keep my feelings to myself unless I wish to write about them. Whether good or bad, this habit of writing looks like one that’s here to stay. Also, I cannot wait for another year to convey her what I feel for her: the person in context, my maternal grandmother.

It is easier to decide on your inspiration than to become like one. I, however, am finding it hard, for I have a little too many of them around. The trouble is, I can and do learn from each one of them with every passing day. This post is about the one who’s each day is a happy-sad challenge in her now salt-and-pepper life of intermingled experiences.

She is from an age (read era) where women were hardly considered powerful enough to have full education let alone running a family competing with husbands on the salary part. But, credit must be given where deserved. She has led her family well enough after her husband’s departure in 1976.

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From the Second World War, India’s struggle for Independence, and the 1965 and 1971 wars, she has stood firmly beside by maternal grandfather. But, after these hard phases, the worst ones for her have been losing her family members—first husband, then my father (in 1993), and then her son (in 2011). In January, this year, she brushed past death after a series of heart attacks (two of Mild and one of the Severe degree) in a single day. On one occasion, doctors told us later that they couldn’t detect her pulse for as much as 10 minutes.

In April, she turned 88. But, if only that was enough for her to think that she needs to stop working. She still does everything on her own, which I find amazing. Did I tell you that she performed stage shows of Violin in the past? And that she learned to play synthesizer about 10-12 years back and plays it every day since then? She reads a chapter from Bhagwat Gita every day and has been doing that for as long as I remember. In the process, she has learned all the shlokas from all the 18 chapters from the epic.

If that is not enough, cooking interests her. So, she takes mental notes from the cookery show on her favorite television channel. Then, she experiments in the kitchen to prepare that for all of us. Yes, even today. It is because she thinks that the ready-made clothes don’t give her the required comfort and fitting, she stitches her own gowns that she usually wears every day.

Here is my message: We are and will be yours. Why this message? That too, after four months, you may ask. I don’t need an occasion to write about Aaji. You are an inspiration for people. But, you are much more than that for your family. I have come to conclude that if old age were to add numbers to people’s lives, it added wrinkles and stories to yours’.

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The thing is: experiences disguise themselves as sometimes scars and sometimes as wrinkles. But they leave their marks on all occasions. And then, you don’t remain the same anymore. In the same sense, people are no more than wrinkles in the fabric of your life. You can iron out some; but, some just don’t go. They are there forever. They make you. They remain a part of you. You are as wrinkled a fabric as them. Have a healthy life ahead, Aaji. Your wrinkles and stories are a part of my fabric. They make me who I am.

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What’s Your Writing Prompt?

In one of my previous posts, I covered how I compose my thoughts. In this post, I talk about how I get to what’s worth a composition.

The thing about writing prompts is that you can’t define them. There can and cannot be a pattern of how they occur. There isn’t a way you can generalize them. Pitchforking, for example, is one theme I have been itching to write about in the recent past. But, every time I sit down to write, my thoughts drift into the other unseen territories.

Today, I list all (or most) of my writing prompts for you:

  • An hourglass
  • Behavior and misbehavior of people around me
  • Countless dreams
  • Endless thoughts and thought-provoking issues
  • Everyday work-related challenges and my tiny accomplishments
  • Kids
  • Listening to old songs; mostly from my maternal grandmother’s collection of timeless classics
  • Longcase clocks
  • My “I’m home” moment when my daughter rushes back to me with all her might, jumps into my lap, and, with the limited and unclear vocabulary, explains how she spent her day
  • Petrichor
  • Photography, especially B/W pictures
  • Play-doh and toy shops
  • Seeing other writers fail or succeed
  • Soap bubbles
  • Storytelling my daughter to sleep—I must come up with a new story every day
  • Sunset from behind an office building right across my office window
  • The feel of my father’s thick mustaches when I was a kid (I was told that they belonged to my grandfather, but my father had put them and was no longer able to remove)
  • The reflection of the Rising Sun
  • Tracing tiny footprint of insects and crabs on a beach
  • Wet shores that sweep from under my feet

True that it is easier to find an inspiration than to be one. But, finding what inspires you is still the first step. Here’s mine.

As we come to the end of this conversation I have this takeaway thought for you:

Your writing flourishes when your head, heart, and hands work for the same purpose; in the absence of which, you can be anyone and no one at the same time.

Happy writing.

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Don’t Redesign

Yeah, you read it right.

How many times have you seen me make changes to my site’s template? The last time I made those changes was about a year back. I made the design simpler and more readable. Or so I thought. My mom found it difficult to locate her favorite articles on the blog. For long, she would navigate to them from the dropdowns that I have now done away with.

I know exactly what you are thinking. Unfortunately, revamping the look ‘n’ feel hasn’t improved the inbound traffic. The new template has only improved the presentability. So, it is now easier to categorize and tag the released posts by month and year. But, it makes it horrible for repeat readers—like you, there—who wish to select, search for, or read content they liked. Does that mean people hate change?

Yes, people hate change; no, they don’t.

Those of you who are new to my site MIGHT find the new design easier to navigate. But those who have spent time with the content might reject the outright changes. Familiarity is the word in context. It is just that the design had become a part of your physical and mental memory. For repeat users, they knew what they wanted from the content, they knew what I delivered, and they knew how to get to it.

For you, too, slamming on a new UI might ruin this flow for your readers, who are then more likely to take more time to locate something.

So, what’s the way around?

Here is the trick: familiarity trumps functionality. I have stated this in my book, too. If you wish to redesign, consider first reconfiguring the core design. Your design is purposeful. All you need is reconfigure it.

In most cases, all you need to do is progressively improve the things under the skin, rather than get a new skin. I find it to be a Win-Win. Bring a new change under the hood. This means the consumers get a familiar UI, with performance tweaks as perks. And. you get a chance to rollback if (and when) required. It takes time to take effect. But, it is a better approach.

Happy writing.

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Pretty. Simple.

It is easy to say that time flies. It is still easier to say that we wish it to stop sometimes. But, it is way harder to be in the present and still give the warmth of the limitless love to your child, who you see growing before you. But, it does feel like it was yesterday that she was born to us. Spruha turns 3 today.

Shambhavi and I envy each other for playing gopikas that compete for the love of Krishna. Just that the roles are reversed in this case: Spruha is Lord Krishna, we are the gopikas. From the tiny pink fist that wrapped around my thumb for the first time to the everyday hug that I receive when she sprints toward me as I get back home after work, there is so much more to this story than I can ever share. Here’s that poem for Spruha:

The silence in my speech was
Recognized by many.
But, she could recognize
The speech within my silence.

Each day, the sunrise sprinkled the magic
Of beaming glory through countless windows.
The happiness that gleamed to me was
However, from those sparkling eyes.

What contrast lies between Her and I.
For she is happy with even broken toys.
And the pains of a broken heart
Are visibly excruciating to my eyes.

It must be the contentment
That drives the smile.
For she knows that her feelings are
With us and not toys that beguile.
© Suyog Ketkar

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