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Handling with Kid Gloves

Last week, a friend asked me if I ever wanted to be a parent. “I am, alas, entirely bereft of a maternal instinct,” I played my copybook shot cheerily, reports Sushmita Bose.
By Sushmita Bose | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON JUL 19, 2008 11:22 PM IST

I recently watched Bobby, once more, with feeling. I noticed that whenever Rishi Kapoor wasn’t singing songs with Dimple Kapadia, he was going around town with a hangdog expression on his face. There was a reason. You see, as a child, he had been packed off to a boarding school (a nice, upscale one) so that his parents could keep alive their hectic socialising. Rishi felt unwanted and miserable. In one sequence, he and Bobby (Dimple) discuss how they would never, ever send their kids to the big, BAD world of boarding schools.

Yeah, it was a tad weird listening to a couple of teenagers discussing parenthood so earnestly.

Last week, a friend asked me if I ever wanted to be a parent. “I am, alas, entirely bereft of a maternal instinct,” I played my copybook shot cheerily.

The same evening, almost on cue, I went out with another friend — who regaled me with how his seven-year-old daughter used only four-letter words. Then, he sobered up (though he was on to his second martini: vodka, he insisted, not gin), and let out a deep sigh. “The kind of guilt pangs I undergo as a parent, you know, I don’t think I need to undergo them.”

Explain, I demanded.

“I constantly feel that, maybe one day, my daughter will accuse me of not spending enough time with her… Now, here’s the thing: if I’d ever said that to my dad, he’d have slapped me, very hard. And here’s the other: my dad usually didn’t spend any time with me, and I didn’t turn out too bad.”

So is the daughter going to be a better person than my friend because he spent more time with her than his father did with him? It’s complicated (convoluted even) and long-winded, but maybe it’s something worth waiting — and watching out — for.

On to his third martini, my friend recollected how thrilled he was when he got a set of felt-tipped pens the day he turned 10. His seven-year-old brat already has three sets of felt pens — and none of them are birthday gifts.

I spared a thought for my father. He didn’t see me for the first six months of my life as he was too busy earning a living somewhere in Madhya Pradesh (and there were no no-frills airlines in those days, so he couldn’t quite air-dash). What’s more, four years later, he didn’t get to see baby brother when he first opened his beady eyes in this cruel world. Yet again, daddy was out of town, ekeing out a living.

My brother and I never went for counselling sessions in order to tide over this grave dereliction of duty (on my dad’s part); and we didn’t even grow up harbouring any conspiracy theory. In fact, when we got to hear about the ‘delayed bonding’ part one day, it was so boring that all we could do was ask politely, “Oh, is that right?”

Are seven-year-olds, armed with three sets of felt-tipped pens (and iPods and PlayStations and what have you), the changing face of new India?

I saw this insurance ad on TV that confused me no end. A cricket ball crashes into a boardroom, disrupting a meeting; it then breaks the window of a car where someone is trying to look at a Powerpoint presentation on his laptop. The men featured in TVC are part of the booming India Inc (okay, okay, I know there’s inflation now, and that the Sensex is falling at an alarming rate). They are also fathers.

Don’t work hard to secure your kids’ future, the voiceover says. Play cricket with them instead — but, hey, while you are hitting the sixers, don’t forget to invest in a children’s plan. That will take care of their future.

In the present, play ball.

Right!

And how do you suppose you’ll buy the brats three sets of felt-tipped pens (and iPods and PlayStations) now?

Thank God, I thought, I’m not a parent. I don’t have to figure that one out.

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