The Superhero in You…

“THUD” – the sound caught Suman off guard. It startled her a bit but it did o’t unsettle her. But what she heard next made her skip the heart beat, and not just one but many.

“Maaaa” came a heart piercing sound. It was Raju who shouted from bottom of his gut. Suman, his mother, came rushing through the rooms and reached outside within seconds. It’s interesting to see how women those who take hours to get ready act so quickly when something happens to their kin, especially their child.

“How did this happen? Is it hurting a lot?” saying this she tried to lift Raju when he cried with immense pain. Such a cry was bound to make a mother’s heart stop and it did, for a moment. Her eyes were overflowing with tears now. She, with the help of neighbors, took Raju to hospital. “His hand is fractured”, said the doctor as he examined Raju. In all the hustle Suman did not get time to call Raju’s father, but fortunately the neighbor did the job. By the time Raju’s hand was treated, put safely in the plaster and was moved to a separate room, his father reached the hospital. Perplexed, beads of sweat on his bit large forehead and half rage and half care in his eyes, he sat on the chair besides Raju’s bed. This guy must have done something stupid and got hurt, he thought to himself. Raju opened his eyes after the effect of anesthesia waned.

“What happened? How did you get yourself hurt? And why are you wearing Shaktiman’s dress?”, his father’s voice became more stern with every question he asked. Till now nobody was aware of what dress Raju was wearing. His mother was least bothered about it, but now everyone wanted answers as to how this happened. So everyone shifted their focus to Raju as he started to narrate the incident.

“I was on the roof waiting for Adi to come on his roof so we could decide about the cricket match we were to play today. I was sitting on the parapet wall and happened to look at the nest of a sparrow. The two baby sparrows were chirping in playful voice and mother sparrow was feeding them. In the meantime Adi called me and we were discussing about the game when suddenly the chirps of baby sparrows became louder and coarse. Mother sparrow was shouting at peak of her voice. We both turned to see what was happening and spotted a crow was trying to pick one baby sparrow from the nest. The tree branch is closer to our house, so I thought I can reach it and try to shoo the crow away from the nest. I tried throwing small stones but it did not work, the stones flew too far away from the crow to shoo him. I tried to find a stick or something so that I can beat the crow but found nothing. Then I saw I was wearing Shaktiman dress and thought I can spin and fly like him and save the baby sparrows. But I don’t know why it did not work out” saying this Raju started crying loudly and uncontrollably.

His mother tried to pacify him and father did not know what to say and was quite angry on him. But Raju was just 6 years old and his father could not think of a wise way to tell him that such things don’t work in real life. He just did not know how to react to such an incident. He kept on saying “Are you mad?” but neither he nor Raju could give a reasonable answer to it.

Days passed. Years passed. Wounds healed. The incident faded into blurred past. The TV serial “Shaktiman” too came to an end without further casualties. Raju was 9 years old now. 3 years older since last incidence, but still not experienced enough.

Raju was now a part of a group of classmates. Most of his group members lived close by in same colony. They would play together, go to school together and hang out together in the evening. They would share stories and fantasies about cartoons and characters. The recent fad was of Superman. Off late the movie was aired on TV and everyone was talking about it, from his dress to his powers. “It’s a bird… It’s a plane… It’s Superman” was their favorite line. They would say it exactly the same way the people in the movie say it.

It was one such evening when Raju was out with his group. “I will come by 7 PM Maa” announced Raju and made an exit without waiting for his mother’s plethora of instructions. It was around 7:30 PM and Raju was still not back home, which made his mother a little worried. But knowing that he was with his group, did not make her too paranoid about it. But her sixth sense was on look out for him. She heard someone calling her in weak voice,

“Maaa…”, it was Raju. Her heart sank, again. She turned back and saw there was blood on Raju’s face, shirt and hands. She felt like all her blood has drained out from her body, so white she was.

“What happened Raju?” she inquired in shrill voice.

“Nothing serious mom. I am fine” replied Raju. Though it was “nothing serious” for him, the same was not true about his mother. She quickly fetched warm water, a clean cloth and antiseptic from first aid box and rushed to clean Raju’s wounds. Every time she applied benzene to his wounds, he would cry a bit. After the wounds were cleaned, soothed and treated with, she asked him what has happened? And who has beaten him?

“It’s nothing serious mom. Some stupid guys from my school…. nothing serious.” Raju was trying to avoid and let the moment pass by without much fuss. But his mother persisted and Raju had to comply. So he started narrating everything to her. But before that he made sure no one was around, especially his father.

“Me, Adi and others were just chit chatting at the Ganapati’s temple when these guys from Std. F approached us. Manoj had some tiffs at school today with one of those guys, so they had come to settle the score. They came and started arguing with Manoj. They held Manoj by collar and were dragging him to the center. Adi and others were being coward and started moving away from the scene. But how can I let one of my friend be in trouble in front of my eyes Mom? How could Adi and others go away while our friend was in trouble?” Raju was partly in rage when he was narrating it.

“But I did not go away from Manoj and I was trying to create some distance between those guys and Manoj. Adi and others were cheering me from outside of the temple ‘yes Raju. Beat them. Don’t let them go away’ and I got more and more involved into the fight”.

“But why did you get involved into it alone? Manoj would have handled his own matter, right?” replied the mother still holding Raju in her embrace. “See now, how much you have hurt yourself? And all this for what? Some petty fight?” she was reasoning from her own point of view. Suddenly Raju sat upright and looked into his mother’s eyes,

“How could I let my friend get beaten by those bad guys mom?” there was rage in his eyes and voice.

“But you alone could not have successfully fought with bunch of guys, could you?” her point was valid and logical but Raju did not think logically, he was thinking from his heart.

“Isn’t that something Superman does always mom? Doesn’t he fight with bad guys all by himself?” came a quick reply.

Suman smiled a bit, now she understood where all of this was coming from. She patted Raju’s head and went on to tell him that Shaktiman, Superman are fictional characters and they don’t exist in reality. What you did was with good intentions but it lacked the proper strength. Superman used to do so much of exercise and he had so many powers and hence he could fight the demons in the society. Raju was listening to her intently and soon fell asleep because of all exhaustion.

Rajesh went silent. He stopped in between the rows of students who were sitting and listening to him since past 30 minutes. No one moved, no one made any noise. They were all ears to the story being told to them. After a long pause and looking across all of the faces that were all looking at him, he traced his steps back to the dais. Once on podium he smiled and continued.

“After these 2 incidents, Raju understood that only good intentions will not help, they need to be supported by strength and power. Just wearing Shaktiman or Superman clothes or thinking oneself as them will not help, one needs to work hard and build the confidence and strength from within to fight the evil.”

“That is why Raju studied hard, exercised daily and got selected in IAS. Now he serves the needy, helpless and saves the ones in difficult situations. He fights daily with the evils in society and tries to bring the balance back into the society. No doubt sometimes he gets beaten by the bad guys, but he does not fall back and neither his parents ask him to stay away from the bad guys. They in fact are very proud that their son is helping others in their difficult times”

On that note, Rajesh finished his speech and he was greeted by deafening round of applause. The students didn’t ask the question “Who’s this Raju sir?” because all of them were intelligent enough to understand who Raju really was.

                                                                                                                                                              — PBK

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Disclaimer: This story is an art of fiction. Any resemblance to living or dead is purely co-incidental.

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Trade Off…

Trade Off…

We constantly live in the world of trade-offs. Whether the path number 1 is correct or the path number 2 is correct, is always the question. The life we live is better or the life others live is better is always the case.

And in such a trade-off we choose the path which the masses follow, in turn living their life. We never give it a thought and consider both the cases standing at the middle point of both.

One such trade-off is whether to live lavishly or to be subtle. There are myriad cases surrounding us which show both the facets of this trade-off, but we often choose the lavish lifestyle because we consider that’s the current trend and it’s cool to live lavishly.

There are two pre-cursors to living a lavish life style.

  1. Either you have inherited large sum of money and you don’t mind spending it, or
  2. You have hard earned (easy money can also be considered, but for keeping the discussion on sane level, I am not including the easy money in this case) money and want to live lavishly.

Now here I need to describe what I mean by lavish lifestyle. This lavishness is not in its entirety but considers only one aspect of providing extravagant things/items to the kids.

  1. Providing children (under aged) vehicles, high end gadgets, extravagant items.
  2. Providing kids money (as pocket money, which is a good thing) but not keeping the outgoing in check. Parents need to ask their children where and why they have spent the money.

I think providing your kids with the things they demand instantaneously is a crime. Yes, it is a crime. You should teach them the waiting game. They demand and you provide won’t work for long. Because in that case, their expectations from you keep on increasing and you keep on doing the exact things you shouldn’t be. If they get things at the moment it comes out of their mouth, they lose the value. Forget about losing the value, they don’t even understand the value of money.

They think, if you can afford to provide me with high end gadget, which kids of his age in general don’t have, buying gadgets is pretty simple task for you. But what they don’t understand is the hard work you put behind earning the money to buy them the gadgets.

It’s a trade off.

I think, living subtly gives you more options. It allows you to fulfill the wishes of your children and at the same time teach them the importance of money. This will teach them the value for money. Let the kid ask you for a wrist watch, tell him you will buy it for him. But don’t buy it at the exact moment. Let him/her wait for some months/days and then buy the watch for them. They will be happy to see the surprise package from you.

One thing to consider here is, if you buy them goods instantaneously they might feel happier about it. But trust me; in the long run the happiness which kids get when they finally get the item after a little wait is long lasting and worth than the happiness they might get when they receive goods instantaneously.

So live subtly at least for your children, for them to understand the importance of money and keep them buoying instead of either flying or getting submerged.

Screams on Deaf Ears…

She screamed,

Once again,

Of the fire on her body,

She has screamed a lot,

But in vain,

Her screams have always,

Fallen on deaf ears.

* * *

Her children run towards her,

Every time she screams,

It has become their drill,

They now wait in ready position,

For her to scream again.

* * *

She witnesses Mahabharata,

Every now and then,

But in an undeveloped photo film,

Where Pandava’s are cons,

And Kaurava’s are helpless people.

* * *

Yes, you are right,

The Pandava’s are politicians,

Similarly, Kaurava’s are we people,

And the screaming woman,

is of course Mumbai.

Falling Fertility Rate in India…

One of the boons for India in recent times is “Falling Fertility Rate”. Though this is a boon for India the reasons behind this falling fertility rate should be understood. I read one article about falling fertility rate globally in Indian Express today. The reasons written there were apt for global view but were somewhat less as compared to India. So I thought of enlisting some more reasons those are responsible for falling of fertility rate in India.Fertility rate

1) For almost all of the 20th Century (that is 1900-2000) an average single family wanted a baby boy instead of baby girl. So they had babies till they bore baby boy. This was until 1970’s. The in-laws were also particular about having baby boy than baby girl. This caused a huge difference and acted as catalyst in rising the fertility rate.

According to a book “Population in Asia” by Warren C. Sanderson and Jee Peng Tan,

in 1980-1988 fertility rate in India fell from 4.4 BPM (Births Per Mother) to 4.0 BPM. Again in 1988-1991, fertility rate fell from 4.0 BPM to 3.6 BPM. Thus on as average, the total fertility rate fell by 0.05 births per year between 1980-88, and more than twice as fast, 0.13 births per year between 1988-91.

Thus we can see that as the mindset has changed towards having any baby than particular baby boy. Thus taking the fertility rate further down to current 2.72.

2) People in India are becoming more career oriented now-a-days. So they are happy with even a single child so as to balance their work and family life. Even a single baby is enough for them to take care of.

3) As economy is emerging fast and its becoming hard to cope up with the pace of economic boom and competition, people are more and more drifting towards the mindset of having less children.

4) With increasing stress and work load, health of people is deteriorating rapidly making them physically less fit to bear more than 2 children. Not that they are expected to bear more than 2 children, but they find themselves incompetent. Less physical capacity and aftermaths of having a child has made it more complex thus dragging the fertility rate down.

5) In India, education is becoming more of a premium thing than the basic need. With even nursery schools asking payment up to Rs. 20, 000 and more per year, education seems to be for privileged only. It’s becoming more and more difficult for parents to educate their children and that too in some good school and college. That’s why current mantra of parent’s is “Less the number of children, more is the probability of educating them properly” thus bringing the fertility rate further down.

6) Also marriage of a daughter is becoming an one-time affair unlike in the past. So people think of making it more valuable and memorable. So “Less the number of children (especially girl) the more the probability of making her marriage more valuable and memorable.” This can also be one of the reason why the fertility rate in India is falling down.

These are some of the reasons of dropping fertility rate in India. Well the dropping fertility rate is really a boon and as people say “Nature takes care of it’s balance”, nature here is taking care of rising population.

Currently India is at 82nd number with rate at 2.72 BPM.

The rival China is at 157th number with rate at 1.79 BPM.

The fertility rate in India has reached to Replacement Rate so I reckon this rate should continue with a slight modification on the negative side.

Debit card for children – Is it necessary???

I have grown up in the family where money is not easily lent to children. For lending money various questions are asked first and a stricter criteria is used while offering it. Especially I have gone through it. My mother never used to give me money without asking me where and how I am going to spend it. So it kept a check on the expenditure and monitored the correct usage of money by me. I used to have only 10 or 20 Rs in my pocket even in my college days.

Sometimes I used to think why such things are done with me? I had some rich friends too. So imitation was very obvious thing when I was in school and college even. I used to get bugged at such behaviour from my mother. My other friends used to come to school by mopeds and bikes and I used to ply by cycle, others were having rich watches and I was not having any, they always used to eat out and I only sometimes used to have something to eat out. It’s not that my mother couldn’t afford these luxuries. But she strictly kept me out of all the cobwebs. Soon after I also realized the very necessity of such behaviour.

I now understand it is very hard not to provide things to your children even though you can afford those. It takes skin of rhinos to act like that. But those things are for the good of children only. These things teach about managing in the provided money, not spending unnecessarily on anything, setting priorities for going after things. In the future life these things help a lot. Because you are not likely to encounter very friendly life. So at one point or other you will have to come across harsher times. And this teaching helps in those times. In future you may have limited resources and have to prioritize things, and if you had very leisurely life and always got money as much and when needed, then you are mostly likely to fail the task of prioritizing.

The thing in question is money lending easily to children, and debit cards are the easiest way for that. Is it really necessary to provide your children with debit cards? Given the current conditions of theft and robbery, children will become easy targets. Extortion is now a days very common and by application of this thing it will surely rise. Plus we all know that while taking out money from ATM centers many people have encountered threats of somebody coming and by using gun or even a knife for that matter can get steal money from you. Even an adult can not protest this thing and how can a child protest against it? Have anybody thought of it?

We have seen the outcomes of providing mobiles to school and college going children so that they can be constantly under watch. There are more misuses than uses of such things. Now a days children have started to bunk schools and colleges as no parent reaches out to teacher and ask about their child, because they can easily call their child and ask whether he/she is in college/school or not. And cases of lying have increased reasonably after the provision of mobile phones. Similar things may happen with debit cards also. There are more misuses rather than uses.

So it is up to parents whether they wan to spoil their child or not. It is up to them only whether to provide such things and face the consequences of it or not. Is it really that necessary? I have also lived my childhood, and I don’t feel any need of having such things. Conditions have changed now, agreed, but instead of providing 10 Rs (as we used to get) provide 50 Rs or 100 Rs for that matter.

Think over this and act. But if anybody asks me, my answer will be a big NO. There is NO need to provide debit cards to children.

Prasad B. Kulkarni

Navi Mumbai.