The Brat Race
[This article was published in today’s Times of India, Crest Edition. The e-version is available here]
I had the most horrible dream last night. My boy was in the Dance India Dance finals. His performance was ok, though I thought he missed a few steps along the way. Mithun da gave him a standing ovation but the judges gave him 29 points out of 30. 29? Appalling. I woke up just as they were about to announce the winner, only to see him wrapped around my arm like a cuddly panda. I was about to smack him for bringing disgrace upon our family when he pulled my other arm, kept it on his face and turned on his side. Adorable I know, but he is going to be 3 years soon. About time he started showing some responsibility. And results.
I am very worried for him. Yesterday, Bhalla ji from the neighborhood was over, with his 5 year old grandson. The boy touched my feet, counted from one to hundred for us and then sang the entire mukhda of ‘pani da rang’, that song from Vicky Donor. While he was being oh-so-smart, my boy managed to throw all the cookies on the ground and gargle into his glass of Pepsi. Bhalla ji looked at him with a disgusted expression and left immediately, lest his Kishore Kumar reincarnation get corrupted by our bad influence. It was so insulting that I wanted to drown myself in that saliva-laced Pepsi.
Other friends tell me of their children who had already memorized the periodic table and mastered basic calculus by the time they got into playschool. My boy barely counts till ten, and that too only while climbing stairs. He does know how to navigate the iPad menu and get to his favorite apps, but that is obviously not enough. The closest he is to athletics is at the mall, where he turns into PT Usha. At this rate, it is going to be a struggle just getting him into nursery, forget IIT. The competition is so intense. I sincerely hope one of those IIT coaching classes starts a program for toddlers soon, so they can have the right foundation to get ahead in life.
It doesn’t help when I hear stories of parents who went for school admissions for their kids and had to get counseling thereafter, as they realized the futility of their lives. Their salaries weren’t fat enough, they weren’t giving the right values to their children, or they just weren’t well-educated enough (including one who’s a surgeon). One parent was told that he didn’t look ‘sophisticated enough’. Being an IAS officer is apparently not enough sophistication.
On my part, I am preparing for it. I have bought all Deepak Chopra books which will help me talk for hours about fancy topics such as holistic learning methodologies and our cosmic consciousness. I am going to get a hair transplant so, you know, I look sophisticated on the day of the interview. We make sure we only talk to him in English, though I suspect he takes it as a compliment every time I call him a nincompoop. I am thinking of selling a kidney to pay for an executive MBA, just to make my CV look better. I am also thinking of finding out the various places school principals frequent, so I can get to know them better. No no, don’t call it stalking. Be sophisticated.
I need to get the boy enrolled into horse-riding, swimming, taekwondo, and piano classes. It has been proven that kids need to stimulate all parts of their brain to develop their all-round personality. Can’t let him just spend his days sleeping, eating or playing with overpriced toys with blinking lights and funny sounds. At this rate, he’ll never get admitted to MIT for his PhD. One of my neighbor’s daughter learnt swimming when she was 1. You hear that, young man?
I am also relying on Bournvita, whose ‘taiyari jeet ki’ ads fill me with hope of watching him break Michael Phelps’s swimming records, even if it takes a subtle threat to take away his iPad if he gets out of the pool before hypothermia sets in. I’ll totally be the dad who stares on while the boy kills himself in practice, all thanks to Bournvita’s inspiration. In fact, I asked the pediatrician if we could start Bournvita the day he was born, but he politely smiled and walked away. Clearly his kids are never going to become winners, with such lame ideas as ‘mother’s milk is best’, ‘let the boy grow at his own pace’ and ‘Relax, he’s too young’. Too young? Tell that to Bhalla ji.
I’ve set my phone’s ringtone to Rocky’s ‘Eye of the Tiger’ so that every time I get a phone call, he gets inspired. In fact, every evening I keep the phone near him and keep giving myself missed calls every 20 minutes. I am so clever.
It’s a tough world, and the sooner he starts in the race, the farther he will reach. There can be no compromises, no relaxation, and no time to be wasted. My boy is going to be the best at everything. He will win Dance India Dance, he will go to IIT, he will win an Olympic medal, and he will do a PhD from MIT. So what if he barely speaks yet?