Thursday, December 25, 2008

Childhood Pitaai

Just last week I was catching up with my favorite cousin Raveena Tandon. In a very compressed discussion we talked about how kids needed toughening. This is a long standing debate in our family. To almost everyone's dismay I don't whack my kids. Much tut-tutting ensues. Occasionally a verbal slingshot will be launched "Aspi has completely spoiled his kids! A whack once in a while will help your kid face the cruel world"

Somewhere in the discussion, Raveena reminded me of a couple of incidents that I had near forgotten about.

When Raveena was seven, she used to be a bit of a princess. She had a furious temper to match. Every day when she returned from school, she expected her Mum to be standing below their fourth floor apartment in Bandra to receive her. Raveena's mum, let's call her TigerMaasi, was (and is) a huge woman - both in personality and size. She had two voices - a mellifluous conversation voice and a window pane shattering bellow.

Well as it turned out one day TigerMaasi decided she would watch Raveena arrive from the window of her apartment instead of going down to get her. When Raveena found out a proper reception had not been arranged for her, she stopped in her tracks after dismounting from the school bus. Then she flung her lunch box on the ground, sending countless Cheeslets flying all over the place, and threw herself on the ground. To boot she started kicking and screaming, sending clouds of dust billowing in the air.

At this point TigerMaasi lived up to her name. She stomped down the stairs, her temper rising with each step. She yanked Raveena up by an elbow and issued two fearsome whacks to her butt. Raveena remembers being lifted up in the air and swinging like a pendulum from her elbow with each blow. Her butt aching and her eyes stinging with tears, Raveena quietly trudged up home and never threw a tantrum like that again.

A few years later, something else happened that shaped Raveena's relationship with selective childhood violence. Below the apartment, there was a bit of a lawn where all the society's kids would play every evening. Right in the middle of the lawn was a fountain. And as was the case back then, on particularly hot days, the kids would convert the fountain into an impromptu swimming pool and enjoy a dip or ten.

However, there was one obstacle in this merriment. The adjacent apartment building housed the society's bully - a motu kid bearing the name Chikoo. He was constantly hitting other children, spoiling any games they would play. He would be severe on girls, pulling their chotis and throwing dust on them. The fountain was Chikoo's favorite bullying ground.

One summer, when I was visiting Raveena, we both decided to dip in the fountain. A bunch of kids joined us. So did, much to our chagrin, Chikoo. And immediately the bully went to work - running into kids, telling others to leave and ruining any game we started. At one point I accidentally ran into Chikoo. Our man grabbed me and pushed me hard. I fell into the pool and hit my head on the side of the rim of the fountain. Some minor blood surged out. Being the baila (rough translation: sissy) of the family, I started crying.

At this point everyone froze. Chikoo guffawed loudly. And right there in the silence, we heard a huge bellow. We all looked up to see TigerMaasi filling up the frame of her window on the fourth floor. "Raveena!" she yelled "What are you standing there for?! See that broom on the side?" Raveena spotted the object being pointed out and nodded to her Mum. "That brat just hit your brother! Hit that boy on the head!" shouted TigerMaasi.

Years of tempering at TigerMaasi's hands had put Raveena on edge. In a flash she had picked up the broom and was banging Chikoo on the head with it.

We all stared, our mouths agape. Surely Raveena was dead meat now! But Raveena didn't stop and miraculously enough, Chikoo scrambled out of the pool and ran off to his apartment (with Raveena in tow availing every opportunity for a whack till the last possible moment I might add).

No one dared risk TigerMaasi's wrath and hence no complaint was lodged from the House of Chikoo. The bully never bullied anyone thereafter. In fact, he willingly enforced a restraining order on himself around Raveena. The fountain became a place of unfettered joy for the kids.

Often I'll argue that I had my fair share of whacks during my childhood. But I grew up to become a total darpok (translation: wimp). So you'd think slaps aren't a good way of toughening a child. And every single time Raveena will pull an incident like this out of her bag and say "Could we have done it any other way?"

I could say "There is always another way" but as I relearn the hustle and bustle of India as an adult and begin to understand the pace and complexity of life incrementally through trips back home, I honestly don't have a practical rebuttal.

22 comments:

Pitu said...

Awesome :-D Also, I am a firm believer in childhood pitaai. I have had my fair share of laafas, daNkas and bukkas. Despite such dicipline, I turned out to be so horrid! Without it, I'd probably be in a juvenile remand home :-p When u coming back to Chicago?

j said...

This is too funny. Didn't get any pitaai but my sis and I were very scared of my mom. I still don't know how she maintained that hold on us.

Kanan said...

Oh Aspi, you're so funny... baila? I haven't heard that in years. I love those fights with neighborhood kids. Once the girl next door and I were playing with mud and water outside and had a nasty fight and eventually it got so bad we imprinted our muddy plams on each other's chest added some good amounts to our hairs too. Both the moms had to run out of kitchens and separate us.

Who says in India we have democracy? It's mob-o-crazy. :P

Anonymous said...

Haha Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi was awesome!

MysteryMegan said...

Slumdog Millionaire is the best Movie of the Deacde !
Just Brilliant.
Ghazini is just OK nothing Great.

MeganiaUdhas said...

Aspi with Bollywood Connections !
Raveena is your cousin : I am sure there are a few more in the Family whihch can be shared.
Any Relation to Boman Irani ?

Anonymous said...

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Aspi said...

Just saw Ghajini - made the mistake of taking Motorsandal to it because there were six other kids coming. Poor kid - he's completely traumatized. If I can get my thoughts together (and enough online access), I'll put my thoughts down soon but I'd love to hear what others thought as well!

where is Meg said...

Cant't wait to hear Aspi's Crisp views on Ghazini !

nepalese_princess said...

Aspi, my experiences have been the same as well.
My grandma who raised me, always knew when to put me in line. I can only remember maybe 3 incidents of childhood pittai by my grandma. One time, when I was 7-8 yrs old, I invited my neighbour to come to my house for tea. In the tea, she said something that angered me, and I threw the tea in her face, to which she went home crying. When my grandma found out, she came with a chappal in hand.

Since then I have never done anything close to that.

I think a parent can't constantly hit their children. They have to figure out a way to manipulate the kids through words and at the same time let the child know that there will be consequences if the rules are not followed. and even then, the consequences should not be beating.

When the child goes way out of the parents standards for what's acceptable, that's when you take out the chappal. & best believe, the child think before acting the next time a situation comes about.

Aspi said...

Ah, the chappall to the head (or somewhere). I have fond memories of that. I remember Ma once said I had come of age when I started insisting that I buy her chappalls for her as a special favor. I ended up buying some really soft ones which she saw through immediately.

Teddy said...

hmm, childhood pitaai. Brings back memories. Mostly of me, shouting at the top of my reedy little voice,"I know why you're hitting me...you're just angry with your sister! So you can stop pretending I did something wrong!", dodging slaps and scuttling around the house, enraging the parent even more.

My mom and her siblings had the totally idiotic habit of taking out their anger at each other or the world in general, by hitting their kids for no apparent reason. We learned to stay out of slapping distance when the parent was in a black mood. The unprovoked hitting was usually followed by floods of tears and hugs, which were as unwanted as the slaps that preceded them.

But, in general we would watch for signs of impending angry fits before fessing up to stuff like "Teacher said to bring craft paper to school tomorrow, and I forgot to tell you earlier."

Pitu said...

Noooooooo you did NOT take your kids to Ghajini! Yikes!!

Aspi said...

Teddy, I agree - most parents seem to be annoyed at something else when they lose it with their kids.

SC said...

Ya...seriously Aspi...wat were u thinking.....taking ur kid to Ghajini!!!! Jumbo ka tickets nehi mila kya???? The promos made it quite clear dat it wasnt for bachus.....uska to time kharap kiya hi....indirectly guess thats wat didnt make u enjoy the movie anyways!!!

Aspi said...

Yaar, depends on which promo you saw.

Indian animation is too much in its infancy to make it a serious watch. It's still largely torture.

Pitu said...

Jumbo is technically Thai ;-)

Amrita said...

God, I've laughed so much, I'm sitting here weeping. Your tigermaasi = my mom + my own tigermaasi. a deadly combo indeed.

*~mad munky~* said...

ah, memories....i remember that joyful day when i discovered that i'd grown enough to out-run my mother for the first time :oD

no more slaps as she couldn't catch me!!!!

mind rush said...

children who experience violence as a means of control will grow up thinking that it is an acceptable solution to disagreements.

Paradox Philic said...

Your post brought back some khattee meethi memories :)

ira said...

It reminded me of Amma,s eyes.My God!v were so scared of them wen she use 2 b angree.She cud never touch us for Pitayee):