It’s time to learn from our parents

Some of my best childhood memories are of my parents doing nice little things for each other. Didn’t parenting responsibilities overwhelm them? I grew up in a nuclear family where my father worked very long hours and my mother single handedly raised me and built her home in a city that was new to her. They still managed to create happy memories for us, perhaps it’s time we learn from them!

Read my story for the UK Asian here


Published in The Guardian


In the run up to the election, The Guardian is running an interesting initiative to publish the views of immigrants in the UK about what life is like for them in thiscountry. I learnt about it after a friend shared a link about this on Facebook and felt it was a great idea to be able to voice one’s views on an established platform. I have been in the UK for over 3 years now and while I love my independence here, I equally miss my family’s emotional support I had back home in India. And I am not the only one who feels this way, a lot of my friends have such mixed feelings as well.

I decided to submit my contribution for the Guardian’s UK immigrant voices initiative. A few minutes I received an email that their team had decided to publish my inputs. My first story was published 10 years ago when I had started my career with a start-up tech magazine, but getting published still gives me the greatest joy.

You may read my published post here:

If you think you have something to say, please go ahead and share your views as well.

Cultural milieu that never fades

column jan 2015

Article published in Hindustan Times Next) London truly is one of the most expensive cities in the world and visiting touristy places generally comes at a steep ticket price. Thankfully, there are plenty of things you can do almost free of cost. The city houses many famous art galleries and museums that are packed with vast and awe inspiring collections of artifacts from around the world. I must confess that as much as I enjoy other cultural activities such as theatre, I used to associate museums and galleries as places for solitary visits. However, I have discovered that on-going events for adults and interactive activities for children make these attractive day-out options for families, especially on days when the weather is not conducive for outdoor pursuits.

The Natural History museum located in the heart of Central London is one such place where you can spend hours exploring the objects on display. The museum is home to more than 80 million organisms from across the world but it is most famous for its dinosaur collection. A combination of real skeletons, fossils, live models of roaring dinosaurs and videos on digital screens convey information about the lives of the dinosaurs and the times they lived in, and make the experience exciting for children and grown-ups alike. Another eye catching spot in the museum is a life-size model of the massive blue whale. The almost 30 metres long replica stretches across the hall, almost the size of a football court. Replicas of a few other large animals placed in front of the blue whale puts its size in perspective and you stare in disbelief when an elephant looks insignificant in front of this enormous mammal. Besides the replicas, the museum also has dedicated areas where children can get a hands-on experience of investigating the specimens.

Another equally fascinating public place in London is the National Gallery located in the iconic Trafalgar Square. It is estimated that the world’s 2300 best paintings are displayed here and it is amazing how easily accessible this has been made to the public. There are free guided tours led by art experts who provide an overview of the gallery’s collection and discusses a few paintings in greater detail. I have attended one such tour in the past and found it insightful to hear about the meaning of each painting, how it reflected about the times it was produced in and how the artist’s background influenced the work. To inculcate an interest in the art among children in a fun way, there are plenty of options for children of all ages – from story telling sessions to art workshops and specific walking tours designed for families.

With so many dedicated activities on offer at zero cost, it is no wonder that London’s museums and galleries attract millions of visitors every year.

Born Indian. Confused migrant mommy

“By giving her a bottle of milk as a dummy to sleep, you are depriving her of the opportunity to learn to sleep on her own,” my very concerned health visitor advised me at the time of my daughter’s first-year health review.

Otherwise pleased with my daughter’s development, she was concerned about my one-year-old waking up a few times during the night.

She wondered why I hadn’t “trained” my girl to sleep.

Sleep training babies to snooze on their own without a cuddle or a milk bottle sounded to me like a perfectly logical yet peculiar process.

Logical because nothing can be better if a baby can be trained to sleep all night and peculiar because I surely hadn’t heard of sleep training from my cousins and friends who had babies in India.

I envied mothers who claimed their children slept from 7pm – 7am without a drop of milk in-between and tried to train my daughter as well.

However, impatience and lack of discipline on my part meant my efforts failed.

In all honesty, after getting through the chores of the day and a few work assignments, I lacked the heart and stamina to deal with a screaming child.

Giving her a bottle of milk was simpler.  And so, my husband and I spent endless nights trying to put our little girl to sleep by turning the lights out early and lying down in bed with her.

My daughter would sometimes fall asleep within minutes, or sometimes after both of us had dozed off.

Family and friends back in India laughed when I discussed my sleep training conundrum and suggested that I should simply ensure that my daughter had a full stomach before bedtime.

I lacked the firmness of fellow western parents who had successfully trained their babies to sleep.  I also did not have the patience (especially after listening to the health visitor) of a few other mothers I knew back in India who considered waking up during the night as normal for babies and were not thus looking for a solution.  They simply felt that it wasn’t a ‘problem’ that needed remedying.

As a first time Indian parent raising a child abroad, I face conflicting parenting choices and styles at every step.  Worse still, I feel uncertain about following one way completely while ignoring the other.

Take for instance, potty training.

Every other day my mother would Skype me from India and tell me stories of small children in her neighborhood who were all capable of peeing and pooping in the toilet unlike my one-and-a-half year old daughter who was still in diapers.

In my peer group in London, children were normally potty trained only after the age of two.

Mothers suggested how I should not even attempt potty training too early or else try using stickers as rewards to entice my daughter to sit on the potty if I were too desperate to train her.

My daughter turned two recently and has been sleeping through the night for a couple of months now.  She is also potty trained.

No, I didn’t try any Indian or Western techniques this time but guess she was just ready for it. I know that my daughter will be fine but as a mother facing different cultural choices, confusion is going to be my life-long friend.

(Published on the UK Asian