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Raising E

It’s tiring bringing up a child in Bangalore. 

In my previous life, I made plans to take her to a place that mirrored “my" India. The India of malls and indoor play areas. I stopped taking her to public parks because I think they are disgusting.

The way I looked at it was:

I did not spend 9 months breeding a human, and x years raising it, to have her play in some rusty jungle gym, to discover a used condom, or find used syringes or get pushed around by lousy (as in, with lice) children. Yeah, the play area in my building was good enough. At least I knew that the kids who play there were clean. Sounds classist? You bet it was.

Nah. I just took my kid to The Oberoi - they have a lovely lawn there, you see. Who needs jungle gyms when you’ve got bread-loving koi fish. Who needs to deal with the ill-mannered kids of people-who-can-barely-make-ends-meet when you can be sure to be in the company of people who know what a social contract is. 

But on our way there, I’d check the rearview mirror to see her reacting to the inequality knocking on her car window. Could she see as plainly as I did, her mother saying, 'Sorry, maimed beggar on the makeshift skateboard, the light’s gone green, no money for you - I need to get to my buffet breakfast with the smoke-cured ham flown in from New Zealand.'

I couldn't let my kid think this was normal. Normal is being kind. Normal is not having to watch how kind because in the city, handing out money to every beggar is the recipe for personal penury. It isn't even the solution to the problem of beggary. 

I’d be happy flipping burgers in a Scandinavian country if it meant I could give my child a chance at being the most “normal" she can be in this happy chance of consciousness that each of us, for some bizarre reason, gets. 

Will I do it? No. Why? 
  • Because having a high income in a low-income country beats having a low income in a high-income country. 
  • Because being smart in a low-intelligence country beats being one of many very smart people. 
  • Because being efficient in a low-productivity country beats being mediocre in a high-efficiency country.

I’d much rather she sit inside air conditioned vehicles staring at the woeful faces of Those Less Fortunate outside than sit in public transport, albeit in phoren, with the dregs of low-income humanity and identify with them.

I could take her on multiple trips abroad each year. Show her the world. Show her how India is as far from "normal" as possible and tell her that if she tried really hard, she could make her way to one of these developed countries.

But what does that tell her about her roots, and the castrated culture they lay in. What does that tell her about normalcy?

I live in a village in Tamil Nadu now. On my last trip to Bangalore, I enjoyed saying this to the washed out service people that now inhabit that once gorgeous city. I saw dented cars oozing down clogged motorways and I couldn't see the city's iconic trees. 

The air smelt burnt. The land was scorched. The people looked well dressed and disinterested.

A stark contrast to my village in Tamil Nadu. Largely poor. BPL, one might say, if one defined poverty by money made (or points traded by SMS alerts). Farmers and their families eking out a living in small houses that dot a magnificent landscape. 

Every single one of them w a twinkle in their eye, a spring in their step, and a smile just waiting to be smiled in their cheeks. The air and the land - pristine.

I imagine it's tiring raising a child here too. Little children climb steep hills twice daily for a subpar education. Parents shuffle them into kind-looking strangers' cars headed towards the school. The children watch their parents grow food. They are told to study, to learn to provide a service.

These are children sheltered from the chaos of the Indian city. Children refocussed from the distractions a city provides. A child reared on attentive care, stunning vistas, fresh air and food, will become a child who will wonder about what is… and as always when one questions what is, one is lead to questions of what if? 

Not that different from the child raised in the city then. A child sheltered from the absurdity of the Indian village. A child reared on sepia-toned beggars, clamoring hoardings, and bouncy castles at birthday parties.

A perennial case of the grass is greener. A tendency to disorder. 

What would happen if you could give a child both? Would you do it?


  1. Am still pondering your question! How does one decide what is good for one's precious offspring?


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