Thursday, May 21, 2009


The other day, a friend of mine attended a pre-school admissions workshop, in NYC, for her toddler. Her description of the other mothers (very - Stepford wives) and their inquisitiveness about anyone, who didn’t look like them (They asked my friend which planet she was from), reminded me of a book I recently read--“Schooled” by Anisha Lakhani.

I won’t call Schooled the “World’s Best Book,” but it was inexplicably addictive. The content fell in the following category: Oh- that- makes- me-so- mad-that- I could- just-smack-someone. The book is a younger and opulent version of one of my all time favorite writer, E.R. Braithwaite’s “To Sir with Love”. Schooled, unlike To Sir With Love which is set in mid-60s Britain, is focused on a private school on the Upper East Side in New York City and its covetous kids (and worldly teachers). I cringe every time I think about seventh graders (characters in the book) carrying Chanel bags to school and bemoaning any brand which wasn’t in that league. But, can you truly believe a child is culpable of social ineptness if the parents bringing them up don’t tell them otherwise? Children are a reflection of their own parents. Then again, some parents don’t know better because they haven’t had the exposure themselves. Money and culture don’t always go hand in hand, you know.

What’s the best way to get your hands dirty with real life? I think it’s by living away from home in your formative years. The exact age doesn’t matter, but it is imperative. Folks, who have always lived at home, tend to have sheltered upbringing and almost never had to compromise. It’s not like they are terrible human beings, but they’ve rarely needed to think for others. There are always exceptions to every rule. But, growing up, most families in my generation had two kids so you pretty much got your way. Eating “Tandoori chicken” instead of “Pao Bhaji” because your sister insisted or playing Golf on the Wii instead of Boxing to make your brother happy doesn’t exactly make you Florence Nightingale. In fact, these so-called gestures are a joke for the word “sharing.”

Being away from the paradise of parental love and support teaches you to adjust, accommodate, survive, multi-task, comprehend, and appreciate the smallest of gestures. Like filling up a bucket of hot water for your injured friend and in the process skipping your own bath day, does qualify for real gestures and relationships. If you have always lived at home, getting your way & being spoilt is inevitable; the degrees may vary depending on the parents’ affluence and tolerance. I mean, you meet and become friends with people, who are clones of your own self—a.k.a. your parents’ friends’ offspring. Now that can’t be healthy. It’s like marrying within the family.

Every parent tries to give their own kin the best that they can afford without realizing that they might actually be doing them disservice. Life isn’t about one person or child’s needs. My boarding school rules didn’t permit us to wear anything aside from our boring uniforms, EVER! Sure, the teenager in me loathed their Nazi rules then, but as an adult, I appreciate their thoughtfulness. The authorities knew all of us didn’t come from the same financial background, so while one child had enough money for a silk shirt and designer jeans, the other child could just afford an ordinary shirt. Those values made my friends and me responsible, sensitive, and aware of the world around us. Like, you can’t discuss your Europe vacation with someone who hasn’t stepped out of Bombay or Meirut. Your financial abilities should make you humble and socially conscious instead of asininely ostentatious.

If these children in Schooled or the gauche moms, who expressed their astonishment to see my non-blond friend, were exposed to the real world (a multi-ethnic Diaspora beyond their limited knowledge of existence), they would probably have made for more evolved human beings.

More until next time.

Copyright © 05.21.2009

“Ordinary riches can be stolen, real riches cannot. In your soul are infinitely precious things that cannot be taken from you” – Oscar Wilde

1 comment:

Vizzy said...

unbelievable that this day someone would ask "which planet are you from". To me that can not be a anomaly maybe.
Most of the private schools have uniform for the same reason so children can not bring disigner stuffs to school. I am surprised at your frined's experience with other mom. Here I would think ny city would be more accepting than our mid-west.